Some health problems are easy to understand and treat the cause, while others seem to make your doctor play a guessing game. Broken arms obviously need setting and casting. Fatigue from lack of sleep needs a schedule and commitment to rest. Pain from tight muscles can be relieved by stretching or massage. In situations like these, the root cause of your pain is obvious, and the treatment plan is fairly straightforward. Unfortunately, not every ailment is so easy to treat or pinpoint what is wrong.
What if you get plenty of sleep but still battle fatigue, or have unexplained dry skin and hair loss?
What if you have battled chronic pain or rashes for years without knowing the underlying reason for the problem?
In situations like these, people often go from doctor to doctor and try a variety of medications and treatments without being able to figure out the real cause or find a cure for their symptoms.
One reason that functional medicine has grown in popularity over the last decade is its ability to effectively treat diseases and symptoms that traditional doctors have been unable to diagnose correctly. The key to this is the holistic, partner-based approach that functional medicine offers. Functional medicine practitioners view themselves as partners with their patients, recognizing that each patient has a unique and individual bodily ecosystem that is affected by genetic, environmental, and psychological factors. Functional medicine is also rigorously science-based and one point of intersection between traditional and holistic medicine is the use of laboratory testing.
Functional medicine uses lab tests because they are extremely effective in pinpointing specific problems. The body is an interconnected system, so this approach may seem counterintuitive to the functional medicine approach. Quite the opposite. Often times small imbalances or dysfunctions build up and have a multiplier effect in the body. They surface as various symptoms or interact with one another and act as a cause for a symptom that appears to be something completely different. Commonly, this shows up as a general feeling of fatigue or poor health or as an illness or symptom that will not go away with the typical treatments. The specific information provided by lab tests allows functional medicine practitioners to get the big picture of your body’s ecosystem, as well as tipping them off to what further questions to ask about other factors that influence your wellness.
What tests are offered? What do they do?
Functional medicine doctors commonly use specific lab tests to gain a better understanding of what is going on in your body’s ecosystem. Your body is complex, so different root causes may show up as symptoms that seem typical or irregular for that particular ailment. This is especially the case if one source of disease or dysfunction is interacting with another. The following list gives you an idea of the types of tests doctors may run to get a clearer picture of what exactly is going on in your body, to help begin your journey toward better health.
Thyroid dysfunction has a wide array of symptoms and can be difficult to diagnose. The symptoms might include weight gain, weight loss, dry skin, hair loss, depression, or fatigue. A lack of proper diagnosis can occur within conventional medicine because usually only TSH and T4 tests are run when thyroid dysfunction is suspected. A full thyroid panel will include testing for TSH, T4, free T4, T3 uptake, total T3, free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies. This blood panel provides a comprehensive view of your thyroid function to understand the full scope of your thyroid health and check for possible autoimmune thyroid problems.
Adrenal Stress Index
If you are experiencing brain fog, fatigue, anxiety, depression, irritability, trouble sleeping, blood sugar imbalances, or unexplained weight gain, it is possible that you could have a cortisol imbalance as a result of adrenal gland dysfunction. Your adrenal glands release different hormones into your body, including cortisol, which is your body’s main stress hormone. Balanced hormones are an integral part of your overall health and having an imbalance in cortisol levels can lead to other hormone imbalances, as well. These hormones are released through a complex network of communication between your brain and adrenal glands known as the HPA-axis. If miscommunication happens within the HPA-axis, adrenal fatigue occurs and causes cortisol to be perpetually high, perpetually low, to be high when it should be low, or vice versa. An adrenal stress index test is a saliva test that tracks your cortisol levels over a 24-hour period to measure the health of your adrenal system in response to stress.
As mentioned, hormones play a massive role in our health. Most of the time, they go unnoticed if they are properly balanced. However, if levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone become unbalanced, symptoms can be severe. They may include acne, hair loss, weight gain, low sex drive, infertility, anxiety, depression, other mood disorders, or changes in the menstrual cycle. Doctors use saliva and blood tests to look at the ratios of these hormones to deduce whether or not they are at healthy levels or if treatment is needed.
Food Sensitivity Testing
A food sensitivity test will test anywhere from 30-200 foods that may be causing patients to have reactions. This test measures IgG antibodies which are associated with delayed food reactions—in other words, the reaction is not seen for up to 72 hours after you have ingested the food. This means that the test can help reveal food allergies you may not know about because the reaction does not happen immediately after you eat the food, making it difficult to attribute your reaction to the allergen. Surprisingly, food allergies may mean that what we traditionally view as “healthy” foods may not be healthy for your individual body. Testing for IgG reactions helps people discover the foods to avoid, often leading to a higher quality of life due to decreased symptoms and inflammation.
Advanced Celiac Profile
Celiac disease is an immune response to gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, that can have a major impact on a person’s gastrointestinal tract. Standard screenings only register results for patients who have an extreme allergy to gluten, whereas an advanced celiac profile will help diagnose patients who have a gluten sensitivity that is causing symptoms to affect their health. These symptoms might include skin rash, fatigue, digestion problems, or neurological issues.
Gut health is essential to the health of the whole body. If your gut biome, or ecosystem, is imbalanced, it can lead to a whole slew of symptoms. Comprehensive stool analysis tests assess your gut function, especially issues like inflammation and malabsorption. This test can be extremely helpful for those who have IBS, cardiovascular disease, weight problems, autoimmune disease, or diabetes.
Lyme Western Blot Test
Lyme disease is becoming more and more prevalent in the US, with a variety of symptoms that are often devastating. Lyme disease symptoms are unique to every person, sometimes looking like chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, ALS, Parkinson’s, or fibromyalgia. During the onset of symptoms, it may seem as if you have a cold that just won’t go away, but eventually it morphs into something more serious. Unfortunately, if you do not see the tick attached to you, miss the common bullseye patterned rash, or simply do not present with the rash, the chances of recognizing the onset sickness as Lyme disease is rare. Testing for Lyme is essential if you have symptoms that may coincide with Lyme but have had trouble identifying their cause.
Genetic testing has become more and more commonplace over the last five years to determine what regions your ancestors came from. Fortunately, genetic testing can also provide insight into your genetic predisposition toward disease. Your genetic makeup can make you more susceptible to allergies, drug reactions, nutrient imbalances, and other health problems. While there is nothing you can do about your genetic makeup, working with a functional medicine practitioner can help you become more aware of how you can work towards health given what you know about your DNA.
These are just a sample of the tests that we use at Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine. Lab tests give us specific information about your health, helping us partner with you to discover the true cause of your ill health. While many lab tests do not diagnose specific diseases, they do help us gain a better understanding of the entire ecosystem of your body. Knowing more about your hormone levels, reactions to stress, allergens, and gut health can help paint a picture of what is going on in your body. Each of these tests can aid our team in forming a care plan to heal the root of what ails you, allowing you to start living a healthier, fuller life.
Dr. Lundquist is Board Certified in Family Medicine with ABFM and he is sub-specialized with the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABoIM). He has also has received a certification from the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine (ABIHM).
Dr. Lundquist has a special interest in Integrative and Holistic medicine. He is currently the founder and medical director for the Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine specializing in all aspects of Functional Medicine. He is a member of the American Holistic Medical Association as well as the Institute of Functional Medicine. He specializes in endocrine disorders especially thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, chronic fatigue, migraine headaches, cardio metabolic disorders, and chronic pain.