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Functional Medicine tests: The ultimate tool for personalized healthcare

Updated: Nov 8, 2023

What tests to do and why?

Are they reliable?


Some health problems are easy to understand and treat, while others make your doctor play a guessing game. It can be frustrating when you are suffering from an assortment of symptoms, and there is no apparent reason. This can happen surprisingly often because every system in the body is inextricably connected to others.


a man digging to find a solution/ answer

Functional medicine tests are conducted to better understand a person's health and identify imbalances or dysfunctions that may contribute to their symptoms or conditions. These tests go beyond traditional medical testing by focusing on the root causes of illnesses rather than just treating symptoms. They are not intended to diagnose or replace conventional tests but complement them.


 

I don't always use these tests. We can often achieve massive success simply through diet and lifestyle changes. If we need more information, where possible, I suggest that clients see their GP as a first line of approach, especially since these tests are free and functional tests aren't.

However, functional tests can be phenomenally useful in providing deeper information and guiding treatment recommendations. Each person's health situation, genetics, and biochemistry are unique, and labs can suss this out more effectively than general symptom identification.


 

The two most common tests I order are the DUTCH and stool tests.

The Dutch Test


The Dutch test examines sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and their metabolites. It identifies any adrenal dysfunction via cortisol, cortisone, and DHEA testing. It is not just about the production of these hormones; their patterns and how they are processed in the body are crucial.

There are three types of oestrogen, and how well they are excreted and the balance with progesterone can make a big difference in whether or not we experience menopausal symptoms (or other symptoms such as PMS). Cortisol levels and its metabolites can help identify issues to do with stress, such as insomnia, fatigue, and brain fog. Cortisol should rise and fall during the day in a very rhythmic manner. If this goes wonky, we can get an assortment of symptoms. Hormones all interact with each other. When any of these fall out of balance, it is likely to affect the others and cause an array of symptoms. Testing helps remove the guesswork.


A Stool Test

A stool test, while not hugely pleasant to do – is, on the whole, tremendously helpful. It can show digestion and absorption levels, inflammation, the gut microbiome balance or imbalance (dysbiosis), and the presence of any bacteria that we seriously do not want. The most current research shows that many significant health concerns are linked closely with gut health. There is often a plethora of symptoms that are difficult to pin down.


 

Other tests can be helpful – fasting insulin resistance index, a complete thyroid check-up (sadly, it is not easy to get that from the NHS), and others to test for vitamin and mineral levels and neurotransmitter levels. Genetic testing can be helpful too.


These tests need to be combined with a client's symptoms, past health history, predispositions, and, often, responsiveness to treatments. They enable us to dig a bit deeper and uncover hidden issues you can't find any other way.


I have used several tests on myself because this is the best way to learn. The DUTCH test was the evidence that I needed to change my nighttime routine. Until that point, I was highly resistant because it seemed annoying, no matter how much we were taught it was necessary. Through that, I went from severe insomnia, relying heavily on prescription medication to get any sleep – to almost no issues whatsoever.


Genetic testing taught me that I process certain neurotransmitters and hormones exceptionally slowly. I HAVE to support this process and manage my stress levels. When I do this, my anxiety levels are acceptable; when I don't – it can be hard to manage. Plus, I have a severely rubbish vitamin D receptor, so I must supplement all year round.


 

Small pieces of information can make a massive difference. They are most certainly not the be-all and end-all.


Are they valid, reliable, etc.? Yes, without a doubt. Functional medicine, along with the tests used, is rigorously science-based.


If you have any questions, please do yell. I am always happy to chat about any concerns and try to answer questions. The link is below.




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