Insights

3 Reasons You Need Functional Lab Testing

Aug 11, 2020 / by Dana Faris RDN, LD

Over the years, I’ve had countless patients bring their standard blood labs from their doctor to our initial appointment. Most frequently, their feedback is “my doctor says all of the numbers seem fine, but I’m still not feeling great. What do I do?” 

From the perspective of a functional medicine practitioner, these standard labs are not very informative. The good news is that there are lots of options for digging deeper to find more information. Accurate diagnostics are a critical component of providing meaningful care. 

There are a variety of factors that can cause chronic health disorders like:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • diabetes
  • dementia
  • depression
  • fatigue
  • migraines
  • cancer
Functional medicine is about using peer-reviewed science to find the root causes underlying these chronic conditions. Functional medicine lab tests take us deeper into the body to highlight potential issues to be addressed, at a depth that standard lab tests simply do not go.  

Still not convinced? Here the top three reasons why you should seek out functional medicine lab tests: 

ACCURACY

Functional panels measure a wide variety of biomarkers, well beyond the standard blood panels in conventional medicine.

For example, a basic panel in functional medicine typically measures well over 50 biomarkers, with more in-depth labs measuring over 100 markers. More data allows our body to provide us with more accurate feedback on what’s going on. 

In addition, conventional lab ranges are often wider than what we find is actually beneficial for feeling optimal. A great example of this can be seen in measuring Vitamin D levels. The standard reference range is 30 to 100 ng/mL, with less than 30 ng/mL increasing the risk for developing conditions such as the skeletal disorder, rickets. However, rickets was mostly eliminated as a health concern in the early 90’s. The reality is that a “functional” range for vitamin D for most people is actually somewhere between 50 and 75 ng/mL. So, a result of 38 ng/mL on a lab test may be seen as “normal” or “in-range” by a conventional practitioner, and therefore wouldn’t inspire follow-up. This could be a real cause of health concern, however, to practitioner concerned with a root cause approach. Some simple recommendations for Vitamin D support could result in dramatic changes in preventive health and vitality, depending on the patient.   

PERSONALIZATION

With functional medicine testing, we evaluate labs with the specific patient in mind, including an understanding of their full health history. This mindset allows us to ensure that a patient’s labs are optimal and personalized to the individual. 

The next step after receiving lab results is to craft a health plan to address the given results. With a personalized mindset, no two health plans will be the same. A given outcome on a certain biomarker does not indicate the same action for every person. It’s important to consider results in the context of everything else we know about the patient - their health history, diet and lifestyle, current medications, and other test results.   

PREVENTION 

In addition to addressing a specific known condition, with functional medicine testing, we use the data the body gives us to identify a health trend BEFORE it manifests into a disease. This allows us to focus on maintaining health and preventing the advancement of certain chronic conditions. 

As a functional practitioner at Alive + Well, my goal is not just to help you feel better, but help you thrive. We must set the bar higher than “not being sick”. Developing an ongoing and deep relationship with a health practitioner is ideal. Whether it’s with us or another clinician, consider taking this approach: visit your practitioner to stay healthy and optimize, not just when you feel bad.  

WHAT'S NEXT?

Interested in establishing a relationship with a functional medicine-focused health team, or just curious to learn more? Schedule a free 15 minute consult with a member of our team. 

To see all of the functional medicine test options we offer at Alive + Well, explore our full menu here

Tags: Functional Medicine, homepage

Dana Faris RDN, LD

Written by Dana Faris RDN, LD