Getting a more accurate and complete picture of your health
Whether you’re suffering from a chronic illness, or you’re getting lab work done to see how well your body is functioning, it’s extremely important to have an accurate and complete picture of your health. It provides direction, gives validation, helps gain the support of family and friends, and gives insight if treatment changes are necessary.
The lab work we recommend will depend on your health history, the past and current state of your health and wellness, and other factors we’ll learn during our initial discovery process. Some labs require an appointment with our lab tech to draw blood, others are take-home tests. Once completed we send samples to specific labs to get accurate results, which typically takes around two weeks.
After we get your lab work back, your provider will walk through every part of your lab results with you, providing detailed interpretation and answering any questions or concerns you may have. This appointment is in-person (or virtual if you choose), and is typically about 1-1.5 hrs, to make sure you understand everything we’re seeing and recommending. If after the appointment, you still have questions, you can reach out to your care team anytime.
Looking At The Whole Picture
Have you ever felt like something was off in your body, but all of your labs come back “normal”? That might be because your labs are not looking at the full picture, with a range that is for optimal health, not just to prevent disease. All of the systems in the body affect each other, which means using just one lab value to evaluate an entire system in the body is not going to give the whole picture. This also means treatment options will likely fall short when the most accurate data is not available. We don’t guess, we comprehensively test.
Why we don’t use other practices’ lab work
There are many reasons why we do not like to use other practice’s lab assessments. While we look to review what has been done from other providers and practices – we often find these lab reports to have numerous faults; are very incomplete or not comprehensive enough to truly get an understanding of the physiology trying to be assessed; and were drawn incorrectly, at an incorrect time or the wrong analytes were assessed.
We review labs with a much more strict reference range based on optimal physiology, not wide reference ranges, where a lot of health conditions are incorrectly considered normal. When working with your typical physician, the range of what is considered “normal” is quite wide. This is because they are trained to base their analysis and rely on the lab reference range which typically varies from lab to lab, region to region and is based on the averages and standard deviations of many of the labs drawn in that company and region. Therefore, it is not necessarily factoring in what is ideal human physiology and ranges for the optimal person.
Functional medicine has a much more narrow window (reference range) of lab levels called “functional reference ranges” which are standardized among functional medicine practitioners through scientific data, medical research, and extensive knowledge of biochemistry.
Tracking progress by retesting
Tracking progress is important when monitoring your path to greater health. By testing at various points throughout your personal treatment or optimization plan, we can further understand if what we’re implementing together is working, or if any adjustments need to be made.
For some, the journey to greater health can be a challenging one. So we like to celebrate improvements and milestones in the data from lab work because it reinforces that all of the changes you have made in your lifestyle, diet, and supplement regimen are worth it. It also helps you reach and maintain healthy habits that promote optimal health and wellness.
If improvements are not what we expect, we continue to investigate the root-causes to your condition, and test further. If that happens, don’t worry, we’ve had a lot of success over the years with even the most challenging of health issues. Some health issues, combined with other environmental and personal variables, require more work than others.
Once Dr. Priest had the lab results, he sat down with me again to explain them in detail, and correlate that to my personalized wellness plan so that I understood clearly what the lab results meant, why I was feeling poorly based on my current state, and what each directive was for and how it would help me feel better.
Functional medicine lab testing and analysis is one of the best ways to ensure early detection and prevention of diseases.
Let’s look at autoimmune disease as an example:
- Conventional medicine diagnoses autoimmune diseases once a notable amount of tissue is damaged or the disease has progressed to a significant point, where it is more advanced.
- Functional medicine is often able at times to find clues in some standard basic labs (like lipid panels, CBC, CMP, CRP), combined with clinical understanding. Then if needed, functional medicine can dig a lot deeper and look for certain antibodies against tissues, cytokine levels, functional markers of the immune system, and more.
With proper treatment, autoimmune complications can be slowed, put into remission, or better yet, caught before they ever become an issue. But waiting until your body is already damaged by an autoimmune condition minimizes the degree to which you can reverse the progression.
The beauty with functional medicine is it’s likely we can catch an autoimmune condition before it becomes advanced, as well as showing us if an autoimmune disease is developing, progressing, or moving into remission.
Here is an example that happens far too often:
Your old primary care physician might look at TSH and T4 if they suspect a problem with your thyroid, or you are on thyroid medication. Unfortunately, these two levels alone do not give a true picture of the functionality of your thyroid. As an integrative medicine practice, we will look at the whole thyroid by assessing the levels and balance of each of these:
- T-4, (thyroxine), total
- T-4, free
- T-3, total
- T-3 free
- T-3 reverse
- T-3, uptake
- Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPOAb) & Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb) — These are important to review, as autoimmune diseases should be treated differently.
By looking at all levels we are able to truly understand what is going on from a physiological standpoint in your body.
An additional consideration we take when reviewing lab results is how some levels may be impacting another – whether in the same system of the body or a different one. For example, we can look at thyroid levels and a full female hormone panel to see if a thyroid complication is the cause of a hormone imbalance.