Functional testing focuses on physiological function (i.e. how the body functions at a molecular, tissue or organ level), rather than merely the presence of markers of disease, like conventional medical testing. At most cases both are essential in order to draw a clear picture of the individual’s cause of health problems and specific requirements and to re-establish equilibrium using nutritional and lifestyle intervention.
Functional tests, in particular, can be invaluable in identifying the underlying cause of your health issues, as well as your unique nutritional needs, when coupled with your health history, dietary/lifestyle habits and nutritional goals. Diagnostic tests bring faster successful outcomes by facilitating the development of more individualised and targeted therapeutic protocols, as well as preventing illness. Laboratory tests are selected carefully depending on your particular problem among a wide range of tests offered by well established, scientific laboratories in the UK and US. Test results are known within two to four weeks, depending on the particular test.
A test is most often non-invasive and typically involves a breath, blood, saliva, urine or stool sample. The majority of samples can be taken at home but a client may occasionally be asked to attend the laboratory to provide samples.
Our clinic offers a broad range of functional health tests to help assess the causes of ill health. The following is a selection of the tests available:
Gastrointestinal Tests: digestion and gut function analysis
- Digestive Stool Analysis – to check for digestion and absorption, the presence of hidden yeasts, bacterial infections and parasites, the balance of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut, digestive enzyme levels and possible inflammation in the large intestine
- SIBO breath test – to check for possible bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, very often the case in IBS, bloating and other gastrointestinal disturbances.
- Lactose intolerance breath test
- Leaky gut/ Intestinal Permeability test – to check for integrity of the gut lining, very helpful in gastrointestinal disturbances and immune system reactions, including autoimmunity (rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis etc) and allergies
- Candida test – to check for yeast overgrowth
- H. Pylori Antigen test
Immunology Tests: allergy and antibody profiles
- Gluten intolerance (celiac profiles) and Gluten Sensitivity (non-coeliac mediated)
- Food allergy (IgE-immediate allergic reactions) and Food Intolerance(IgG-delayed) test. Food, food additives and environmental allergens have been implicated in a wide variety of conditions ranging from the discomfort of bloating, migraines, headaches, stomach aches, IBS, constipation/diarrhea, cough, runny nose to severe illnesses such as arthritis and coeliac disease. Food intolerances may show up even 72h after exposure to an antigenic substance, making it hard to identify the causative agent. Common intolerances include but are not restricted to gluten, yeast, dairy, nuts, beans.
Endocrine Tests: hormone profiles
Practically all systems in the body are controlled by hormones, yet poor diet, stressful lifestyles and exposure to toxins may disrupt hormonal levels, resulting in profound effects on health.
A range of functional tests are available to evaluate different hormones, including:
- Adrenal Stress Index Test – to measure the level of salivary cortisol and DHEA, critical for uncovering biochemical imbalances underlying chronic fatigue.
- Thyroid Hormone Profiles – to analyse thyroid hormone production and metabolism, the disruption of which affects virtually every metabolic process in the body, from mood and energy levels to weight and sex drive. Conventional diagnostic testing will only test for clinical hypo/hyperthyroidism (disease). Subclinical hypothyroidism is increasingly common in the UK and Mediterranean countries, often left undiagnosed, leaving people feeling desperate or ‘not right’. Functional testing is crucial for early detection of thyroid issues and prevention of thyroid disease.
- Female/Sex Hormones Profile – a test using saliva to track the female hormones over a cycle to find out where the imbalances are occurring. Vital to determine root causes of problems such as PMS, infertility and menstrual irregularity as well as menopause symptoms and systemic disorders
- Oestrogen metabolism test – this test measures the ratio of ‘good’ to ‘bad’ oestrogens which can either encourage or inhibit breast cancer
Nutritional and Toxin Status Assessment
Inadequate levels of vitamins, minerals and other orthomolecular nutrients or excessive levels of heavy metals can lead to a vast array of health complaints, including infertility, menopause, osteoporosis, miscarriage, children’s health, fatigue, depression as well as more serious diseases such as cancer and heart disease long-term. These tests point towards the right dietary and supplementation programmes and establish their success.
- Mineral Hair Analysis Test – to test for mineral levels and heavy metal toxicity. Heavy metal assessment is particularly important for individuals coming in contact with toxic chemicals on a daily basis, such as smoking, living in polluted cities, paint, mines, mercury dental fillings, pesticides etc
- Bone scanning – to evaluate the risk of osteoporosis
- A number of comprehensive nutritional assessments which measure the levels of organic and amino acids, vitamin and mineral status, protein adequacy, cellular energy production and neurotransmitter processing, such as the Optimal Nutrition Evaluation, NutrEval, Antioxidant biomarkers, Plasma Mineral Profile, Fatty Acid Profile, Anaemia Profile etc and help determine which nutrients and at what levels are most important for you and not for the mythical average person.
- Liver Detoxification Profile – to test for the rate of toxin elimination.
Genetics, sedentary lifestyle and progressive weight gain are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease, Metabolic Syndrome, diabetes and obesity. Cholesterol has been blamed for many years for the aforementioned conditions, however the latest research points towards more specific and accurate biochemical markers. A range of tests are available for early detection of risk, including:
- PCOS screening
- Inflammation markers
- Homocysteine Level Assessment
- Body fat assessment
- Glycosylated Haemoglobin
- Fating glucose and insulin levels – to measure pre-diabetes states and progression towards type II diabetes and many more.
It is important to underline, that while conventional medicine looks at “normal/medically-accepted” ranges of blood tests, naturopathy looks at the optimal narrower ranges, and will evaluate GP tests accordingly. “Clinically” normal reference ranges are very wide and it is often the case that instead of feeling relief when the doctor gives you back “normal” results, you may feel worse knowing that something is not right, but has not been picked up by the doctor.
Nutrigenomics is a branch of nutritional genomics and cutting-edge area of research, studying the effects of foods and food constituents on gene expression (DNA), at the molecular level. Knowing that specific foods can have an effect on your genetic expression is invaluable when dealing with chronic illness/symptoms.
Nutrigenetics, on the other hand, studies how genetic variation or SNPs can influence, nutrients’ absorption, metabolism, elimination or biological effects, which can be extremely useful in pointing towards your unique needs and creating long-lasting results. Knowing your genetic predispositions can help prevent illness and foster optimal health for a lifetime.
Various laboratories in the UK offer DNA Genetic Testing & Analysis.