You’re headed on a cross-country road trip and you have two choices:
- Use a map that lays out the entire route, with landmarks for gas stations, rest stops, and hotels.
- Start driving and hope for the best.
I’m betting you’ll choose option one! Just imagine all the time you’ll save and frustration you’ll avoid. With option two, you might not make it to your destination at all!
The right testing in functional medicine is the equivalent of a trusty map.
It reveals the imbalances, deficiencies, and toxic exposures that triggered your condition, so we can overcome them on your journey to recovery.
Determining which tests you’ll need depends on your condition, symptoms, lifestyle, and the clues uncovered by your practitioner. That being said, there are a few tests I recommend for every autoimmune patient. They identify the major landmarks and help us see what other information is missing.
Here are my 3 go-to tests for autoimmune patients in our Adaptation Programs.
Comprehensive Bloodwork Panel
This test is very different from the standard blood work you’ll see in a traditional doctor’s office. It provides a really comprehensive snapshot of your overall health, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, cholesterol, autoimmune markers, thyroid levels, hormones, and so much more.
For patients with autoimmunity or suspected autoimmunity, I like that it provides clues to diagnoses that might have been missed. A positive result on the general autoimmune screen (ANA) is a red flag I look at, and it has an option for a more in-depth screen (called an ENA) that picks up on Sjogrens, Lupus, Scleroderma and other conditions that are frequently overlooked.
Oxidative stress and inflammatory levels are another big red flag for autoimmune patients and this test establishes where you’re at on that spectrum.
There are a number of key nutrient deficiencies linked to autoimmunity that this test also evaluates, including iron, vitamin D, omega 3s, and b vitamins.
Overall, this test is an incredibly valuable tool for diagnostics and prevention. It’s the first test I order for every new patient.
Comprehensive Stool Test with Parasitology
It’s no secret that gut issues play a big role in autoimmune disease, and every other chronic illness for that matter. Nearly 80% of your immune system resides in your gut, it’s where you absorb the vital nutrients for immune function, and it plays a big role in detoxification, among many other things.
I love that this test provides a comprehensive view of the digestive tract by identifying bacterial, fungal, and viral pathogens, parasitic protozoa and worms, and evaluating digestive function, immune response, and inflammation.
It also utilizes multiple technologies to give us the best information available. For example, it uses PCR technology to check for the DNA of specific parasites that may not be detected on a visual check (and are therefore usually missed).
Because we take a results-oriented approach, it’s highly practical because it prioritizes and ranks each result based on severity and provides suggestion to overcome each imbalance.
Comprehensive Nutrition Profile
As we covered a few weeks ago, your immune system relies on the right fuel (AKA nutrients) to mount a proper defense against threats without going haywire and causing an autoimmune reaction.
Addressing nutrient deficiencies is one of the quickest and easiest ways to see improvements in your symptoms while working through a whole-body approach to recovery.
This test helps you very specifically identify any vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and supportive nutrients for mitochondrial function and methylation that you are lacking. While the blood panel I mentioned above provides a nutritional overview, this urine test tells us what’s going on at a cellular level with nutrient absorption and in the small intestine.
Armed with this in-depth data, you can implement a personalized dietary and supplement protocol that targets exactly what you’re missing, without wasting money on supplements you don’t need.
Weighing the Cost of Testing vs Not Testing
Most of the patients who join our Adaptation Program are eager to find clarity and solutions for their health and are ready to invest in testing. However, there are times when patients are hesitant due to the cost. I completely understand this concern, which is why we negotiate directly with the lab companies to get pricing that is less than what insurance pays.
I also like to remind patients that the reason functional medicine works and can put chronic disease into remission is because we treat the root causes of each patient’s illness. In order to do that, we have to know what the causes are!
There is an upfront investment to gain a clear path forward, but there is a steep long-term cost to covering up symptoms with pharmaceuticals or letting the disease progress unchecked.
About the Author: Dr. Seth Osgood is a Doctor of Nursing Practice, Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) Certified Practitioner. Dr. Osgood received his post-graduate training in Functional Medicine through the IFM and from working with Dr. Amy Myers. He has helped people from around the world improve their health utilizing a Functional Medicine approach.
Want to work with Dr. Osgood and the GrassRoots team? Become a patient in our West Lebanon, New Hampshire Functional Medicine clinic, our Burlington, Vermont Functional Medicine clinic, or our Austin, Texas Functional Medicine clinic!