FUNCTIONAL BLOOD CHEMISTRY ANALYSIS
One of the first things that will happen when you begin working with a functional medicine practitioner is that he or she will order a comprehensive blood chemistry panel to get an overall picture of your body’s metabolism.
Remember that the goal here is to get at the root causes of any health issue you may have, so functional blood chemistry analysis is like a fact-finding mission to see what is going on with the different systems in your body. This lab work will give your functional medicine practitioner vital information about your kidneys, liver, blood sugar, cholesterol, calcium, electrolytes, proteins, red blood cells, immune cells, hormones, blood clotting, inflammation, and vitamin/mineral status.
So, how important is functional blood chemistry analysis? According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, author of “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?” and “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” and an internationally renowned expert in functional medicine and nutrition, "There is no general screening test that is more efficient, effective, and affordable than a comprehensive blood chemistry panel.”
Dr. Kharrazian points out that “a comprehensive blood chemistry panel will allow the healthcare provider to quickly assess the degree of health or disease in a patient. It is the ultimate tool in biomedical laboratory sciences to evaluate new patients. It allows the healthcare provider to establish a baseline of biomarkers that can be used to track the patient’s health immediately and over time."
The number and type of markers that are tested is only half the picture, though; what really takes functional blood chemistry analysis to the next level, beyond what is done routinely by your conventional doctor, is its approach to something called reference ranges.
Reference ranges are the range of numbers the doctor compares your results to, to see if your results are “normal” or problematic in some way (for example, a reference range for glucose is 65-110).
THE REFERENCE RANGES USED IN SYMPTOM-BASED APPROACHES HAVE SOME SHORTCOMINGS:
- They are based on an average of the individuals who had that test done, so the range doesn’t really show where a person should be for their systems to be functioning at an optimal level.
- With a few exceptions, they are not standardized throughout the country, so ranges can differ from region to region.
Functional blood chemistry analysis looks beyond these ranges, and compares your tests results to a "functional" range that shows where you should be for your body’s systems to be operating at a healthy and optimal level. That’s why it’s so common to have a person who is experiencing symptoms, but whose labs are reported as "normal" by someone untrained in functional blood chemistry analysis. When the labs are looked at through a different filter, and compared to functional ranges, then the real problem often becomes clear.
Your endocrine system performs a vital role in your body: through a network of glands including the thyroid, ovaries, pancreas, and adrenal glands, the endocrine system produces and secretes hormones that are needed for your body to function.
Hormones are chemical signals that regulate lots of different functions in your body, from metabolism to growth and reproduction. When these signals are not produced in the correct amount, or when something prevents them from getting to where they should be or doing the job they are supposed to be doing, your body doesn’t function properly.
Conventional endocrinology tries to pinpoint which glands aren’t working the way they should, and then uses a drug or pharmaceutical to replace, suppress, or support the affected hormones.
Functional endocrinology aims first to identify dysfunctional glands early on, before the problem leads to disease. This early detection is often ignored and untreated in conventional endocrinology, sometimes even despite a person having symptoms.
Functional endocrinology also involves getting to the root of dysfunction and addressing the cause of the problem, instead of just suppressing the symptom. Just like functional blood chemistry analysis, functional endocrinology includes lab work that looks beyond the conventional reference ranges.
Your immune system is basically like your body’s defense mechanism, enabling you to fight off infection and illness.
It helps your body understand what things are healthy and belong in it, and which things aren’t healthy and don’t belong. When this system is not working to full capacity, you are more susceptible to illness; when this system works too hard, we can see things like allergies, autoimmune disease, or transplant rejection.
One of the most common things that can result from a dysfunctional immune system is autoimmunity, which is when your immune system kicks into hyper drive and starts attacking your body’s own tissues, because it can no longer tell the difference between something unhealthy that doesn’t belong in the body, and something healthy that does belong in the body. Autoimmunity is actually the third leading cause of sickness and death today.
Lots of people with chronic health problems unknowingly have autoimmunity, but don’t get diagnosed by conventional medicine until they are in the end stages of disease. That’s where functional immunology comes in. Just like functional blood chemistry analysis and functional endocrinology, functional immunology includes lab tests that look beyond those conventional reference ranges, which allows for much earlier detection of any problem with the immune system.