Functional Medicine Diagnostic Testing
Plum Spring Clinic utilizes key functional medicine tests to serve two important purposes:
- to reveal the nature of the physiological disturbance underlying a person’s symptoms,
- to serve as a measure of the progress a patient has made.
These purposes may seem obvious; however, there is one common purpose for many alternative medicine clinics that does not apply at Plum Spring Clinic, to generate revenue. In most cases, our patients make direct payments to the laboratories performing the tests. This allows them to enjoy the most economical price and eliminates any potential conflicts of interest.
There are a number of categories of tests we utilize, many of which are outlined below. Within some categories, we have provided a link to a few of the most common and powerful laboratory tests we incorporate into our practice. For non-specialty lab testing we use Quest Labs or Labcorp, depending on which lab is more convenient for our patients. We suggest Any Lab Test Now, who has local facilities in Durham, Raleigh, and Cary, as a convenient option for test sample collection, and we help our non-local patients locate a collection facility near them.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Metabolic Impairments
Assessing whether a person’s metabolism is compromised by nutritional deficiencies is difficult and requires both knowing what tests to order and how to interpret them.
In many instances, (vitamin B12 and calcium are two good examples) measuring the actual level of the nutrient says little or nothing about whether the level is adequate to support optimum function. Also, some nutrients are pervasively under consumed in our population so results can not be interpreted correctly using only averages and standard deviations.
Vitamin and mineral levels alone do not tell the whole story either. Variations in genetics (our genetic code), epigenetics (what parts of our code are utilized), toxic burdens, disease states, diet, and other environmental factors may alter the optimal levels of nutrients and how they are used within our metabolism.
Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease
Routine testing for blood cholesterol provides only the most basic of information about the good and bad fats in our blood and the overall health of our cardiovascular system. More advanced testing is available to assess the risk of blood lipids and inflammation levels within the cardiovascular system.
Comprehensive Stool Analysis
The gut is the center of our wellbeing. If it is not working properly, no other major physiological domain is safe from the effects of toxin accumulation and inadequate nutrition. We utilize testing that allows us to go beyond simply detecting the presence of pathogens (disease causing lifeforms). Our testing menu can also assess the integrity of the gut lining, health of the beneficial gut microbiome, the sufficiency of digestive enzymes, and presence inflammation within the gut.
Food Sensitivity Testing
Many patients have leaky gut and don’t know it. One of the most damaging long-term consequences of this condition is the activation of the immune system by foods that we eat every day. Because these immune reactions are delayed, it is very difficult for an individual to determine which foods are causing symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, muscle and joint pains and chronic fatigue. Leaky gut is thought by many scientists to lead to autoimmune illness.
Small Bowel Overgrowth
The small intestine is the region of our digestive system where we make the final breakdown of our food and absorb the nutrients into our bodies. This process may be seriously disrupted by bacterial, fungal, or parasitic overgrowth. Techniques to determine the presence of this condition are imperfect but there are some tests that can suggest its presence.
Illness caused by chronic heavy metal (lead, arsenic, mercury, cadmium) burden is not well understood. The standards for acute poisoning, in comparison, are better established. Much of the difficulty associated with the treatment of chronic heavy metal illness is the difficulty in establishing the tissue burden since baseline blood, urine, and stool testing is unreliable. The pervasive presence of plastic and other modern chemical preservatives and additives is creating an increasing toxic burden upon us all. The metabolites of many of these toxins can be detected in the urine.
Neurotransmitter and Adrenal Health Testing
The majority of our patients have mood disorders that are at least a part of their unwellness. Mood, attention, and sleep are modulated by a family of molecules called neurotransmitters. Tests are now available to determine their level in the urine, blood, or saliva and it is possible to draw some implications about how a person’s health may be compromised by inadequate levels in the body from this information. The tests must be interpreted with caution. Similar testing is available to assess the activity of the adrenal gland, including measurement of the important stress hormone cortisol and sex hormone precursor DHEA.
Sleep is an essential pillar of health during which our body initiates a cycle of remodel and repair. Adequate and high quality sleep is required for proper functioning of both our brains and bodies and sleep disorders are both a common cause and symptom of illness. Traditional sleep studies require overnight stays in medical facilities where you are asked to ‘sleep normally’ in a foreign environment with dozens of electrodes attached to your body. We utilize a small and simple take-home device that provides high quality detailed information about the quality of your sleep.