Functional Medicine has become an overused term in recent years, and now every practitioner outside of the dysfunctional medical system is suddenly using “Functional Medicine.” You may pay upwards of $500/hour for a consultation with some newbie practitioners, only to end up with an additional $10,000 worth of bizarre lab tests or $5000 worth of supplements that may or may not help you.
I take a more conservative approach and start with a basic screening test, which is a test that you should be doing on an annual basis anyway. A comprehensive wellness panel that includes important biomarkers for your liver, kidneys, electrolytes, red and white blood cell count, blood glucose, thyroid, and iron levels is an excellent preventive medicine and basic screening tool. An even better (but pricier) option would be the Wellness Complete test. This one also includes a more comprehensive thyroid panel, measurement of all the sex hormones, insulin, hemoglobin A1C, a reputable cholesterol test that includes particle number and size (what you actually need to know to determine heart disease risk), and your levels of a variety of nutrients including folate, B12, and magnesium.
If you have this test done annually when you’re in peak health, any major changes in your biomarkers will alert you to a problem brewing. If you don’t know your healthy baseline and are experiencing symptoms of illness, this test (in addition to your medical history, age, lifestyle, and occupation) can also provide clues as to what further testing is most appropriate.
For example, if a type of white blood cell known as eosinophils is elevated, we might want to order a stool test to check for a parasitic infection. Enlarged red blood cells indicate B vitamin deficiencies or impaired ability to methylate B vitamins. If all biomarkers look good, but you have fatigue and difficulty sleeping, a salivary adrenal panel and a food sensitivity panel may provide some answers. For chronic skin issues that don’t respond to an elimination diet, we might check for gut permeability and microbial imbalances. I explain how to understand what your basic screening test results mean in my ebook, which is available for purchase here.
The key point here is that you should ideally be doing a comprehensive wellness panel or Wellness Complete test on an annual basis, even in the absence of chronic illness. This makes it MUCH easier to nip a problem in the bud before it gets out of hand and gets diagnosed as some kind of “disease.” But even if you are already feeling unwell, a basic screening test can provide a lot of clues for further testing. If you skip this step, you’re just guessing which tests or supplements you need.
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