It is an awkward sight to walk down the street and see someone using a payphone or pager today. This is largely because the mobile phone has made these technologies obsolete. Technological advancements in the healthcare space are no different. We now have ways to measure what part of the brain lights up given a certain stimuli or perform surgery using small incisions and robotic arms.
Given the progression of many technologies in healthcare, bloodwork has remained almost unchanged for decades. We have a few new markers but many of these markers don’t fluctuate until a degenerative or disease-based process has already been under way.
Our most significant health worry centuries ago was infectious disease. Today the leading causes of death are chronic disease based – diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer top the charts. One fact is becoming more and more evident – you can’t always use the same tools to measure functional health and disease.
Don’t get me wrong, blood testing is still very helpful and I encourage my patients to get regular testing done. However, the definition of “health” is not the absence of symptoms. For this reason, the definition of health can’t possibly be quantified by an absence of “out-of-range” blood markers.
Here is a great case example of someone who had “perfect” blood work despite her current diagnosis. Meet Andrea, a 46 year old female with a diagnosis of progressive multiple sclerosis for approximately 8 years. Her presenting symptoms included an inability to walk without help (presented in wheelchair), poor balance and poor strength, and urinary urgency.
Here is her blood-work below:
If someone had just sent me Andrea’s bloodwork (without any history), I would have never expected her to be in my office. She had very comprehensive bloodwork done – far more detailed than the average patient gets done yearly. Everything is in range and looks near perfect.
After meeting with Andrea, I wanted to get a deeper look into her functional health status. She performed a test called an Organic Acids Test which looks at cellular function, liver function, brain chemistry, and gut overgrowths. What I saw floored me and showed me a missed component of her case and a large area for room for improvement. It also became increasingly evident that bloodwork for many of us is simply not enough.
Here we have Andrea’s mitochondrial function from her Organic Acids Test. Under her carbohydrate metabolism we can see that she is not metabolizing the carbohydrates she is consuming. This is a sign of insulin resistance – a potentially pre-diabetic process that can be detected months to years prior to blood sugar fluctuating on blood work. On her bloodwork, her HbA1C was tested which is a measure of a patient’s blood sugar levels over approximately 8-12 weeks. Andrea had a perfect reading at 5.1 which indicated she was nowhere close to the diabetic range. Yet on her Organic Acid’s test we saw how significant this really was with L-Lactate accumulating to 152.6 (should be less than 8.5).
What we also see under Energy Production is a substantially sluggish mitochondria (our cellular energy power plants). All 8 markers in this section form an assembly line in your cells called the Citric Acid Cycle. The purpose of this assembly line is to make energy. We can see 7 of 8 workers on her assembly line are letting the work pile up on their desk and ultimately, impacting mitochondrial function which is needed for proper muscle function, strength, and overall energy.
Above, we see significant levels of bacterial overgrowth in her intestinal tract. These overgrown organisms can steal nutrition and can help explain all of the deficiencies that were found in the earlier Mitochondrial Function section.
While every case is a unique, we see this pattern in many patients. This test not only allows one to find what amount of therapeutic levels of nutrients are required to influence certain processes but also functions as a preventative screening tool.
If you have been struggling with health challenges and have tried many diet and supplement interventions with little success, functional testing can be a powerful tool to discover your blindspots and achieve great health.