Lab tests come in 2 varieties: specialised functional tests from private labs and basic tests that can be done by your GP.
Private labs have a very wide range of tests that can accurately pinpoint dysfunction in metabolic processes such as the production of hormones, neurotransmitters and immune system defences. They can also identify imbalances in the bacterial population of your digestive and respiratory systems, and identify pathogens such as infectious bacteria and parasites.
For clients with weight issues, the metabolic analysis test is particularly useful in identifying how the body is utilising proteins, carbohydrates and fats for energy. This test also pinpoints issues with dopamine, a neurotransmitter which impacts appetite and satiety.
GP tests have wide ranges, as your GP is looking for the presence or absence of specific diseases, rather than looking at what is your basic requirement for optimum health. For example, vitamin B12 reference ranges can start as low as 110 ng/L in despite recent research showing that there is a risk of conditions such as anemia, depression, foggy thinking and forgetfulness, with serum B12 levels below 350 ng/L. Additionally B12 deficiency is associated with infertility, recurrent miscarriage and abnormal PAP smears. Neurological symptoms commonly occur in patients before doctors recognise that B12 concentrations are too low, and damage may be irreversible if treatment is delayed.
The ranges used in Functional Medicine tend to be narrower, as the aim is to optimise health rather than marginally avoid disease.
Useful tests from your GP include:
- Complete blood count
- Full iron panel: serum iron, serum ferritin, serum iron, serum TIBC. Together these 4 tests can give a clear picture of iron status.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
- Cholesterol panel
- Liver enzymes panel
- Thyroid hormones: TSH, free T4 and free T3
- Blood sugar: Hb1Ac and fasting insulin