Focusing on physiological function as a marker of health, rather than merely the presence of markers of disease.
Specific laboratory tests aim to evaluate the health status of an individual by measuring how the physiology of the body is functioning, rather than simply looking at indications of disease, which many, more typical, health practitioners focus on.
Laboratory tests can be invaluable in identifying what may contribute to health issues and therefore result in faster successful outcomes by facilitating the development of personal targeted nutritional programmes. For this reason, laboratory tests may be recommended during a consultation and Nutritional Therapy Works uses a range of UK medial laboratories, including Biolab and Genova Diagnostics, so that the most appropriate test can be selected for the client’s health concern.
A test will typically involve a breath, blood, saliva, urine or stool sample. The majority of samples can be taken at home but a client may occasionally be asked to attend the laboratory to provide samples.
There are many different types of tests that may be considered. The following is a selection of the tests available to Nutritional Therapy Works.
Gastrointestinal Tests: digestion and gut function analysis
Digestive complaints are among the most common reasons that individuals seek nutritional therapy. Indeed, a healthy gut is the foundation to good health and digestive abnormalities are associated with many conditions far from the digestive tract.
A variety of non-invasive tests are available to evaluate specific gastrointestinal imbalances and assess digestive health and function. These include measurements of inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract, digestive enzyme levels, the balance of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ gut bacteria, the presence of parasites or fungal infections and H-Pylori infection.
Tests are also available to assess IBS status and intestinal permeability. Increased intestinal permeability is associated with malabsorption of nutrients, chronic gastrointestinal imbalances and many systemic disorders.
Immunology Tests: allergy and antibody profiles
Food and environmental allergens have been implicated in a wide variety of conditions affecting virtually every part of the body, with symptoms ranging from the discomfort of bloating and diarrhea/constipation to severe illnesses such as arthritis and celiac disease.
A number of antibody profiles are available to assess the body’s reaction to a wide range of foods, food additives and other potential allergens in the environment, which may be causing health problems. Some target the causes of immediate (IgE) allergic reactions while others assess the sources of delayed (IgG) reactions, so called “intolerances”, which may not show up for days after exposure to an antigenic substance.
Functional tests are also available for assessing problems with candida albicans, gluten (celiac profiles) and lactose intolerance.
Endocrine Tests: hormone profiles
Practically all systems in the body are controlled by hormones, yet poor diet, stressful lifestyles and exposure to toxins may disrupt hormonal levels, resulting in profound effects on health.
A range of functional tests are available to evaluate different hormones, including:
Adrenal Stress Hormone Profiles: to evaluate levels of cortisol and DHEA, thereby serving as a critical tool for uncovering biochemical imbalances underlying chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety and a host of other conditions.
Thyroid Hormone Profiles: to analyse thyroid hormone production and metabolism, the disruption of which affects virtually every metabolic process in the body. Thyroid hormone underlies a broad spectrum of chronic illness and has significant effect on mood, energy level, weight and sex drive.
Sex Hormones Profiles: to assess imbalances in a range of female sex hormones, illuminating root causes of problems such as PMS, infertility and menstrual irregularity as well as menopause symptoms and systemic disorders.
If, following assessment of these substances in blood, urine or saliva, an imbalance is found, nutritional and lifestyle intervention can frequently balance these hormones out over the following months.
Nutritional and Toxin Status Assessment
Inadequate levels of nutrients or excessive levels of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium or lead can lead to a vast array of health complaints, including arthritis, infertility, osteoporosis, fatigue, depression and behavioral disorders. Long-term imbalances in these substances is also associated with many serious diseases such cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
A number of different comprehensive nutritional assessments are available which measure organic and amino acids to evaluate, amongst other things, vitamin and mineral status, protein adequacy, cellular energy production and neurotransmitter processing. These tests inform individual dietary and supplementation needs and enable nutritional programmes to be very specific and for treatment success to be monitored.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in developed countries and the association between cardiovascular disease and certain metabolic disorders has been known since the 1940s. The clustering of metabolic risk factors in a single individual is now referred to as Metabolic Syndrome and is now thought to affect 20-30% of the population in industrialised countries.
The main features include:
- insulin resistance
- high blood pressure
- cholesterol abnormalities
- elevated triglycerides
- elevated fasting insulin
- elevated fasting glucose
These features can lead the way to both diabetes and heart disease, and are associated with other problems such as fatty liver, kidney disease, polycystic ovary syndrome and cognitive decline in the elderly.
Genetics and environmental conditions such as diet, sedentary lifestyles and progressive weight gain, play an important role in the development of these conditions. For many years elevated cholesterol was the main focal point of treatment and prevention; however, recent research has revealed new biochemical makers which function as major modifiable determinants of cardiovascular and metabolic disease risk.
A number of tests are available which measure these most advanced and important early indicators of risk, meaning that dietary and lifestyle changes may be adopted to decrease the risk of incidence and may slow progression of these diseases.
Other Functional Tests
Many other more specialised tests are available, including:
- Liver Detoxification Profile
- Chronic Fatigue Screen
- Fatty Acid Profile
- Osteoporosis Risk Assessment
- Amino Acid Profile
- Homocysteine Level Assessment
- Anaemia Profile
For more information on the tests available please visit: Genova Diagnostics
The cost of these tests vary, dependent on the complexity of the test, ranging from £40 to around £600. Nutritional therapy can still be very effective without these tests, but in certain circumstances their use helps to target the treatment protocol and so may produce results faster. Tests are also an excellent way of monitoring progress.
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