Functional Medicine and Advanced Diagnostic Testing
'Functional Medicine' refers to a medical approach that focuses upon finding the actual cause of a patient's health complaint, rather than treating the symptoms with medications. Functional medicine uses the most up-to-date, modern diagnostic technologies to pinpoint hormonal, biochemical, vitamin, mineral or enzyme imbalances within the human body. By using a variety of blood, urine, stool and saliva samples, doctors can understand how various cells and organs are actually functioning, rather than just noting if structural damage has (finally) occurred (ie. as with most conventional - but dated - blood / urine / stool tests).
The value of this advanced testing cannot be overstated. Patients who are chronically ill, but whose regular blood tests continue to imply that everything is 'normal', can be more thoroughly assessed. The doctor is able to pinpoint biochemical or hormonal impairments and target the specific problem with appropriate treatment.
To understand functional medicine, consider the liver. Routine blood tests run by doctors to 'test' the liver (called 'liver enzymes' - such as 'AST', 'ALT', 'GGT') reveal if cells in the liver have become damaged from conditions such as hepatitis, cirrhosis, 'fatty livers' etc. That is to say, these tests show if structural damage to the organ has occurred. The tests offer absolutely no information about how the liver is actually working (ie. its functioning).
Functional medicine lab tests for the liver can go where conventional blood tests end. These more advanced diagnostic tests can examine the complex biochemistry of the liver (processes called 'Phase 1' and 'Phase 2' detoxification) and see if the organ is working the way it is meant to. This is of tremendous benefit, as conditions ranging from acne, headaches and menstrual irregularities to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, can all result from impaired liver functioning.
Utilizing this modern medical testing, health professionals can then treat a patient with an individualized therapy based on the his/her unique biochemical or hormonal circumstances. Moreover, such testing allows for potential disease processes to be discovered at their earliest stage, before conventional tests reveal any structural damage or before further illness has occurred. Accordingly, functional medicine allows for preventative strategies, as well as being particularly useful in the treatment of existing conditions.
Currently, Millennium Health Centre is the only medical clinic, Naturopathic or otherwise, in eastern Ontario, western Quebec or northern New York State offering this form of advanced testing. The clinic's goal is to avail these services not only to patients of the Millennium Health Centre, but also the neighboring medical clinics and hospitals on both sides of our border.
For more information about functional medicine, read the following article (taken from the 'Articles' page of this site):
Dr. Jones's newspaper column describing functional medicine testing
(above link will open in a new window)
Sample Tests Available at the Millennium Health Centre
The Millennium Health Centre is the ONLY clinic in Eastern Ontario to offer all lab tests described in detail on the following laboratory websites. Click on these websites to learn more about the vast array of advanced medical testing available.
The following are only a few samples of tests the doctors can use to pinpoint the actual cause of a patient's health condition.
Food Allergy Test: Food allergies may be difficult to detect, as the reactions may occur up to 2 days after eating the offending food. Conventional allergy tests (ie. the skin prick test etc. - paid for in Canada by the government) only test for an immune response called a 'Type 1' allergy. These are allergies which create symptoms within seconds to minutes after coming into contact with the allergen (in this case the food). 'Type 1' allergies are controlled by immune cells called 'immunoglobulin E' (or 'IgE'). Anaphylactic reactions are an extreme form of IgE allergies.
Unfortunately, many allergy reactions are simply not 'Type 1' allergies and are not controlled by the IgE immune cells. In these cases conventional 'skin prick' ('IgE') tests will simply not detect the allergen (they can't - these tests are looking at IgE, Type 1, responses only).
Many allergies (food and inhalants) are actually 'delayed' in that symptoms appear hours to days after coming into contact with the allergen. In these cases you eat a certain food and the next day (or the day after that) you have loose stools, sinus congestion etc. etc. (which makes it very difficult for the patient to figure out the 'culprit'). These delayed allergies are called 'Type 3' allergies and are controlled by immune cells called 'immunoglobulin G' (or 'IgG' - see the articles page for more discussion).
The tests offered through Millennium Health Centre do test the response of these elusive IgG immunoglobulins, as well as the IgE. Further, they do so for nearly 100 different food antigens.
Those interested should note that this IS NOT 'vega' testing, or 'electrodermal' testing (claimed to be 'allergy testing' whereby a person holds a magnet in one hand and a vial of a food in the other as a means to 'test' for allergies). The testing described herein is legitimate medical testing conducted by accredited medical laboratories. Blood samples are drawn by the Millennium Health Centre's nursing staff and forwarded to the laboratory.
Some symptoms of food sensitivities include fatigue, migraines and headaches, joint pain, swelling, runny / cogested nose, frequent infections and gallbladder pain.
Cardiovascular Risk Profile Test: This tests multiple risk factors for developing heart disease. It offers a more complete picture, which goes beyond the regular lipid (LDL / HDL) profile of conventional OHIP testing. Anyone with a personal or family history of heart conditions, as well as those at risk for developing cardiovascular disease can benefit from this profile.
Thyroid Function Test: This tests how well thyroid hormones are being produced and used in the body. Some symptoms of improper thyroid function include weight gain, difficulty losing weight, fatigue, thinning hair and eyebrows, constipation and easily feeling cold or chilled.
Liver Detoxification Test: Constant exposure to toxins such as chemicals, food additives and preservatives, medications, tobacco smoke, alcohol, smog and other pollution may put undue stress on our liver. Individuals who experience headaches, constipation, arthritis, eczema, migraines, obesity, food intolerances, gallbladder problems, alcoholism, jaundice and hepatitis may have ineffective liver detoxification processes.
Male and Female Hormone Tests: This test measures the availability of hormones in your body. As a result you are provided with an indication of how much of your hormones your body can use, not just what it has produced.
Gastrointestinal Tract Tests: These include ova and parasite, 'good' versus 'bad' gut flora as well as gut permeability tests. A healthy intestinal tract should not be permeable (i.e. leaky). In other words it should not allow food to pass through unless it has been completely digested. Food intolerances are often the result of a permeable intestinal tract.
Heavy Metal Analysis: Toxic (heavy) metals may be found in our deodorant, canned foods, baked goods, drinking water and other commonly consumed products. They may build up in the body and have been linked to alzhiemers, multiple sclerosis, kidney damage, osteoporosis, heart disease and autism.
Comprehensive Metabolic Function Analysis (ION Test): This provides you with a complete understanding of how the different systems of your body are working and communicating. It can show areas of vitamin, mineral and other nutrient depletion. It also measures your cellular energy production, fatty acid pathways, liver detoxification processes, neurotransmitter utilization, free radical production and intestinal flora ecology.
Readers are highly encouraged to click on the above mentioned laboratory websites for a more thorough and accurate description of the many tests available