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What Causes Disease?

This is the time of year that we reflect and really try to better ourselves. I love that for many people, this means a re-dedication to health and well-being. While most people think of losing weight and exercising more as being the most important lifestyle changes, this is often not enough to become truly healthy, and we need to investigate deeper to uncover the pathologies that are causing our poor health.

Functional laboratory testing is a priceless tool for practitioners like me. We go beyond the conventional blood and stool testing because uncovering underlying pathologies helps us to move toward better health. We go beyond the Band-Aid. Our testing works to uncover the cause, remove those obstacles, and finally to open the pathway to healing.

I have found that there are several common factors that underlie most health conditions:

Gut Dysfunction

The health of the GI tract is important for proper digestion, absorption of nutrients, immune function, and even neurological function. I use breath testing for H. Pylori and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), and stool testing to see the health of the large intestine.

HPA Axis Dysfunction

Commonly referred to as Adrenal Fatigue, this is a system that is largely dependent upon a healthy stress response. Our chronic exposure to stressful conditions, over-work, sleep deprivation, light at night, improper diet, and lack of sunlight leads to a disruption in this very important system. I love the dried urine testing for cortisol rhythm, which shows cortisol output at 4-5 different times in a day, total cortisol production, and cortisol metabolites.

Cellular Pathologies

Impaired cellular function, mitochondrial damage, and issue with cellular respiration and methylation are common in many chronic health conditions. They usually manifest as cancer and disorders of mood and attention, but the health of the cell is essential for overall health. Organic Acid testing is helpful to identify these pathologies.

Chronic Infections

More common than we would think, chronic viral and bacterial infections underlie many health problems. These infections are stealthy, difficult to find and identify, and promote inflammation that can lead to serious morbidity and mortality.

Toxic Overload

The onslaught of chemicals in our environment plays a tremendous and often overlooked effect on our bodies. Our detoxification systems can tolerate only so much, and a toxic burden can affect any system in the body, from immune function to hormone disruption. Heavy metals, biotoxins such as mold, and chemical exposure commonly cause real health problems.

Nutrient Imbalances

It is very common that people are deficient in B12, iron, folate, magnesium, vitamin D, fat-soluble vitamins, zinc, and essential fatty acids. It is also common to find people who have excessive stores of iron, vitamin D, and copper. We require over 40 different nutrients in order to function properly. Deficiencies and excesses of nutrients can lead to a host of symptoms that are easily corrected with proper nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle changes. We tend to shrug off the idea that in our developed world we could have nutrient deficiencies, but over half of Americans consume the RDA of some of these nutrients. We are overfed, but undernourished.

Immune Dysregulation

Statistically 1 of 4 women and 1 of 6 men will develop an autoimmune condition. Improper immune function is often caused by one of many of these contributing pathological factors. But addressing the condition along with the underlying cause can help decrease an overactive immune response and help work toward a better health outcome.

Hormone Imbalances

Sex hormones, adrenal hormones, and metabolic hormones like leptin and insulin all play an important role in the complex symphony of you. An imbalance in one of these areas is almost always going to affect every other hormone system. Identifying and treating hormones can be done naturally, with diet, lifestyle, herbs, and supplements, and can really have a profound effect on how you feel.

In the practice of Naturopathic and Functional Medicine, laboratory testing is the cornerstone to giving us more information. Identifying the underlying pathologies leads to better treatment. And of course, better treatment gives us better outcomes. Functional medicine testing allows for the evaluation of you, as the whole person, including all of your complex symptoms, not just one problem that you may be having. You are, after all, a whole person.