Overwhelmed with Your Health? These Are The 7 Functional Medicine Labs I Recommend To Everyone

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If I have learned one thing in my years as a functional medicine practitioner, it’s that symptoms alone aren’t what define a person’s health. While they can give us insight, every person has a unique biochemistry that guides their health beneath the surface.

Labs allow us to look beneath the surface to uncover the root cause of why symptoms are occurring in the first place. But with so many labs available, it can be overwhelming knowing where to start.

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Where to start

To help you get the most information with the least amount of back and forth, take a look at my list of go-to labs that I use most often  in my telehealth functional medicine clinic:

1. Thyroid panel

Conventional labs only look at two markers - TSH and T4. However, this doesn’t give you a full picture of what’s going on beneath the surface. Since every area of your body relies on thyroid hormones to function, it’s important to run a full thyroid panel to ensure nothing is left unchecked. 

A functional medicine thyroid panel looks at TSH, T4, T3 uptake, total T3, free T4, free T3, reverse T3, and thyroid antibodies and considers a narrower reference range than conventional labs. This allows us to detect dysfunction earlier to avoid more destruction and a full-blown diagnosis.

2. Inflammation labs

When it comes to inflammation, there are a few key labs that you can run. Since inflammation is the root cause of most modern day health problems including depression, brain fog, autoimmune conditions, weight gain, cancer, and more, it’s important to know to what extent you need to bring in inflammation support.

CRP: C-Reactive Protein is an inflammatory protein and the test measures it along with IL-6, another pro-inflammatory protein. They are both linked to chronic inflammatory health problems.

Optimal Range: < 0.5 mg/L

Homocysteine: This inflammatory amino acid is linked to heart disease, destruction of the blood-brain barrier, and dementia. This is also commonly elevated in people with autoimmune problems.

Optimal Range: < 7 Umol/L

Ferritin: Normally used to check for stored iron levels in cases of suspected anemia, it is also considered to be an acute phase reactant, and when high, it’s a sign of inflammation.

Optimal Range: Men: 33-236 ng/mL; Premenopausal women: 10-122 ng/mL; Postmenopausal women: 10-263 ng/mL

3. Toxin panels

Because we are exposed to toxins on a daily basis, blood and urine toxin panels look at levels of environmental toxins like glyphosate along with biotoxins like mold mycotoxins present in your body. This gives us insight into your lifestyle and how it plays a role in your overall health so you can work on making any changes necessary to reduce your toxin load.

4. Nutrient deficiencies

Your body relies on a specific ratio of nutrients in order to function properly. A blood nutrient panel looks at your levels of vitamin D, C, A, B12, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients to identify any deficiencies. This shows you what supplements you can incorporate and gives you insight into how you can maximize your diet to overcome these deficiencies and get your levels back on track. 

5. Gut health labs

Your gut is the foundation of your overall health, influencing everything from your weight, inflammation levels, hormones, brain function, mood, and more. I typically run two types of gut assessments - a stool test to see if there are any bacterial imbalances in your microbiome and a blood test to determine if you have elevated proteins that indicate gut permeability. Depending on your results these can show us what gut healing tools are best for your health case.

6. Hormone labs

Your hormones act as the chemical messengers of your body, directing the function of all systems. Men and women all need balanced sex hormones (in different amounts) and a healthy cortisol rhythm throughout the day to function optimally.

Urine saliva hormone labs can give us a complete overview of how well your hormones are functioning and look at sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone as well as cortisol levels and your HPA-axis function.

7. Glucose labs

America has a sugar problem - a blood sugar problem to be exact. With diabetes and other metabolic health problems on the rise, a glucose HbA1c blood test looks at your average blood sugar levels over the past three months.

Inflammation levels, hormone balance, heart disease, and weight gain, are all influenced by your blood sugar levels and this test can show you if you are trending toward any of these health problems. If so, you'll be able to make better choices surrounding food to bring your levels down to where they need to be. Or if your blood sugar is too low, it can indicate other issues that need to be looked into.

The Bottom Line

While these labs can be helpful at uncovering crucial details about your health, it’s always important to work with a health care practitioner to come up with a plan of care and action steps toward healing.

If you want to learn more about your health through lab work and find out your next steps toward healing, book a health consultation.

As one of the first functional medicine telehealth clinics in the world, we provide webcam health consultations for people around the globe.

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BY DR. WILL COLE

Evidence-based reviewed article

Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.