Functional laboratory tests help us to identify risk factors and avenues which can help to improve quality of life and work toward optimal health.
It sounds funny, but for instance, cardiovascular health is commonly checked with a standard (conventional) lipid panel, basic inflammatory markers and electrolytes. A functional laboratory will test for various proteins, inflammatory markers, full lipid profile (with metabolites) and many other markers which help to identify risk factors for a heart attack or stroke that may be missed with conventional labs. Additionally, some treatments, like hormones are best monitored with functional tests as the conventional tests have poor sensitivity and specificity (i.e. it’s a poor test).
Some functional lab tests offer metabolites, as appropriate for the test’s purpose. These can be helpful in guiding treatment decisions. For instance, you may want a metabolite breakdown of your hormones in order to identify that your estrogen is not breaking down into the beneficial forms, estradiol (E2) and estriol (E3) rather than the estrone (E1) which can increase the risk of estrogen-related cancers.
The test may indicate slow metabolism in a pathway for which we can supplement the cofactors and co-enzymes (vitamins or minerals) that help the biological pathway optimally process estrogen into E2 or E3. I will help you determine if dietary supplementation is sufficient or if you should initiate botanical medicine or nutritional medicine.
Although I do not suggest everyone needs a functional lab test, they are a useful tool for which I will recommend when my patients have specific concerns or known risk factors.
Functional laboratory tests are not usually covered by insurance, but you are encouraged to call your insurance company to see if your plan might cover any you are interested in.
Please let me know if there is a particular lab you are interested in.