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Woman on run outside having identified root symptoms with help of a functional medicine doctor.

How Does a Functional Medicine Doctor Identify the Root Cause of Your Symptoms?

Identifying the root cause of your health issues is the foundation of functional medicine. A functional medicine evaluation goes beyond a standard medical workup by not only diagnosing your disease but also by finding the reason why you developed the condition. 

Sometimes the root cause of your pain is obvious. For instance, if you have a broken arm, your doctor doesn’t need to guess what to do to help you heal. However, some health conditions are more ambiguous – you get plenty of sleep but are still battling fatigue, have unexplained weight gain, or are living with chronic pain with no known underlying cause. This is where functional medicine can help.   

Functional medicine doctors use your genetic background, biochemical markers, and lifestyle factors to collect data on the current state of your health and determine what’s causing your illness. They then use this data to create personalized treatment plans that help you heal and live your healthiest life. Functional lab testing is a key part of how practitioners accomplish this. These tests help functional medicine doctors more accurately determine any biochemical, nutritional, genetic, or physiological imbalances that are contributing to your condition.

Here’s a look at the diagnostic labs and analyses a functional medicine doctor uses to identify the cause of your symptoms and create a treatment plan that achieves full-body healing.

If you have a chronic medical condition and want to get to the root of it, Tri-Cities Functional Medicine can help you regain your health. Start With a Free Webinar to learn more. 

What is Functional Lab Testing?

Functional lab testing looks for deeper imbalances and determines how well your organs and systems are functioning. Functional lab tests can be used to diagnose a disease, but they more specifically look for the root cause of that disease. They can also be used to identify trends toward illness that can be stopped, slowed, or reversed through proactive treatment. 

These tests provide insights into your disease or chronic health issues by assessing the health of core systems, including hormones, immunity, and digestive functions. Functional lab tests may examine your blood, stool, urine, or saliva. Let’s take a closer look at the five most common tests your functional medicine doctor may run to get a clearer picture of what’s going on in your body.

1. Comprehensive Stool Tests

An imbalance in your gut can lead to a slew of symptoms. Comprehensive stool tests are some of the most ordered functional medicine labs because many chronic diseases originate in your gut. Stool tests are used to assess your gut function by looking for biomarkers such as inflammation, enzyme activity, dysbiosis, malabsorption, or even parasites. 

These tests are beneficial for those suffering from many conditions including:

  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Diabetes

2. Hormone Tests

Imbalances of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone can lead to various symptoms, including weight gain, low libido, infertility, anxiety, depression, acne, and more. Functional medicine doctors use saliva, blood, or urine tests to look for hormonal imbalances in your system. 

Hormone tests are beneficial for women going through menopause or who have a history of hormone-dependent cancers or hormone diseases such as endometriosis.

3. Adrenal Stress Panel

Your adrenal glands release several hormones into your body, including the main stress hormone: cortisol. They are also involved in your immune system, reproductive hormones, and blood sugar regulation.

Adrenal glands that aren’t functioning properly are often at the root of symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, depression, weight gain, brain fog, low libido, or difficulty sleeping. An adrenal stress panel is a saliva or urine test that helps your functional medicine doctor determine whether your glands are depleted or in overdrive. 

Adrenal stress panels are best for people who are feeling overwhelmed, struggling with insomnia, or living with chronic stress.

4. Thyroid Panel

Every cell in your body needs thyroid hormones to function. Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can include fatigue, weight gain, hair loss, skin problems, and depression.

Oftentimes, thyroid disorders don’t show up on standard lab tests. Functional medicine doctors run a full thyroid panel to give a complete picture of your thyroid health and determine if you may have a thyroid-related autoimmune disease. 

These tests are used to diagnose and help find the root cause of thyroid diseases such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

5. Insulin Tests

Checking your insulin levels can help determine if you have insulin resistance, which is the precursor stage to type 2 diabetes. 

If you have a family history of diabetes, struggle with low blood sugar, or have a metabolically based diagnosis like polycystic ovary syndrome, an insulin test may help you get to the root cause.  

While these are some of the most common functional lab tests, each person is unique. The specific combination of labs your doctor chooses may differ based on your situation. Other tests that your functional medicine doctor may run include:

  • Food sensitivity and allergy tests to help determine the root of diseases such as leaky gut syndrome, gastrointestinal disorders, inflammation, or neurological conditions
  • Autoimmune tests to look for autoantibodies in your blood, which may indicate the presence of an autoimmune disease
  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) tests to see if SIBO is at the root of your bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, or fatigue
  • Mycotoxin tests to see if this harmful toxin is at the root of your chronic fatigue, chronic inflammation, or depression
  • Tick-borne illness tests to check for the presence of Borrelia, which may be causing Lyme disease or any other tick-borne illness
  • Environmental exposure tests to identify any exposure to chemicals and assess your body’s ability to naturally detox
  • Genetic tests to reveal possible genetic mutations that may be contributing to or causing your illness

Functional Lab Testing vs. Conventional Testing

The primary difference between function lab testing and conventional tests is that conventional tests are used to diagnose a disease and determine the symptoms, while functional medicine tests seek to find and treat the underlying cause of the symptoms to prevent or heal the disease. 

Conventional lab tests tend to look for an already established disease. This is a problem because many people might not have an established disease despite experiencing chronic symptoms. 

Functional lab tests look between the lines to identify imbalances that are causing your symptoms, even if they have not become a disease yet. Detecting these imbalances early on helps reverse and heal the symptoms before you need prescription medicine, surgery, or other treatment. 

Functional Lab Testing with Tri-Cities Functional Medicine

Lab tests give us specific information about your overall health. Many chronic diseases and health problems can be relieved and resolved through functional lab testing. With the expertise of Dr. Radawi and his team, we will determine the health status of your body and recommend necessary interventions. Here’s where you can start: 

  1. Watch our free webinars to learn more about what we treat.
  2. Schedule a free Discovery Call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
  3. After your Discovery Call, sign up for a consultation with our doctor to get started on your personal treatment plan journey.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout Tennessee and into Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and Kentucky. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, Abingdon, VA, Grundy, VA, Asheville, NC, Boone, NC.