Your Naturopathic Doctor takes a look at your recent blood test results as a way to assess your overall health. There are a few medical tests that are easy to request through your general practitioner and that are often not done in routine health screens. Your naturopathic doctor may recommend getting these tests done to have a more complete view of your health. In complex cases or where symptoms are more severe, highly specialized tests may be suggested. Those are often not mentioned by general medical practitioners, although they can bring some important additional information regarding diagnosis and ensuing treatment plans.
Useful tests that are often not performed in health screenings
Most people in developed countries do not receive sufficient sun exposure and their lifestyle makes them prone to inflammation. Vitamin D is being increasingly considered as a non-specific marker of inflammation and often needs to be replenished through supplementation. This is particularly important in cancer prevention, pregnancy and auto-immune illness.
Low levels of vitamin B12 create symptoms of fatigue – vegetarians are particularly at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency as most vitamin B12 is found in animal products. If you are a vegetarian, it is a good idea to check your vitamin B12 levels periodically.
This is the storage form of iron. At times, blood iron levels and hemoglobin may be within the normal range, but ferritin is low. This can be an explanation for feelings of fatigue, especially in women, and an indication for gentle iron supplementation.
In the context of thyroid issues, a thyroid panel including T3, T4 and TSH hormones is requested. This allows to track the health of the thyroid but is unfortunately incomplete. Thyroid antibody levels also provide an invaluable tool to check if the thyroid is still “under attack” from self-antibodies. Often, antibodies will also rise gradually while TSH and T4 levels remain normal and can be an early warning sign of impending thyroid disease. The earlier we catch the imbalance and work to correct it, the easiest it then is to treat.
Specialized testing in naturopathic care
A few specialized tests can be recommended during naturopathic care and include:
Complete digestive stool analysis (CDSA)
This stool test assesses the health of our colonic microflora and whether aggressive probiotic supplementation may be necessary. The presence of yeast organisms is also assessed so that an adequate anti-bacterial or anti-fungal program can be developed. The CDSA test also assesses colonic inflammation by measuring specific markers in the stool – such as lysozyme, fecal calprotectin and sIgA. This gives us a better idea of prognosis and allows to suggest adequate imaging such as colonoscopy if necessary or a tailored dietary and supplemental treatment plan.
IgG food intolerance test
Food intolerances and allergies are increasingly common in the modern-day world. They seem to be the result of numerous assaults on our digestive system (repeated antibiotic use through medications and foods, pollutant exposure, birth by C-section etc..). When the body becomes immunologically reactive to a certain food item – typically one we consume in large amounts and love eating (there is a documented relationship between a food intolerance and a food addiction) – our immune cells produce antibodies against it. If they produce IgE antibodies, we develop a frank food allergy with immediate unpleasant symptoms such as hives, swelling, sneezing and tearing. Most people are thus usually aware of any food allergies as they are hard to miss. If the body produces IgG antibodies, they create a delayed reaction to the food item in question and the physical reaction can be more varied with abdominal discomfort, water retention, headaches or fatigue, amongst many. Because it may take up to 72 hours for physical symptoms to manifest, most people are not aware of their food intolerances. The IgG test detects IgG antibodies against 50-300 foods (depending on the panel chosen) and provides important information regarding dietary customization for those suffering from auto-immune illness, eczema and recurrent respiratory infections.
SIBO breath test
Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) is a recent diagnosis which has helps many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What we thought was a purely functional issues presenting with alternating diarrhea, constipation and bloating can now be attributed to bacterial imbalances in the small intestine. The SIBO breath test requires drinking a sugar solution (either glucose or lactulose) and breathing out in several tubes in the few hours after ingestion of the solution. This allows to see if excessive amounts of hydrogen or methane are produced, which is then indicative of bacterial overgrowth. Depending on the type of bacteria present in the small intestine, the treatment plan can be elaborated and a prognosis made.
Intestinal permeability test
This is a urine test where urine is collected for several hours after ingestion of a mannitol-lactulose drink. It allows to assess whether increased intestinal permeability is present (“leaky gut”) which leads to the development of numerous food intolerances, allergies and auto-immune illness.