What is functional testing?

Functional testing and interpretation focuses on using physiological tests to measure how the body is functioning and to evaluate the health of an individual.  This differs from the more traditional practice of using physiological markers merely as an indicator of disease.

Laboratory tests are often invaluable in identifying contributing factors to health issues, i.e. getting to the root cause of problems.  They can aid the development of indvidualised nutritional therapy programmes and cause speedier more effective outcomes. At Nourishing by Nature, tests are only recommended if their results would significantly change the recommended nutritional therapy programme. If we can refer you back to the NHS for testing we will, but some tests are not available on the NHS and if this is the case I use a number of quality, UK medical laboratories, including Cyrex, Biolab, Genova Diagnostics and Doctors Data.

A test will typically involve a breath, blood, saliva, urine or stool sample. The majority of samples can be taken at home but occasionally you may be required to attend the laboratory to provide samples.

Please note  that test results are often complex and hence are not available without a consultation. A consultation is required to help explain the results and to discuss the impact of the results on your health and create a dietary, lifestyle and supplement plan which takes the results into account. Tests fees are extra to consultation fees and range from £45 to £650 depending on the test.

There are many different types of tests that can be recommended, depending on the health objective but the following is a selection of the tests available:

Genetic, DNA Testing

Virtually all human diseases result from the interaction of genetic susceptibility and modifiable environmental factors, including infectious, chemical, physical, nutritional and behavioural issues. Various DNA tests are now available to allow us to evaluate carefully selected groups of these genetic variants, which can provide a previously unseen glimpse into  your potential future health.  This should not be seen as frightening because the genetic variants analysed are the ones that are relevant, prevalent and measurable, but most importantly their function is modifiable and as such are a vital tool for those wanting to optimise their long-term health and well-being.

Only practitioners trained in the interpretation of Genova Diagnostic’s Genomic profiles are able to order them for their clients.  Having undertaken this training I am able to recommend all their profiles which can help identify if you have a susceptibility for poor detoxification, poor oestrogen metabolism, poor immunity or to help asses your risk of cardiovascular disease.  I am have also passed the DNALife certification course so can offer DNA Life genetic panels to my Clients. Armed with this information we can create a programme which helps negate any genetic predisposition.

If preferred I am also able to interpret data from other genetic testing companies such as 23andMe.


Food Intolerance and Food Allergy Testing

The complex way food affects our everyday lives is an emerging area and diagnosing the cause of symptoms which seem to be ‘unexplained’ is often difficult. People who experience some of the symptoms of  food intolerance are often led by the medical profession and the media to believe that their condition is ‘all in the mind’ and are treated for the physical manifestation of the condition rather than the cause. However there are now answers to your questions and ways to identify the cause of your symptoms leading to long term relief.

Although not life threatening like food allergy, food intolerance should never be underestimated as its impact on sufferers can be significant, severely impacting on their ability to live normal healthy lives.   Food intolerance is extremely widespread and it is estimated that 45% of the population could be affected.  Many people with food intolerance experience more than one symptom. Symptoms can often be vague and the root cause of the problem, food, is not always correctly diagnosed.  Sufferers often complain of seeming to be in a ‘fog’, feeling bloated and being tired all the time.

Essentially food intolerance is your body’s abnormal reaction to certain foods which can manifest itself in a number of ways. Some people will have one symptom such as a severe headache whilst others will be unfortunate to experience irritable bowel syndrome, migraine and skin or respiratory conditions. Realising that the food you eat is a catalyst for particular symptoms is not easy when, unlike the immediate reactive symptoms of food allergy, food intolerance symptoms often appear hours or even days later. In fact, following the elimination of problem foods, many sufferers have realised that they had been experiencing minor symptoms as a result of intolerance for their entire lives.

Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance but they are often confused. 

A classical food allergy is usually characterised by an immediate and often severe reaction of the immune system to exposure to a specific food.

The symptoms of food allergy include sneezing, rashes, skin irritation, swelling, runny nose, fatigue, diarrhoea and vomiting. Normally symptoms occur within a few minutes of eating or coming in to contact with the offending food, although they can be delayed by up to two hours.

Food allergy is quite rare with only about 2.5% of the population being diagnosed with the condition.  The most common instances of food allergy are to peanuts, tree nuts (almonds and brazils), eggs, milk, fish and shellfish.

When exposed to the source of food allergy the body makes specific antibodies (IgE) to ‘fight off’ the allergens found in these foods.  When the food is next eaten it triggers an immune system response which results in the release of histamine and other naturally occurring chemicals in the body. Allergic reactions to food can vary considerably in their severity and some can be fatal.

Food intolerance and food allergy in brief:

Food intolerance

  • Reactions are usually delayed and symptoms may take several days to appear
  • You can be intolerant to several different food groups at the same time
  • Sufferers can experience multiple symptoms, from migraine to bloating, diarrhoea, lethargy and a generally feeling un well

Food allergy

  • Reactions usually occur quickly, with a maximum of 2 hours after exposure to the ‘reactive’ food
  • The body’s IgE immune system is activated by the immediate ingestion of the reactive food
  • Symptoms include: difficulty breathing, rashes, swelling, runny nose and anaphylactic shock These can potentially be life threatening

IMPORTANT NOTE:  When reducing or eliminating any food or food group  from the diet is is vital that it is done with care to ensure that you are still getting the optimum level of nutrients. I therefore always offer testing with a consultation to discuss the results and help you create a tailor made dietary plan.

Immediate food intolerance test results with consultation

The most simple and cost effect option. This test only takes 40 minutes to complete and gives instant results testing for the most common 50 ‘intolerant’ foods. It can be conducted easily during a 90 minute consultation, using a finger prick blood test leaving time to discuss the results and work together on a food plan taking into account which foods  need to be eliminated or reduced in your diet.

Laboratory food intolerance testing plus consultation

A blood sample (taken simply in your own home using finger prick method) is sent to a laboratory that has state of the art immunoassay based on microarray technology to detect food-specific IgG antibodies.  Results are available in approximately 10 working days and then a consultation is held  to discuss the results and work together to create a food plan taking into account foods to be eliminated/reduced.  This option includes a tailor-made report of the test results which clearly tells you the degree of reaction to each food.  This report is then used to decide whether a food is to be completely avoided and if so for how long or if it is adequate to just reduce intake.

Within this option there are a number of tests to chose from varying in the number of foods which are tested from 40 to over 200. Vegetarian and vegan tests are also available and advice will be given as to which test to choose.  Your 60 minute post test consultation can be held face to face or via Skype or the phone.

Food allergy testing or a combination of food allergy and food intolerance testing is also available.

Digestive Testing

Digestive problems are one of the most common reasons people turn to nutritional therapy and I believe that good digestive function is the foundation of optimum health.  Even if there are no major digestive symptoms, the health of the digestive tract may still be negatively affecting other bodily systems and causing numerous symptoms and systemic disorders.

A wide range of non-invasive digestive tests are available to assess health and function of the digestive tract.  These include inflammation, digestive enzyme levels, stomach acid levels, ability to break down fats, the make up of your gut bacteria, the presence of fungus (e.g. candida), H-Pylori infection and parasites. It may also be useful to find out if you SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) which is very often found in IBS cases or gut permeability which can cause many problems througout the body.

The comprehensive digestive stool analysis (CDSA)  offers the most advanced non-invasive evaluation of digestion, absorption, gut flora, and the colonic environment. This profile is indicated for all chronic gastrointestinal problems, for acute bowel pattern changes, and for many systemic diseases and provides a sensitivity panel for treating pathogenic flora. The addition of Parasitology testing will also indicate whether there are any current parasitic infections. It evaluates digestion and absorption, bacterial balance and metabolism, yeast and immune status for patients with irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, malabsorption, and other gastrointestinal problems.


Hormonal Testing

A range of functional tests are available to evaluate different hormones, including:

Adrenal Hormone Tests: This non invasive saliva test can detect imbalances in the daily circadian secretions of the stress hormones cortisol and DHEA. Imbalances in these hormones can indicate an inappropriate response that can negatively impact energy levels, emotions, and many other health complaints such as allergies/intolerances, PMS, infertility, chronic fatigue syndrome and headaches.

Thyroid Hormone Tests: This analyses thyroid hormone production and metabolism, the disruption of which affects virtually every metabolic process in the body. Thyroid hormone imbalances have a significant effect on all aspects of health including mood, energy level, weight and sex drive.  It is a comprehensive test which not only tests TSH and T4 which are often done via your GP but T3, autoantibodies to see if thryoid problems are caused by autoimmunity, and reverse T3.

Sex Hormones Tests: The most often recommended of  sex hormone tests is a 12-sample saliva test measuring progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone levels over the monthly cycle to identify any hormonal imbalances. Common symptoms of this can include premenstrual tension, fluid retention, excessive menstrual bleeding, menstrual irregularity, low libido, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, menopausal symptoms, infertility, acne, and excess body hair.

Nutritional and Toxin Status Testing

Inadequate levels of nutrients or excessive levels of heavy metals (e.g. mercury or lead) can lead to numerous health complaints and if left long-term have been associated with serious chronic disease.

An array of comprehensive nutritional tests are available which give us an indication of vitamin and mineral status, amino acid status, cellular energy production and heavy metal toxicity and antioxidant status.


Other Tests

These are numerous but include:

  • Liver Detoxification Profile
  • Chronic Fatigue Screen
  • Choleseterol, trigylcerides
  • Blood glucose and insulin
  • Fatty Acid Profile (to assess you levels of fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6)
  • Osteoporosis Risk Assessment
  • Homocysteine Level Assessment
  • Anaemia Profile

Please contact me if you want any advice regarding testing.