After years of being health conscious, Kathryn Doyle of Medford knew her body was out of sync. With unexpected weight gain and myriad health concerns, she wanted answers.
"I was dealing with all these symptoms, so I went to my regular doctor," Doyle says. "He tried some drugs, did these tests and told me everything came back in the normal range. I got off the phone and I thought, 'Well, then why don't I feel normal?'"
Lab reports in 3D
This scenario is familiar to naturopathic doctors who say that patients often come to them because their symptoms have not been addressed by other physicians. "Modern or allopathic medicine tends to focus more on treatment of disease rather than on early detection and prevention," says James Said of Medford, a doctor of chiropractic and naturopathic medicine.
One of Said's most powerful diagnostic tools is functional blood chemistry. This type of blood panel holds important clues as to how the entire body is functioning. Results are analyzed for patterns instead of just individual markers. Assessing the way these systems interact and affect each other leads to uncovering less obvious influences on our health, according to Said, almost like seeing lab reports in 3D. It can expose details and nuances not normally evident in the statistical ranges most physicians use to determine indicators of ill health.
Said educates his patients on the difference between statistical medicine and functional medicine. "If you fall within what is considered abnormal in conventional or statistical medicine, the typical treatment is to take a pill and that's the end of the story," he says. "But functional medicine looks to uncover and, ideally, eliminate the cause of the dysfunction."
Doyle happened to hear about Said's diagnostic expertise and decided to seek his advice. This time she got some definitive answers. He confirmed a diagnosis of Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid disease, which in her case meant that her body identified eggs and gluten as the enemy and caused her immune system to attack. After some supplementation and dietary changes, Doyle noticed a huge improvement in her daily health.
The whole picture
Rikki Peterson of Central Point admits she wasn't debilitated by illness, but she too had many bad days where she just didn't feel well. Jon Chambers, a doctor of chiropractic with Life Discovery Chiropractic and Wellness in Grants Pass, performed a functional blood chemistry test that revealed the source of Peterson's ill health. What she learned has drastically improved her quality of life. "I know now what I can and cannot eat, and it is so liberating to know that I am in control of my health," Peterson says. "I feel like I have my life back."
Chambers said that when medical professionals review a typical blood panel, the primary diagnostic purpose is to verify if the numbers are within "normal" ranges. "In functional blood chemistry, rather than looking at what the lab thinks is normal, we look at the whole picture," he says.
Chambers says in terms of an overall view of a patient's health, there is no more efficient tool for disease prevention than a comprehensive blood test. "When all of the blood chemistry markers are looked at as a whole, it provides a much more complete picture as to how healthy or ill the patient truly is. It will also establish a baseline that can be used to track a person's health over time."
Daniel Smith, a naturopathic physician with Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic in Medford, describes how functional blood chemistry can be used to detect not only the presence of high cholesterol, but the possible cause. "If somebody comes in with high cholesterol, the conventional doctor will usually prescribe a statin drug such as Lipitor, whereas, with a functional blood test, I will have insight as to the inflammation that's causing the problem," Smith says. "Once I address the inflammation by using herbs, vitamins, minerals and changing the diet, the body itself will lower the LDL. And I can do that without prescribing medication."
All three physicians agree that having a full blood panel on every new patient establishes a baseline that can be used to track a person's health over time, an important record for gauging what kind of changes might be happening.
"The goal is to identify developing medical problems and prevent them from manifesting into a serious medical condition," Chambers says. "We should all be functional human beings, not just happy that we're not as sick as the next guy."