Functional Testing and Functional Supplementation

Functional Medicine and Biochemical Testing

As medical science uncovers a new understanding of the development of disease, referred to as pathology, it is becoming more and more apparent that the symptoms are not the disease itself; the symptoms are the result or rather manifestation or expression of the disease.

Symptoms although they can be very painful and sometimes even debilitating, they could also be considered a positive sign - they are the body’s way of telling us ‘something is wrong, something needs to change’

A good example would be retinal neuropathy in individuals with diabetes which, when left unchecked, can eventually lead to blindness. However the treatment is not based on medicine for the eye but medication and dietary advice for the management of blood sugar levels, - it is high levels of glucose in the blood sugar that is the cause, leading to the destruction of cells in the eye.

Functional medicine extends this principle to all chronic illness and asks the question - ‘Why is this symptom occurring, and what is the root cause?’ This requires knowledge of the underlying imbalances to determine the true root cause; the symptom is not the disease.

Functional medicine is an integrative healthcare approach. We ask, "How is everything connected?"

The process includes evaluation and interventions not only of symptoms but, in order to truly bring a person back to long-term health, the underlying imbalances and the root cause of illness must be determined. Typically, root causes are found to be toxic exposure, allergens, microbes, stress, and most importantly poor diet with high intakes of sugar and carbohydrate. Very often, there are multiple underlying causes, and most often, all need to be addressed.

While conventional medicine has traditionally focused on the treatment of disease, functional medicine is based on the premise that before there is disease, there must be dysfunction. Consequently, if you can identify the dysfunction, you can intervene and by correcting the dysfunction, reduce the possibility of the development of a disease.

Functional testing is used to look at the dysfunction in pathways, which in turn is used to create a map to understand an individual’s biochemistry. This allows personalised, targeted interventions, emphasising the importance of diet, nutrients and lifestyle. By confirming the underlying biochemical imbalance, ensures a greater likelihood of success.

Functional testing may be used to identify:

  • Nutritional deficiencies

  • Food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies

  • Digestive, absorptive, and metabolic dysfunction

  • Toxic exposures and ability to detoxify

  • Inflammatory responses and triggers

  • Imbalances in neurotransmitter metabolites and amino acid precursors

  • Hormonal imbalances—adrenal and thyroid functioning

  • Disturbances of the gut microbiome

  • Genetic susceptibilities such as methylation (MTHFR) and detoxification issues

Most imbalances in functionality can be addressed through a comprehensive approach to the intervention, some can be completely restored to optimum function and others can be substantially improved. Based on your results, your personalised recommendations may include guidance on diet, functional nutritional and botanical supplements, detoxification support, and lifestyle changes.

Functional and genomics testing are often recommended, as the results highlight the relevant elements of your unique genetics and biochemistry. The result is a highly personalised intervention, focused on what works for you in your world. This personalised approach means a greater likelihood of success.

Nutrients and Functional Supplementation

What is functional supplementation?

Although most individuals living in the UK are not (thank goodness) considered malnourished, there is most certainly a great deal of difference between malnourished and being in the optimal nutrient state. Given the ever-growing evidence, it is quite plausible that being in the optimal nutrient state will be most peoples’ best chance of living a long, healthy life.

Whereas a nutrient-rich and varied diet is the best way to restore long-term nutrient levels, nutritional supplementation may often be the fastest way to increase nutrients, especially at a time of illness, stress or infection.

At Nutritional Immunology, we may recommend practitioner quality functional supplementation in order to support the recommended dietary and lifestyle changes. By upping your dietary intake, and addressing the underlying causes of your deficiencies, you can replenish your levels and strengthen your immune system

Although all nutrients can play their part in immune system function, some nutrients seem to have a greater influence than others do. The vitamins A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folic acid and the trace elements iron, zinc, copper and selenium work in synergy to support the protective activities of the immune cells1.

Important nutrients for immune system function

1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is unlike other vitamins. We obtain very little vitamin D through our diet, only about 10%2 and instead, it is produced by our skin cells in the sunshine of the summer months. Unfortunately, in the challenge to reduced skin cancers, the advice to cover up in the sun appears to have led to widespread vitamin D deficiency in the general population3 and hit the headlines recently when a recommendation for the whole population should consider supplementation.

It appears vitamin D plays a critical role in the immune system, including supporting our ability to fight viral and bacterial infections and promotes cells that teach the immune system to not attack itself - in other words, reduce the risk of developing an autoimmune condition. Vitamin D supplementation studies have shown beneficial effects of vitamin D on immune function, in particular in autoimmunity4

2. Omega3s
Omega3 oils are part of a group of fats called essential fatty acids. Essential means our body is unable to manufacture these oils and therefore we need to obtain them through diet. In theory, the only Omega3 fatty acid that is essential is alpha-linolenic acid (LNA) found in seeds including hemp, flax and linseed. However, for most people, the ability to manufacture the important fats known as EPA and DHA is very inefficient and can be hampered by toxins, infections and some drugs. This leads to many people running the risk of Omega3 fatty acids deficiency.

From basic biochemistry, we understand the vital role EPA and DHA play in the inflammatory process; our body quickly converts them into a variety of potent anti-inflammatory compounds, which counteract the pro-inflammatory response present in nearly all chronic illness.

3. B vitamins
B vitamins often considered the energy vitamins but they also control immune function, hormones, mood, sleep, nerves, circulation, and digestion. Vitamin B12, for example, supports the production of white blood cells, which are essential components of the immune system. When you are low in B12 your white blood cell count is lowered, which weakens your immune system and makes it more susceptible to mistakenly attacking your own cells.

4. Selenium
Selenium may be a little-known mineral, but studies show that it is essential for regulating excessive immune responses and chronic inflammation in autoimmune diseases. It is also a vital nutrient for proper thyroid function and studies show that increasing selenium in autoimmune thyroid patients decreases their thyroid antibodies5.

5. Zinc
Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system, from the skin barrier to gene regulation of certain white blood cells. Zinc is known to play a central role in the immune system, and individuals who are deficient in zinc have an increased susceptibility to infections6.

6. Other important nutrients
Other nutrients that are vital to the function of the immune system include:

  • Magnesium deficiency has been shown to cause an increased production of proinflammatory agents, which raise inflammation and may contribute autoimmunity

  • Iodine, found in foods from the sea, is fundamental to thyroid function and recent studies suggest that a large number of the UK population may be iodine deficient7, potentially a contributor to autoimmune thyroid conditions...

How We Work

Scientific References:
1.Maggini, S., Wintergerst, E. S., Beveridge, S. & Hornig, D. H. Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses. Br. J. Nutr. 98, S29–S35 (2007).
2. Bordelon, P., Ghetu, M. V & Langan, R. C. Diagnosis and management of vitamin D deficiency. Am. Fam. Physician 340, 841–846 (2010).
3. Hyppönen, E. & Power, C. Hypovitaminosis D in British adults at age 45y: nationwide cohort study of dietary and lifestyle predictors. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 85, 860–868 (2007).
4. Prietl, B., Treiber, G., Pieber, T. R. & Amrein, K. Vitamin D and immune function. Nutrients 5, 2502–2521 (2013).
5. Köhrle, J. & Gärtner, R. Selenium and thyroid. Best Pract. Res. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 23, 815–27 (2009).
6. Shankar, a H. Zinc and immune function: The biological basis of altered resistance to infection. Am J Clin Nutr 68 Suppl, 447S–463S (1998).
7. Vanderpump, M. P. J. et al. Iodine status of UK schoolgirls: A cross-sectional survey. Lancet 377, 2007–2012 (2011).