Testing for Mood Disorders
Because a thyroid imbalance can cause significant depression or anxiety, it is essential to rule out these conditions as an underlying cause of your symptoms. We can test your thyroid function with a simple blood test, and treat the imbalance with either synthetic or natural medicine. Sometimes people have anxiety or depression for other reasons, and also have an underlying thyroid problem. If you are being treated for a thyroid imbalance and are still having symptoms of fatigue, low mood, or anxiety, talk to a doctor about other treatments or testing. People who are taking lithium for bipolar disorder must be tested for hypothyroidism, because this drug can cause a thyroid imbalance as one of its side effects.
ORGANIC ACID TESTING
Organic Acid Testing (OAT) is a urine test that is run through a specialty lab. This test is covered by Blue Cross PPO insurance only. It measures levels of candida or other yeast markers, bacterial imbalances, metabolic and toxicity markers, vitamin deficiencies, and provides an array of other helpful information. These imbalances can act as an obstacle to complete recovery until they are addressed.
For people with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, violent anger, ADHD, or behavioral disorders, this test can uncover hidden causes or exacerbating factors of these conditions. This testing can also be helpful for people with persistent depression or anxiety, as well as a range of other illnesses.
Children with autistic spectrum disorders and developmental delay can often highly benefit from this testing, because it can illuminate the specific needs of that patient, and allow for a more individualized treatment approach. The same is true for adults with mental and emotional illness. Similar metabolic problems can result in a variety of symptoms, ranging from autism to schizophrenia.
This testing can serve as a roadmap for creating a treatment protocol that speeds recovery. Imbalances detected can be treated with specific medications, herbs, or supplements, which can be used for a period of time and then discontinued after symptoms improve. Testing may be repeated after treatments are complete, but usually we can simply monitor symptom progress as a guide for treatment response.
Urinary neurotransmitter testing represents peripheral levels of these chemicals, and is not correlated with brain levels of neurotransmitters. This is the primary reason that I do not use neurotransmitter testing for my patients. Some physicians attempt to make clinical correlations between peripheral and brain levels, assuming that if urinary serotonin is low, your brain serotonin might also be low, which could contribute to depression. I find other testing to be much more reliable and helpful for long-term success in symptom reduction.
The use of this testing also makes the flawed assumption that neurotransmitters have a causative relationship to mood disorders. Research has shown plenty of correlations between neurotransmitter activity in certain parts of the brain and specific mental illnesses. However, we are not sure whether these correlations represent a cause or an effect. There may be increased dopamine activity in the brains of some patients with schizophrenia, but we do not know that dopamine itself is the cause of schizophrenic symptoms. As an analogy, you are a lot more likely to see people carrying umbrellas on a rainy day, but the rain is not created by the umbrellas. Looking for high or low levels of a certain neurotransmitter as a cause of mental illness is like assuming that the umbrellas are causing the rain. The fluctuation of neurotransmitters is more likely a result rather than a cause, and the actual cause is far more complex than that.
Studies of brain levels of serotonin from a non-depressed patient versus a depressed patient can be exactly the same. Serotonin is also produced in much higher levels in the digestive tract than in the brain, and so urine levels of serotonin are perhaps more helpful in the assessment of intestinal disorders than mood disorders. Neurotransmitter levels are often completely irrelevant in the attempt to find potential treatments for mood disorders, and this testing is therefore a disservice to patients and doctors.
Mood disorders are complex and specific to each individual, and cannot be reduced to a simple neurotransmitter dysfunction or deficiency. It may be tempting to assume that your depression or bipolar disorder is just because of a chemical imbalance. The truth is that it is not that simple. Our mental and physical health is dynamic, and must be treated as such. This is one of the reasons that homeopathic medicine works so well to treat mental health disorders, because homeopathy can actually correct the underlying dynamic imbalance, which a neurotransmitter supplement or antidepressant medication cannot do.
Anemia can be tested with a basic blood test called a Complete Blood Count (CBC), which is inexpensive and also should be covered by your insurance. This test can be run at the same time as thyroid tests or other blood testing if appropriate. With these results, your doctor can determine whether anemia is a causative factor in your symptoms, and treat you with nutrient supplementation if necessary.
NUTRIENT DEFICIENCY TESTING
Testing of nutrient deficiencies is performed by taking a blood sample and sending it to a lab, which tests your cells for deficiencies in specific vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. This is usually a simple test that is covered by most insurance. The results are sent to our office, and with this information, we can design an individualized nutrient supplementation protocol for you.
Vitamin B12 deficiency testing is a simple blood test. Your doctor can test for your serum vitamin B12, but a more accurate test of B12 deficiency is methylmalonic acid (MMA), which is also tested with a blood sample.
ADRENAL STRESS TESTING
Your adrenal glands need to produce a certain amount of cortisol and DHEA in order to maintain good energy and healthy weight. We can test your adrenal function with either a blood sample, or a saliva test. The salivary test is a kit that you bring home with you, and take 4 saliva samples throughout the day. Then you drop the kit in the mail, and the results are sent back to our office for review. The saliva test gives us 4 different cortisol readings, plus DHEA, and your DHEA to cortisol ratio. This is helpful for determining the extent of adrenal stress, and gives us a clear idea of which adrenal support supplements are right for you.
The endocrine (hormone) system in your body is very interconnected. If your adrenal glands are not functioning properly, it can be very difficult to maintain healthy hormone balance in the rest of your body. Adrenal stress can make it harder for your thyroid gland to work well, and can also put added stress on your reproductive glands. For women going through menopause, or men with low testosterone, adrenal testing can be very helpful. During menopause, your adrenal glands will take over for your ovaries in the production of estrogen and progesterone. Testosterone is also produced with the help of the adrenal glands. If your adrenal glands are not functioning at their best, symptoms can occur including low libido, poor energy, or menopausal symptoms in women. For people with poor thyroid function, supporting the adrenal glands can take a burden off of your thyroid, and promote better energy and weight loss.
HEAVY METAL TESTING
Analysis of elements in urine provides diagnostic information on potentially toxic elements such as lead, mercury, cadmium, nickel, beryllium, arsenic and aluminum. Urine element analysis is an invaluable tool for the diagnosis or confirmation of toxic element burden and monitoring of detoxification therapy. For diagnosis of the presence of certain toxic element burdens, a challenge consisting of pre and post provocation testing is recommended. A urine elements analysis requires a urine collection prior to administration of a chelating agent to establish the presence and baseline elemental levels. Your naturopathic physician can provide the test kits and treatment recommendations according to test results.
FOOD ALLERGY TESTING
Food allergies can be tested in several ways. Keeping a diary of the foods you eat each meal, and noting the timing and intensity of your symptoms can be helpful. The gold standard for food allergy testing is an allergy elimination and challenge, in which you completely eliminate a specific set of foods, then reintroduce them one at a time, and watch for symptoms.
We can also order an IgG Food Intolerance Test to check your blood IgG or IgE immune reactions to a wide range of foods. With the results of this test, we can avoid only the foods to which you react, and later reintroduce these foods into your diet after your symptoms have resolved.
With proper nutrition, natural supplements to heal the intestinal lining, and homeopathic medicine to correct the underlying immune imbalance, you can treat food allergies and improve your overall health, mood, and energy.
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