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August 9, 2013

How Far Will Science Take Us?

Genetic Testing, Preventative Screening & Your Future Health

Lab testing has always been a way to screen for diseases and identify imbalances or excesses in the biochemistry of the body. By testing, we can discern the correlation between disease processes and levels of certain metabolites of the body, and this can help us make a clear diagnosis. In fact, lab testing has, in many ways, brought medicine to where it is today.

Today, we are even beginning to look into people’s genetic makeup as a screening tool for the potential to inherit a disease. For example, if a test detects a highly controversial BRCA “breast cancer gene”, there is an 87% chance of developing the disease. Conventional medicine now recommends a double mastectomy. How do we feel about this?

We can explore metabolism and poor digestion by identifying the ratios of types of intestinal bacteria, we measure brain chemistry neurotransmitters to establish baselines for mental health, hormonal patterns are regularly tracked in men and women, we can rank hundreds of food sensitivities exposing hidden sources of inflammation, identify toxicity with metals or elements and can test for potential autoimmune reactions in a multitude of tissues of the body that were not previously thought to be subject to autoimmunity such as the brain. This is simply to name a few of the potential tests that are part of naturopathic evaluation. The types of blood, salivary, urinary and stool tests that can be run expand every year with amazing technologies and public interest.

As a physician, I feel it is my responsibility to counsel my patients on the tests that are most appropriate and actually helpful. Many people come to me already knowing the tests that they want and often cite some best-selling book touting it as a great test. It is crucial to know how to interpret the results correctly and to create a plan for addressing the results. In the case of genetic or genotype testing, treatment choices may be serious and require preliminary counseling before the tests are ordered.

Lab results should always be interpreted with the clinical picture and symptom history in mind. I order all sorts of lab tests in my practice, including the most basic and simple tests—like blood analysis to rule out iron deficiency—and feel confident that naturopathic interpretation serves the population well. When we narrow the normal ranges, we can identify metabolic and biochemical imbalances before actual symptoms occur.

Baseline blood chemistry testing is an important piece within a holistic annual preventative healthcare plan, and being informed of the opportunities to look deeper into your own personal biochemistry and genetics are at your fingertips.

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