I’m excited to speak with Brandy Buskow for the blog. She is a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner with training from Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Inc.
I wanted to explore how Functional Lab Testing can help couples struggling to conceive!
When we have a better understanding of the different hormone levels, we can then develop a customized plan with targeted diet and lifestyle changes, that will help to balance the hormones, ultimately leading to a healthy pregnancy and baby!
Tell me more about Functional Lab Testing and how it is used to achieve optimum health?
One of the biggest questions people have is why would they opt for functional lab testing over the regular tests they can have with their doctor. Most doctors will likely only run blood tests. When it comes to hormones, blood testing can give a good baseline, but it is usually just a snapshot in time.
Also, when a traditional doctor is looking at the reference ranges they will look at a population of say 10,000 people that do not have disease and determine a “health” range from there. However, just because they don’t have a disease, doesn’t mean they have great health.
When a functional practitioner looks at testing, they refer to reference ranges for the healthiest people, that is we look at levels for optimal health.
When a traditional doctor looks at a test result (for example high blood sugar) the traditional doctor will prescribe something to lower the blood sugar.
While a functional practitioner will look at the reason “why” the blood sugar is higher and make the necessary diet, lifestyle and nutritional therapy suggestions.
A test that is quite helpful to determine hormone levels is the Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) test. The ASI has you collect 4 saliva samples throughout the day and looks at cortisol levels, DHEA levels, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and melatonin levels. Collecting saliva four (4) times throughout the day will help to see where hormones are throughout the day. eg. Cortisol (we would like it to be highest in the morning and lowest in the evening). Hormone testing would include factors such as when in the cycle they are taking the test (eg. Day 19 – the hormones should be at certain level and then this would be another clue to investigate further).
What type of practitioner typically can run these tests?
Naturopaths, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Nutritionists and some nutrition practitioners can run and interpret these test results. Be aware that many practitioners may just treat the test results.
We still want to figure out “why” someone is presenting with these symptoms and use diet, lifestyle and nutritional therapies for the body to heal.
We offer functional lab testing! For more information to see which functional lab test is right for you - schedule your free 15 minute health history review. We'll make diet, lifestyle and functional testing recommendations! Schedule your call here!
Why has my doctor not told me about these tests?
Your traditional doctor may not know about these tests. They are trained in the traditional or allopathic medical model that runs mostly blood tests. You may however, find some traditional medical doctors that will run functional tests, but it is important to find a practitioner that understands how to interpret these tests. It’s not any fault of the traditional doctor’s. At this point it is not something they are trained on in medical school.
For women and men dealing with infertility what are the best tests to run?
When it comes to fertility its best to see how the body is responding to stress.
Most of the time the best recommendation is to run an Adrenal Stress Index Test or ASI.
It will check your hormones levels such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and melatonin. It will give us a snapshot to see how the body is dealing with stressors. This test gives us clues! It can show us if there are potential blood sugar issues, food sensitivities, or gut pathogens (parasite, bacterial infection, fungal infection).
Everyone needs cortisol, but it may not be such a good thing in excessive amounts.
A question to consider would be: Is the body producing enough or too much cortisol?
For instance, if someone is tired all day, but can’t sleep, their cortisol levels could be low throughout the day and then for some reason there is a big spike at night.
We would need to look at things that are creating stress and start to eliminate them.
We could consider the following: mental/emotional stress, foods they are consuming, toxins in the environment such cosmetics or plastic that are not free of toxins, cleaning supplies or air fresheners that have a lot of perfumes.
The Adrenal Stress Index test is a good one to see how a person’s ability is to cope with stress and how their body responds.
If the cortisol levels are low they will be exhausted and tired. If cortisol levels are high they will be equally as exhausted. When the body is under stress for a prolonged period of time the body decides that producing cortisol is more important than producing hormones.
So at the expense of producing estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone it will produce cortisol.
This is where women will see issues with their menstrual cycle.
For men too, they will lose muscle tone, they may have low energy, low sex drive or not feel great (even thought they are in their 20’s and 30’s).
Stress has a big impact on whether you body is producing hormones. If the body is too stressed out, it will not be focused on procreation.
The ASI will also show us if estrogen and progesterone levels are low. It is important to have a good ratio of estrogen to progesterone to have healthy cycles and good fertility. For instance the test may show you have estrogen dominance. Which means your estrogen in relation to your progesterone is higher than it should be.
Ideally you want to see your estrogen to progesterone at 300 to 1 ratio. We want progesterone to be higher than estrogen.
We will also review testosterone. Testosterone levels are key for building muscle, energy levels and sex drive. Women with high testosterone levels may have symptoms such as acne, excess hair growth (not on your head) and may present with PCOS.
The Adrenal Stress Index Test will give us a great snapshot of your hormone levels and is a good place to start if you are struggling with infertility.
Melatonin – is considered a hormone, it is a potent anti-oxidant, and extremely important for regulating sleep/wake cycles. Levels of melatonin can give us some clues as to some stressors that can be affecting your health and ability to conceive. We can then make the necessary steps to start to heal the body and restore melatonin levels.
The Adrenal Stress Index Test is a good place to start for a lot of fertility issues and can gives us insight for those who have irregular periods, are not ovulating, are trying to conceive but have been unsuccessful. The ASI works for both men and woman.
If someone has PCOS which test would you recommend?
Stress is a big one with PCOS, it ties with insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance. If there are hidden stressors in the body we can help improve insulin sensitivity, by changing the diet, balancing blood sugar, and doing gentle, but not vigorous exercise.
For people with PCOS who are eating a clean diet and exercise regularly, but are still holding onto excess weight, it may be a sign that the adrenals are stressed.
When there is stress present, the body thinks there is an emergency and the weight will not decrease.
For anyone struggling with PCOS, it is also important to review cortisol levels and to see how the body is adapting to stress.
Lifestyle changes are essential to help alleviate the stress.
Mental and emotional stress, structural stress (if someone is out of alignment or eg. has pinched shoulder, this needs to be addressed) all need to be addressed.
As well stressors in the body may prevent the liver from detoxifying properly or there could be a food sensitivity, gut infection or a parasite. All of these issues will need to be addressed in order for the body to regulate hormones, improve the menstrual cycle and increase the chances of conception.
If someone has endometriosis which tests would you recommend?
With endometriosis there is a lot of inflammation in the body. The hormones may not be clearing properly. The Adrenal Stress Test is still a good test to run, but definitely in conjunction with the Metabolic Assessment Test. This is a urine test.
It will look at the degree of oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress is the amount of free radicals. It can give us an indication of hidden inflammation. It can also tell us how well the liver is detoxifying and if the liver is overloaded. It can help us give specific dietary and supplement advice that will reduce oxidative stress, and help the liver detoxify more efficiently. If working on the liver does not give the client any relief, then we could look at food sensitivities, and gut infections or parasite.
If someone is struggling with losing weight or is obese which tests would you recommend?
We will examine the cortisol levels, because if the body is under stress it will be difficult to lose weight.
Another recommendation is to use a glucometer, and check blood sugar for at least one week. It’s a good idea to check the fasting blood sugar before each meal and test the blood sugar about one hour after a meal.
There may also be foods that are causing inflammation in the body. For instance someone may be following a Paleo diet, and then they have some sweet potatoes, and their blood sugar skyrockets. This can create a cascade of high cortisol, inflammation and high blood sugar.
Unless you are testing it will be difficult to know what is happening in the body. When blood sugar rises really high after eating something, that can also mean a food sensitivity.
For anyone struggling with weight, it is important to examine, how are they dealing with stress, do they have any food sensitivities and how is the blood sugar levels with specific foods or on a specific diet.
Inflammation and hormonal imbalance are really common with people struggling to lose weight. Sugar cravings are also a sign the blood sugar levels are not stable, so the body needs sugar to balance it out.
That’s why testing is so important.
Here are some glucometer's to try (watch out though - the testing strips can be more expensive than the testing equipment!):
The ideal fasting blood sugar
Canada - 4.5-5.0 mmol/L
US - 80-90 mg/dl
A less expensive option to check for food sensitivities is the Pulse Test. There are apps for your phone that you can download where you can test your Resting Heart Rate before and after you eat a food that you may be allergic or intolerant to.
If someone has repeat miscarriages which test would you recommend?
A good place to start could be with genetic testing to see if there is a MTHFR gene mutation. There is the 23andme saliva test that can test for this, and some traditional doctor’s can check to see if you have the MTHFR gene mutation.
However, even if you have the gene mutation, it does not mean it will express itself. There are a lot of lifestyle changes you can make to ensure the gene is not turned on.
You may have heard that methylated B vitamins are a good option. The problem with this approach is if someone is in adrenal fatigue, their liver is not detoxifying, if they take the methylated B vitamins, they could have a negative detox reaction.
It is important to prepare the body beforehand, supporting adrenal glands, which includes a good multi vitamin, supporting the liver, and making sure there is not a severely leaky gut.
A good first step could be gentle detox strategies such as skin brushing, epsom salt bath, milk thistle and dandelion root are good herbs to try.
A thyroid panel is also another good test to run. When there is a thyroid imbalance there could also be autoimmunity. So we must consider the following in order to heal the thyroid; leaky gut, parasites, mental, emotional stress, too many chemicals such as cleaners and cosmetics.
Taking thyroid medication may not fix the problem. Thyroid and adrenals are closely tied together. They may feel good for awhile, but the adrenals will need support. So it’s important to work on them together.
A normal functional level for TSH is 1.8mlU/L and 2.5mlU/L, whereas your doctor may run a TSH test and find that the normal level could be as high as 5.5 mlU/L.
Luteal Phase Defect can be an underlying cause of repeat miscarriage and a saliva panel is a good place to start.
We would run a month long panel (18 days of daily saliva sample). If the progesterone levels are low, and they are not producing enough progesterone, then a low dose bio identical hormone may be recommended.
Also if there is estrogen dominance this may play a role with low progesterone. We can work to reduce estrogen in the system with dietary and lifestyle changes. There are many ways to lengthen the luteal phase such as Vitamin B6 and maca root.
Lab testing is a good tool that provides information, that can guide us with targeted dietary, lifestyle and nutritional therapies.
When we are able to pinpoint areas to focus on, you can get the faster results that will help you conceive and have a healthy baby!
We offer a functional testing that can help you pinpoint the root cause of your infertility. The test kits can be shipped in North America and internationally. Schedule your health history review to see with functional test is right for you. Book your call here!
Sarah Clark empowers couples to discover how lifestyle and diet can dramatically impact their chances of conceiving. She was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure at 28 and had both her kids with donor eggs. Not until years later did she discover that the root cause of her infertility was a food intolerance. Ready to gaze into your baby's eyes....but struggling. Download 10 step Checklist here