Functional diagnostics is a new framework for the diagnostic evaluation of chronic diseases. Conventional diagnostics assess pathology. Functional diagnostics assesses genetic predisposition, functional reserve, metabolic capacity, and variations in physiologic functioning. Treatment is, then, directed at removing causes and restoring normal function and not on suppressing symptoms. The functional diagnostic tests we commonly use are:
- the food allergy panel,
- the comprehensive stool analysis,
- the stool microbial stool profile,
- urine essential and toxic minerals,
- hair analysis,
- thyroid test,
- and urine amino acids profile.
The food allergy panel is the cornerstone of functional diagnostics. Food allergies are a major contributor to canine allergies as well as other chronic inflammatory diseases. The comprehensive stool analysis is indicated in all GI tract diseases. In addition, we recommend it in order to assess the status of probiotic gut bacteria in allergy cases.
Many chronic diseases are complicated by mineral toxicities (lead, mercury, arsenic, etc) or by mineral deficiencies (potassium, magnesium, zinc, etc). We use two tests, hair analysis and urine essential and toxic minerals, to assess the mineral status of our patients.
Hair analysis is recommended when the major concern is toxic minerals. We recommend it for all dogs eating commercially prepared food. The urine essential and toxic mineral profile is recommended when assessing both toxic and essential minerals in cases such as seizures, cardiac disease, renal failure, and bloat.
Amino acids have more diverse functions than any other nutrient group, including: gastrointestinal function, cellular energy production, detoxification, neurotransmitter metabolism, nutritional markers, and vascular function, In view of this, it is not surprising that the urine amino acids profile is indicated in many diseases including congestive heart failure, renal disease, seizures, chronic fatigue, behavior disorders, and aging.
By providing a fresh perspective on chronic diseases, functional diagnostics makes possible effective treatment for diseases that were previously poorly treated. Rather than a reductionistic differential diagnosis where confounding variables are eliminated, inclusion of all variables allows an etiologic evaluation by discerning the patterns and connections that define illness. Symptoms are not viewed as the disease. Laboratory and other diagnostics are focused on assessing causes and mechanisms of illness rather than confirming pathology. Treatment is directed at removing causes and restoring normal function and not suppressing symptoms.