What is the difference between functional and pathological blood analysis?

Blood chemistry is a very effective tool for any practitioner to screen and identify imbalance in body metabolism. It serves as an inexpensive way to assess major bodily functions. Practitioners who have learned the skills required to analyze blood chemistry panels can provide their clients with sound recommendations, screen for health issues, and monitor changes as necessary.

There are two main types of ranges in the field of blood chemistry analysis: a pathological range and a functional range. The pathological range is used to diagnose disease; is used to assess risk for disease before disease develops. The references that are provided with laboratory test results are referred to as “the pathological range”, because if the results are out of range, it indicates potential for pathology or disease. Pathological ranges can be co-managed with your medical provider.

How are pathological standards different from functional standards?

The main difference between the functional and pathological range is the degree deviation allowed within their normal ranges. For example the functional range for glucose may be 85-100 mg/dl, but the pathological range may be 65-100 mg/dl. Levels above the pathological range may indicate diabetes. Levels above the functional range, but before they reach the extremes of the pathological range, may indicate insulin resistance and future risk for developing diabetes.

You may think the ranges presented on lab reports and labeled “normal” for each test are decided upon by a panel of international practitioners, telling us what is healthy and what is sickness. In reality, these mean pathological ranges on lab reports are determined by samples taken in that lab only. A pathological standard that all labs use does not exist.

Conventional medical training is concerned with the diagnosis of disease and rarely preventative medicine; therefore, patients are usually not consulted regarding the parameters of the functional range. The patient is usually told their numbers are borderline and that an eye will have to be kept on it, wait for your numbers to reach the pathological range. Healthcare practitioners that practice prevention, like Dr. Keller or Dr. Karlin, are those most inclined to incorporate consulting clients when their levels present outside of the functional range. If biomarkers can be managed before they fall within the pathological range, prevention can be implemented.

When lab results fall within the patterns of a functional imbalance, strategies such as lifestyle, diet, nutrition, supplements and other non-invasive therapies may be recommended. Many traditional healthcare providers do not embrace the concept of a functional range. They believe that care should only be provided when disease is present. This view is generally formed from conventional medical training which ignores the philosophies of preventative medicine and nutrition. Traditional medical training teaches physicians to evaluate blood chemistry in comparison to ranges that determine pathology. If pathology is not present, the patient is considered “healthy.”

The main difference between healthcare practitioners who embrace or reject functional ranges basically boils down to the definition of health. Some healthcare practitioners define “health” as the absences of disease, and therefore if you are not diseased than you must be “healthy”. Other healthcare practitioners define health as being free of disease but also having adequate energy levels, healthy digestion, ideal physiological function, etc. It is obvious that those in society who feel that prevention and “health” are more than just being disease-free will embrace the importance of the functional range, and those that view “health” as only free of disease will only accept the validity of the pathological range.

Functional ranges have been determined by healthcare practitioners and researchers who embrace the principles of preventative medicine, such as those who practice diet, nutrition, supplements and lifestyle changes. Much of the research regarding functional ranges has been established by well-respected organizations such as the American Association of Clinical Chemists (AACC).

What do you do once you have decided to get your blood test read functionally?
Call Dr. Karlin for an appointment.
If you have a blood work report that is less than 3 months old, we can use that to determine your wellness if appropriate panels have been run. If not, we can order the proper test for you. Your test results will be analyzed and you will be provided with a detailed report of findings. We are trained in Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis and take the time to review your results with you and explains what they mean. We then incorporates Nutrition Response Testing to assess your nutritional needs in the way of supplements necessary and optimal dosage. Dr. Karlin use only the best organic products such as: Genestra/Seroyal, Thorne and Integrated Therapeutics.


Dr. Dorine Karlin, ND, LAc

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