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How To Choose The Right Functional Medicine Lab Tests For Your Patient's Health Concerns

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How To Choose The Right Functional Medicine Lab Tests For Your Patient's Health Concerns

If you're wanting to offer your patients a whole-body, comprehensive approach to their health concerns, functional medicine is the way to go. Many people are turning to functional medicine for a well-rounded approach to their healthcare needs. Functional medicine aims at addressing the root cause of disease. While learning functional medicine, doctors and other practitioners learn how to use labs to assess for underlying contributing factors to illness instead of just focusing on symptom management. Functional medicine shines in many areas of health as it addresses health holistically. This article will help you navigate and understand which labs will best assist your patients.


Understanding Functional Medicine Lab Tests

Functional medicine utilizes specialty labs to investigate the underlying root causes of your patient's concerns. You may have noticed that some of your patients still feel "off" even though their routine labs were within normal range. A disadvantage of the standard reference range within conventional labs is that it is a wide range. People within the "normal" range can still be in a state of dysfunction. 

Functional medicine looks at labs from an optimal range standpoint that helps providers identify imbalances early on, thus allowing for prevention or treatments before progression. Trained functional medicine practitioners will consider factors like nutrition, hormonal imbalances, gut health, and other lifestyle components as possible causes for patients' health concerns. Practitioners will use functional labs that assess for these various factors, such as nutrient deficiencies, microbiome imbalances, hormone changes, and other inflammatory processes. These tests will provide guidance on ways to optimize your health, often without the use of pharmaceuticals.

Assessing Patient Health Concerns

Every patient has different health needs and concerns, and utilizing a comprehensive, individualized assessment is crucial. Functional medicine practitioners consider individual factors such as medical history, nutritional choices, and lifestyle when selecting labs for their patients. This systematic approach can aid in identifying the underlying causes of the patient's health concerns and symptoms, allowing for more personalized treatments.

Key Considerations In Choosing Functional Medicine Lab Tests

Practitioners will take into account some key considerations before choosing functional labs for their patients. Some of these considerations include relevance, validity of the test, reliability of the labs, accessibility, cost, and turnaround times. Patients will often have multiple health concerns that are connected. Practitioners will prioritize the labs that are relevant to the patient's specific health concerns and investigate the connections between their varying health concerns. 

Another consideration before recommending a test is the validity of the test and if there is scientific evidence supporting the test's effectiveness. Practitioners will often look at the lab's CLIA certifications (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) for validity. CLIA is regulated by the CMMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services), and its objective is to ensure quality laboratory testing. Another quality assurance check is the history of the labs conducting the test for their expertise and reliability in the specific tests being offered. 

Patients are also concerned with the accessibility and costs associated with labs. Although most specialty labs are cash-pay, HSAs (Health Savings Accounts) or FSAs (Flex-Spending Accounts) can be used for these labs. Most practitioners will also look for labs that use a transparent pricing model so they always know what the labs will cost for their patients and can collaborate with them on the best labs for their health needs. Nowadays, most labs can be completed in the convenience of your own home, or there are many local draw stations if blood samples are needed. Even mobile phlebotomists can be utilized for these specialty labs, making it easier for patients to complete their lab tests with a faster turnaround time.

The Most Common Functional Medicine Lab Tests Ordered On The Rupa Health Platform

Here are some lab tests that are commonly used in functional medicine found on the Rupa Health Platform:

Gut Health

Gut health is the cornerstone of functional medicine methodology, making these tests popular with providers.

A Comprehensive Stool Analysis is a stool test that analyzes markers of digestion, inflammation, and absorption used for assessing digestive and other chronic conditions.  

A Microbiome Assessment is a popular test to assess the gut's health by analyzing the microbes' diversity and imbalances that may lead to chronic issues.

The Food Sensitivity Panel is often used by functional providers to assess immune reactions to various foods to allow for personalized nutritional planning. 

SIBO breath test is used by practitioners to measure levels of gases that are a byproduct of bacteria that can indicate SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) with elevated levels. 

Hormonal Health 

Optimal levels of hormones are also associated with functional health, and practitioners often utilize these functional hormone panels.

A comprehensive hormone panel (blood analysis) is a common go-to with functional medicine providers to get an overall picture of the function of sex hormones for men's and women's health. 

DUTCH Sex Hormones (urine analysis) are used by functional doctors to get a baseline reading of sex hormones or to monitor bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. 

The Adrenal Stress profile is an excellent test that measures cortisol at four different times throughout the day and provides practitioners with a better overall picture of a patient's stress response than a standard AM cortisol measurement. 

A full thyroid panel is often used by providers to get a complete picture of thyroid function, as it measures eight thyroid hormones and the associated antibodies. 

Nutritional Guidance 

Food as medicine is a foundational piece of functional medicine, and these are some common nutritional labs that can help identify problems associated with nutritional imbalances.

Organic Acid Test (OAT) measures markers of gut health, oxidative stress, neurotransmitters, and vitamins, providing practitioners with a comprehensive metabolic analysis. 

NutrEval can help providers understand the various nutritional imbalances that may impact their patient's health, allowing for individualized dietary guidance. 

Micronutrient Panel measures the extracellular and intracellular levels of 40 different vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids to assess for nutritional deficiencies that can impact overall health. 

Metabolix testing can provide practitioners with a thorough look into a patient's oxidative stress levels, nutrient imbalances, mitochondria function, and toxic exposure important in energy production and optimal health. 


How To Learn More About Functional Medicine Lab Testing

Functional medicine labs are essential for practitioners to offer a comprehensive approach to patient care. Here are some other tools that can be utilized to learn more about these labs:

Rupa Health Magazine Articles

Rupa Health offers a magazine that provides articles written by industry experts. These articles are top functional medicine resources and can give an overview of some of the most common conditions seen by functional medicine practitioners. The magazine can offer a reference for providers and patients with many of the comprehensive approaches practitioners utilize to address these conditions. The magazine also provides insights to practitioners on standard business practices in functional medicine in the hopes of helping providers with strategies to start or grow their practices.

Rupa Health Treatment Protocols

The treatment protocols are an excellent resource for practitioners who are looking to find comprehensive, evidence-based strategies intended to address the root cause of health conditions, including gut-related issues, hormone imbalances, autoimmune, musculoskeletal disorders, and more. These protocols provide integrative insights to address these conditions through clinically relevant supplements, nutritional interventions, lifestyle changes, and other complementary therapies.

Rupa Health Case Studies

Case Studies can provide an in-depth understanding of addressing and optimizing health conditions. These studies offer a real-life look into the health journey of various people and the integrative approaches that are used. The case studies can help people who may be dealing with similar health-related issues and provide some guidance on the steps they can take to get healthier and feel better.

Rupa Health Lab Reference Guide

Functional labs are excellent for identifying underlying root causes of health conditions or associated symptoms. The lab reference guide provides a resource for practitioners and patients on some of the top labs used in functional medicine. In fact, people can choose from over 30 labs through the lab portal. The lab reference will guide individuals on what the labs consist of, what they measure, how they can be completed, and what conditions or symptoms they can help with.

Rupa University Free Live Classes

Rupa University will host a free live class every week. These classes will bring in industry experts to discuss common health conditions and the functional approaches used for these conditions. They will lecture on everything from PCOS to food sensitivities, functional blood chemistry analysis, and much more. This university is another fantastic functional medicine educational resource.

Rupa University Bootcamps

If you are looking to do a deep dive into a specific health topic, Rupa University Bootcamps offers 6-week programs that are designed to educate people on many of the functional medicine fundamentals. These include the conditions, treatments, and their associated studies. These bootcamps allow you to learn these fundamentals on your own time, taught by the experts in their field, and provide you with all the appropriate protocols.



With the increased prevalence of functional medicine in healthcare, it is essential for practitioners and other individuals to be supplied with educational resources for this whole-body medicine approach, including choosing suitable functional labs. Fortunately, Rupa Health offers many resources for both practitioners and individuals looking for specialty lab choices or strategies to improve their health condition and overall health. These resources can provide people with individualized health plans to be their best, healthiest selves.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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Lab Tests in This Article

  1. Bootcamps. (2023). Rupa University.
  2. Case studies. (2023). Rupa Health.
  3. Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) | CMS. (2023, May 11). Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
  4. Cox, A. D. (2023, January 23). The 5 most commonly ordered functional medicine lab tests. Rupa Health.
  5. Free classes. (2023). Rupa University.
  6. Greenan, S. (2021, November 19). What is functional medicine? How do I find a functional medicine practitioner? Rupa Health.
  7. Protocols. (2023). Rupa Health.
  8. Reference guide. (2023). Rupa Health.
  9. Rupa Magazine | Functional medicine lab testing. (2023). Rupa Health.
  10. Viswanathan, T. (2019, October 12). The cost of functional medicine lab testing & diagnostics. Rupa Health.
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