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Advances in Testing Methods

Testing Labs & Methods Testing Labs & Methods

Improve the health and well-being of your patients by using data from innovative testing methods to develop personalized treatment plans.

Chronic diseases are often complex and can be difficult to diagnose and therefore treat your patients. Fortunately, there are a number of innovative test kits on the market to help practitioners determine if a genetic variation may be the root cause of a patient’s problem, or if hormones, nutritional deficiencies, toxins or an underlying immune system disorder is involved.

Targeted Testing

Currently, Arizona-based Advanced Genomic Solutions (AGS), also headquartered in Hong Kong, provides two kinds of genetic tests.

The Health & Wellness Test, available in a Premium as well as a new budget-friendly Lite version, profiles and analyzes genetic variations that make a patient unique in terms of their health and athletic abilities. The results can help optimize an exercise routine, control weight, identify nutrient deficiencies and advise on nutrition and supplementation.

The Drug Sensitivity Test, also known as the Pharmacogenomics or PGx test, was the company’s first marketed test kit. The Drug Sensitivity Test measures how well a person can metabolize hundreds of medications based on their genetic make-up. This can help practitioners make more personalized and safer choices for patients by avoiding possible adverse drug reactions.

Sanesco International Inc., doing business as NeuroLab, is headquartered in North Carolina. The company offers Neurotransmitter and Adrenal Hormone Testing.

“The HPA (hypothalamic–pituitary– adrenal) profile is our most popular testing profile,” said Laboratory Manager Lisa Samuelson, MS. “Health care practitioners gain insight into their patients’ neuroendocrine system and HPA axis function.”

She further explained that a wide array of symptoms and conditions may underlie imbalances in HPA axis function, including anxiety, fatigue, depression, insomnia, pain, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), memory, mood disorders and many more. “Most commonly, women between the ages of 25 to 65 years old seek medical help for these types of symptoms and look to integrative and functional medicine professionals for a more natural and/or personalized treatment approach.”

The test is beneficial to men and women of all ages and also appeals to patients who may not have any specific health concerns but are focused on prevention and improving overall health and wellness.

“This take-home test is non-invasive, pain-free and easy for patient collection,” stated Samuelson. “Patients simply collect one urine sample and four saliva samples in the comfort of their home and ship their samples to our lab for processing.”

The HPA profile measures six major neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, glutamate) and two adrenal hormones (cortisol and DHEAs).

Labrix, headquartered in Oregon, is another company offering hormone and neurotransmitter testing. The Comprehensive Hormone Profile and the NeuroAdrenal Profile include the most sought-after tests offered by the company, according to National Sales Manager Heather Cadwallader.

“Both profiles offer an excellent baseline tool for both men and women,” Cadwallader stated. “The Comprehensive Hormone Profile brings to light imbalances in sex hormones as well as a diurnal cortisol pattern, to evaluate HPA axis (adrenal) function. This profile identifies patterns and levels that inform treatment for chronic diseases as well as imbalances elicited by age transitions.”

The NeuroAdrenal Profile offered by Labrix evaluates neurotransmitter levels as well as HPA axis function. “Both profiles are a consideration when evaluating patients who present with symptoms such as fatigue, mood changes, libido concerns, foggy thinking, chronic pain, or the classic ‘wired and tired’ symptom pattern,” Cadwallader explained.

According to Labrix, saliva testing is the most reliable medium for measuring hormone levels. Hormone levels in saliva accurately represent the amount of hormone delivered to receptors in the body, unlike serum, which represents hormone levels that may or may not be delivered to the body’s receptors.

California-based Proactive Health Labs (pH Labs) also offers a wide variety of test kits. The tests are priced to be affordable, even for patients who don’t have health insurance.

One of the most popular tests marketed by pH Labs is their pH Nutrition test. “This is a comprehensive nutrient test which identifies whether key nutrients that the body needs to perform efficiently are present in a balanced proportion,” Joy Stephenson-Laws, president and founder pointed out. The nutrients tested include all of the essential vitamins and minerals as well as amino acids, probiotics, antioxidants and fats. “The test further identifies harmful minerals like lead, cadmium and mercury, which may affect the ability of the body to efficiently absorb necessary nutrients from the food we eat,” she continued.

Women between the ages of 25 and 45 who are trying to achieve or maintain a healthy weight are the biggest users of this product; however, Stephenson-Laws stated that both men and women over 40 who are interested in boosting energy and getting quality sleep are also interested in this product.

The second most popular product from pH Labs is their pH Health Assessment test. “It goes beyond the traditional physical examination and identifies various imbalances even before they develop into disease symptoms,” said Stephenson-Laws. “Proactive Health Labs’ doctors measure key health indicators to gauge overall health, including body composition, blood pressure, stress and weight management, and provide customized recommendations.”

Based in Madrid, Spain, Life Length is the world leader in telomere measurement and is a U.S. Federal CLIA certified/ISO 15189 internationally accredited clinical lab.

Life Length’s main product, Telomere Analysis Technology (TAT), quantifies telomere length individually, cell by cell, in blood samples and from cell culture. The product, which is available to physicians globally, measures telomeres at the chromosomal level.

The tool can assist natural practitioners in detecting diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease early on, sometimes before patients become symptomatic.

California-based uBiome offers the SmartGut test to practitioners to help patients understand more about their gut health.

“The uBiome SmartGut test is the world’s first sequencing-based clinical microbiome screening test,” said Lisa Micarelli, the company’s director of marketing. “The test detects beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms associated with specific infections, lifestyle choices and gut conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).” SmartGut measures the abundance of both beneficial and pathogenic microorganisms and will provide both practitioner and patient the information about expected ranges and their associations with health.

Research and Support for Advanced Testing Methods

“The ‘ACE’ studies and our new understanding that childhood adversity plays a crucial role in adult health and wellness has highlighted the need for HPA axis testing as more of a mandate than just a suggested guideline,” relayed Cadwallader. “Many patients wander from practitioner to practitioner without finding clear answers and solutions. Many patients have sought out functional testing when the conventional medical model has failed them. Labrix has researched and developed multiple treatment considerations for practitioners to accompany testing profiles, which advance their success.”

Micarelli shared that there is increasing recognition of how our gut microbiome is intricately connected to health conditions. “Recently, research has shown that the composition of the gut microbiome is not only associated with gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and IBS, but also with diseases of other organs, such as depression, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, recent research has shown how the composition of our microbiome can determine the success rate of weight loss diets, or the response or toxicity of certain chemotherapy drugs.”

Stephenson-Laws pointed out that organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have endorsed the value of screening and other preventative tests to reduce the incidence of the most prevalent chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and poor nutrition.

Helping Patients Through Innovative Testing

A healthy, balanced diet is a key element to reducing disease risk. Nutrient imbalances can result in cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, cancer, mood disorders and other diseases.

“The more educated natural practitioners are about what is going on in their clients’ bodies, the better they can partner with their clients to determine the best steps to take to make them healthier,” affirmed Stephenson-Laws. “Nutrients that are sometimes lacking in the body may be obtained from natural food sources rather than from supplements or processed foods. And in those cases where it is difficult for the patients to absorb nutrients from foods, good quality supplements can be recommended.” She also explained that losing weight in a healthy way can be difficult if a patient is nutritionally imbalanced. “For example, the patient may not have the energy to perform the physical activities necessary to keep the weight off if nutrients or hormones are imbalanced,” she said.

Cadwallader believes that every patient who walks in the door can benefit from neuroendocrine testing and optimization. “Hormone, HPA axis/adrenal function and neurotransmitter testing can bring to light a myriad of imbalances that match the symptom picture,” she explained. “And with accurate test results, the practitioner will be able to pinpoint exactly which imbalances to treat and create a targeted plan for each individual. The successful return or creation of optimal health is catapulted to a new level as compared to guessing without this testing.”

Holly Lucille, ND, RN agreed that many tests can be helpful to confirm clinical suspicions. “The way I see it, the patient visit and communication, health history, chief complaint and all that goes into it is the most important thing to guide a clinical hypothesis.” Many of these tests provide more data to round out the clinical case and decision-making process for the optimal plan, she continued.

Serena Goldstein, ND added that it is imperative to ensure that patients are educated in their own health and how they got to where they are. “Tests may either confirm or provide new information, but if their lifestyle is not healthy then there has to be ground work to not only help them feel better, but double as preventative care.”

The Future of Testing

Test kit providers agreed that the future for advanced testing is bright.

“Patients are seeking out this market in droves, especially with millions of women entering their menopausal years within the next decade. They need knowledgeable, caring and seasoned practitioners to help them navigate the many treatment options available to them,” said Cadwallader.

Stephenson-Laws believes this market will continue to grow exponentially as more people realize the benefits of becoming educated about their bodies and take steps to prevent disease and better manage their health.

Lance Bennett, co-founder of AGS also reported that the future for these products is extremely bright. “More information is discovered on genes weekly and monthly,” he stated, “which translates in to more personal results for everyone.”

According to Samuelson, integrative medicine is becoming more and more accepted by mainstream medical practitioners and health care providers who want to adopt a more “patient-centered” approach as opposed to a more “disease-centered” approach to care. “Take-home and point-of-care lab testing and advancements in technology, such as wearable devices and data integration with phone apps, will allow patients and their practitioners to gain a wealth of health care data that will continue to shape the future of health care,” she said.

Dr. Goldstein expressed that there is a need for this level of testing because it provides practitioners with more information, but was concerned that more information can sometimes be a double-edged sword. “We’re in a paradigm shift where two people can come in with the same concern and leave with completely different treatment plans,” she explained. “These tests help us get to the root cause, but once again, it should also be part of the person’s health trajectory and in their best interest.

Merchandising Support for Practitioners

Labrix offers complimentary brochures, rack cards, handouts, flyers, advertisements, PowerPoint materials and more to support the busy practitioner. The company is also happy to brainstorm new ideas with the practitioner who wants to market their practice to patients. Labrix is poised to be your partner in science and health, supporting busy practitioners with complimentary consultations, live and recorded education, research, and above all else, fast and accurate and reliable test results. Practitioners can contact marketing@labrix.com to get started.

Life Length provides personalized marketing material for customers—which includes brochures, sample reports, presentations, roll-ups and more.

Sanesco offers both practitioner and patient educational materials, as well as resources to optimize patient adherence and compliance. Based on the practitioner’s business model, the company’s tests may be incorporated into their services and bring the practice additional revenue.

uBiome offers onboarding welcome packages to health care providers to ensure they understand how to prescribe its SmartGut test, offers dedicated customer support through its clinical partnerships team and customer support service via support@ubiome.com.

Resources:

Audhya T, et al. Correlation of serotonin levels in CSF, platelets, plasma and urine. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012; 1820: 1496-1501.

Dvorakova M, et al. Urinary catecholamines in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): modulation by a polyphenolic extract from pine bark (pycnogenol). Nutr Neurosci. 2007; 10: 151-57.

Kaluzna-Czaplinkska J, et al. Determination of tryptophan in urine of autistic and healthy children by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. Med Sci Monit. 2010; 16: 488-92.

Koo-Loeb JH, et al. Women with eating disorder tendencies display altered cardiovascular neuroendocrine and psychosocial profiles. Psychosom Med. 2000; 62: 539-48.

Kushnir MM, et al. Analysis of catecholamines in urine by positive-ion electrospray tandem mass spectrometry. Clin Chem. 2002; 48: 323-31.

Moriarty M, et al. Development of an LC-MS/MS method for the analysis of serotonin and related compounds in urine and the identification of a potential biomarker for attention deficit hyperactivity/hyperkinetic disorder. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2011; 401: 2481-93.

O’leary, Peter, et al. Salivary, but not serum or urinary levels of progesterone are elevated after topical application of progesterone cream to pre‐and postmenopausal women. Clinical Endocrinology 2000; 53.5: 615-620.

Healthy Take Aways:
• Results from genetic testing can help practitioners optimize an exercise routine, control weight, identify nutrient deficiencies and advise on their patients’ nutrition and supplementation.
• Imbalances in HPA axis function can result in a variety of symptoms including anxiety, fatigue, depression, insomnia, pain and irritable bowel syndrome.
• Telomere analysis can be helpful in detecting chronic disease conditions before patients become symptomatic.
• The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have endorsed the value of screening and other preventative tests to reduce the incidence of common chronic diseases.
• Accurate test results can help a practitioner pinpoint exactly which imbalances to treat and create a targeted plan for each patient.

For More Information:
Advanced Genomic Solutions, www.ags-health.com
Labrix LLC, www.labrix.com
Life Length, www.lifelength.com
Proactive Health Labs, www.phlabs.com
Sanesco International Inc., dba NeuroLab, www.sanescohealth.com
uBiome, www.ubiome.com