Lab testing is a vital aspect of Alternative to Meds Center’s overall program.
Lab testing by our medical staff is the most accurate way to get to the bottom of mental health symptoms like anxiety, depression, or psychosis. Additionally, lab work may allow us to discover the pathology of addictive biochemistry. Through comprehensive testing, we are able to design the most effective personalized treatment for each resident in a way that wouldn’t have been possible without diagnostics.
What Is Lab Testing?
Lab testing is a medical procedure that involves taking a biological sample (often blood or urine) to answer an important medical question about the patient’s brain, body, or condition. Often, lab testing is performed to determine the function of a particular organ, tissue, or body system. For example, lab tests can be performed to evaluate liver or kidney function. Lab tests can also be used to screen for any important changes in overall health.
Frequently, however, lab testing is performed to detect any deficiencies in nutrients or detect the presence of concerning levels of certain chemical compounds. This is the function of much of the lab testing that takes place when an individual is experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder or addiction. Then, as treatment takes place, additional testing may be necessary to monitor the patient’s condition and ensure improvement.
As you can see, there are numerous types of lab tests that exist to evaluate much more than the absence or presence of a neurotoxic accumulation.
Why Is Lab Testing So Important?
It’s not always easy to determine what is causing a particular symptom. Some mental health disorders have similar or even identical impacts as physical disorders, but their treatment protocols may be completely different. For example, a physical health issue like chronic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) could easily be mistaken for depression, as both can cause fatigue, irritability, and hunger. Timely lab testing to correctly identify the issue will make a world of difference when it comes to securing the correct treatment for a disorder. Testing of this order is what most people have hoped for since they began having issues.
The reason we believe it’s important to do such thorough lab testing is that often, there are physiological factors contributing to what’s going on mentally, or vice versa. The mind has a powerful impact on the body, and the body has a powerful impact on the mind. Sometimes this can manifest in ways that may be unexpected to those affected. For example, depression and anxiety are both linked to inflammatory bowel disease and determining whether there is a physiological component to observed anxiety can help determine the treatment protocols necessary.1 Lab tests are key to uncovering and understanding these patterns to provide better treatment.
In addition, many psychiatric medications affect a person’s biochemistry, and we need to see how the body compensates so we can suggest the most appropriate treatment for you. Psychiatric medications can affect a person’s endocrine system, nutritional status, sleep patterns, and neurochemistry. Being in a state of anxiety or depression does the same thing.2 The right lab tests can help us determine the root cause of your symptoms, devise a better treatment, and avoid pharmaceutical drugs that may make the problem worse.
To put it simply, comprehensive lab testing makes it possible to determine whether their mental health struggles are related to any physiological issues as well. Attempting to diagnose a mental health condition without evaluation of components like hormone levels, blood sugar, and metabolic markers is like trying to solve a puzzle with only half of the pieces. This is why we dig deep and see what’s really going on within the whole body. We don’t want to just think about the brain; we want to restore balance to the whole person.
Lab Testing Allows Us to See What Is Really Going on Beneath the Surface
Traditional mental health evaluations are valid, but can only go so far.
According to a sample of a diverse set of physicians, treatment providers use an equally diverse set of evaluations to diagnose depression and other mental health conditions.3 Many used a symptoms checklist, but it focused chiefly on emotion and psychology. Physiological problems, such as sleep disturbances, fatigue, and psychomotor problems are mentioned but could just as easily be linked to other psychological or physiological disorders. In short, traditional methods of diagnosing mental health disorders often miss some symptoms and misunderstand others.
Lab testing ensures that we don’t miss a single thing. The results can help us understand the issues and symptoms clients are dealing with, as well as potential treatments.
Our lab testing includes, but is not limited to:
Complete metabolic functioning, including liver and kidney
Complete blood count with differential
Sex hormones, comprehensive
Pregnancy, thyroid, blood sugar, iron, and other metabolic markers
Additional tests may be requested by the medical directors
Extensive blood chemistry analysis allows us to get started with a clear picture of where the client is at. We can assess blood sugar, electrolyte balance, organ function, hormone balance, adrenal function, neurotransmitter status, immune function, nutrient and mineral status, and the cofactors in between. Nutrient deficiencies, for example, play an important role in health and disease and are almost always seen concurrently with mental health symptoms. 4
The most effective way to heal the body and mind together is a combination of thorough lab work, psychological analysis, and holistic treatment. Often, this is all that’s needed to address both physical and mental health issues without the need for psychiatric medications or a complicated diagnostic procedure.
Lab Tests Are Effective and Reliable
At Alternative to Meds Center, we firmly believe in conducting only essential, effective testing and therapies. As a result, it’s important to know that we only perform lab testing because of the definitive links between the results and the symptoms our clients are demonstrating.
We test for a number of biomarkers that can help understand the symptoms you are having. Whether these biomarkers will immediately indicate a particular condition or whether they warrant a deeper analysis can vary. What’s important are the proven crossroads between psychology and physiology, and lab tests are the only way to pick up on these otherwise invisible patterns.
Testing for Depression
The expression, or lack thereof, of the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, has been linked with an extensive number of psychological disorders. BDNF levels can thus be analyzed in a lab to determine whether there is an issue, though the precise psychiatric disorder can’t be determined from this alone. What this shows isn’t that a lab test can immediately determine a person’s problems just with just one result, but that there are many physical changes that can be detected and studied to form a bigger picture. For instance, lower BDNF levels could be a sign of both Alzheimer’s or major depressive disorder, but these results wouldn’t be taken in isolation. Instead, they can be used to support other data already collected to offer a missing piece of the puzzle.5
A much more decisive method of testing for a person who experiences depression would be to test for levels of ethanolamine phosphate in the blood. Research has shown that low phosphate levels are associated with depression. A phosphate test would allow a wider range of people to be treated for their depression without resorting to psychiatric drugs as a first-line response. 6
15 Years Experience by Professionals Who Understand Your Journey.
Depression isn’t the only symptom that we can investigate in a lab. Other symptoms have their own biological “tells” as well.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is responsible for a variety of biological alterations and biomarkers, some of which may be apparent before the PTSD itself is apparent. Low cortisol levels, for instance, can be used to predict whether or not someone is predisposed to PTSD after suffering a traumatic event. 7 Being able to identify such biomarkers can even help identify the presence of trauma in an individual who hasn’t otherwise disclosed that they were traumatized in the past, enabling more people to receive treatment than ever before.
Anxiety symptoms can also be investigated by searching for the presence of multiple biomarkers. Anxiety and stress are linked to inflammation of various kinds, and inflammation can be caused by various fats, lipids, and proteins. As such, high levels of compounds like lipid hydroperoxide can be associated with symptoms of anxiety disorders. Anxiety-associated biomarkers can also be discovered through urine tests, a valuable method of analysis.8
Testing for Neurotoxicity
Neurotoxicity plays a major role in the decline of a person’s mental and physical health. Environmental toxins, such as pesticides, air pollutants, heavy metals, and even household cleaners, have been linked to mental health conditions like depression, schizophrenia, and psychosis. 9 As such, the ability to not only discover neurotoxicity but also to provide a solution is vital to ensuring the recovery of both the body and mind. At Alternative to Meds Center, we take neurotoxicity very seriously, and our lab tests help us uncover its presence.
One neurotoxin with clear biomarkers is lead, which has been shown to inhibit the proliferation of specific cells while decreasing the expression of other cells.10 Drugs are also a type of neurotoxin, and their use can cause a variety of problems, from tissue damage to depression. Spotting neurotoxin biomarkers can help us identify whether patients are exhibiting symptoms that mimic a mental health disorder brought about by neurotoxicity or whether another issue may be causing the problem.
Testing for Substance Use Disorders
Lab testing is often used to screen incoming clients for the presence of illicit substances or alcohol in the blood. As with other tests, there is no lab test that can diagnose addiction or substance use disorder. However, lab testing can determine a substance’s toxicity.
Then, as with other mental health disorders, lab testing can be used to determine whether biomarkers are in place for physiological disorders that may be contributing to a patient’s symptoms. Lab testing is also important to ensure the proper levels of hormones, neurotransmitters, and critical nutritional compounds are in place. In particular, zinc and vitamin D are often low in people with substance use disorder. Clinicians may also notice low levels of magnesium, citicoline, amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, all B vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and E. If patients arrive deficient in essential nutrients, the issue and its resulting physical and mental health effects can be addressed via supplementation and a nutritious diet.
Lab Testing for Mental Health Symptoms ATMC in Sedona, AZ
When you arrive at Alternative to Meds Center, our treatment professionals will work with you to assess your symptoms, concerns, and potential physiological and psychological conditions.
According to that assessment, we can issue a range of lab tests to determine whether biomarkers for specific psychological, physiological, and neurotoxicity-related symptoms are present. Based on the results of those lab tests, your symptoms, your history of substance use, your current pharmaceutical use, and a psychological assessment, we can begin building an understanding of how to treat you as a whole person.
By conducting laboratory testing in conjunction with holistic assessment, we can get a better understanding of who you truly are and what treatment you need. At Alternative to Meds Center, each patient is given individualized, holistic care based on their needs, and lab testing allows us to be even more accurate and efficient about providing this care. If you would like to learn more about our methods and the use of lab testing as an important component of holistic treatment, contact us today.
Bernstein, C. N. (2021). The Relationship Between Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety and Disease Activity in IBD Over Time. Inflammatory bowel diseases, 27(8), 1285–1293. https://doi.org/10.1093/ibd/izaa349
Thomas-MacLean, R., Stoppard, J., Miedema, B. B., & Tatemichi, S. (2005). Diagnosing depression: there is no blood test. Canadian Family Physician, 51(8), 1102-1103. Retrieved February 21, 2023, from https://www.cfp.ca/content/51/8/1102.short
Miranda, M., Morici, J. F., Zanoni, M. B., & Bekinschtein, P. (2019). Brain-derived neurotrophic factor: a key molecule for memory in the healthy and the pathological brain. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 363. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2019.00363
Lehrner, A., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Biomarkers of PTSD: military applications and considerations. European journal of psychotraumatology, 5, 10.3402/ejpt.v5.23797. https://doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v5.23797
Humer, E., Pieh, C., & Probst, T. (2020). Metabolomic Biomarkers in Anxiety Disorders. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(13), 4784. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms21134784
Potter, N. A., Meltzer, G. Y., Avenbuan, O. N., Raja, A., & Zelikoff, J. T. (2021). Particulate Matter and Associated Metals: A Link with Neurotoxicity and Mental Health. Atmosphere, 12(4), 425. MDPI AG. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/atmos12040425
Li, N., Cui, N., Qiao, M., Shen, Y., Cheng, Y., Song, L., … & Li, L. (2022). The effects of lead exposure on the expression of IGF1R, IGFBP3, Aβ40, and Aβ42 in PC12 cells. Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology, 69, 126877. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jtemb.2021.126877
This content has been written by a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.
Julia Britz is a licensed naturopathic doctor who received her training from Bastyr University in San Diego, CA. She specializes in supporting people who are struggling with mental health issues such as anxiety, OCD and eating disorders; as well as a chronic illness like autoimmunity and mold toxicity. Her passion for working with individuals suffering from these lonely conditions is that she too was a “hopeless case”, but got better.
Dismissed by doctors, she was told over and over there was nothing else she could try beyond pharmacotherapy, and so was inspired to create myocddiary.com, a site dedicated to documenting the daily life of OCD and related disorders. Through this project and holistic therapies, she found new levels of wellness, and in 2014 did a TED talk called “MyOCDdiary: an imperfect story.”
She utilizes natural and integrative modalities including targeted amino acid therapy, peptide therapy, micronutrient therapy, NAD+ and IV therapy, botanical medicine and epigenetic analysis. Dr. Britz listens to her patients and respects where each person is on their healing journey. She understands that each individual has unique needs and she is passionate about finding creative ways to support them and optimize their health. She is passionate about the work being done at ATMC, by the healthcare team and the residents, because true healing happens when we all heal together.
In her personal life, Dr. Britz loves to paint, go backcountry camping with her siblings, bake and explore ghost towns. Originally from Las Vegas, she now enjoys living in Arizona with her adorable cat, Icky Thump.
Medical Disclaimer: Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.