93—Is this thing even working...


As part of functional testing a female lab technician examines a blood filled test-tube

Something that tests my patients...

I’m not a big fan of testing for testings-sake. Never have been. I much prefer to take a pragmatic approach to treating my clients.

And why is this?
In my line-of-work, I deal with you holistically: your state of mind; how your relationships are affecting you; if you’re working too hard or exercising too much; and what your diet is like — not just what a very specific blood test randomly tells me about you.

While you definitely don’t come to me for emergency health care, when you do come to see me you can expect:

To get your ‘story’ out

To be FULLY listened to

TO have me depart on you ancient Naturopathic wisdom… Blended with evidence-based know-how and SOME highly motivating can-do 😉 

I don’t run tests (at least, not in the initial phases), for the simple fact that I’m not a Doctor. People really need to learn the difference between the different types of health care…

You come to me for health-care.
And, you go to your Doctor for disease-care.

The doctors tests only check for sickness and disease. So, if you’re ‘rocking up’ to your GP because you’re feeling ‘grotty’, testing is not going to help you. In fact, it can sometimes make you feel worse! This is when they can’t actually find anything to explain why you’re just not feeling very well.

Note: Testing is efficient but not necessarily effective – unless you have something obviously wrong with you. 

What's up, Naturopath?

The most important step in improving your health is to see what I can deduce from looking at you and from listening to what you have to say.

From there, I construct a treatment plan to positively impact your health. This approach is based on not only my Naturopathic knowledge, but also on my experience (which has been gained through many years, working with thousands of people).

Note: The people that I treat do not have acute health complaints (something that has come on relatively suddenly and to an intense degree). I know this because I screen them prior to an appointment at OOMPH. (And, where need be, I  refer them to their G.P.) Naturopaths work to prevent ill-health, to ASSIST you through suboptimal health, and to help support you during chronic health conditions.

As an experienced health practitioner, I don’t feel the need to rely on something else to tell me why you’re not ‘feeling well’ until I actually don’t know…

If I just relied on testing to tell me ‘what’s -going-on’ with my clients, then technically I wouldn’t have to bother listening to them at all — I’d simply send them off for a bunch of random tests. And I certainly wouldn’t have bothered going to Naturopathic school.  I could have gone to ‘Test commissioning, results reading, random pill prescribing, and finger-crossing’ school’ 😉

No — I much prefer to get to the bottom-of-things-using the methods that the good Universe gave me — namely, my eyes, ears and brain. My job is to explain to you what’s happening, and to pull everything together, so that you can understand why you may be experiencing your particular brand of ill-health.

I like you to leave OOMPH feeling not only that you’ve been heard, but that what I’ve explained to you (about why you’re not feeling well) makes good sense also. And hopefully, knowing that we are working together as a team makes you feel empowered.

Note: Doctors ‘test’ because they only spend 8-15 mins with you – when you have an acute complaint – so literally there is no time to talk things over. At OOMPH, we get anywhere between 30-180 mins to discuss your health concerns. It’s a completely different way of doing things.

Naturopath Lisa Fitzgibbon sits on her practice's door step she suffers from depression

Help! I need somebody (not just anybody).

I’m not just a Naturopath. I’ve been a frustrated patient too. And doctors simply don’t know how to treat anything bar acute health conditions.

It always leaves me feeling ‘cold’ whenever I’ve actually felt the need to go to the doctor. They just look at me with ‘blank doctor face’  in the appointment, write me a script for some standard blood work… and, if nothing shows up ‘wrong’, then that’s the last I ever hear of it.

Rather than them admitting that they don’t know what’s wrong with you,  you’re left to assume your diagnosis was: big, fat time waster… (A referral to a natural health practitioner would at least make me think that they were taking my health concerns seriously.)

Note: My past dealings with Doctors was one of the reasons that I decided to become a Naturopath – it strengthened the desperate need we’re in, for ACTUAL ‘health care’.

To be fair, doctors are only trained to deal with people who have acute health conditions (those having difficulty breathing, who are bleeding profusely, or are in severe pain.)

However, it really concerns me that the general public are not educated about this.  It should be a known ‘thing’ that unless your health complaint is acute then going to the doctor’s surgery for help is like:
going to the Hardware store for milk.

Note: Imagine if someone suddenly turned up to OOMPH bleeding profusely, had some body part ‘coming off’, or had something stuck someplace that it shouldn’t be. And, I didn’t tell them that they’d actually come to the wrong place. Instead I looked at them blankly, prescribed them a multivitamin, and sent them on their way… 

If nothing else, there should be someone qualified in the doctor’s waiting room, assessing people, before you actually see the doctor. If it’s a non-urgent gut issue, respiratory issue, mood issue or such like, the consultant could direct you to a Naturopath. This has got to be better than busting out your list of complaints to the doctor then wondering why they look at you like you’re a freakin’ hypochondriac… because non-emergency ‘stuff’ — and lists — are not their forte.

Please know this everyone:

GP’s treat acute medical conditions

A&E doctors treat medical emergencies

Bloodwork checks for Pathology
(Pathology = sickness & disease. Blood tests don’t check for physiological imbalances OR the poor functioning of cells and tissues.)

And hear this, ya’ll:

Your doctor cannot:
Improve your immune system
Boost your energy
Promote correct digestion
Reduce your stress
Increase your ‘happy’, or
Help to regenerate your liver.
(Etc, etc, etc.)

That’s what Naturopaths are trained to treat — we’re the ones who are proficient in ‘lists’ 🙂

As part of functional testing a male lab technician looks through his microscope

You're in charge here — but my job is to advise you about the appropriateness of 'stuff'.

While it’s important to have some general structure in place, as a Naturopath I believe that every treatment plan needs to be tailored to the person in front of me. I need to establish what my clients expectations are, what they’re ‘up for’ (and also, what they’re actually capable of). And, I need to consider their budgetary constraints.

Note: I don’t like to stress my clients out by financially overwhelming them, or by giving them overly complicated treatment plans.

My job is to devise the best possible treatment outcome for my clients with the least amount of time, energy and money involved.

I loath having clients leave anywhere with any more than three products. Because I practice holistically, part of my expertise lies in selecting products that have multiple actions — meaning that I can use fewer products to address multiple health complaints. It’s my job to recommend products that carry the most bang for people’s buck — so to speak.

If I simply prescribed one product per health complaint then I may as well be a Doctor 😉

My premise has always been to get the basics right first — to essentially reset people to find out who I’m really working with. (A lot of the time, the problem with a person’s health simply comes down to ‘user error’.)
And, I can generally do this by making a few dietary changes, and by using 1—3 key supplements or herbs.

By starting small, I can always add things or make tweaks as we progress. If I were to start off with loads of products, not only is it bloody expensive and overwhelming for my client, but we also wouldn’t know what is and what isn’t working.

I guess I'm just old fashioned like that.

I remember, in the first little while after I had graduated from ‘Naturopathic School’…

I was approached by a company wanting me to buy their fancy, highly specific, and expensive testing machine — to base my entire practice around it!

I didn’t have to think twice before I turned them down.

I told them, that while I was still ‘coming into my own’ as a Naturopath,  that their device would distract me from my actual work — I wanted to focus on my case-taking skills; using my eyes, ears, and my knowledge of how ALL of the body’s systems function in order to care for my clients.

I was all about establishing a firm rapport back then, and looking at my patients as a ‘whole’. And today, I’m happy to say, that I still feel exactly the same way.I like working with you with as little distraction as possible — that’s why we sit together at OOMPH and have an actual conversation.

Note: I did have to resort to a lot of testing when I was first finding-my-way with iodine therapy. Now, I give my clients the option of being tested for this. (And, I explain to them why it’s not mandatory.)

Non-standard blood-work and functional testing

Naturopaths (and Nutritionists) are trained to know the deficiency signs of vitamins & minerals — we don’t need to test you. If we have enough reason to believe you are deficient in something, we would simply prescribe the necessary nutrients (which would cost as much as the testing) and see how you responded (without all the rigmarole of having to find the time to go and get tested.)

I tell you this, because some doctors will always get you checked for this trio of nutrients: Magnesium, Zinc, and Vitamin D. And, because these tests aren’t part of a standard blood-work panel, you actually have to pay for these three tests — which is somewhere around $90.

Blood-test ranges for nutrients are highly subjective — as everyone is different. We don’t know what a person’s optimal dosage is — only you know that.  And we can only discover this by trialing you; all with very minimal concern involved.

In addition to regular blood tests offered by GPs, some Naturopaths, Nutritionists, and Doctors offer functional tests which are tests that have been developed to identify imbalances and to determine how physiological systems are functioning. And while these are great — they’re cutting edge technology — they’re bloody expensive and highly involved!

I don’t believe clients should know about these until they are required. Otherwise, people think these are things that they need — when they really don’t. (In most cases.)

Testing is a funny thing — when you’re the one being tested. When you’re not feeling well, you expect to find something ‘wrong’ with you — to justify why you’re feeling this way. However, what happens when you’re actually feeling well, and you’re tested and then you find something ‘wrong’. This opens up a whole ‘can of worms’. Because the body is dynamic — it’s constantly changing. Would you have been better off not knowing about this? Because now you’ll worry — especially if the ability to treat the issue hasn’t kept up with the technology to discover it!

Note: As a Naturopath, I still say, it’s better to improve the general health of the person, and the person will then take care of the disease.

Come again?!

Many tests aren’t necessarily a good indicator of your health or how you’re feeling.

I get clients telling me all the time, that they’re here at OOMPH because regardless of what their blood-work shows, that they know that something  is ‘wrong with them’. They know it’s not right to feel this way and they don’t hold much stock in their blood-work results.

Then, once we get them feeling better, some people want to get blood-tests done… To find out if they are actually ‘better’!

I really do not understand the logic in this. What happens if the blood-work hasn’t changed or looks worse than before? (Because this can actually happen — and frequently does.) Will this alter how you actually feel?

How you feel — your level of wellbeing — is the most accurate test of all.

Lisa says:

Testing is something you do in the following situations

When you either:

Have an acute health issue
(at the Doctors/A&E/Hospital)

When you have a sudden flare-up of ‘something’. For instance, you would proceed straight to testing if you were suffering from significant breathing difficulties, excessive bleeding, or extreme pain.

Here you need to rule out anything sinister.

You’ve exhausted all other avenues in your pursuit to feel well
You’ve tried: modifying your diet; taking prescribed  dietary supplements and/or medications; improving your gut, liver and thyroid function — and still things aren’t improving.

Only then, would you consider blood-testing or Functional tests.

Here is a link to the Thyroflex device that I use when necessary at OOMPH.

You’re a person who requires empirical ‘evidence’
And you’re prepared to pay a lot of money out on functional testing that is possibly inaccurate, open to interpretation, and has no definite treatment protocol to go along with the finding…

I only offer functional testing if I have exhausted all other avenues

I believe that Health Practitioners need to be discerning about the tests that we offer. Expensive Functional testing really needs to stop being marketed directly to people.

We should have to justify why you need to spend hundreds of dollars on this type of testing. It should be the last port-of-call — not used in the first instance.

Note: I firmly believe that if a ‘treatment trial’ has minimal risk (the client has been educated and will be monitored) and it’s less expensive than the actual test – then why not just do it? (This is especially if the test doesn’t actually provide a conclusive treatment approach.)

You can read into tests

While the new functional tests are very ‘sexy’ they are still relatively new and continue to evolve. All tests, no matter how ‘accurate’ they are, are always open to interpretation.

Health Practitioners who offer these tests need to be confident that:
1) All the ‘fuss & muss’ is indeed justified (the time, money and effort required)
2) They know how to effectively evaluate the information generated, and
3) They can translate all this information into a client friendly treatment plan — that doesn’t overwhelm or bankrupt their client.

This health practitioner would need to be qualified, experienced, and suitably trained in this area of expertise.

If not, I say, let’s not go there.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves and go hung-ho with all guns blazin' — just because we can! Unless it's an acute case, let's just be pragmatic with our approach.

Make an appointment with Lisa

Lisa Fitzgibbon is a degree qualified (2006), experienced and registered Naturopath & Medical Herbalist. She runs her own private practice – OOMPH in Grey Lynn, Auckland, New Zealand.

Lisa has been involved in the Natural Health industry for 16 years. She draws on her professional training and experience, as well as her own personal experience to bring you realistic, holistic health advice.

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