9 functional medicine tests that will get to the root cause of depression, anxiety, or panic attacks
Struggling with depression, anxiety or panic attacks? Testing is a critical part of your health journey. Information is king and you can’t start to solve the symptoms you are facing if you don’t know what the root causes of them are. Here are an overview of the 9 tests you need to know about to better champion your mental health:
- A full nutrient panel
Starting with the more easily accessible tests, a full nutrient panel is critical to ensure you understand the foundations of your current health and see whether there are any significant deficiencies in things such as Vitamin D, Vitamin B (particularly B6 and B12), Omega 3-s, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium, etc. Low levels of all of these have been connected in recent studies to increased likelihood and severity of depressive episodes and/or experiences.
- Genetic Testing - the MTHFR Gene & the COMT gene
As genetic research is starting to reveal more about our internal genome, we are also starting to learn more about the individual gene mutations that we have - and that give some people a propensity towards the onset of specific health challenges and disease states.
In the medical health world, the discovery of the MTHFR gene mutation has been linked to depression - and it is not an uncommon mutation.
This mutation can cause high levels of homocysteine in the blood as well as make a body more likely to be deficient in folate and other minerals and vitamins.
Maybe most importantly - the MTHFR mutation can cause folate deficiency which can cause a deficiency in a cofactor called BH4. BH4 produces the enzymes that are critical to the creation of healthy neurotransmitters, so low BH4 levels can lead to low dopamine and serotonin (the happy hormones). BH4 also is needed to turn tryptophan into serotonin - so without it, the entire folate cycle gets whacked and can cause abnormal levels of neurotransmitters that we need for good mental health.
Similarly, the COMT gene is important and research studies have shown that more research is required but that there is a tentative link between the COMT gene and its ability to influence cognitive function, vulnerability & depression. It’s also thought that this vulnerability is further influenced by gender and stress.
- Gut Dysbiosis - a GI Map Test
The state of your microbiome will have a direct impact on the quality and quantity of neurotransmitters created in it. Inflammation in the gut, any level of gut dysbiosis, and/or leaky gut should be monitored and investigated in those who are experiencing depression.
A GI Map Test is the best test - it gives you complete diagnostics of your digestive system. It’s a stool test that uses quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) technology to detect a whole range of things in your stool and gut including parasites, bacteria, fungi, and more. The test targets the specific DNA of the organisms tested.
Mycotoxins are naturally occurring toxins that are created by molds and fungi, which are also often found in foods, particularly crops and foods like cereals, nuts, dried fruits, and coffee. Many mycotoxins are actually neurotoxins (meaning they’re toxic to the brain) and they can cause lesions in the brain, affect the frontal cortex, interfere with dopamine production and function, cause dopamine dysfunction, and increase the onset of disorders like anxiety or depression. Understanding mycotoxin levels is an important place to start if you are experiencing depression and/or any other mental health challenge.
- OAT Test - test from the Great Plains Laboratory
Another of our favorite tests is the OAT test run by Great Plains Laboratory. It offers an overarching metabolic snapshot of a patient’s gut health - particularly by evaluating intestinal yeast and bacteria as well as neurotransmitter levels and imbalances, as well as mitochondrial function. It will show nutrient deficiencies and work through assessing urine.
- Heavy Metal Testing
Heavy metal toxicity can disturb your brain chemistry and neurotransmitter activity causing depression and anxiety and can be part of the problem. Testing for heavy metals is always a good idea and these look at your blood urine and/or hair to assess what’s going on inside the body.
- Parasite Testing
Parasites are crazy creatures that can make your neurotransmitters go out of whack in a number of ways. They can actually cause dopamine levels to rise in the body (to trick the body out of finding them) - which in turn can make people more anxious, aggressive, irritable, and agitated. Parasites also have serotonin receptors housed on them, so they can also high jack serotonin, making you deficient in it and making you feel worse along the way.
Parasites are notoriously hard to identify in traditional parasite tests so we love BioResonance testing which works on the energetic frequency of the parasites. We advise going through Creating Balanced Health or the Root Cause Clinic.
- Hormones (DUTCH TEST)
The DUTCH test is one of the most comprehensive hormone panels on the market. We often think about sex hormones when we think of hormones, but a full hormone panel will look at your hormones across the board - not just your sex hormones but also your cortisol, cortisol patterns and cycles, organic acids, melatonin (6-OHMS), and 8-OHdG.
Cortisol can play a huge part in anxiety with your nervous system being switched ‘on’ into fight or flight, and high and low cortisol can also have follow-on impacts on serotonin (the happy hormone), GABA (the calming hormone), and dopamine (the feel-good hormone).
Similarly, your sex hormones can also influence your mental health so it is good to understand if they are in balance or out of whack.
- Food Allergies
Finally, it’s also good to look into food allergies and intolerances. Foods that don’t work well with our bodies can upset our levels of hormones and chemicals, and cause physiological responses that can have follow-on effects and impacts to the wider body, including the brain (due to the gut-brain connection).
***THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED OR REGULATED BY THE FDA. WE ARE NOT DOCTORS, THEREFORE ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.