Archives for February 2018 | Integrative functional medicine blog

Functional vs. standard blood ranges




Have you ever had obvious health symptoms but your lab tests come back normal? Many such patients, the majority of them women (but not exclusively women), are told it’s simply stress, aging, depression, or worse, its all in your head, go see a psychologist).

The problem is most doctors use lab ranges on blood tests when functional ranges
provide more clues that explain the symptoms.

The lab ranges on a blood test look for diseases while functional medicine ranges look for patterns and markers that spot trends toward disease that can still be reversed or halted.

For instance, the lab ranges for diabetes are quite high, but a functional range can let you know your blood sugar is in the danger zone well before you need pharmaceutical treatment and have caused considerable inflammatory damage to your body.


In another example, many people with clear and obvious symptoms of low thyroid function are told they are fine for years while autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland continues unchecked and untreated, worsening symptoms all the while. Traditional doctors may only test TSH and tell you its fine all the while not even knowing that your TPO or TGB markers are leading you down the path of Hashimotos.

Functional blood ranges can help you stop the progression toward disease

Functional medicine addresses the underlying physiological mechanisms causing symptoms. In conventional medicine, a condition must have progressed far enough to diagnose and treat with drugs or surgery.

In other words, functional ranges define the parameters of good health while lab ranges define the parameters of disease.

Additionally, lab ranges are determined by a
bell-curve analysis of patients who had their blood drawn at that center, many of whom are likely quite sick. As the health of Americans continues to decline, so do the ranges for what qualifies as healthy. For some markers, we don’t know what qualifies as healthy, just average.

Functional ranges look for patterns in the markers

Functional medicine doesn’t just look at individual markers, but also for patterns among various different blood markers. All systems in the body are inter-related and a problem in one area of the body can show up as an out-of-range marker in another area. It can become a little complicated, but at the same time explain a lot of symptoms for some patients.

This can help identify different types of anemia, whether your high blood sugar is raising your risk of heart disease, or whether a hormone imbalance might be affecting your thyroid.

Another example involves looking at markers to determine whether activated or depressed immunity is related to a virus, bacterial infection, allergies, or even parasites.

A functional blood test includes many more markers

Another difference between functional and conventional blood tests isn’t just the ranges used, but also the markers ordered. A conventional blood test will typically include far fewer markers than a functional one.

We can especially see this in testing for hypothyroidism. Standard tests only look at thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) even though about 90 percent of cases of hypothyroidism are caused by an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. This is because knowing whether a person has Hashimoto’s does not change the standard of care in conventional medicine.


However, a functional test will include markers to identify autoimmune Hashimoto’s and other causes of low thyroid function. Knowing what is causing the thyroid to under function determines the best way to manage it and improve thyroid health.

A blood panel is an important tool in the functional medicine evaluation. Ask my office for more information.

Get Functional,
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be Healthy, be happy!

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Autoimmunity and leaky gut




Autoimmunity, a disorder in which the immune system attacks and destroys body tissue, is one of the most prevalent diseases today, affecting predominantly women. In fact, about 75% of all autoimmune disease occur in women.

Traditionally, autoimmune disease was thought to be primarily a genetic disease, but research increasingly shows that while genetics play a role, intestinal permeability, or leaky gut, is also an important factor. This means your diet can determine whether you develop autoimmunity.

A great saying in the the “functional medicine” world is
“genetics load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.”


Examples of common autoimmune diseases include:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Celiac disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
  • Psoriasis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vitiligo

Leaky gut triggers autoimmunity

Leaky gut is a condition in which the lining of the intestines become damaged and overly porous, allowing bacteria, yeast, undigested foods, and other pathogens into the bloodstream where they trigger inflammation and an over reaction of the immune system.

Leaky gut keeps the immune system in a hyper zealous state. This eventually makes the immune system more likely to start attacking the body tissue it was designed to protect, causing an
autoimmune condition. Think of it kind of like the incredible hulk. Once he turns into that raging green beast he is not selective in who and/or what he destroys. He will attack pretty much whatever is in the way.


People can develop leaky gut for a variety of reasons, but the most common is linked to inflammatory foods in the diet. These can include too much sugar, processed foods, junk foods, and fast foods. Also, many people have undiagnosed food sensitivities, such as to gluten, dairy, egg, or other foods. These can damage the gut lining if you have an inflammatory reaction to them.


Gluten, in particular, is notorious for its ability to cause leaky gut and trigger autoimmunity. In people who have a gluten intolerance, gluten triggers inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body every time they eat it. In gluten sensitive individuals, gluten also acts on messenger compounds in the intestinal wall to make it more permeable. This allows more inflammatory factors into the bloodstream, including more gluten, in a self-perpetuating vicious cycle.

There are even test we can do to test if you have leaky gut.



For some people, simply going gluten-free can repair a leaky gut and dampen autoimmunity.


Other causes of leaky gut that trigger autoimmunity
Knowing why you have leaky gut is an important strategy in not only in repairing it, but also in dampening autoimmunity. Below are some known causes of leaky gut that can, in turn, trigger autoimmunity:

  • Gluten sensitivity
  • Inflammatory foods (sugars, junk foods, fast foods, etc.)
  • Alcohol
  • Medications (corticosteroids, antibiotics, antacids, some arthritis medications)
  • Infections (poor gut bacteria balance, H. pylori, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, yeast, parasites, and viruses)
  • Chronic stress
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Processed foods, artificial food additives, thickening gums
  • Environmental toxins
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Autoimmunity (although leaky gut triggers autoimmunity, autoimmunity can also cause leaky gut, especially if the immune attack is against tissues of the gut)

If you have an autoimmune disease, you have leaky gut. If you have leaky gut, you have or will get an autoimmune disease. It’s just a matter of time.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

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Boost your SIgA instead of getting the flu shot. It will do you more good.




In the midst of flu season, many people’s attention turns to the flu vaccine. But keep in mind that the flu vaccine is by no means a guarantee you won’t get the flu. Not taking into account all the potential side effects it is reported to only be at most 10% effective.

But there is a way to improve your immunity against not only the flu, but also other viruses, bacterial infections, yeasts, environmental toxins, food sensitivities, and even autoimmunity. The secret lies in what immunologist
Aristo Vojdani, PhD calls nature’s vaccine — secretory IgA or SIgA for short.


SIgA are immune cells that are the first line of defense between you and the world. They primarily reside in mucus membranes, including the digestive tract, respiratory tract, urinary tract, prostate, and vagina. SIgA cells are found in mucus, tears, saliva, sweat, breast milk, and other secretions. When we do a stool analysis this is often one of the many markers we are looking at to see how healthy your gut is functioning and what your immune system is like. You gut houses about 70% of your immune system after all.

If your gut isn’t healthy, chances are you aren’t either.



SIgA cells are the first to encounter invaders and sequester them so they are not dangerous to the body. This helps prevent the immune system from over reacting so it is not prone to food sensitivities, chemical sensitivities, and most importantly autoimmunity.


Many people have low SIgA
Unfortunately, having low SIgA levels is pretty common these days. It’s most often seen in individuals with adrenal fatigue who show symptoms of chronic tiredness, low blood sugar, difficulty getting up in the morning, depression, anxiety, salt cravings, and chronic illnesses. That last one is just about every patient I see in my office so you can see just how important this little known marker SIgA is.

Fun fact - Taking corticosteroid medications can also lower SIgA levels.



Low SIgA levels increases cold and flu risk
Chronically low SIgA levels have a number of consequences. The most obvious is that you are more likely to get sick frequently. For instance, if your respiratory tract is low in SIgA cells, the viruses and bacteria it encounters are going to have an easier time invading your system.


Low SIgA leads to food and chemical sensitivities
What’s perhaps more frustrating is that low SIgA levels can lead to the development of food and chemical sensitivities.

Why? Your SIgA play a pivotal role in your ability to tolerate the world around you while responding appropriately to pathogens.


When there is not enough SIgA to neutralize incoming bacteria, viruses, yeast, undigested food, chemicals, and so on, the immune system must deploy its more aggressive immune cells. It basically causes an overreaction to every little immune system attack.

It’s like calling in the Navy Seals because the police force has gone missing.


The result is a hyper reactive immune system that creates a permanent loss of tolerance in the bloodstream to certain foods or chemicals.


Low SIgA raises risk for autoimmunity
One of the more unfortunate risks of SIgA is that it raises your risk of developing autoimmunity. With a diminished defense from low SIgA, your immune system is on constant red alert and your body is more vulnerable to pathogens. Between the increased exposure to pathogens and a hyper reactive immune system, it’s just a matter of time before it starts attacking your own tissue and you get an autoimmune disease. This can e anything from Lupus, scleroderma, RA, multiple sclerosis, Ankylosing spondylitis, Temporal arteritis and many other conditions.

Go get your SIgA tested, boost it, nurture it, care for it, and just be aware of it. It can make all the difference in the world.

I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!


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