Functional blood chemistry (FBC) analysis is an emerging approach that provides additional tools to help evaluate patients with complex health concerns. FBC differs from conventional blood panels in that it gives functional reference ranges that identify problems not yet pathological.
As clinicians, we have all met with patients who present with an exhaustive list of symptoms, only to have all of their basic blood biomarkers come back within the normal laboratory reference ranges. These patients may be experiencing physiological or functional shifts not accounted for by the wide reference ranges defined in standard lab tests.
Some practitioners take the lab data at face value and accept that there are no biological indications explaining the patient’s symptoms and attribute them to stress or other non-measurable issues. Some may prescribe something to address symptoms. This may explain why the top 25 most commonly prescribed medications are for pain, insomnia, mood problems---all of which are non-specific and chronic problems that are usually not clearly diagnosed.
In the absence of an obvious infection or injury, it is rare for someone to go from “perfectly healthy” to seriously ill. In most cases, there is a spectrum from wellness to illness that spans years. By giving functional reference ranges that identify problems not yet pathological, FBC analysis more appropriately reflects this reality.
Laboratory ranges work in a continuum, with many shades of grey associated with shifts in physiology. The stringent black-and-white laboratory ranges associated with end-stage disease need no longer be the exclusive framework for evaluating our patients.