The more complex a person’s health struggles are, the more the basics matter. And the basics of any disease and diagnosis is dysfunction.  For that reason, I love a test called organic acids to measure the dysfunctions.

What is Organic Acids?

“Unlike amino acids and fatty acids, the category of compounds called organic acids contains no essential nutrients. Instead of directly measuring nutrient concentrations, abnormal concentrations of organic acids provide functional markers for the metabolic effects of micronutrient inadequacies, toxic exposure, neuroendocrine activity, and intestinal bacterial overgrowth. As such, organic acid testing can indicate the functional need for essential or conditionally essential nutrients, diet modification, antioxidant protection, detoxification, and other therapies” (Lord and Bralley).

What Kind of Sample?

This is a urine test that you can do in the comfort and quietness of your own home.  It’s a kit you take home, you just have to be able to aim.  In a house with 3 small boys, I know this can be a challenge.  I’m getting tempted to tell them to just aim for the bathtub from now on.

Got Energy Problems?

A lack of energy and fatigue are probably the #1 symptom of what drives people into the office.  They have already been to their traditional doctor that tell them the timeless advice of: ‘we don’t know why you’re tired, take these antidepressants or Synthroid.’  For the great majority of primary care docs, it’s either you’re depressed or you have a thyroid problem.  Thankfully, many are not satisfied with those answers.

With organic acids, we can actually get a look at energy production.  Remember ATP from high school biology?  Well, it turns out it you will have to remember it later in life.  If your energy is tanking, you may want to go back and review a bit.  Remember it’s produced in a little organelle inside the cell called the mitochondria? And there’s a cycle within the mitochondria, called the Kreb’s Cycle (or the Citric Acid Cycle), that produces ATP.  Remember?  That was awesome.

Don’t worry about remembering the steps of the process, you’re forgiven.  But organic acids does provide insight into the Kreb’s Cycle.  Below is an example.  Inefficient ATP production means your body will take what limited energy resources you have and keep them for functions that will save you in the immediate, opposed to what’s going to help you heal and repair for the long term.  The more we are placed into protection, the more we are placed into a state of catabolic activity (tissue breakdown).  The more our tissues breakdown, the more oxidation and inflammation escalate.  The more…you get the picture.

Functional Medicine

Got Cravings?

A craving is a powerful desire for something.  More often times than not, people talk to me about their cravings for sugar and carbs.  But when I hear cravings, I don’t think a lack of willpower, I think a potential lack of dopamine.

Dopamine is our ‘feel good’ hormone.  When you look at life, we’re all dopamine addicts to some extent.  If we are not receiving enough dopamine input, then our body intelligently craves what will satisfy a quick hit.  And based on previous experiences, sugar is often that quick hit.  If something satisfies that quick hit, we want more of it and with enough repetition, it can become an addiction.

An example of what organic acids can uncover are the patterns of your neurotransmitters like dopamine.

Functional Medicine

Think you have bacteria overgrowth or yeast?  It can show markers for that.  Are you sensitive to virtually every chemical you encounter?  Maybe your detox pathways aren’t supported.  Feeling depressed, anxious, or memory getting bad?  How about some brain inflammatory markers to quantify that it’s actually NOT all in your head.

There are other tests that complement organic acids to get a fuller picture but there isn’t a better functional test that hits so many systems and functions.  It’s essentially like an emissions test for your cells.  It can be great for those high performers looking to keep peak performance to those that have seen multiple docs and told ‘there is nothing wrong or there’s nothing we can do’ yet still feel like garbage.  Feel free to learn more about it from the lab directly.  Got questions?  Start here.



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