Many healthcare providers have begun to recognize that no two bodies are exactly the same, especially when treating complex chronic conditions. This insight has meant relief for many, thanks in part to targeted lab testing that can help identify the root causes of different symptoms and conditions.
Root-cause data can give practitioners what they need to design effective — and personalized — treatment plans. “There are different kinds of arthritis, and something different triggers it for everyone,” explains Susan Blum, MD, MPH, founder of Blum Center for Health and assistant clinical professor at the Icahn School of Medicine. “For some, it could be a gut–arthritis connection; for others, it could be an infection like Lyme disease. For someone else, it might be an old injury or excess weight or too many toxins in the body.”
Without targeted sleuthing — like blood tests and microbiome mapping — treatment can often be a guessing game. “Not everyone with the same diagnosis has the same cause,” says Blum. “That’s why we personalize with different testing.”
This trend does present some challenges, similar to wearable tech. This is especially true of direct-to-consumer testing, which may produce a complicated printout of difficult-to-interpret data. Or the lab may offer blanket advice based on numbers that don’t take other health metrics into account.
Meanwhile, the internet can be a minefield of potential misinformation and confusion when you’re interpreting your own results.
“Many people who come through my door have read the whole internet [trying to interpret their results] and they have made themselves worse because all the research has elevated their [stress hormones],” says functional-medicine practitioner Peter Kozlowski, MD.
With the exception of simple direct-to-consumer tests, such as those that measure blood sugar, the best use of lab testing seems to be in partnership with an expert who can help translate the results. In that context, the granular level of feedback that lab testing provides can be the difference between an ongoing health mystery and a solvable problem, and these cases are where personalized medicine shines.
This was excerpted from “The Future of Health” which was published in the July/August 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.