Nutritious Bytes

Dr. Debé's blog on metabolically tailored nutrition and wellness

How Healthy Are You?

A Multi-Faceted Approach to Measuring Health & Wellness

Many individuals are walking around with an illusion of health. Some of these people don't feel all that well but because they get a "clean bill of health" at their yearly physical, they conclude they must really be healthy. The truth is that a conventional medical evaluation is well-suited to pick up some but not all advanced physical breakdown and certainly not earlier-stage, more subtle dysfunction.

I assess an  individual's state of health through three basic methods: symptom analysis, in-office evaluations, and laboratory testing.

I use a symptom questionnaire that has been validated for identifying individuals suffering effects of toxicity. I also have patients complete a very detailed
symptom questionnaire online, which assesses the likelihood of problems related to digestion, blood sugar issues, thyroid and adrenal function, gives insight into female hormone imbalances, and much more.

In my office I measure body weight, waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, waist-to-height ratio, body fat, muscle mass, basal metabolic rate, hydration status, cellular health, and strength. I do a test for zinc deficiency. Sometimes I'll do a Functional Acuity Contrast Test that checks for signs of neurological toxicity.

I have patients measure their first morning urine pH at home and also track changes in salivary pH for five minutes after drinking lemon juice in order to determine if their bodies are too acidic.

I refer my patients for comprehensive routine blood tests. The results get analyzed by a computer program, which compares the patient's values against conventional and also against optimal ranges. Any lab value outside the optimal range is the subject of a computer-generated narrative that describes commonly-associated conditions, additional lab tests to consider, and nutrients that can help improve the involved dysfunction. This assessment is very powerful and can identify many of the factors contributing to chronic unwellness and disease including insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, inflammation, elevated homocysteine and impaired methylation, toxicity, organ dysfunction, gluten sensitivity, nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalance, and more. This test looks at two measures that have been strongly correlated with healthy aging: low levels of autoantibodies and good kidney function.  

When my patient comes in for the second consultation I explain the findings of all these evaluations. I put together a powerpoint slide show to visually teach the patient about what is not functioning properly in his/her body and what we can do to improve things. I give recommendations for treatment and further evaluation.  

Long before an established disease can be diagnosed, there is a process of dysfunction occurring. This begins on the biochemical level and effects cellular function, tissue function, organ and system and then whole-body function.

I often recommend special functional medicine laboratory tests. These tests give deeper insight into nutritional status and metabolism. When this information is acted upon, we are effectively intervening in the disease process at a much earlier stage. Let's take breast cancer as an example. Conventional medicine relies on the mammogram to detect a breast tumor at an early stage. Functional medicine has a test called an Estronex Profile that identifies unhealthy changes in estrogen metabolites, which initiate breast cancer. Whereas the mammogram allows for early detection of cancer, the Estronex Profile is a truly preventive test when the abnormal test results are acted upon with diet, lifestyle and supplement programs to modify the mediators of the disease process. The Estronex Profile picks up abnormalities many years before a tumor even forms!

Some of the tests I commonly recommend include assessments of digestion, delayed food sensitivity, toxicity, and adrenal (stress) hormones. I give everyone the option of doing an Individualized Optimal Nutrition profile - the premier nutritional and metabolic assessment. It measures 145 biochemicals including amino acids, fatty acids, minerals, toxic metals, vitamins, free radical markers, and organic acids. Based on the test results, a custom-made amino acid and vitamin and mineral formula can be made by a custom-compounding supplement company to correct the individual's deficiencies.

Whatever tests are employed, any abnormalities should be monitored for improvement over time. In this way, interventions can be fine-tuned for optimal disease prevention and health promotion. 


Phase Angle - Possibly the Single Best Health Indicator

The Phase Angle is derived from a mathematical relationship of two measures: resistance and reactance to a very weak electrical current passed between electrodes on the hand and foot. The current is so weak that it is not felt and the test is safe enough to be used on pregnant women. The Phase Angle is one of a number of valuable measurements obtained from Bioimpedance Analysis. 

Quite a few studies have validated the powerful predictive value of the Phase Angle. People with higher Phase Angles lived longer. The good news is that I help my patients increase their Phase Angle reading naturally.