Personalized nutritional care: it’s the latest trend in health and wellness, and it’s here to stay. As we know, consumers are no longer satisfied with a traditional one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. Moreover, consumers and practitioners alike are looking towards evidence-based data to make core health care decisions. As a result, we’ve seen the rise of nutritional lab testing as an increasingly important part of diagnosis, action planning, and implementation of care protocols amongst our health and wellness providers.
Our providers site the following benefits of lab testing:
- Can reveal underlying nutritional issues that may otherwise be difficult to uncover. (ie. hormonal imbalances, food intolerances, suboptimal vitamin or nutrient levels, etc)
- Lends credibility to your nutrition recommendations
- Provides clients with better insights into their own health
- Allows clients to make the connection between the food they eat and their health status
- Reliable way to monitor client progress over time
- Motivates clients to adhere to nutrition recommendations
Getting started: obtaining lab work on behalf of your clients
There are three ways to obtain lab results:
1. Coordinate with your clients’ primary physician
If a client has had lab testing done as part of a medical workup with a doctor, you should suggest that they bring in or send you their results. Then, have your client sign a “Medical Release Form,” and reach out to your client’s doctor to request lab work. Often times, general lab work through a primary care physician does not include many nutritionally-relevant labs. After that, consider sending a nutrition assessment to your client’s doctor, and include in it your recommendations for additional lab work. (specify which nutrients you’d like tested)
2. Refer your client to a specialist for additional lab work
When working with clients that have specific medical conditions (ie. diabetes, auto-immune disorders, digestive issues, etc), connecting with a specialist can be informative. Specialists like endocrinologists and gastroenterologists will conduct comprehensive lab tests with clients as part of their care. Also, building relationships with these providers by requesting chart notes, lab results and connecting to share your nutritional insights (and recommendations for any additional lab testing).
For clients that would like to use their insurance, they should confirm that their specialist is in-network and that lab testing is covered under their plan.
3. Provide nutritional lab testing as part of your nutritional care
As a tailored and elevated nutrition service, you can offer nutritional lab testing directly through your wellness practice. This can be done by purchasing lab test kits from online laboratories to complete in your office with the client, or to provide to the client to compete on their own.
Some providers offer (or require) all of their clients to complete certain lab testing depending on their client population. And they may even bundle the cost of the test kit into their services.
However, other providers prefer to offer lab testing as an add-on service as desired or needed.
Common labs provided by health and wellness professionals:
- Single-nutrient testing
- Comprehensive nutrient panel testing
- Hormone testing
- DNA testing
- Food allergy and food sensitivity testing
Each lab test will require a test sample. Depending on the test, a sample can be obtained via saliva, blood spot (ie. finger-prick), a blood sample (requires blood draw) or stool sample. Next, the completed kits will send to the online laboratory for processing, with results and quickly email to providers and clients.
Providing Lab Testing as Part of Your Nutritional Care
Order your test kits from an online laboratory:
- SpectraCell: provides a large range of micronutrient testing for a broad variety of clinical conditions, general wellness and the prevention of chronic diseases. Including arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular risk, diabetes, various immunological disorders, and metabolic disorders.
- OmegaQuant: fatty acid analysis (Omega 3 testing)
- Lab Testing API: for nutrition professionals, API offers a large selection of specific nutrient testing, food allergy testing and disease-specific testing
- Genetic Direction: offers nutritionally-relevant genetic testing via the GxSlim lab test — gain insights into nutrition, fitness, lifestyle and disease genetic markers for a client. Also, tailor nutrition recommendations to achieve current wellness goals, as well as for disease prevention
- Diagnostic Solutions: for clients with digestive issues, the GI-MAP test is a commonly ordered test by nutrition professionals
- Vibrant Wellness: offers food sensitivity testing through IgG and IgA sensitivity testing
- Oxford: provides Mediator Release Test- Lifestyle (MRT) food sensitivity testing, typically followed by LEAP diet protocol
Obtain a test sample:
Before purchasing a lab order, it’s best to confirm how to collect the sample needs. In general, blood spot tests and saliva test can be done in-office by you or self-administered by the client. These tests are minimally invasive and easy to administer, making them a convenient option to regularly incorporate in your office.
Also, blood draws will require the client to visit a draw site (be sure to check if your licensure and specialty allows for blood draw tests to be ordered, or if you’ll need to coordinate with another healthcare professional). Moreover, a stool sample can be collected directly by your client, and they’ll mail their results according to the kit instructions.
Working virtually with clients?
First, you can still coordinate lab testing through your nutritional private practice. Then, have clients order the recommended test kits directly from online laboratories. And their lab kits will deliver to their home address, for clients to independently obtain their test sample. For blood spot or saliva swab tests, consider walking a client through obtaining the sample during a telehealth (video chat) nutrition session. In addition, lab kits require a blood draw, you can help your client find the nearest blood draw site.
Mail in your test kit:
For saliva and blood spot tests, the test sample will go into an envelope with the necessary paperwork. You can mail the lab kit to the online laboratory, with results generally emailed back within a few weeks.
Besides, blood draws will be specially shipped from the draw site. Therefore, be sure to have your client contact the draw site ahead of time, as there may be specific hours/days where collected blood samples will be shipped.
Follow-up with tailored nutrition recommendations
Once you receive your clients’ test results, you’ll be able to educate your client and set goals to change their nutritional intake. After supporting by scientific evidence, lab reports lend credibility to your recommendations. Reviewing lab results during the session can be motivating for a client to see, and can help with their adherence to your nutritional plan.
Optimizing nutritional levels often requires an interdisciplinary approach, as additional supplementation or adjustments in medication may be required. Updating your client’s care team on nutritional status, lab results and coordinating a care plan is a great way to foster a client-referral network. Then, connect with your client’s doctors to demonstrate the services you provide and the results you gain your clients.
Take your nutritional plan one step further, by following up with any vitamin or supplement recommendations that your client may benefit from. Many nutrition practices (both in-person and virtual), utilize online supplement dispensaries to recommend specific supplement brands and products.
For Healthie Members:
Store your clients’ nutritional lab work within Healthie
- Have your client’s doctor or specialist E-Fax results and upload to your clients account. Don’t have E-Fax? Learn more here.
- Electronically upload lab results upload and store within your clients chart for both of you to view and access at any time
Monitor trends in lab results over time
Trending lab results over time are not only an accurate way to reflect the change, but can be highly motivating for clients. It reassures them that the changes they’ve made a real impact on their health. It builds confidence in themselves, as well as with you as their provider.
Create custom metrics within your Healthie account to allow clients to track trends in lab values, vitamin and nutrient levels over time. Clients will be able to view their results within the “metrics” portion of their client profile, and see a line-graph of their results over time.
In addition, to create a new metric, go to the top right “settings” wheel of your main dashboard and select “entries.” As you scroll down, you’ll see a list of standard metrics included within Healthie, or you can add a custom metric.