Functional Terrain Tests…What are they?

Naturopathic doctors like to use Functional Terrain Tests to assess your body’s ability to maintain a state of balance (e.g. acid/alkaline, mineral, hormone).  When used in combination with a physical assessment, they help your Naturopath determine possible areas of strength and weakness.  The following are some commonly used functional tests:

Zinc Taste Test

This is an inexpensive and non-invasive test to assess for zinc mineral deficiency.  Zinc is important in many biochemical reactions throughout your body.  It is important in thyroid hormone production, skin and mucus membrane health, DNA replication, protein production, immunity, and other essential processes.

One of the symptoms of zinc deficiency is a loss of taste and smell.  We use this symptom to find possible functional deficiency of zinc.  You would be asked to swish a liquid zinc solution in your mouth for a short period.  If you experience an immediate unpleasant metallic taste, then you do not  have zinc deficiency.  If the liquid tastes “like water” then zinc deficiency may exist and supplementation may be required.

Urine Indican Test

Trypophan is common amino acid found in protein rich foods.  If your digestive system is unhealthy, then this harmless amino acid is turned into a toxic compound known as indole.  After a protein rich meal, Indole and indican could be found in your blood stream and later in your urine.  By checking for traces of indole and indican in the urine, your Naturopathic Doctor would be able determine if your ailments are related to digestive issues.

Some of the conditions which may lead to increased level of indole and indican are low stomach acid production, poor protein digestion, slow digestive movement, and harmful gut bacteria/microbes.  Your Naturopath would explore these possible areas of weakness with you, if your test shows high level of indican.

Urine indican test is not just useful for someone with digestive concerns, it could shed light on generalized health issues such as fatigue, headache, inflammation, chronic pain, and skin problems.

Koenisberg Test

A good medical history intake would right away determine if you are experiencing adrenal stress.  When used in combination with a good history intake and physical examination, this test will help you see just how stressed your adrenal glands may be.

Instead of assessing all hormones produced by the adrenal glands, this test uses the production of aldosterone hormone and its effect on the electrolytes.

Your adrenal gland responds to physiological or mental emotional stressors.  During short term stress, your adrenal gland responds by increasing production of adrenal hormones.  One of the signs of high aldosterone hormone production is low level of chloride in the urine.  So if you are consuming normal amounts of salt in your diet and there is a reduction in chloride found in your urine, it may be an indication of adrenal stress response.

If you are experiencing prolonged stress, if you are prone to anxiety, and/or if you were born with a slightly reduced adrenal reserve, then your adrenals may be too tired to continue with normal level of hormone production.  Adrenal exhaustion is associated with chronic fatigue, weakened immunity, blood pressure irregularity, insomnia, and other ailments.  Low level of aldosterone hormone leads to more chloride and other electrolytes in the urine.

Therefore, if extremely low level of chloride is found in your urine, it may be an indication of acute adrenal stress which your body is still able to cope with.  However, if extremely high level of chloride is found in your urine, it may be an indication of adrenal exhaustion.


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