Functional medicine tests are definitely not mainstream medicine. Chronic Lyme disease and co-infections can easily go undetected. Dr. Tenesha Wards shares in-depth tests that are essential to helping us dig deep to find the root cause of our symptoms.
In this episode, Dr. Tenesha Wards discusses various functional medicine tests that can provide valuable insights into identifying the root causes of chronic symptoms. Functional medicine tests are not widely recognized in mainstream medicine but are essential in uncovering conditions such as chronic Lyme disease and co-infections that may go undetected by conventional methods.
01:35 Dr. Wards reveals the results of several tests, starting with blood work that can indicate low or high stomach acid levels. 06:07 She explains that high LDL and low HDL cholesterol levels can signify liver stress, while elevated C-reactive protein levels can indicate inflammation in the heart. 08:10 The presence of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) can explain chronic fatigue.
10:10 Furthermore, Dr. Wards highlights the importance of the adrenal test, which measures circadian rhythms and helps assess stress levels.
11:51 Chronic infections can cause extreme stress, and 13:09 stealth pathogens hide within the body. When good bacteria levels are high, it may indicate an ongoing fight against something harmful. 14:49 Additionally, the episode discusses the presence of microscopic parasites, 16:30 the testing of brain chemicals for medication determination, and 17:18 pharmacogenetic tests for personalized medication selection.
19:06 The episode also covers mold testing to identify mycotoxins and 20:49 the ERMI test to determine if there is mold in one's home. 21:15 An MTHFR genetic mutation is mentioned, which can indicate poor detoxification ability.
21:58 Functional medicine Lyme tests are emphasized for their increased accuracy in detecting Lyme disease, 23:19 as only 30% of tick bites leave a bullseye rash. 23:30 If caught within six months, Lyme disease is treatable with Doxycycline.
23:57 Dr. Wards explains that stealth pathogens can build biofilm protective shells. 24:11 And the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, responsible for Lyme disease, has a corkscrew-like shape that allows it to spiral into the body. 25:07 Lymphatic massages can disturb the hidden pathogens.
25:52 The episode highlights the global impact of Lyme disease, mentioning a 5,300-year-old ice mummy found to have Lyme. 26:55 Lyme disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut, 26:55 while the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is named after the doctor who discovered it.
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[00:01:56] Tenesha: We went over in the last episode how you ended up in the office, the symptoms, the illness, everything that was leading up to finding out what the heck this medical mystery was. We're going to reenact the second visit where we revealed everything.
[00:02:11] Erika: Yeah, and I did a bunch of tests and most of these were from home. I had to go get the blood work at LabCorp. Mm-hmm. Then I did the adrenal test, stool test and the brain chemistry test, which was cool because I had done that several years prior, so we already had that to look at and contrast. Then the mold test of both me and my house, a DNA test, and lastly the Lyme test.
[00:02:42] Tenesha: These tests are definitely not mainstream medicine, and I really think they should be. These are samples of your body. This is where we find the root causes, and that's what's missing in a lot of Western medicine labs. They sometimes don't dig this deep. The purpose of the first visit is hearing your story, figuring out what direction I think we need to dig into when something comes back on the test, I'm.
[00:03:06] Tenesha: We found something, we know what we're dealing with. How did you feel coming into the second visit?
[00:03:11] Erika: This was the only hope I had. I had gone to many doctors. I had really been working on this for like five years, so there was a lot of hope going into the second appointment, but at the same time, some trepidation because I jus
t didn't really know what we were going to uncover.
[00:03:31] Tenesha: I love that you say that, and that keeps me so humble that it's your last.
[00:03:37] Erika: Yeah, and I purposely brought my husband and my daughter because I wanted them to hear it. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to absorb it all. My cognition was pretty bad, and I especially wanted David to be there to track it, and I recorded it so that I could go back and listen to it again. There's also a steep learning curve. A lot of this information was brand new too. I'd love to dive into my diagnosis.
[00:04:05] Tenesha: Yes. Right before the report of findings, I take a step back and put them in the order I want to explain them. In the order I want to fix them. I leave the best one for last, sometimes with Lyme, because that was kind of the biggest diagnoses.
[00:04:18] Erika: That makes sense. All of this was so new to me anyway. I wouldn't have known the difference.
[00:04:22] Tenesha: And I think the biggest take home of the Healing Arts is we have to do the right things in the right order for the body to. The reason why I like to start with explaining the blood work is it gives me a 360-degree view of what could be going on.
[00:04:36] Tenesha: We run 55 different lab markers, which is probably a third more than your traditional checkup for definitely digging into deeper things, and I'm a data nerd. The more data the better. I even look at it as you've got symptoms, that's your check engine light. Let's lift the hood, do a diagnostic evaluation.
[00:04:55] Tenesha: Run the little machine that your mechanic cooks up to your engine and figure out what the heck's going on. And that's what these labs tell me. And the second visit is kind of the mechanic coming out and saying, all right, this is what we found and this is what we got to do. Right. And that's essentially the process in your blood.
[00:05:13] Tenesha: We found a couple things. Hypochloremia was present. Your fasting glucose was pretty low. You had multiple markers for something called Hypochloremia. Hypo means low chlor is hydrochloric acid, so low stomach acid.
[00:05:27] Erika: I'm an A- blood type and I believe that we have a tendency to have low stomach acid.
[00:05:34] Tenesha: That is true. I have studied a lot of ancestral medicine as have low stomach acid. They don't digest meat well, so they often need enzyme. I'm an O, O's are meat eaters. I've gone plant-based and I want to rip somebody's head off day three, just give me a flip and hamburger. I've seen a lot of the blood type stuff really turn out to be true with my patients.
[00:05:57] Tenesha: Mm-hmm. Then the good news is at this point, your liver looked good, iron looked good here. Your cholesterol was a little high, your HDL was pretty good. But when we see LDL a little high in hdl, a little low that held me, the liver could be. The liver breaks down cholesterol, and if it's not breaking it down fast enough, we were seeing a pattern of going towards liver stress. The bigger ones was your C-reactive protein.
[00:06:23] Erika: That is what I was able to see with the blood work that I did with the allergy doctor that spun me into an internet search that I quickly had to stop.
[00:06:32] Tenesha: Yeah, because it even says it on Lab Core's lab. Anything above three, which yours was 6.74, tells me there's inflammation in the body. And it could be affecting the heart and relative risk or increased risk for cardiovascular event. Well, that is a heart attack, right? I see people every week with a C-reactive protein in the twenties and thirties. I try to help calm the person. Yes, there's inflammation around the heart and we can do something about it now. We knew whatever is going on with you, it's affecting the heart. And then homocystine tells us more systemic inflammation affecting the nervous system. It's neurological stress.
[00:07:12] Erika: And what was my score on that?
[00:07:13] Tenesha: 7.7. So not terrible. We want to see a below seven Western medicine has something called a pathological range. Pathology is a synonym for disease. So if it's out of that range, it's a disease state. We look at in functional medicine, a functional range, so it's a much tighter, smaller. And if it's out of that range, it may not be a disease state yet, and it tells us the body's not functioning as well as it could. Why would we not stop that and get our body to function the best it can?
[00:07:42] Erika: And that's why I love functional medicine. I was looking at it, my blood work before I met you, I had in my mind that I might have lupus. It was terrifying.
[00:07:51] Tenesha: You came with some labs, which is always helpful, and one of your labs had a positive a n a. It tells us there's some autoimmunity. Oftentimes it is lupus, but not always. I've seen Lyme trigger that antibody to spike, even though Lyme is not an autoimmune disorder. And then Epstein bar virus, which I remember you saying, I had mono twice in my life, which is kind of unusual. A lot of people have it once you had to have had mono to later have Epstein Bar virus. The difference is mono is, very much flu, achy joints, fever in. When it comes back as E B V Epstein Bar Virus, it's really just fatiguing brain fog, but it's a different kind of fatigue. I actually have had Epstein Bar virus positive in my life.
[00:08:37] Erika: That's how I felt, and it was the kind of fatigue where I didn't know if I could get through the moment. Yes. I would start cooking and I didn't know if I could have enough energy to complete the task and then eat it. It was that difficult.
[00:08:53] Tenesha: The good news in your blood labs is your liver enzymes did look good even though the cholesterol was starting to creep up. Your vitamin D [00:09:00] was great. What is interesting is your white blood cells were fine, and this is where I think stealth, we call them stealth pathogens. When you first get exposed, the white blood cells go up, and the analogy I like to use for that is we sent in the Marines.
[00:09:16] Tenesha: That tells me it's a new infection. You're dealing with it right now. You're probably. And then after you've been sick, if it is something that's chronic, like Lyme disease, the white blood cells start to fall. The Marines have died. The bugs, oh no, the bugs have killed a large population of them and they go down. If at that point, the infection still isn't treated, the body will start to make more white blood cells and you can get a snapshot in your blood where your white blood cells look fine, but yet you've been sick for years. That's again why I think some of these infections get missed. The body's ability to adapt is amazing. Things like Lyme can slip through so many doctors, it gets missed because your white blood cells looked okay. Alright.
[00:09:59] Erika: To review the blood work, it showed markers for low stomach acid, somewhat high cholesterol inflammation, and the Epstein Bar virus (EBV).
[00:10:07] Tenesha: Yeah, we went over the blood and next we went over the adrenal test. It's a saliva test that measures cortisol, which comes from your adrenal glands over a 24 hour. We saw some markers for adrenal fatigue. Your circadian rhythms were off. It's the rhythm we should be in. We should rise at sunrise and be full of energy and it should slowly decline through the evening. Your cortisol was very low in the morning, got a little energy mid-afternoon, and then it tanked later afternoon, and then in the evening you got the second wind.
[00:10:39] Tenesha: The adrenal glands are two tiny quarter size glands that sit on top of the kidneys. On top of the adrenal glands are your sodium potassium pump. When you're under a lot of stress, sodium potassium is used up by the adrenals, so people crave salt when they're stressed. Oh, your potassium was a little high. That tells me you were in a little bit of fight or flight when this blood draw was done. Your adrenals were really working hard.
[00:11:03] Erika: When I look at what my situation was, I wasn't working. I was resting a lot. I'm having to learn or have learned that there's external stressors, but being ill. It's a lot of internal stress. My immune system's working so hard, and I wonder how much the adrenal fatigue was coming from that internal stress.
[00:11:26] Tenesha: Possibly all of it. The body doesn't know if. Dodging bullets on the battlefield, or if you're training for a marathon or you're in financial stress or emotional distress, like a divorce, it only knows we're stressed. Which is why when I deal with a lot of chronically ill people, I ask them not to train for a marathon because you're getting a little energy back kind of thing. The body reacts the same. It goes into fight or flight,
[00:11:50] Erika: and if your immune system is fighting off some sort of illness, again, that's a physiological internal stress.
[00:12:00] Tenesha: Yeah, that's a great way to put that. I would even go a step further and say it's an internal physiological battle. Yes. Yeah, I would agree. We're not designed to be in adrenal stress for weeks, months, years. The thyroid will slow the adrenals down. Now we're dealing with hypothyroidism because they're inversely proportionate to each other essentially.
[00:12:20] Erika: So I keep adapting to these pathogens into lime and not necessarily beating the infection and thriving and moving forward.
[00:12:28] Tenesha: That's totally true. The body's goal is we need to keep you upright. We need to keep you breathing. We need to keep you pooping. We need to keep you moving forward. The body will put its resources towards long heart digestive tract in crises, and this is why we see so many people come in with thinning hair, brittle nails, bad skin. I had all. These are secondary. Third, on the level of importance.
[00:12:52] Erika: I've also learned about Lyme and co-infections. The pathogens, they want to keep thriving. And so within a human body, they want you to be upright and not stuck in bed because they want to propagate. Yes. That's so sneaky.
[00:13:09] Tenesha: That's why we call them stealth pathogens. And then we went over your stool. I love this GI Max stool test because it tells us if you have any pathogens, bacteria, fungus, parasites. The gut has its own microbiome, its own ecosystem. Some of your good bacteria was very high. When it's too high, it tells me it's fighting something. The gastrointestinal lining has inflammation.
[00:13:35] Tenesha: You had some bad opportunistic bugs, and the acronym that we found for you is si. Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. You did have leaky gut, meaning the gut was inflamed, things were leaking through the gut into your bloodstream. The gut microbiome is actually a tube from your mouth to your anus. The tube that is your intestinal tract has these very tiny little openings in them that only nutrients should be absorbed through.
[00:14:08] Tenesha: If that tube is inflamed, it starts to. And I want to speak to parasites. I'm still confused about that. There are thousands of parasites that we don't even have names for. The test goes over 13 or 14 parasites, and most Western medicine doctors will only run the big ones. Tapeworm, pinworm. You're going to see those suckers every time you go to the bathroom.
[00:14:30] Erika: In this particular test, I did not have any parasites. Is that correct? Correct. Why am I doing the parasite cleanse and are there parasites that I'm still killing that didn't show up on this test?
[00:14:44] Tenesha: I'm so excited to reveal this information. Strap in for this one. Oh boy. Yes, we can have hundreds of microscopic parasites. We're probably exposed to parasites every day, all day. If your gut lining is strong, you just ex treat them. If it's weak, you're an opportunistic host.
[00:15:01] Erika: And I asked you about this. I was like, how difficult or easy is it to get parasites? And you said, going to the grocery store, put my hands on the cart. I may get it that way. Everyone that I've talked to says, well, I don't have parasites. And how I come back at that is everybody does everybody.
[00:15:20] Tenesha: Biting your fingernails. Eating sushi without wasabi pork can have a lot of parasites. Somebody could go to the bathroom, have parasite, not wash their hands. Well, they're all around us.
[00:15:30] Erika: Our bodies have lived with parasites for forever, and mainly we were able to handle it. It's okay, but in my situation, we've got all these diagnoses that's going to bring me down.
[00:15:43] Tenesha: That's exactly the point I want to drive. You've probably seen these yogurt commercials that they say 80% of our immune systems in our gut. That's a hundred percent. I've had patients ask me, why are we running a stool test? I'm going to the bathroom. Fine. Yes. And if you're not making energy and you've got anxiety and depression, all of those brain chemicals are made in the gut. We got to look at the gut. Exactly. Then we look at your brain chemicals, which again, you ran this lab years ago, which was awesome.
[00:16:36] Erika: I learned that you could actually look at your neurotransmitters, and I know that not all doctors agree with. But it was a huge deal for me to have this kind of data. The fact that we can do this just blows my mind. Instead of just shooting in the dark. I cover this test in detail with Pam Mamel Hemley, and the episodes Know You're Neurotransmitters.
[00:17:00] Tenesha: I'm gonna say a bold statement here. I do not think. Psychiatric drugs should be prescribed without this test, I do not think anti-anxiety meds should be prescribed. Even sleeping medications should be prescribed without looking at your serotonin dopamine levels and ratios.
[00:17:16] Erika: There's an additional test that pharmacogenetic test that is phenomenal. It evaluates your D n A to determine what of any medication would be best for you. And it just costs a few hundred dollars.
[00:17:29] Tenesha: Yeah. And it tells you are you going to have the side effects of this me? Or is it just not gonna work? And it's something that a lot of countries with national healthcare have implemented. The number one reason for death in the US is medical injury, and in that is drug interactions. So we went over your brain chemistry. Your serotonin was better than it was in 2017, but still low. Your dopamine was a little lower. The adrenal glands, norepinephrine, epinephrine, the ratio was definitely low.
[00:17:59] Tenesha: This was telling me we're in adrenal fatigue, and then glutamate was a little high. The common theme with your brain chemical imbalances were anxiety focused, sleep, depression, attention, memory issues. Everything you had going on could have been explained by almost all these. We now know, and this is newer data, that most of our serotonin and dopamine and other brain chemicals are made in our gut lining. So if I haven't even the slightest inclination that someone's gut is off, I know their brain chemistry is going to be off. Because if the gut lining is inflamed, it can't make brain chemicals properly,
[00:18:34] Erika: And we get those brain chemicals from food. It just goes back to the food that we put in our body is so absolutely important. If we want everything in a run smoothly, don't do the red dye.
[00:18:47] Tenesha: A hundred percent. Yeah. And it all matters about what we're putting into and on our body too, to review.
[00:18:54] Erika: We've gone over the blood work, adrenal stool and brain chemistry tests. What's the next test?
[00:19:01] Tenesha: Okay, so the next test, it looks like we went. At that point was the mold toxicity report, the mycotoxin test, and this opened up a whole awful can of worms for your life.
[00:19:14] Erika: Can you explain what a mycotoxin is?
[00:19:17] Tenesha: Yeah. Essentially you're being exposed to mold. That's a mold that can be in a house, it can be on food.
[00:19:23] Erika: Is that also in coffee?
[00:19:24] Tenesha: It can be. Coffees are very well known to have mold on them. If you ingest the mold or inhale the mold and your body can't detox it very. It can build up in your body. It essentially turns into what we call a mycotoxin, so it's the particles of the mold your body can't release, and it's toxic to your nervous system. The biggest mycotoxin symptoms from mold exposure are probably anxiety. Insomnia and brain fog, which I had. So we went over the mycotoxin test and you had two different mycotoxins in your body. Ochratoxin A and Gliotoxin. The high level that you had, the Gliotoxin, it's probably from water damaged building.
[00:20:07] Erika: We had moved into that house 14 months prior to seeing. It's an older home, 1984 was when it was built. It didn't surprise me that there might be some mold in the house.
[00:20:20] Tenesha: Central Texas is a lot more common than we think. You told me you got sicker moving into this home. I did. That for me is a big red flag. We better see what's going on with her environment. It's scary and it's real, and people can get deathly ill in a moldy environment.
[00:20:34] Erika: And I think that should be a part of any home inspection.
[00:20:39] Tenesha: It is visible mold, like if they see black mold somewhere, right, but not the level that we are finding it hidden.
[00:20:46] Erika: The whole mold test that I did is called the I test, E R M I, and it costs just a few hundred dollars and I would've gladly spent that had I known. One more test that I had already done in 2020 is the ne nutrigenomic. It analyzed my D n A to reveal variations of my genes that may cause illness or disease. I could actually see that genetically I was predisposed to have anxiety and I learned that I'm a poor detoxer. I have a MTHFR genetic mutation.
[00:21:21] Tenesha: Correct. You had a defect in methylation.
[00:21:25] Erika: And what is methylation?
[00:21:26] Tenesha: Methylation has to do with your detox pathway. It's essentially the body's ability to recognize and sort what comes into the body. We need to figure out what to detox and what to keep to make energy. Also, in that test, we found out that you don't break down histamine very well. Things like airborne allergies, certain histamine foods, specifically mold, can keep you in this inflammatory state. Your body can't break it down as fast as it's coming in. We had all of this data. And I saved the best for last. I remember telling you the lime was positive. Tell me what you were feeling then. How did that diagnosis hit?
[00:22:04] Erika: That diagnosis was a big one. It was a mixed bag. It was explaining a lot of my symptoms, why I wasn't getting better on my own. On the one hand, I was glad to have that diagnosis. On the other hand, I knew that Lyme is so tricky to treat and there is no absolute cure. The best that I could do was to put it in remission. I knew it would take time and I had no clue how we were going to go about it. But I also was encouraged by the fact that you, yourself had Lyme and you were able to put it into remission.
[00:22:42] Tenesha: Yeah, almost 30 years. I am co-existing with Lyme and I have zero Lyme symptoms. I was sick for a year, and it just got worse and worse. Without any good diagnosis, you can get bit by a tick and it got through the immune system, but it kind of lies dormant, and I'm seeing this almost weekly from post covid syndrome, long haulers.
[00:23:01] Tenesha: The ones that aren't getting well, a lot of them have Epstein and bar virus in Lyme. COVID is an intense disease. It's wiping people's immune systems. The goal is, and this is what I think I told you, is to coexist with it. Mm-hmm. But if my daughter got bit by a tick tomorrow and she had a rash, which by the way, only 30% of people have the bullseye rash and was flu-like symptoms, the next day I would put her on doxycycline antibiotics.
[00:23:27] Tenesha: And for how long? So probably three to four weeks. If you can catch it inside six months, you can usually eradicate it. One thing I think to know is that it is a bacteria under a microscope. It's a spirochete bacteria. Specifically, the name of it is Borrelia burgdorferi. It can hide and go dormant like a virus, but it attacks your body like a parasite does.
[00:23:49] Tenesha: It attacks the central nervous system. It is a very interesting pathogen. We call them stealth pathogens, and it can build something called a biofilm, which is essentially a shell around it for protection. They're smart. I've almost learned to respect them. The biofilm can make them resistant to antibiotics and herbs.
[00:24:10] Erika: And it looks like a corkscrew.
[00:24:11] Tenesha: Exactly. And what it does is it spirals and it cork screws in ligaments, muscles, tendons, joints, brain tissue, cerebral spinal fluid. Hollowed organs, hollow organs like bladder, which is why I ran a urine test on you because it can hide in the. When we did the line test, I had you go get a lymphatic drainage massage first because we're stirring up the lymph and the fluid and pushing it into the bladder.
[00:24:37] Erika: And can you explain what a lymphatic massage is?
[00:24:40] Tenesha: Yeah. It's an interesting massage. It almost feels like the person's doing nothing and they touch you with the lightest pressure on your skin and it moves the lymph, which is right under your skin when someone feels puff. Their lymph is congested, and that's right under the skin. The lymphatic drainage massage, they're just pushing that liquid down into the urinary tract and into the GI tract.
[00:25:04] Erika: That’s why the Lyme test was a pee test.
[00:25:06] Tenesha: Yep. It stirs up the bugs that are hiding in the lymph, and then we push them into the bladder and people are going to be positive if they come back and tell. They felt like they got hit by a truck or they had the flu the day after the lymph massage.
[00:25:21] Erika: After the lymphatic massage, I think I slept for about two or three hours. And I know that you've said if a healthy person were to get that, they would feel pretty good.
[00:25:30] Tenesha: Yep. They feel light and good. The other thing I want to say about Lyme is it's just so misunderstood and it really is becoming what I believe in epidemic. It's just not study or understood enough about what the severity is of cry. And how debilitating it can be and how intense and hard it is to heal. But there's not a lot of money behind the research right now.
[00:25:52] Erika: And it’s worldwide. It's happening here in Texas. It's happening in all the states and all the countries.
[00:25:59] Tenesha: That's a really good point. The last thing I want to talk about, the origin of Lyme disease.
[00:26:02] Erika: There was a 5,300 year old ice mummy discovered in the Eastern Alps about 20 years ago, and new genetic analysis reveals that he's the oldest known case of Lyme disease .
[00:26:17] Tenesha: When it became popular, when it spread late seventies, early eighties. An entire community in Lyme, Connecticut of children got deathly ill. They named. Idiopathic juvenile arthritis, which is the exact same diagnosis I got as a kid. Idiopathic means we don't know what causes it. Juveniles and kids arthritis and it's weren't in the East coast. I was not. I grew up in Michigan.
[00:26:41] Tenesha: I got diagnosed 1994, doctor after doctor, my mom was asking about Lyme disease and they said, oh, that's only in the East coast. I guess a tick stop at Borders. This doctor found the Spiro key, and it is named after Dr. Bergdorf Fry, but the disease is named after Lyme, Connecticut. Finally, they figured it out and they started treating these kids and they got, well, that's kind of the origination and the story of where it first was really named 15 years ago.
[00:27:08] Tenesha: I could tell you, oh, you got that on the East Coast. That one's more common in California. It doesn't matter anymore. Birds migrating is probably the biggest spreading of the. And then people. Mm-hmm. To sum it up, li Lyme is a tricky one to find. It's a tricky one to treat, and no two people's symptoms look the same.
[00:27:28] Erika: I appreciate you spending your life dedicated to treating Lyme, being a functional medicine doctor, giving me the appropriate diagnosis, which nobody else could, and we're still treating it.
[00:27:40] Tenesha: Thank you. I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I was very angry for a really long time from being so sick at such a young age, but I've made my peace with God and I realize this is why I'm here and accepting that and thank you.
Functional Medicine Doctor
She is a functional medicine doctor helping patients globally and founder of the Infinity Way healing process. Her practice concentrates on Lyme Disease, Mold Toxicity, Chronic Fatigue, Anxiety, GI Issues, Women’s Hormone Issues from Pre/Post Menopause to Infertility, Headaches, Burnout, Insomnia, and other Medical Mysteries.