As a Holistic Nutrition Practitioner I do not use tests to diagnose disease. That is out of my scope of practice. I do, however, sometimes use functional tests to gain a better understanding of where the body is struggling and what might be contributing to development, mood and behaviour concerns. 

The following are some tests I use as screening tools to give us insight into the function of the body, which can then direct our food choices.

The Organic Acid Test (OAT)

The OAT is a urine test that offers a snapshot of overall health. The 70+ markers give us insight into intestinal yeast and bacteria, nutrient absorption, hormonal pathways, oxidative stress, and neurotransmitter levels. The test helps us better understand the enzymes and pathways in the body that may be struggling so we can boost the appropriate nutrients for support.

The OAT gives us insight into possible underlying contributors to symptoms like hyperactivity, movement disorders, aggression, fatigue, poor immune function, attention, sleep, pain, self injury, anxiety and depression, by helping us better understand the health and function of the pathways involved in those symptoms.

Test type: first morning urine

Approximate cost: $350

Gluten and Casein Peptide Urine Test

Poor digestion of gluten from certain grains and casein from dairy can be a contributor to development, behaviour and mood struggles. If gluten and casein proteins are not broken down well by the digestive process, they can create opioid-like peptides. These can potentially interact with opioid receptors in the brain, altering mood and behaviour. This test gives us an idea as to whether gluten and dairy might be contributing to neurological and physical symptoms.

Test type: urine

Approximate cost: $100

Food sensitivity Testing and Zonulin

An immune reaction to food (sensitivity test) along with poor digestive integrity (zonulin test) can put undo stress on the body and activate chemical pathways that can influence behaviour, mood and development.

Common allergy tests, which look for IgE antibodies and diagnose a true food allergy can be helpful and can be requested from your medical doctor. But food sensitivity tests are different because they tests for IgG or IgA antibodies – other immune chemicals that can respond to food.

The presence of IgG and IgA antibodies accompanied by high zonulin levels (a protein that is involved in intestinal health and function) along with physical or neurological symptoms that have no other cause, can indicate that there is substantial work to be done to support the health of the digestive and immune systems and can give us direction as to how to proceed with a systematic food elimination trial to learn what is truly bothering the body.

These tests can help us better understand what is going on in the gut and, since the connection between the gut and the brain has now been firmly established in the scientific literature, the more insight we can get about what is going on in the gut the better we can understand behaviour.

Test type: blood spot (pin prick to the finger) or blood draw

Approximate cost: $240 – $320


Checking the stool for IgA antibodies to food is an other way to gage food sensitivity. The following can be helpful

  • Enterolab Panel B1 for gluten sensitivity: Gluten sensitivity stool test + Tissue Transglutaminase + Fat Malabsorption Stool Test. This test is a good general test to see if gluten should be kept out of the diet long term
  • Enterolab Panel A1 stool test: IgA against dairy, egg, soy, gluten. This is a highly sensitive food intolerance test to the most common allergens.
  • Enterolab Panel A2 stool test: Fecal IgA antibody against gliadin, casein, egg, soy  plus HLA-DQB1 molecular gene analysis
 (genetic test for celiac)


Since metal and mineral levels in hair are correlated with levels in organs and other tissues, this test is a helpful tool to determine if metal toxicity or mineral deficiency might be contributing to symptoms.

The toxic elements in this test such as arsenic, aluminum, cadmium, lead, antimony, and mercury may be 200-300 times more highly concentrated in hair than in blood or urine. Therefore, recent exposure is more likely to show up in the hair even if a blood or urine test has been clear.

Some of the nutrient levels in this test that are most helpful to development, mood and behaivour are: magnesium, zinc, copper, lithium, lead, chromium

Like the other tests described here, this is not a stand-alone diagnostic test for nutritional deficiency or metal toxicity. But it can be helpful when looked at in conjunction with a detailed health and behaviour profile and other laboratory tests.

Test type: hair

Approximate cost: $150

Copper:Zinc Profile

Copper and zinc compete against each other to regulate physiological pathways. When zinc is high, copper is low, and vise versa. The two need to be in a healthy balance in order for optimal mood, behavioru and development to occur. The body needs more zinc than copper, but diet and lifestyle factors, along with environmental contaminants, some genetic factors and some medications often cause and imbalance.

Panic attacks, headaches, chronic infections, chronic fatigue, brain fog, diarrhea, reduced appetite, weight loss, skin problems, anxiety, depression, poor immune function, autism and ADHD are some symptoms that can be associated with a copper:zinc imbalance. Picky eating, protein malabsorption, reflux and constipation also often respond to improving zinc levels

Test type: the hair test discussed above or  blood draw.


Other helpful tests you can order through your doctor

  • plasma amino acid profile (protein absorption)
  • essential fatty acid profile (fat absorption)
  • vitamin D, methylmalonic acid (B12), iron