Frequently Asked Questions
No, all supplements are not considered vitamins. However, all vitamins are considered supplements. A supplement is a catch-all term for many different nutrients, micro-nutrients, vitamins, and foods.
Supplements are generally considered safe, but certain supplements can interact with medications that can cause devastating effects. If you are unsure, please ask your healthcare provider or local pharmacist if it is safe for you to take a particular supplement or combination. Do not assume that because it is found in nature that it is harmless. Each supplement has its own list of side effects similar to medications. Most supplements have minimal side effects.
Allergy is a chronic condition. That means your symptoms can be controlled or the disease can be modified or reduced, but it cannot be cured. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get relief from your allergies. Relief comes when you get your allergies under control.
Successful allergy control begins with identifying the proteins that are triggering the allergic reaction. This is done through allergy testing. Allergy testing can take the following forms:
- Skin Prick Test
- Skin Patch Test
- Blood Tests
Once the triggering proteins are identified an effective allergy control plan can be developed. This plan includes allergen avoidance, immunotherapy, and medication. Your allergy control plan is tailored for your specific needs.
We take a holistic approach to our treatment plans, meaning we do not solely rely on pharmaceuticals. We take a multi-faceted approach to treating chronic disease. Our customized approach to each individual patient involves a detailed analysis of vitamin levels, genetic testing, hormone levels, and nutritional status in order to balance all areas for optimal health.
- Nutritional Balance
- Early and Intensive Medication Initiation
- Hormone Balance
- Vitamin Supplementation
In order to avoid being billed the remaining charges, the lab accepts an upfront fee for their services (similar to an insurance policy). If you pay the upfront fee, they guarantee that you will not receive a bill. The amount of the upfront fee varies with each insurance company. Our staff will be happy to let you know the cost based on your insurance company. The usual cost that patients have to pay is between $200 – $300. The total cost of the FIA is over $1,000, so your insurance will cover the rest if you pay the upfront fee.
Most people have at least one element of micronutrient deficiency that can be detected with the FIA panel. If you are currently taking a multivitamin, you should get the micronutrient analysis performed in order to evaluate the effectiveness of your multivitamin. Not all multivitamins are created equal. Many multivitamins lack key elements and antioxidants. Cheaper multivitamins are poorly packaged for your body, so they are not well absorbed. Some multivitamins only carry common nutrients that are regularly found in food. For instance, if you compare Rejuvenation Science’s Maximum Vitality to any generic multivitamins (One-A-Day, Centrum, GNC), you will see there are many micronutrients that the generic multivitamins are missing. It is important to utilize a high-quality multivitamin and test your levels regularly.
Your first line of defense against disease is the immune system. Your body is well equipped to detect bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microbial invaders. When these external agents invade, your immune system jumps into action ready to destroy and vanquish. That’s a really good thing… unless the external agent is just a harmless protein.
In simple terms, allergy is the result of your body’s immune system fighting germs that aren’t there. It’s like when you spot a friend at a distance across the mall and rush over to say “Hello” only to find out that it isn’t your friend at all. Allergy is a case of mistaken identity.
“Doctors use the term hypersensitivity to refer to allergies because your immune system is overly sensitive to substances such as pollens, animal dander and other types of allergens that offer no real threat to your health. With hypersensitivity, your immune system acts sort of like an alarm system that summons a SWAT team regardless of whether a cat burglar or just a cat is intruding on your property.”
-William E. Berger, MD, MBA
Before you come to the office, you can do several things to save time and improve efficiency at our office. The list below contains a few tips that you can use:
- Save yourself a return trip for blood work by coming to the office fasting. Do not eat anything after midnight the night before, do not eat or drink anything except water or black coffee, and continue to take your medicine (except insulin).
- Bring all of your medications, supplements, and inhalers
- Bring a copy of any recent blood tests, X-Rays, or other tests
- Bring your blood sugar meter, blood sugar log, or blood pressure log
- Routine, frequent follow-up is one of the most important ways to reduce complications. If you have multiple chronic diseases, you should be seeing your healthcare provider every 3 months. If you have more than 3-5 chronic diseases, you should consider being seen once per month until all of your problems are under excellent control.
- As always, you should take your medication as prescribed. However, if there is a particular medicine that you do not like because of side effect, size, or dosing frequency – mention it to us, and we can find an alternative that will work for you.
- Find a meal plan that works for you and is as close to the dietary recommendations from your doctor.
- Exercise regularly. Start slow and build up to a more vigorous routine.
Patients with chronic conditions know that healthcare costs can get expensive, so we at Austin Family Medicine Associates try to limit your out-of-pocket costs in multiple ways.
- We draw your blood in the office and utilize the lab that your insurance company prefers.
- We always provide same-day appointments in order to prevent extra bills from Emergency Departments and Urgent Care centers.
- We manage your illnesses aggressively, so you can avoid frequent hospital bills.
- We care for you to the extent of our abilities before referring you to a specialist, so you do not have high co-pays at specialists’ offices.
- We offer the newest medications with the best side effect profiles, but if medication costs are a concern, we can adjust your medication profile to be more affordable.
There are three main categories of allergies that we encounter: Respiratory, Food, and Contact Allergens.
Respiratory Allergens: The respiratory allergens usually are pollen, mold, cat dander, dog dander, etc. These allergens usually cause sneezing, runny nose, itchy nose, watery eyes, etc.
Food Allergens: The food allergens that are investigated are wheat, chicken, beef, shellfish, etc. These allergens usually cause symptoms such as rashes, fatigue, abdominal pain, and bowel changes.
Contact Allergens: The contact allergens are found in our environment, including soap, shampoo, skin care products, detergents, etc. They may cause many different types of rashes.
Many people have chemical sensitivities that may not show up on routine allergy testing. Chemical sensitivities can cause many of the same symptoms as allergies, including runny nose, sore throat, irritated eyes, sneezing, abdominal pain, etc. They can also cause additional symptoms like chronic pain, fatigue, mental fog, and irregular bowel movements. People who suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned may benefit from chemical sensitivity testing.
Allergies can be a difficult and annoying problem …especially in the Austin area. There are several different types of allergy testing, and it is important to discuss with your healthcare provider which test is best for you. An allergy is an exaggerated response by your immune system to a substance that you inhaled, touched, or ate. For instance, if you have an allergy to cedar pollen, your immune system identifies the cedar pollen as an invader or allergen. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies trigger other immune cells to release chemicals that cause allergic symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing, rash, fever, and fatigue. Some people have severe reactions that can be life-threatening. These reactions are called anaphylaxis and are a separate topic. Anaphylaxis rarely occurs from inhaled or contact allergens. Allergy tests can give exact information about what you are, as well as what you are not, allergic to. Many people have allergy symptoms but do not have allergies. You need to know this, so you do not waste time and money on ineffective treatments.
The FIA test is a micronutrient analysis panel. FIA stands for Functional Intracellular Analysis.
Vitamin levels, micro-nutrients, and antioxidants are important to our providers, so we offer a modern micro-nutrient analysis panel or vitamin test (FIA). This is performed with a simple blood draw any time of the day. It does not need to be fasting. The blood is sent to a lab that separates your white blood cells from the blood sample. Then, the white blood cells are stimulated and starved. Based on this state-of-the-art technology, the lab can evaluate your functional micro-nutrient levels at the cellular level. With routine blood work, the nutrient levels that are shown are simply the amount of that specific nutrient floating in the blood stream and not the cellular utilization of that nutrient. This micro-nutrient analysis is the best way to assess your micro-nutrients.
An allergic reaction occurs when your body misidentifies a harmless protein; it overreacts to allergens that pose no real threat. On the first exposure, the mis-identification occurs and the immune system creates a special antibody (this is called immunoglobulin E or IgE) designed to fight that substance if it ever sees it again. In a way, it is kind of like how a vaccination works, but instead of being prepared to fight a harmful germ, it is prepared to fight a protein that poses no danger.
The next time you encounter the protein (whether you breathe it, eat it, or it touches your skin) your immune system jumps into action. It produces substances like histamines, leukotrienes, and cytokines. These are the substances that cause you to have sneezing, wheezing, nasal congestion, rashes, coughing, itchy or watery eyes or a runny nose. That’s why the symptoms of allergy can be so similar to the symptoms of a cold.
Your immune system can mistake any protein. The most common indoor allergens come from dust mites, pets, and molds. Outdoor allergens can be the pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds as well as molds and large animals such as horses and sheep. Contact allergens can range from metals to the common ingredients in personal care items. Peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish are also common sources of proteins that cause food allergies.
Chemical sensitivity testing is performed with a simple blood draw. Your blood is sent to labs that specialize in chemical sensitivities.
Intravenous therapy (IV) is a procedure that delivers liquid substances directly into your vein. The intravenous route of administration can be used for injections or infusions. Intravenous infusions are commonly referred to as drips.
Our IV drip procedures are conducted by medical experts. We understand how the entire body works and will build a treatment plan that fulfills your unique needs.
Vitamins are naturally occurring nutrients that cannot be synthesized by your body yet is absolutely crucial for optimal bodily functions.
The term supplement, in the medical sense, is a catch-all term for any nutrient, vitamin, or compound that you add to your dietary intake. Supplements may be found in nature or created. Your body may already make its own version of the molecule which is why it is considered a supplement – because you are adding to your body’s ability to create the molecule.
- Prick Test: This test is used to identify respiratory allergens that may affect your eyes, ears, nose, and throat. A very small amount of allergens are put under your skin by making a small indentation or “prick” on the surface of your skin. The test is analyzed within the first two hours of the allergen exposure. If you are allergic to the allergen, swelling that looks and feels like a mosquito bite will occur at the site. It is very important to avoid all anti-histamines (Zyrtec, Benadryl, Claritin, Allegra, etc) for one week before having this test performed as they blunt your body’s reaction to the allergens.
- Patch Test: This test investigates contact allergens found in your environment. The test is performed over several days. It is started on Monday – several patches with environmental allergens are placed on your skin. You will return to the office on Wednesday where the skin will be analyzed by the nurse. Then, the test is analyzed again on Thursday for the last and official reading by the healthcare provider. The patch test helps you determine which chemicals are especially important for you to avoid. Unfortunately, the test results do not say, “Head and Shoulders” or “Aveeno.” Instead, it will tell you specific chemicals that you have to look for in all of your product labels under ingredients.
- Blood Test: This test involves drawing blood, and it is not considered as accurate as the skin test. However, it is quick and easy. It can be performed along with other blood tests. The blood test is not affected by any medications that you are taking. There are two versions of the blood test: respiratory and food allergens.
Allergy testing is very safe and appropriate for anyone who has allergy symptoms listed above (runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, rash, etc). Identifying allergens in order to reduce exposure can improve symptoms without medications. Sometimes, allergy testing is completely negative, meaning your symptoms are caused something other than allergens (Reflux, Nasal polyps, etc)
- Alcat Test: The Alcat test is a detailed panel of sensitivities for over 150 food items and food additives. The lab equipment evaluates the electrical resistance produced by white blood cells suspended in liquid which, in turn, determines the level of sensitivity. This test is different than allergy panels because it does not test for IgE antibodies floating in the bloodstream. You may have a food allergy that is not identified on the Alcat test as these are different methods of testing. Most insurance companies do not cover this test.
- Cyrex Array: The Cyrex array is a detailed panel of gluten sensitivity. This test evaluates the levels of IgG and IgA antibodies floating in your bloodstream that react to the gluten and gluten-like foods. Not all gluten tests evaluate the same markers. The Cyrex array assesses gluten and the foods that are similar to gluten since they cross-react with gluten. For instance, wheat and barley are common gluten-containing foods, but foods like coffee, sesame, and casein protein (milk) do not have gluten. However, they can trigger gluten sensitivity reactions just like the real gluten proteins. Most insurance companies do not cover this test.
We care for nearly all chronic medical problems. A list of common chronic conditions is listed at the bottom of this page. For each patient, we develop a specific treatment plan for that individual patient. This specific treatment plan varies according to their goals and desires. It is important to us that we customize a treatment plan that works for you and your body. For example, many patients prefer to make dietary changes or take supplements in order to limit their prescription medications. If you need assistance with dietary changes, we have a dietician in the office who can help you treat your medical problems with nutritional balance and vitamin supplementation.
The best way to find out which supplements are right for you is to evaluate your levels. We routinely check several nutrient levels with our advanced blood work, including Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Folate, and Omega-3. These levels are crucial and must be maintained at adequate levels. However, there are many other nutrients that need to be tested in order to determine which supplements your body needs. This assessment will need to be repeated routinely since your dietary intake, nutrient absorption, and daily requirements change each year. Depending on your medical history, a supplement may be right for you but unnecessary for another person. For instance, Chondroitin and Glucosamine are excellent supplements for those with arthritis but will not provide much benefit to a healthy 30 year old. If you have a question about which supplement is right for your medical conditions, ask one of our healthcare providers.
Supplements are important for optimal health and well being. Utilizing the appropriate supplements can even slow the aging process. The body utilizes micro nutrients for every enzymatic process that it needs. Without iron, your blood cells cannot carry oxygen. Without zinc, your white blood cells cannot fight infections. Deficient levels of magnesium can lead to thin bones, migraines, and irregular heart rhythms. Antioxidants are utilized to detoxify free radicals that damage DNA’s telomeres. Shortened telomeres cause cellular aging. Needless to say, supplements have many purposes, and it is important to choose the right ones for you. Each person needs their own tailored therapy of appropriate vitamins and supplements.