What Are Organic Acids Tests and Do You Need One?
By Caitlin Self MS, CNS, LDN
Organic Acids Tests have become hugely popular for functional medicine practitioners. They can provide detailed information about mineral and vitamin deficiencies and malabsorption, as well as gut function and dysbiosis.
What Are Organic Acids?
Organic acids are chemical metabolites that are produced in the body and participate in basic biochemical pathways related to energy metabolism. When elevated, they often point to vitamin deficiencies.
They are also byproducts of bacterial and fungal metabolism, and test results may indicate microflora overgrowth or malabsorption.
Are Elevated Organic Acids Good or Bad?
Typically we want to see organic acids right in the middle - not too high or too low. Abnormal test results usually show elevated organic acids.
What Causes Elevated Organic Acids?
There are several reasons for elevated organic acids in urine. Some of the most common reasons include:
Vitamin Deficiencies (especially B vitamins)
But that’s not all! General poor health can cause inflammation and poor detoxification, which can cause abnormal organic acids test results. It’s important to work with a practitioner who can provide an accurate interpretation of your results.
Understanding Organic Acids and Vitamin Deficiencies
Here’s how elevated organic acids can indicate vitamin deficiencies. Nutrients fuel the metabolism of certain organic acids into other acids and coenzymes. When the nutrients are low, the organic acids aren’t metabolised, leading them to build up in the body and in the urine.
When MMA is high on your organic acids test, it indicates that B12 is low at the cellular level.
MMA, or methylmalonic acid, is an organic acid. In normal, well-nourished pathways, MMA converts to succinyl CoA. When there isn’t enough B12, the conversion doesn’t happen and MMA builds up in the body. You will see MMA elevated in the urine, and this indicates low B12.
What about Serum levels?
Serum levels only tell us what’s going on in the blood, they don’t indicate whether nutrients are being utilized by the cells.
You might see normal serum levels of nutrients like B12, but still have symptoms of deficiency. When this happens, it’s good to follow up with an organic acids test to assess MMA. If the MMA results are high, this indicates that the patient is likely consuming enough B12, but is having trouble assimilating it from the blood into the cells. So instead, it hangs out in the blood and isn’t being used.
Who Might Benefit From Organic Acids Testing?
Individuals with symptoms that can’t be explained by standard stool tests, blood tests, or DUTCH hormone testing are good candidates for OAT testing.
Organic Acids Tests can help you identify some of the following scenarios, and are also useful for individuals who have other signs or symptoms of these conditions:
Increased Intestinal Permeability
Evidence of SIBO or yeast overgrowth (candida overgrowth)
They’re also incredibly interesting, and are great for anyone seeking optimal health!
Where Can You Get Organic Acids Tests?
Here at Juno Wellness, we offer organic acid tests from Genova and Great Plains Laboratory. We will ship the kit to you, then you can complete the test at home and mail it in using the prepaid FedEx label. It’s an easy, straightforward process!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration
This information is for educational purposes only. The statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult your physician if you have any question regarding a medical condition
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About Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN
Caitlin is a licensed nutritionist and food blogger based in Baltimore, MD. She works closely with clients to understand how their gut microbiome is affecting their overall health.