Ignoring These 9 Lab Numbers is a Big Mistake for Your Health...Big. HUGE!
As we mentioned in the last blog post, that you can’t make assumptions of health based off weight. The gist: the number on the scale doesn’t necessarily equate to health or non-health.
Regardless of your size, do you know what the state of your health is inside your body?
Data is necessary because there’s individual genetics, environmental toxins, chronic infections, and lifestyle factors like over or under exercise, stress, and sleep habits, that all play a role on our internal health. Many people may say that they feel fine because they don’t have extreme symptoms, but often the reality is that we slowly have gotten to a place of diminished health, so we don’t realize the impact it has on us until we are bottoming out.
We often hear (and have said ourselves) after clearing up a food sensitivity, gut infection or improving nutrient status, “I didn’t realize how bad I felt until I started feeling so good”. I had some minor gut infections that I knew were causing me to be a bit more tired than I knew I should be. Because of testing and doing the proper protocol for those bugs I now feel like someone cleaned the windows and turned all the lights on in my brain. Priceless.
Here are nine basic lab tests you can do to see what’s happening metabolically in your body:
1) Complete Blood Count (CBC): Red and white blood cells. Do you have enough red blood cells that are carrying around oxygen so you can breath? Also gives insights into iron and B12 status. White blood cells may give you clues to a current or chronic infection or how well your immune system is doing overall.
2) Metabolic Panel: Electrolytes (minerals), protein, hydration, glucose, liver, and kidney status.
3) Cholesterol basic - total, HDL, LDL, triglycerides. Can give you insights to how much and ratio of cholesterol. LDL cholesterols main job is to take cholesterol to the cell to make hormones and provide cell structure. HDL cholesterol takes what is left over from all that back to the liver to get repackaged & reused or to get excreted from the body. These numbers alone should not be used to put someone on a statin medication for
Triglycerides is the short-term storage of fat so can break down between meals and convert into energy. When gets over 85 fasting may be an early predictor for insulin resistance or signs of excess storage of various sources of carbohydrates. (please don’t stop eating carbs, they are needed in balance that is right for you!)
4) Blood pressure. You can get it at your doctor, the free machine at the store. Often what is said about it is it’s high or it’s good. Rarely do they tell you what the number is unless you ask or happen to see it. Blood pressure is the amount of pressure your heart creates to shoot the blood from the heart to the rest of the body and bring it back to the heart. AMAZING! If it’s too high (>130/90) it’s a problem because there are many tiny vessels and cells that can be damaged when the pressure is too high. If it’s too low (<110/70) can also start to be problematic because then the blood may not be getting the rest of the body in adequate amounts (this includes your brain!). Low blood pressure is one of the reasons behind cold hands and feet or low blood flow to the your feet.
The above four test are almost always the very basic you get when you go for a standard wellness check or if you feeling a little off.
There are a few more that I like to get in the first pass of general health assessment:
5) Magnesium - is not included in the standard panel. Magnesium is an electrolyte, but it is also used in over 300 metabolic processes in the body. So it’s kinda a big deal. The problem is that we often can’t enough magnesium from foods these days because of a decline of magnesium in the soil and because of food processing.
6) Vitamin D - vital for bone and immune health. If you aren’t going outside exposing large portions of your non sun-screened skin for 10-15 minutes between 10am and 4pm most days of the week, you probably aren’t getting enough D. If you live anywhere above the Texas panhandle you will not get the vitamin D from sun exposure from October to April. It’s safe to supplement 2,000-4,000 IU/day.
7) Ferritin/Iron - while the CBC can give a rough idea of iron status, it’s really best to know what is your total iron (what I call what’s in your checking account and ready to use) and ferritin (your savings account, what you have in reserves). It’s good to know because without enough iron you don’t have enough oxygen. Have you ever tried walking or running with your hand over your mouth and nose? Would be hard, so take the equivalent of that in your body and you can see how you can feel tired and not able to concentrate. We also use iron as co-buddies in doing metabolic processes.
8) Vitamin B12 - it’s the nutrient that is vital for nerve cells. Nerve cells are the ones are the messenger highways in your body. So if your low you can feel low energy, even lower you may experience numbness & tingling, and if goes on long enough can cause dementia. B12 is only found in animal sources. If you are vegetarian/vegan get a high quality B12. We do have a large storage capacity for B12, so if you do eat meat, you don’t have eat a lot to get what you need.
B12 depends on a very low stomach acid for proper absorption, so you may have medications, infections, or other reasons why you aren’t absorbing properly. Which is why I test everyone, including those that eat animal protein.
9) hs-CRP - is a very general inflammatory marker. Can be elevated in heart conditions, infections, etc. It’s a decent place to start but not the best or end all be all in terms of determining detrimental inflammation in your body.
There’s one more thing you need to know about all these labs. In functional medicine, we look at lab numbers in a more narrow range than what is reported on your test results. Why? Because the lab reference ranges have a wide range and the numbers outside of them represent clinical problems. In functional ranges, the range is smaller and represents where the body would operate at an optimal level. You could have a magnesium level with clinical reference ranges, but if it were below optimal/functional levels you might still have muscle cramps and fatigue from not enough magnesium.
Get a copy of your blood work and ask about your blood pressure. Don’t just accept when a health care provider says, everything looks fine. You be in charge of you!
Not sure how to get your numbers? Reach out and we’ll help guide you through the right source for you. We review all existing labs with clients and provide labs to clients if they aren’t able to get them through their PCP.
Stay tuned for expanded blood tests. These are the really interesting tests that can tell us even more about how your body works.