Laboratory Testing: What Every Patient Should Know

This time of year, my inbox is flooded with requests for my recommendations on laboratory testing, so it seemed like a good time to write up a quick blog that I could direct people to.

If you’re looking to optimize your health and prevent future illness, one of the best things you can do is establish a regular testing regimen. Oftentimes I can spot a potential problem in a patient’s labs from values that are inside the reference range, but are trending up or down, or they’re just inside the top or bottom of the range.

I often tell patients:

“When an imbalance is harder to find (normal, but barely inside the top or bottom of the reference range), it’s easier to treat.

Once it’s easier to find (clearly outside the reference range), it’s harder to treat.”

It’s worth mentioning that laboratory reference ranges are arrived at from testing a large number of people, averaging their results, then adding a standard deviation to the top and bottom of that average. For MOST lab values, the optimal range is somewhere in the center of the reference range. Unfortunately, patients are often told they’re “normal” even when their lab values fall slightly outside the reference range.

Testing I Recommend for All Patients:

  • Spectracell Micronutrient Test (every 6 months until all values are optimal, then every 9-12 months, or anytime diet changes)
  • CBC (complete blood count of red and white blood cells) yearly
  • CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel: liver and kidney markers, electrolytes, minerals, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose) yearly
  • Ferritin (the storage form of iron) yearly

If there are imbalances discovered, or something in the patient’s health picture changes, some or all of these may need to be done more frequently.

Testing for Specific Patients:

  • SpectraCell CardioMetabolic for patients with a personal or family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or inflammation
  • OmegaChek (omega 3 and omega 6 totals and ratios) for patients with inflammation, poor diet or a diet low in omega 3 containing foods
  • SpectraCell Thyroid-Adrenal Panel (TSH, T4, Free T3, Thyroglobulin, TPO and TG antibodies, Thyroxine-binding globulin, Cortisol, DHEA and optional add-on Reverse T3) for patients with significant fatigue or personal or family history of thyroid or adrenal issues
  • PSA (prostate specific antigen) for men yearly
  • GI Maps or Genova Comprehensive Stool Testing for chronic GI symptoms that don’t respond to treatment
  • ZRT Saliva Hormone Testing for symptoms of imbalanced hormones
  • Genetic Testing for patients who don’t respond to the typical treatments for their conditions. Knowing how they are unique can often be extremely helpful

This is just a list of the most common labs I recommend for specific patients.

Knowing Your Cardiovascular Risks

While I think a CBC and CMP should be done at least yearly, many doctors ONLY order these two tests and if the patient is told these are “normal” they assume they’re in good health since the testing includes cholesterol, liver, kidneys and a snapshot of their immune system. However, not only are there often many clues of imbalance even with “normal” values, there are often additional tests that should be ordered to determine true health risks. For instance:

Elevated cholesterol is not the best predictor of cardiac risk.

Half the people who have a cardiovascular event

have normal or even LOW cholesterol

AND half the people who have HIGH cholesterol

NEVER have a cardiovascular event.

What IS more predictive of cardiovascular risk is cholesterol particle size. My favorite test panel for investigating cardiac risk is the CardioMetabolic test done at SpectraCell Labs, with the addition of ferritin (ferritin is available through all conventional labs). The CardioMetabolic test can also identify an elevated risk for diabetes, often present even when fasting glucose levels are normal.

More Food for Thought

RBC, hemoglobin and hematocrit in the high or low end of the reference range can indicate iron deficiency or overload.

An elevated or even high/normal RDW can indicate folate or B12 deficiency.

Low or low/normal WBC can indicate nutrient deficiencies or adrenal weakness.

A low or low/normal chloride can point to hydrochloric acid insufficiency.

Elevated or high/normal platelets points to some type of inflammation or acute phase reactant.  Commonly, mold toxicity is an issue here.

The Bottom Line

Get tested regularly, and watch for any trending in your lab values. Don’t wait until a value is outside the reference range to take action.

Ultimately, the best approach is to develop a relationship with an integrative health practitioner and visit them 1-2 times yearly to review your labs and address any developing imbalances.

3 thoughts on “Laboratory Testing: What Every Patient Should Know”

    1. Hi Linnea, in order for me to order labs for you, I would need to consult with you first since there would need to be diagnosis codes determined for insurance processing. You can contact our office at (614)888-HERB (4372) and discuss consulting options. Some patients prefer to do a “pre-consult” where we spend 10-15 minutes on the phone covering basic health concerns to compile the list of labs that seem most indicated for your health situation, then doing the full initial consult once these results are available. Hope to chat with you soon!
      Patty

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