Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Written by: Dr. Rory Gibbons, Naturopathic Doctor
We all want to be “healthier”, but what does this really mean? Goals will be met when they are objective and attainable, so getting lab work updated or done in the first place is an excellent start to set a baseline of your health. From there you can be more specific in the health changes you are set out to make. A naturopathic doctor can take the time to go through your lab work and make nutritional, dietary, and lifestyle suggestions to start getting these values in check. Ever wondered what the following names and symbols mean?
CBC w/ Diff:
Getting a complete blood count (CBC) with differential gives physicians a glimpse into how well (or poor) your red and white blood cells (WBC) are being produced and gives clues as to why symptoms may be arising. When assessing red blood cells, the shape, size, and count can be an indicator of iron, folate and vitamin B12 status and can even be an indicator for blood loss. Hematocrit compares the number of red blood cells against all other components of blood and this can give us information on hydration, nutrient status, and may prompt other testing to investigate blood producing centers like bone marrow. Hemoglobin paired with hematocrit and the rest of the CBC can be reflective of internal bleeds, nutritional deficiencies like vitamin B12, folate and iron, and the health of your kidneys.
The differential provides information for our white blood cells. An elevation of a specific white blood cell usually correlates with some sort of infection or allergy.
Platelets are kind of like Goldilocks, we need just the right amount. Having too many can predispose ourselves to producing clots leading to heart attacks and/or strokes but if we don’t have enough (or if they are not the right shape) then we are at risk of bleeding. We need to have just the right amount in order to clot properly without any further risk.
Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is a well-researched marker of thyroid function. Often people think of women when the topic of thyroid disease comes up but it can occur in men too! Often, things we experience like stress and lack of sleep can push our thyroid to abnormal levels. One thing to keep in mind when reading your TSH is that the range is quite large so being high normal or low normal may actually be a sign that you are almost hypo or hyperthyroid. To get the most comprehensive understanding of the thyroid, get your Free T3 and Free T4 tested.
Testosterone levels start declining after you turn thirty. In the past 30 years, testosterone levels have been decreasing by 1% per year. Let’s get this checked! Often “total testosterone” is checked which takes into account bioavailable testosterone (also known as “free” or “unbound” testosterone) and bound testosterone. It is important to have bioavailable testosterone checked because this is the active form, the form that gives men the testosterone effects! Only checking total testosterone can leave men feeling confused about their symptoms of low libido, lack of motivation and joy, and low mood. If bound testosterone is high, then total testosterone can appear normal thus masking a low testosterone picture. The types of testosterone need to be differentiated!
Fasting Blood Sugar and HbA1c
Sugar is quickly becoming the root of many chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. These two tests check to see how well your body is utilizing your blood sugar on a daily basis (fasting blood sugar) and a long term (HbA1c) basis. If fasting blood glucose (FBG) is going to be abnormal it’s most likely going to be high, especially based on the standard North American diet of high processed sugars. The more we eat sugar, the more likely our cells are going to become insulin resistant thus more sugar remaining in the blood.
Cholesterol (Total, HDL, LDL, TG)
Not all cholesterol is created equal! The imbalance of HDL, LDL, and triglycerides has been shown to be a more important marker of chronic disease than individual markers by themselves. A research study in 2010 showed us that dietary cholesterol is actually no longer the culprit to elevated LDL cholesterol levels and that there is a strong link between elevated dietary sugar and elevated LDL and triglycerides. Conversely that study showed that low dietary sugar intake was associated with high levels of HDL and low levels triglycerides.
Depending on your complete blood count, a fecal immunochemical test (FIT) may be ordered. It is an excellent screen for blood in the stool which can be an early indicator of colon cancer. Sometimes blood is not seen in your bowel movements because the intestinal bleed can be higher up in the intestines and it has had time to change from a red color to a more brown color. This test is fast, easy and accurate.
Liver Enzymes - alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT)
Our liver acts like a flour sieve. It sifts our blood for toxins, hormones, and other biochemical byproducts produced by our cells. It packages them up for excretion via the digestive system. When we run these lab tests it gives us an idea as to how the liver and gallbladder are functioning, but also gives us other valuable information about the body’s metabolic systems.
Kidney Function Tests - Creatinine & estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR)
The kidneys are small organs that eliminate toxins, protein and hormonal metabolites but also have a very important role in blood pressure regulation. Based on tightly regulated feedback systems, the kidney cells can change levels of salt and water. Simply put, the creatinine and eGFR markers tell us how well the kidneys are functioning.
Lastly this new cardiac test can test your risk of having a heart attack. It measures nine markers in the blood that are associated with unstable plaque in the coronary arteries in the heart. This is a preventative test that is more specific than cholesterol tests and c-reactive protein that have been used in the past to predict cardiovascular event risk.
If your labs come back and they are “normal”, you feel normal and your team of doctors (medical and naturopathic) say there is nothing to be concerned about then this is a great accomplishment! If your labs come back normal and you still feel off, then maybe we need to look elsewhere and consider some extra testing or imaging.
Just remember, a “normal” result is still information! This tells us that these organs are doing ok!
Knowledge is power so learn about your lab values and learn what you can do to improve them by seeing a naturopathic doctor. If you would like to discuss these tests on a more personalized treatment plan, BOOK an appointment with Dr. Rory Gibbons, call our clinic at 604-776-2432 or book online at https://cheamwellnessgroup.janeapp.com/#/staff_member/18