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Lab Testing- Why It Really Matters

Lab Testing- Why It Really Matters

What's the big deal with lab tests?

Lab testing can be an extremely useful tool for taking a closer look at what is going on in the body, and finding objective markers that can reveal much more than what can be gathered by looking at signs and symptoms. Commonly experienced symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal issues and muscle aches can all be caused by a number of different abnormal bodily processes, and so treating these things empirically, that is, by clinically educated guesswork, can be frustrating and oftentimes without success.

Oftentimes, doctors will reach for these lab tests, which are fortunately very often covered by insurance, in order to assess a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a variety of other conditions. What is unfortunate, though, is the fact that many of the most readily available tests that are used to assess overall health are not used properly. Despite research that has clearly shown cholesterol to be the culprit of heart disease, doctors will still order lab tests for cholesterol levels and look to prescribe based on what looks like, but might not even be, a “high” reading1. Understanding which tests are of importance when dealing with whatever health problems you are looking to address is crucial in choosing a health plan that will put you in a position for success. For this reason, we will talk about two very useful tests that cover a broad range of conditions that are worth you and your doctor’s consideration.

Homocysteine

Homocysteine is produced in the body from the breakdown of the amino acid L-methionine. An elevated level of homocysteine is commonly found in people with chronic inflammation, and has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease2, osteoporosis and fracture risk3. It is important to understand that, although homocysteine has been linked to a number of diseases in addition to those mentioned above, an elevated homocysteine finding is simply a chronic inflammatory marker. Simply lowering levels of homocysteine will not necessarily resolve issues in the body, but is instead a much more useful tool to be used in conjunction with diet, specific nutritional support, and any other modalities designed to address dysfunction.

C-Reactive Protein (CRP)

High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) is produced by the liver in response to inflammation. Like homocysteine, CRP is also seen as a risk factor for a number of diseases and dysfunctions, but differs from homocysteine in its association with certain diseases. Simply put, in certain cases, levels of CRP have been found to be highly correlated with particular diseases that levels of homocysteine have not, and vice versa. For the majority of the time, though, the two are often ordered together for confirmation of an objective view at inflammation going on in the body.

The Takeaway

A good clinician can accomplish much with a careful history and assessment of signs and symptoms you are experiencing, but addressing a dysfunction in the body is often a complex and tricky task. If you are looking to get deeper insight into any health problems you might be experiencing, lab testing, when done properly and used properly, can be an instrumental part in finding the fastest, least frustrating path towards success in becoming more healthy. Using either a test for elevated homocysteine or high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels, or both, is often indicative of the kind of treatment required, and can provide insight into whether a systemic inflammatory process is going on in the body that will need to be addressed along the path to better health.


 

References

1 Mcnamara, Donald J. "Dietary Cholesterol, Heart Disease Risk and Cognitive Dissonance." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society Proc. Nutr. Soc. 73.02 (2014): 161-66. Web.

2 Wierzbicki, Anthony S. "Homocysteine and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of the Evidence." Diabetes & Vascular Disease Research : Official Journal of the International Society of Diabetes and Vascular Disease (2007): 143. Web.

3 Mclean, Robert R., Paul F. Jacques, Jacob Selhub, Katherine L. Tucker, Elizabeth J. Samelson, Kerry E. Broe, Marian T. Hannan, L. Adrienne Cupples, and Douglas P. Kiel. "Homocysteine as a Predictive Factor for Hip Fracture in Older Persons." New England Journal of Medicine 350.20 (2004): 2042-049. Web.

If You're Having Post-Thanksgiving Stomach Issues This Could Help

If You're Having Post-Thanksgiving Stomach Issues This Could Help

Feeling a little rumbly in your tummy? 

Healthy gastrointestinal (GI) function is essential for good health. For many people, compromised GI function may be the result of the consumption of processed foods, exposure to environmental toxins, an overconsumption of sugar and alcohol, inadequate water intake, lack of fiber and other probiotic and prebiotic nutrients, stress and a variety of other factors. When these things overburden the body’s ability to adapt and thrive in spite of them, they must be addressed and healthy GI function must be supported. 

An extremely common pitfall many people experience on their path to addressing GI dysfunction is removing allergenic and inflammatory foods and beverages from their diet without the accompanied nutritional support that the digestive tract may need to bounce back from the damage that was done to cause the dysfunction in the first place. This leaves people discouraged and feeling as if they have wasted their time and money on things that “didn’t work” for them. The goal of this article is to briefly and effectively provide insight into some of the most common things people miss when they go about trying to solve GI issues. 

Everyone with GI dysfunction has different causes for it, and therefore different “best” steps of treatment for it, but no matter the person, the organ system and body function the same way, and for this reason, the majority of these different modes of treatment fall under general guidelines that apply to everyone. For this reason, for many people, healthy GI function starts with support from a four-phase program.

The 4 phases of this approach are:

1.) Remove: This phase involves the removal of triggers that negatively impact GI function, including foods to which a person is overly sensitive, bacterial overgrowth, toxins such as heavy metals, or other potential GI stressors. For the majority of people, this is the hardest phase to implement, as it almost always involves the removal of gluten, dairy, and processed foods. The removal of these three things alone is often accompanied by life changing health benefits for those that remove them, but the change, for many, comes with a steep learning curb.
Examples: Removal of gluten, dairy, processed foods, excess sugar in the diet.

2.) Replace: This phase involves any digestive support that may be needed for optimum digestion. Many people, even those without symptoms of GI dysfunction, benefit greatly from this added digestive support. 
Examples: Digestive enzymes.

3.) Repair: Oftentimes when GI distress has progressed far enough, there occurs damage to the intestinal lining and GI mucosa. This phase supports the GI mucosa so that it serves as an effective barrier against the uptake of undigested foods, unwanted organisms, toxins, etc. In addition to this, a healthy GI mucosa is essential for quality nutrient absorption, which will significantly impact the effects of good nutritional changes.
Examples: Specific herbs, amino acids, botanicals, L-Glutamine.

4.) Repopulate:
This phase involves the use of any effective probiotic support that may be needed to aid in the health and maintenance of the GI tract. 
Examples: Aloe Vera, colostrum, probiotics.

This four-phase program is a good model for anyone looking to address good GI health, but it is important to keep in mind that your plan will often look differently than another person’s, even if your issues are the same. Using signs, symptoms and any necessary lab tests alongside this model will help you narrow your focus and provide you with the most cost effective, body effective results. In addition, like any health outcome, the implementation of exercise, neurological care, and lifestyle and healthy food choices will drastically affect the impact any changes you make will have.