We have a saying in functional medicine that states, “It’s always better to test rather than guess,” meaning before starting a new supplement protocol, diet, or any other health intervention, it’s always a good idea to get baseline blood work or diagnostic lab testing to determine you actually need the supplement you are going to take. The purpose of this is twofold. First, the initial testing gives a reference point for tracking. If you don’t check where you start out, you won’t be able to see if the supplement is working and if your body is actually absorbing the supplement. The second reason for baseline testing is to make sure you don’t give yourself a toxic level of a given supplement. It is possible to take too high a dose of certain supplements such as vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, copper, calcium and folic acid among others. Toxic loads of these vitamins and minerals can cause health complications such as liver and kidney damage, gastrointestinal upset, heart issues, muscle weakness and tremors.
Getting a blood work panel is one of the best things you can do if you want to make positive health changes during the new year. Most primary care physicians will order blood work for you if you ask them to. In Colorado, chiropractors are able to order blood work for you, but be prepared to pay the cash rate for these tests. You may be pleasantly surprised that cash rates for medical services are fractions of what you see show up on your insurance bills.
When you get blood work, there are a few simple tests that will have immense benefit for your health. The tests I recommend include vitamin D, vitamin B12, a lipid panel looking at triglyceride and cholesterol levels, a complete blood count (CBC) looking at the size, color, and concentration of your red and white blood cells, a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) including fasting blood sugar levels, and hemoglobin A1C which is a 3 month average of your blood sugar level and can help you determine if you are prediabetic and insulin resistant. If you want to take an even deeper look into your health, you should consider baseline hormone testing (testosterone, estradiol, progesterone), homocysteine (an early marker for cardiovascular disease and stroke risk), an omega 3 index measuring your balance of omega 6’s to omega 3’s in your blood, C-reactive protein which measures inflammation in your body, and a thyroid panel including TSH, TPO antibodies, free T3 and free T4.
There are other non blood work related tests important to check as well. One being a 4 point salivary cortisol test measuring your cortisol levels throughout the day. Cortisol should be highest in the morning since it is our ‘awake’ hormone, but for many individuals cortisol stays elevated all day due to the stress of the modern lifestyle. When cortisol remains high all day, patients may experience weight gain, poor sleep, and large blood sugar fluctuations leading to headache and migraine. Another test gaining recent popularity is a genetic methylation test. Methylation refers to your body’s ability to break down the raw materials we get from food and supplements into usable forms in the body to produce energy. Some individuals have genetic mutations predisposing them to poor methylation function in the body which can lead to low energy and can contribute to conditions such as anxiety, cardiovascular disease, and even ADHD in children. There are excellent supplements and dietary protocols you can follow if you have a gene mutation causing poor methylation, and many patients experience incredible changes in their health when this issue is properly addressed.
Once you have your important baseline results, it’s time to put a plan into action. Your doctor can help you come up with a comprehensive plan to make 2024 your best year yet. Your treatment plan should include exercise interventions, supplement prescriptions based on the deficiencies found in your blood work, a dietary plan fitting your weight loss or weight gain goals, and stress reduction techniques to help with emotional health. Finding a physician who is knowledgeable in each of these key areas is your first step to optimal health. At our clinic, we make your health our number one priority, and we look forward to helping you reach your goals in 2024.
Post written by Dr. Riley Kulm, DC. Check out his bio here.