Today, many more laboratory tests are available to evaluate health than the standards many practitioners are trained on. Those standard labs diagnose and identify disease after dysfunction has already happened. While helpful, we want to prevent disease by identifying dysfunction and the root of the problem early. This can be done, in part, with better labs and total nutrition assessments.
What is metabolic health? At a clinical level, an individual is metabolically healthy that has normal levels of key metabolic markers such as triglycerides, blood sugar (fasting & hemoglobin A1C), blood pressure, waist circumference, and cholesterol. Some estimates state that less than 15% of all Americans are metabolically healthy.
Our definition of metabolic health includes all aspects of metabolism, how your body gets and uses nutrients to produce energy and power all the body’s functions. In this article, we’ll review if you should order your own metabolic lab tests or rely on your doctors recs, what metabolic labs can tell you, and should your lab goals be within the normal range.
Should I Or Shouldn’t I Order My Own Metabolic Lab Tests?
Today, there are a lot of direct-to-consumer options meaning you can order a lab test yourself. These address one issue, the frustration many have at not having access to a practitioner who can or is willing to use better testing. There also are companies with big marketing dollars that make it seem like one test – theirs – will give you all the answers you need.
Some even then go the next step and sell you supplements or food programs. The issue with these tests is that even if they have a practitioner on their staff (a human, not a computer) review your results, they are not getting you the information you need which can be unhelpful or dangerous.
They may send you a beautiful report, and you may feel like you are getting really helpful insights, but you aren’t getting to the root cause of WHY your labs are off (low, high, etc.) their norms, and you are being judged against their lab norms which may not be at all related to who you are today.
Do they know you had a baby 4 months ago, and prior to that took fertility medications? Do they know you completed your first iron man last month? Do they know that you take iron supplements already? Do they know you have a family history of early heart disease? And so on.
For example, the person has digestive issues, and just as it showed in the commercials, she’s been trying different ways to address them (on her own) and is at her wit’s end. Then she does a stool test on her own which is so easy and way cheaper than working with a practitioner and their test (per the commercial again).
And she gets her results and it says ALMONDS are a big problem! And she’s so happy because she eats almonds, almond butter, almond flour, etc. all the time as she’s been avoiding gluten and grains so this makes so much sense. Now she is going to avoid almonds and is so much better! How awesome is it that with just one test she can fix years of digestive issues?
But she didn’t fix them and she removed another food, making her body even further nutrient depleted, and she didn’t figure out that her digestive tract lining needs repair work – that’s the real issue! If left untreated her digestive issues will worsen and present as other issues such as skin issues, fatigue, or even autoimmune disease.
Do Metabolic Lab Tests Tell You Everything?
Absolutely not. Evaluating blood, urine, stool, etc. can tell you good information about what your body has to work with today. However, it doesn’t give you all you need to optimize your health, especially your nutrition.
You need to work with a healthcare practitioner who uses nutrition and behavior evaluations and track your intake of specific foods, nutrients, etc. over the course of your work together to understand if you are able to get to optimal levels through food and beverage choices or where supplementation will help you meet your body’s needs.
Should Your Goal For Metabolic Lab Tests Be Within Normal Range?
On every lab test, the results are shown as related to a standard range or the presence or absence of something. It follows that a good goal would then be to be “within range” and what is often called “normal”. Normal values or ranges are often established by looking at population groups that you or I might not even fit into.
For example, historically lab ranges were based on large groups of men and what their bodies contained when healthy. Not helpful for like half the population!!
Thus, as we evaluate your labs, it’s better to look at how levels have changed (when we have access to prior results), where in the range your results fall, and trends observed by your practitioner who routinely uses these tests to evaluate patients. This is just another reason your better choice is to do lab tests and review results with a practitioner!
Looking at labs is an important part of optimizing health, but they can’t tell us everything. It’s important to remember that a normal laboratory result does not necessarily mean optimal health, and that looking at how the levels have changed over time, as well as where your result falls in the range can be more helpful than simply going by whether or not it is within “normal” range.
This is why it’s so important to take a deeper look into any laboratory tests with a qualified practitioner who has expertise in interpreting such results and can help provide advice on how best to work towards health goals based on those results.
If you are interested in diving deeper into understanding the root cause of your health problems and developing a personalized road map to optimize your own health, I invite you to apply for an Autoimmune Breakthrough Session with me today!
***Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice***