Have you ever done a routine blood test and noticed that a few of the markers were out of range? It’s not uncommon to have a few things show up on your annual blood labs but unless these deviations indicate something critical, your primary care provider will most likely assure you that everything looks fine. But you’ve got questions about why your lab markers are out of range – and no one to give you the answers.
(Spoiler alert – I can definitely help! But keep reading… more on that in a few.)
Unfortunately, there’s a big elephant in the room. Conventional medicine isn’t set up to keep you healthy. They are looking for the things that are wrong – some kind of disease state – so they can dig into their toolbox and find a solution. But the only solutions they have are drugs, surgery, or radiation. Not the best options if you ask me.
So, let’s take the matter into our own hands and take a quick look at some of the more common markers that can be out of range and what you can do about it.
Contrary to what you may have been told, cholesterol is not the enemy, nor is LDL (sometimes referred to as your bad cholesterol). Cholesterol is actually vitally important for your health. It’s a superhero in the body, responsible for the production of cortisol, your primary stress hormone, sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA, and it plays a very important role in brain health and keeping your cells healthy.
On your blood test, there will be 4-6 markers that are part of the Lipid Panel, one of which is cholesterol. The others are HDL, LDL, Triglycerides, and depending on the lab, there could be one or two others. This collection of blood markers tells you how much cholesterol your body is making (total cholesterol), and how well it is being transported to your brain, cells, adrenal glands, etc. by way of your transport proteins, LDL and HDL. I know, it gets kind of confusing.
But without these proteins, your cholesterol is stuck, unable to move through the bloodstream and get to where it’s needed the most. And when you don’t have enough cholesterol, your body won’t be as healthy as it could be. The best food sources are animal fat, egg yolks, butter, and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring. When your body has enough of the right fat, it can make the perfect amount of cholesterol. But when we withhold cholesterol-containing foods, the body has to work harder to try and produce cholesterol to keep you healthy.
If your cholesterol happens to be high on your blood test, that’s okay. No reason to panic. But we do need to ask the question, “Why is it high?” What would be causing your cholesterol to go up? Could it be to create more cortisol in response to chronic stress? Could it be caused by a thyroid dysfunction such as hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease? Or maybe it’s because the artery wall is weak and cholesterol is needed to strengthen and reinforce the endothelium until more help arrives.
Cholesterol will never elevate just because. There’s always an underlying reason. That’s where we come in – to help you figure out what’s really going on and then create a plan to fix it. So, before you say yes to the statin drug recommended by your doctor, which will only ‘force’ your cholesterol to go down, a better idea would be to figure out why your cholesterol is high in the first place and work on addressing and correcting the underlying problem.
TSH is one of the markers your provider might order to check on the status of your thyroid in addition to T4 and/or T3. But unfortunately, the lab reference range for TSH is fairly broad so even if your results appear to be normal, they may need some further investigation. The optimal range for TSH is between 1.0 and 2.5 so if your result is above 2.5, you may want to consider finding out why.
If you have already been diagnosed with a thyroid condition or have a strong suspicion your thyroid may be contributing to your health concerns, we recommend ordering a few additional markers that will provide a more comprehensive overview of how well your thyroid is working. This will help us determine where the issue is and create a plan for correcting it.
Sadly, most conventional providers (and insurance companies) will not approve ordering additional thyroid markers which leaves you in the dark as to why you’re feeling so crummy.
Remember, your doctor is equipped to manage the symptoms, not necessarily address the underlying concern. (That’s what we love to do!)
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is activated by sun exposure and synthesized with the help of cholesterol (another reason why cholesterol is so important!). Many people believe that vitamin D is the cure for all ills and while it is incredibly important in the body, it’s no more important than the other fat-soluble vitamins such as A, E, and vitamin K. In fact, vitamin A and D, when taken together, help to strengthen the immune response at the first sign of illness.
But here’s the catch. Although the creation of vitamin D begins in the skin via cholesterol, it is not available for your body to use until it’s metabolized by the liver and kidneys. That means in order to maintain healthy vitamin D levels, you need to have a healthy liver and your kidneys need to be working up to par. Without them, your vitamin D levels are most likely to be lower than they should be.
So how do you know what the right amount of vitamin D should be? Well, the lab reference ranges on your blood test will be a bit misleading as they are more broad than they should be. Optimal vitamin D levels should be somewhere between 40-50 ng/mLs. If you are currently taking a vitamin D supplement and your lab results are higher than 50, it might be time to take a little break!
When it comes to vitamin D, our recommendation is to test before you take. Don’t just reach for the nearest vitamin D supplement and start taking it because you think you should. Let’s find out whether you even need it – and if so, then you can add it to your daily regime.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most common blood markers and for good reason. Different than vitamin D, vitamin B12 is water soluble and has a number of important jobs in the body including:
- Being needed for the creation of red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout the body
- Improving carbohydrate metabolism
- Maintaining nerve function
- Ensuring your DNA is healthy
- Maintaining optimal emotional and mental health
Because vitamin B12 is so important, your body stores a significant amount of it – several years’ worth in fact! The best and most useful source of vitamin B12 comes from food – animal protein to be specific. Yes, plants do contain some vitamin B12 but it’s not well absorbed which can lead to deficiency. The best way to ensure you have plenty of B12 is by including animal protein in your diet several times a week.
Sometimes, vitamin B12 can be elevated on a blood test. Because it’s a water-soluble nutrient, the body will flush out what it doesn’t need. But the bigger question is this: Where is all the vitamin B12 coming from? The most common reason is due to excess intake from health supplements. Because vitamin B12 is essential for life, many manufacturers will include it in their products and if you are taking several of them each containing a little bit of synthetic B12, it can accumulate in the bloodstream fairly quickly.
So, the answer is to stop taking the supplements for a bit and allow your body to clear the excess.
Take Charge of Your Health
Having your provider order a blood test as part of your annual physical is super important. However, the markers that are included are very basic and will not provide a comprehensive perspective of what’s happening inside your body. There are other essential blood markers that should be included if you are serious about getting to the root cause of your health concerns.
If you are ready to take a deeper look, we’d love to help. When you contact our office, we will provide more information about how to order a comprehensive blood panel and then, we’ll go over it with you, making sure you have the knowledge you need to take charge of your health and make the decisions that are right for you.
Here’s to your best health so you can live your best life!