Does this sound familiar?
Often when individuals seek me out for naturopathic support, I will ask them if they brought any past or recent blood test results with them into the clinic.
As I look through their results, there is usually a dialogue involving words such as:
“My doctor ran a whole panel of tests and they all came back normal!”
“The doctor says I’m as healthy as a horse according to my blood test!”
People are being told there is nothing wrong with them, yet they are still feeling unwell.
Many of us aren’t health experts. So it can be hard to understand that just because our results sit within the ‘healthy’ ranges, doesn’t actually mean they are healthy.
So why not? Well, that’s what I’m here to explain!
1. Reference ranges do not reflect OPTIMAL HEALTH.
Firstly: What is “optimal health“?
WHO (World Health Organisation) define optimal health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Laboratories produce their own reference ranges, and so will vary between each lab. Averages of the population that get blood tests done are calculated, which is what gives us ‘reference ranges’.
If you think about it – a majority of these people getting tests done are doing so because they are not healthy!
So what sort of average may this reflect? Most likely, not one of optimal health!
2. It is important to look at blood test results in the context of the individual.
We cannot simply look at one blood test result in isolation and decide whether an individual is in good health or not.
It is best to consider all other aspects, such as health history, family history, presenting symptoms and other relevant blood test results.
3. Test results typically reflect just one moment in time.
There are many factors that can alter your blood test results and give us an inaccurate representation of your health.
Let’s say your GP has ordered you to get a liver function test.
You come in on a Monday morning to get your blood taken. On the previous Saturday night, you had a best friend’s birthday/wedding/etc. and may have had a few too many drinks…
This is not the time to get a blood test!
Drinking large amounts of alcohol in a 24-hour period will result in short-term fatty liver and could cause our liver enzymes to sky-rocket temporarily – but this doesn’t mean you should be immediately diagnosed with fatty liver disease or sent for a liver ultrasound to investigate further.
This may not be the best way to get an indication of your overall state of health and it’s important to consider this.
4. Looking at one test in isolation is not usually helpful
When your GP suspects cholesterol might be an issue for you, will they just order a test for total cholesterol?
Well… possibly! But most likely, they will also test your HDL and LDL cholesterol (‘good’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol). Maybe even your triglycerides and homocysteine, if you’re lucky. These all give a much better representation of what is going and whether intervention is necessary.
For example, if your total cholesterol comes back on the high end, but HDL, LDL and triglycerides are still within range, we can usually assume your cholesterol levels aren’t an issue.
So what can you do to get a result that better represents your health as a whole?
Most tests covered by Medicare are seeking to find a disease or pathology, and will not identify signs of ’sub-optimal’ health.
The ideal way to get an idea of a person’s health is a combination of thorough personal and family history, physical examinations, naturopathic screening tools along with related tests to accompany these. This will be done if you see a qualified naturopath, nutritionist or other holistic practitioner.
Depending on your unique complaints and symptoms, further investigations may be required. This could include functional pathology testing to get a better understanding of what might be behind your symptoms.
When should functional pathology testing be done?
Functional pathology testing is not always the first and only option I will use in my clinic. Usually enough information can be gathered without the need for functional pathology testing. It can also become very expensive. However, it can give some extremely important information and help guide the treatment a bit more specifically to provide faster outcomes.
There are various functional pathology tests that can be done to reflect how your body is functioning. Which tests should be performed will depend on your symptoms and overall information received during a consultation. Some commonly ordered functional pathology tests in my clinic include a full thyroid profile, salivary female or adrenal hormones, and CSA (comprehensive stool analysis).
Have you had all your test results come back normal from your GP? Do you still feel like something’s not quite right? It might be time to see someone to explore further for you using natural and holistic methods.
Contact Melissa to organise a no-obligation chat or to book a consultation.