A guide to accurate, individualized blood test analysis for improving personal health and avoiding disease
• Explains the differences between conventional lab reference ranges for blood tests and functional analysis and why the difference is important to your health
• Reveals what healthy blood should look like and the critical markers that signal the very beginnings of a health problem, including thyroid dysfunction and inflammation
• Provides recommendations for bringing blood markers back to an optimal healthy range through diet and supplementation
Your blood holds the clues you need to maintain vibrant health. Yet a standard blood lab panel--the most widely used diagnostic tool in Western medicine--may not reveal subclinical imbalances or the earliest beginnings of disease. Your lab work results may come back “normal,” even though you have lingering symptoms of allergies, pain, headaches, fatigue, inflammation, depression, food cravings, PMS, or gas and bloating. This is because the reference ranges, to which you are being compared, are gathered from sources such as textbooks, averages based on outdated guess-work, or a small number of people who aren’t even well. You could be a tenth of a point away from a disease pattern, but diagnostic protocol won’t sound the alarm until you are “lab high” on a particular test.
In Know Your Blood, Know Your Health, Kristin Grayce McGary explains the benefits of a Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis (FBCA), which looks at far more markers than standard blood tests and interprets your results against healthy ranges. Using real-life stories and examples, the author explains the basics of healthy blood and how a functional blood test provides a baseline for personal health and a powerful tool for disease prevention. You will learn what is meant by a standard Complete Blood Count (CBC), find clues to strengthen your immune system, and discover which markers indicate inflammation. McGary details what different reference ranges mean and highlights the importance of a full thyroid panel for women. She reveals how health issues such as insulin resistance, high cholesterol, and anemia have specific patterns in blood chemistry. She also provides recommendations for bringing markers back to an optimal healthy range through diet and supplementation and offers a road map to using your unique blood chemistry to design a customized healthcare plan to optimize your health.
Most of the time in a blood test, everything comes back “normal.” This means that according to the reference ranges listed on your lab, you fall into what is considered a “normal” or “average” range, which is supposed to indicate health. More often than not, your primary care doctor has their front desk person leave you a message that everything looked fine, or you may just have the results show up on your online portal, with no further discussion, explanation, or recommendations unless you have a severe disease that has revealed itself through “lab high” markers.
When I was in my 20s, I became sick. I had severe pain and back spasms, with migraines, gas, and bloating. I felt like I had razor blades in my gut, along with balance issues, extreme fatigue, and weight gain. I went from doctor to doctor looking for answers, just like many of my patients. Doctors were unable to find a physical problem and sent me to a psychologist. Then the therapist redirected me back to my physician. I knew there was something wrong, but a standard blood test showed “nothing unusual.”
Blood chemistry or serum lab tests are the most widely used type of assessment in Western medicine. But without proper assessment, interpretation, and communication between the doctor and the patient, you’re missing out on valuable information. In addition, the test uses outdated standards and inaccurate measurements of health. In contrast, functional blood chemistry analysis (FBCA) can provide a much more comprehensive outlook of your health.
The FBCA is an important tool of evaluation used in functional medicine. In 1991, Susan and Jeffrey Bland, M.D., coined the term “functional medicine” with the creation of the Institute of Functional Medicine. Their vision was to move away from generalized protocols and pharmaceutical-based medicine to a more comprehensive, patient-centered approach. Their goal was to reverse the epidemic of chronic illness overtaking America.
Their belief was that when a doctor took the time to understand the relationship between patients and their genetics, nutrition, environmental exposures, lifestyle choices, and relationships, they could create individualized treatment plans much more effective at preventing chronic diseases as well as addressing both the symptoms and underlying root causes of chronic illness. Functional healthcare can better identify the origins of pathophysiology through evaluating the fundamental causes, leading to earlier and more effective interventions.
What is FBCA?
Functional blood chemistry analysis is vastly different from conventional lab work. First, the conventional blood chemistry analysis compiles its “normal” ranges from outdated textbooks, lab packet inserts, or worse, a small group of patients, most of whom are moderately ill. This means that when your results fall within “normal” ranges, you’re really just average among a group of already sick people. How can this possibly demonstrate anything about their wellness? Their interpretation of what is statistically “normal” seems more like “Dysfunctional Blood Chemistry Analysis!”
By contrast, FBCA uses data from healthy, functional people to create its “normal” ranges. Functionally normal ranges are much narrower than their conventional counterparts. When a patient’s levels fall within functionally normal ranges, you can be much more confident about the health of that blood component. When a patient’s levels fall outside functional ranges but within conventional ranges, this is one clue there might be an imbalance. While you might not be exhibiting symptoms of a disease yet, you might be developing disease patterns that conventional medicine would most likely ignore until it’s too late and you are diagnosed with a full-blown disease. Understanding your levels on a functional range can have a huge impact on your health outcomes.
For example, I’ve had patients present many symptoms of sub-clinical thyroid disorders, yet their standard blood work, approximately 3 tests, comes back with statistically “normal” results. Conducting a test with a full thyroid panel (10 markers), digging a little deeper, helps me find the imbalances and assist that patient to find their individual balance point.
One example I like to share is of a patient who was 50 years old, a mother of two, and a fitness professional. She was relatively healthy, or so she thought. She had symptoms of joint pain and swelling that she couldn’t resolve and sometimes impacted her work. She had digestive issues that left her feeling bloated with bouts of constipation along with sinus congestion and allergies. She had strong food cravings for sugar and carbohydrates and often complained of poor memory or foggy thinking. And she was very tired, dependent on caffeine and sugar to get through the day. She was currently taking thyroid medication, Synthroid, but had never had a full thyroid lab done, only the traditional TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), Free T3, and Free T4.
That is only 3 out of 10 tests I wanted to see. We agreed on a comprehensive panel. The results I received were quite eye-opening. She had many markers of impaired absorption and I was very suspicious of her having Celiac disease or Non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This would explain many of her symptoms of digestive challenges and joint pain and swelling as well. She also had very high--Western medical lab high--levels of thyroid antibodies, indicating she had undiagnosed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, likely for many years. No doctor had ever tested a full thyroid panel so antibodies were never even considered. We also discovered she wasn’t converting her T4 hormone into T3 very well. This hormone conversion takes place in 3 places: the gut, the liver, and peripheral tissues. I was suspicious of gut issues because of other lab findings, her symptoms, and because she had high thyroid antibodies.
Gut repair was in order as well as modulating or balancing her immune system. When she stopped eating gluten and dairy her sinus issue vanished, her joints stopped hurting, and the swelling subsided. I helped her wean off sugar, working with underlying addiction patterns that covered up her emotions as well as stabilizing her blood sugar. Her energy returned and her brain fog lifted.
Kristin Grayce McGary, L.Ac., M.Ac., CFMP, CST-T, CLP, is an internationally recognized authority on autoimmunity, functional blood chemistry analysis, the thyroid, and gut health. A health and lifestyle teacher and author of Holistic Keto for Gut Health, she divides her time between Boulder, Colorado, and Costa Rica.
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