What your blood work is telling you
Blood work is an important aspect of proper patient care and case management. I order blood work for most of my patients, as it’s important to see what’s going on “under the hood!” I also use blood work results to create a baseline for treatment goals and tracking health outcomes. Often when patients get their results, it is hard to understand what it all means and going to the Google machine can make it even worse! Here is a general breakdown of some of the most common lab tests, and how to decode your lab report:
Complete blood count – This analyzes the counts of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets in your blood, as well as the concentration of hemoglobin. Red blood cells are assessed by size, volume and height, and flags in this category usually relate to deficiencies in iron, B12, folate and hemoglobin. The white blood cells can indicate if the system is fighting infection (when theyare high) and when the system is depleted (when they are low).
Ferritin – Ferritin is a blood protein that contains iron and is the most reliable indicator of your iron stores. The range is quite wide and anemia is considered if the values are less than 10 mcg/L (but I like to see patients over 50 mcg/L to be considered non-symptomatic of iron deficiency). In addition, this test is an indicator of conditions with heightened iron absorption and potentially liver disease.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone – This hormone is sent from the pituitary gland to the thyroid gland to trigger the release of Thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) to the rest of the body to control metabolism. This is a tricky value to read into as high levels indicate a low functioning thyroid gland and low levels indicate an over functioning thyroid gland. In practice, I see more hypothyroidism (high TSH) which presents as fatigue, weight gain, skin and hair changes and lethargy.
Fasting Blood Glucose and HbA1C – This test measures the amount of sugar in your blood and your predisposition to Diabetes (Type 2). You want both of these measures to be under 6, but I start preventative treatment with my patients at levels around 5.4. It is important to intervene before the numbers get above 5.4 as positive changes can often be accomplished with diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications.
C Reactive Protein – This blood protein measures inflammation in the body. Ideal values are meant to be under 5 mg/L. Anything above that indicates active inflammation. I see this value elevated with auto-immune diseases, active infections, arthritis and gut imbalances.
Be sure to review your bloodwork with a registered health professional (ie: someone that has a governing body for their license and went to school to be able to truly dig into what it all means). Many alternative health folks are doing great things out there but aren’t qualified or registered to diagnose pathologies or give advice on bloodwork.
Have a great rest of the summer!
Kate Hunter is a naturopathic doctor and owner of The Creemore Apothecary.