Archive for the ‘accurate blood tests’ Category

Still Full of Ideas

‘Tis the season to draw blood. Yes, you read that right get your blood drawn but for less. If you are not aware of it, Life Extension Foundation (recommended by Suzanne Somers) is having their yearly sale on blood tests until June 6th. You have to join Life Extension for $75 and you will feel compelled to wade through their monthly magazine that I find to be mostly an advertisement for their multitude of supplements that they claim extend your life.

However there is a reward. Once a year they mark their blood panels down. These blood panels are very complete and a doctor’s order is not required. You do need to locate a LabCorp in your area for your blood draw but the price and scope of various panels is hard to beat. The knowledge you glean from your results is priceless.

This week I purchased the Female Weight Loss Panel for the sale price of $224.25. I was pleasantly surprised when the requisition form arrived in my email as on the site you are left feeling the requisition form will be mailed to you by no less than “snail mail”. I quickly printed off the order for the phlebotomist at the lab and headed off to the nearest LabCorp about 30 miles from my house. It is, fortunately for me,  near my daughter’s house and an opportunity to hold the sweetest baby.

It is not often one brags about a phlebotomist but the technicians at the LabCorp in Edina, MN are fantastic. I have never once been hurt by them. They are professional and very good at what they are trained to do, drawing your blood from a vein in to a portal that empties in to vial. Not only are the techs good the facility is clean and LabCorp does most drug testing for big companies in the Twin Cities. This is not a dank, dark lab hidden deep down some disreputable street it is an office on the 6th floor of the Fairview Professional Building next to one of the larger hospitals in the Twin Cities. The first time I went I was most fortunate that my daughter had just had her drug test for a new job, so she knew precisely where LabCorp was and told me it was totally professional. It put my mind to rest and now I can help you, LabCorp is a reputable company and most online labs use them for the blood draws.

I had my blood drawn on Monday morning at 8:00 and was on my way by 8:05. My test results were in my “inbox” on Thursday evening not weeks later as they would be if your doctor’s office orders the tests. I got home late Thursday night and questioned the intelligence of opening the results before I went to bed but decided no one was home and if I was up late there would be no repercussions.

I don’t know if you face test results with the same trepidation. Basically, I want to know but I don’t want to know, so test results are always a source of stress for me. This may come down to what I wrote about last week, that sort of base pessimism that I have, or just some bad memories of doctors looking at my results and saying “you will have a heart attack if you don’t lower your cholesterol”. I have since learned that cholesterol has very little predictive powers when it comes to your heart but it doesn’t stop those words from ringing in my head when looking at blood test results.

I will not bore you with too many numbers. I can tell you there were some pleasant surprises like my low CRP result and my uric acid reading was also very good. Disappointingly my sex hormones were still almost non-existent and I have increased the amount of almost all my bio-identical hormones. My FT3 was too low but my SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin) was high indicating a good saturation level of T3 in my tissues. The high SHBG is the reason my hormone levels are so low and I will have to do my research to rectify that as it is binding all my sex hormones and not letting my body utilize them.

For my thyroid friends my TSH was suppressed at .034 but it should be on T3-only and my FT4 was negligible at .03, again perfectly normal with T3 only and indicative of having my RT3 under control. My low FT3 was 3.2 and should be closer to 6 when I am taking T3 only as there is no T4 to turn in to T3, so I will have to increase my T3 but not until my adrenals can take the load. I feel confident that I am no longer pooling any FT3 but my issue is that higher levels of T3 cause sleeplessness and exaggerated heart palps. My iron was good at 107, so my intolerance is not due to anemia.

Speaking of cholesterol as I was earlier I was unhappy about my increased LDL numbers as that has always been low but my ratio was still acceptable. My bilirubin numbers were slightly elevated and while I would like them lower they have been elevated for several years. Two puzzlers were high hemoglobin and high hematocrit. I could very well have been dehydrated and that will raise the level of both. I need to peruse Lab Tests Online to see what I can learn about elevated hemoglobin and hematocrit.

I feel like this has been a big week and for once blood test results have made me feel like I am full of ideas on how to improve the numbers I don’t like. In the past test results have seemed more like a harbinger of bad things to come and ideas on how to improve things have been out weighed by the negative news from my doctor. There is nothing like fear and trepidation to paralyze a person and when inertia sets in nothing gets done and Big Pharma becomes the victor. This time I am in charge of my health and I am ready for the challenge.

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What Flute Are You Following?

You know the story of the Pied Piper, right? It struck me in talking to my friend this week that many of us follow our doctor’s advice like they are Pied Pipers. They say something, we follow it like some magical flute leading us along a wrong way path, often because we are given no choice in the matter.

I have talked to far too many people who, when they question a doctor’s diagnosis or ask about something their doctor said (or didn’t say), are put on the spot with some inane question like “I suppose you read that online” accompanied by a look that puts you in your place. For those folks, I thought I would share my friend’s recent experience. As usual I will most likely make a short story long but bear with me.

My friend, who shall remain nameless for privacy sake, receives medical care from, in my words, a functional medicine physician (or integrative is another term for the same type of medical practice) for Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. Functional medicine physicians as defined by me are MDs who ask more questions, incorporate all walks of medicine in their practice and generally think outside the box. I think they are far superior to the poor overworked GP who has been told by their practice managers that they have no more than 15 minutes per patient and sometimes, it has been noted, never take their hand off the doorknob. This is an important detail because she is being treated, let’s just say for the ease of it, in a rather elite fashion.

My friend and I have weekly discussions about health because we are both avid researchers and honestly, we are willing to experiment with alternative medical treatments. For example, I met my friend when I owned a FIR sauna business. She came in for FIR sauna treatments to help diminish her fibromyalgia pain. She was experimenting to see if the sauna would really help (To her doctor’s credit she had suggested the FIR sauna).

To exemplify my willingness to try alternative medical care, two years ago I bought a Mercola Sunsplash Renew because Joe Mercola claimed it could maintain healthy D levels with no supplementation. I felt having good D levels was of primary importance to the healthy functioning of a human body. I think this is another important detail because both my friend and I try to think outside the proverbial “box”.

We also try various treatment plans our doctors suggest and we try out things we have researched and then we spend time testing these things and discussing them. We have often discussed thyroid disease as that is my primary interest and my friend would tell me about symptoms she thought were typical of hypothyroidism. Practitioners like Dr. John Lowe feel that there is a connection between Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism, so I asked her long ago in one discussion if she had ever had a complete thyroid panel. In my opinion, everyone who has some symptoms should have a complete thyroid panel and if your doctor won’t test it then do it yourself.

At the time she told me “No, my doctor has only run a TSH. She always says I am fine.” Really? REALLY? My friend is cold all the time, she suffers from constipation, she can’t sleep, she has unremitting pain and rather more subjectively she feels her hair is falling out. What more do you need before you as a doctor run a complete thyroid panel?

On and on these discussions went and this year when she saw her integrative medical doctor for her yearly appointment my friend requested a complete thyroid panel be done. I will list below the thyroid tests plus the other tests that Janie Bowthorpe recommends to diagnose hypothyroidism properly:

      1-TSH – this lab is only for diagnosis of hypopituitary NOT to diagnose or dose your hypothyroidism
      2-Free T4 and Free T3 (note the word “free”–important since it measures what is unbound and available.)
      3-Reverse T3–to be done at the same time you do the Free T3. Then calculate your ratio with the results.
      4-Thyroid Antibodies (anti-TPO and TgAb. YOU NEED BOTH.)
      5-Ferritin and % Saturation, TIBC and serum iron (all iron related labs)
      6-Adrenal- Cortisol levels (make sure it is done with saliva tests, not the one time blood test your doctor will do.)
      7-B-12 and Folate
      8-RBC Magnesium and Potassium (rather than serum), plus Calcium, Sodium, Glucose (part of Metabolic panel, though you’ll need RBC for above)
      9-Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D lab test)

My friend had tested many of these things prior to this year’s appointment, so she only requested the thyroid tests and guess what, just guess? She has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, her FT3 was a little low and her FT4 was a little high and she had a RT3 ratio of 12 and it should be at least 20. She has hypothyroidism and a RT3 issue and no one, not even the best doctor in our area, had ever checked this out and it would have been so simple. If she hadn’t been diligent, irritatingly persistent and had a doctor willing to indulge her requests she would never have known that her thyroid needs attention.

Of course, now the question is where does she go with her new found knowledge. It is a serous question to ponder. She does not want to self treat, so she is researching the “good thyroid” docs in our area and finding there aren’t very many, sadly she isn’t sure there are any, and this is the “progressive” state of Minnesota. She could go to her integrative medicine doctor but she was already told by that doctor that she knew nothing of reading a thyroid panel like the one my friend requested. I would suggest my functional medicine guy but he totally overlooked my RT3 ratio and when my TSH was suppressed by Armour he immediately lowered my dose which was unnecessary (when on NDT your TSH should be suppressed) , so I hardly want to refer someone to him.

It is a conundrum we all will face eventually. The best thing for all of us would be a revamping of our medical education and elimination of insurance driven medical practices but neither of those will ever happen (I feel government control is no better than insurance companies). We can take things in to our own hands as much as possible as Joe Mercola advocates with his “take control of your health”. Dr. Teitelbaum at End Fatigue had an interesting article on what to do if given a “serious diagnosis” but knowing the right thing for you when things go wrong is difficult at best.

There are many things that can go wrong with the human body. In this case, I think it comes down to the “thyroid madness” that Janie Bowthorpe refers to on her site and in her book “Stop the Thyroid Madness”. No one, not even elite doctors take the issue seriously and we patients have to stop following like lemmings and think for ourselves, do our research and be our own best advocate. If my friend weren’t her own best advocate she would still be in the dark about a treatable condition. I see this as a serious dereliction of duty on the part of medical doctors who have promised to “do no harm”. It is happening too often to too many people out there with hypothyroid symptoms. They are quite literally being led astray by a magical flute played by a medical school graduate referred to respectfully as Doctor. Never mind the last name is Pied Piper.

Testing, Testing

Wow what a week this has been. You will never guess what I did, go ahead try. Nope not that, it was even more fun. Okay, okay you give, right?  It was another blood test. Ugh! There is little I like less than fasting and this one involved fasting salt for 24 hours, getting up at a certain time and having the test within two hours of arising and sitting upright for the two hours plus making sure you are upright for the test (not that you would even be tempted to lie down). Can you guess what test it was? I have blogged about this test before (*Alto*sterone). Okay that was a give away, it was aldosterone and renin plus electrolytes.

I finally decided to do the test because there are some lingering thyroid issues that not only shouldn’t be lingering they should be gone, make that GONE. I cannot seem to take more than 75 mcg of Cynomel (T3) without experiencing hyperthyroid symptoms and this simply is not normal especially as I have a FT3 of 6 these days. Not that I have ever been normal but in this case I guess it really is unacceptable to not be. I always feel “normal” is hard to define but when you are still experiencing heart palpitations it becomes unacceptable.

Last Tuesday I started the 24 hours of salt fasting which seems easy enough but my life without salt is less than perfect and the diet is just plain bland. Breakfast was unsalted, cooked quinoa with some dried fruit which wasn’t bad. Lunch was bland and consisted of unsalted nuts. I managed to resist any homemade goodies that would contain the forbidden crystals of sodium, magnesium, and other trace minerals otherwise known as unrefined, unprocessed grey sea salt.

Supper, hmm, supper was a challenge as I spent the day considering what wouldn’t taste too bad without my precious Celtic sea salt. I came up with a brilliant idea, or so I thought. Fish pie. I thawed some mahi-mahi, boiled some plain, cut up potatoes, thawed some spinach and chopped up onion. As I assembled the pie I added some fresh basil and freshly ground pepper. I had visions of a Jamie Oliver Fantastic Fish Pie but instead without that sheen of fabulous salt and tasty butter it tasted a bit like overcooked frozen fish with soggy potatoes on top. We ate it but neither of us swooned or asked for more.

For my bedtime snack I added filtered water to chia seed and let it sit for an hour. This concoction actually makes a jelly of sorts and has become a favorite of mine because chia, according to Dr. Oz, is full of tryptophan and will help you sleep. At this point chia seed jelly or not, sleep is what I did and I slept well.

On Wednesday I even slept in a bit getting up around 6 in the morning. I needed to be up two hours for my test, so this was perfect. I left home right at the peak of rush hour in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and proceeded to drive through both cities to the Edina LabCorp. Let me just say that I have a lot of admiration for the folks who do this every working day of their lives. It would literally drive me to distraction.

I arrived at the Edina Labcorp site 15 minutes before 8 took the elevator to the 6th floor and anxiously waited outside the office door staring at a sign that said “Do not stand in hallway. Either enter the office or return to the lobby” I could feel the security cameras on my back and nervously waited for the voice to come out of nowhere telling me to “move on, clear the hallway” but thankfully it never came.

At 8 o’clock sharp a friendly face appeared in the until now dark waiting room and I heard the magic clink of an unlocking deadbolt. I was the only person waiting and thus the first person through the door and in to the operatory of a very personable phlebotomist named Debbie who as it turns out drives across the Twin Cities 5 days a week and hates it. I was in that room by 2 minutes after 8, perfect timing for my aldosterone and renin to correlate at 120 minutes after arising. Debbie drew two tubes of blood rather painlessly, bandaged my slight needle prick and sent me on my way. Before I knew it I was back in rush hour traffic but going east instead of west this time.

My results are back already (I highly recommend Econolabs), heck my electrolytes  were back on Thursday before noon 24 hours later. My aldosterone/renin magically appeared on Saturday and all is well, darn it. It was a good thing to eliminate from the pile of culprits that can keep your T3 receptors from making the most of your T3 but there aren’t too many factors left to consider and I still have the unexplained heart palpitations. Now I get to do an iron panel and a T4. Let me tell you how excited I am about doing further blood tests but at least I won’t have to drive across town in the crazy rush hour that some call driving to work and best of all there will be no fasting.

To your good health,

Kris