So you’ve finally decided to get your shit together. You have it all figured out!
You have ditched the junk food. You are getting your 8 hours of shut-eye. Not to mention, you are hitting your training HARD! At first, things are going well. Your pants are fitting a little looser but soon you start to plateau and it seems like no matter what you do, you can’t lose anymore fat.
Maybe you’re a decent athlete already but every few days you suffer from gas, bloating and spend more time on the toilet than you’d care to admit.
Maybe you’re a lady Power Athlete and every month you seem to suffer from headaches and fatigue.
If any of these scenarios sound familiar, then it’s possible your diet and training aren’t the only thing that needs your attention. For many people, years of poor health decisions, sleep-deprivation, and a sedentary lifestyle can’t be completely reversed without a little extra help.
On the flip side, many athletes who have been pushing their bodies to the limit for too many years are also finding themselves on the wrong side of the health continuum. And while their spray-tanned abs and chiseled physiques may make it seem like they’ve really got their shit together, under the surface they can be just as sick and unhealthy. So how do we discover if there really is something holding you back besides diet, exercise and lifestyle? Bloodwork and testing.
When I see new patients, we run a number of different tests depending on the patient’s symptoms. For most people that walk through our door, there’s pretty standard list of things we like to look at to gain the best insight on how everything’s running under the hood!
Complete Blood Count (CBC) and Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CMP):
The CBC and CMP are probably the most basic tests that all practitioners run to assess your overall health. The CBC looks at things like the health of your red blood cells and white blood cells which can indicate how well the body is carrying oxygen around your system (red blood cells) and how your immune system is functioning (white blood cells). The CMP looks at things like liver health, kidney health, fluids and electrolytes.
This test is a specialized cholesterol panel and blood sugar test run by a company called Spectracell Laboratories. Cholesterol tests are pretty standard but unfortunately most practitioners are not looking deep enough when they test cholesterol. Total Cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and Triglycerides only tell part of the story when it comes to cholesterol health. The Spectracell Cardiometabolic panel also looks at cholesterol particle sizes which are even more correlated to heart disease as well as specialized tests like C-Reactive Protein (CRP) which looks at inflammation, Lpa which looks at genetic propensity to blood clotting, and homocysteine which is another inflammatory marker and can give you insight into your body’s ability to detoxify. Along with all these vascular health markers, the Cardiometabolic provides in-depth blood glucose numbers such as Insulin, Hemoglobin A1C, and fasting blood glucose.
The Spectracell micronutrient test assesses your nutritional deficiencies and breaks them down into categories like B-Vitamins, Amino Acids and Metabolites, Minerals, Antioxidants and Fatty Acids. This test is incredibly useful and can help you determine not only what types of foods you might be missing in your daily meals but also allows us to personalize a supplement regimen based on what you actually need not just what you think you need.
For thyroid tests, I’d recommend the basic tests including Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), Free T4 and Free T3. This will give you a good idea of how well your thyroid is functioning but you should also definitely look at two markers to determine if you have any auto-immune thyroid issues. These tests include Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO Antibodies) and Thyroglobulin Antibodies.
More and more research is emerging linking gut health to everything from immune system regulation to mental health. Stool testing is one of the best ways to analyze what’s actually going on in your digestive system. At our office we use the Diagnostic Solutions GI-MAP which utilizes DNA to identify gut flora, parasites, pathogens and inflammatory markers. This is probably one of the coolest and most relevant tests out there that you’ve never done! I would also recommend this test for anybody suffering from neurological symptoms like anxiety or depression.
Cyrex Food Allergy Testing:
Array #3 and Array #4
Food sensitivity testing can get very expensive and sometimes I think are not warranted. Cyrex labs does a few really good tests though. The Array #3 tests you for gluten sensitivity and looks at over 10 different aspects of gluten intolerance. The Array #4 tests you against common cross-reactive foods for gluten such as rice, corn, potato, dairy, and others. Many patients who have gone gluten-free but are eating gluten free grains are still having some reactivity and they are not sure why. This test allows us to see what else they might be eating that is causing issues.
Hormones should generally be one of the last things that you look at because your hormone status is so highly influenced by other factors like diet and lifestyle. There are a fair number of patients that I’ve seen that are adamant that their problems will all go away if they just get hormone replacement but unfortunately that is just not true. You have to get all the other pieces in place first. When it is time to address somebody’s hormones we like to utilize both blood and saliva tests. For anybody that is considering hormone replacement therapy, a saliva test must be performed, as you cannot properly dose hormones utilizing blood alone. For some patient’s we even run a urine hormone test to determine the patient’s ability to detoxify excess hormones especially if they are female with a family history of breast cancer.
The most important thing with any type of advanced testing is to find a knowledgeable practitioner who can guide you and help you make the best testing choices for your symptoms. So take note Power Athletes and figure out if advanced testing is something that you should look into to help empower your performance.
Former collegiate volleyball player and 7 year competitive CrossFitter. 6x CF regional qualifier and 1x CF Games qualifier. Began coaching CrossFit in 2009 while working towards a Bachelor's in Nursing. Studied functional medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging in 2013 with specific emphasis on nutrition and hormone regulation. Continues to blend love of coaching and wellness as Head Trainer and Co-Owner of CrossFit Katy and Functional Nutritionist at Specialty Healthcare and Wellness in Houston, TX.
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