Ever wonder what those lab numbers mean when you get those blood tests back and all you know is that little "H" or "L" means something "bad"? You're not quite sure what, but just that something isn't right. Or, you feel off, but your numbers all look "normal"?
Pathogenic lab values vs. functional values
I don't know that anyone likes the sting of the poke when we get blood tests run at the doctor's office. However, we do like the knowledge, insight, and assurance that seeing those little numbers can all bring. These assessments can be influential in the course of our treatment as well as be indicators of nutritional status, deficiencies, metabolic imbalances, and how the body is handling stress.
What most people do not know, however, is that there really are two standards to apply to analyze these lab results.
Pathogenic lab values are the common ranges applied to lab tests whose purpose is to identify/rule out disease, progress, or risk of disease. They let you know if there is immediate or impending acute risk.
Functional values are the ranges that are less frequently observed. They are the values that indicate optimal vitality, or functional capability.
Both are wonderful tools and each appropriate to the practitioners that use them. In our world of natural medicine, and specifically for the strategies in my clinic, our goal is vitality structuring and support to achieve optimal balance and functioning.
Just because lab values are "normal" does not mean they are "functional". This is why many can ask, "If my blood tests are normal, why do I still have symptoms?" And it's okay if they are! That puts it in our boat and our realm of helping to create an environment of vitality structuring (supporting life and lively creation of healthy cells).
Blood tests are commonly utilized to determine cardiovascular risk and status of lipids and metabolic processes.
How the body metabolizes food, utilizes insulin to balance and regulate the amount of sugar in the blood, and the required effort upon the liver are all important factors in the outcome of cardio health. It all starts and stops with how this metabolism is functioning. Poor management that leads to increased insulin usage, disruption of blood glucose can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance impacts every metabolic process right down to every tiny cell, and organs like the pancreas, liver, and heart.
This impacts outcomes like Type II diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, elevated sodium, and even elevates sympathetic activity in the nervous system.
Conventional lab values place these numbers as biomarkers for health or indication of risk:
LDL cholesterol <100 mg/dL with 160-190 being high
HDL cholesterol <40 is undesirable with equal to or >60 being ideal
Total cholesterol <200 mg/dL is desirable with equal to or > 240 is considered high
Functional lab values are slightly different for cardio health:
LDL is considered optimal at <120mg/dL
HDL is considered optimal at >55mg/dL
with Total cholesterol being between 150-200mg/dL
What those numbers add up to:
Here's why they look at them: Some potentials that low cholesterol can point towards include oxidative stress, liver dysfunction, insufficient fat intake, thyroid hyperfunction, adrenal hyperfunction, digestive dysfunction. High cholesterol numbers can give guidance on the potential development of fatty liver, insulin resistance, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and endocrine dysfunction. 
Of course, we can't diagnose but it is helpful to know that these numbers are not just taken at point value, but combined with other indicators and biomarkers for a whole outlook.
Diet plays a large role in determining the outcome of events when it comes to cardio health and the relationship between metabolism and its impact on your cardiovascular system. Taking charge of diet before there is a need is optimal, and honing your diet during a need is incredibly impactful. We teach balance and function in a functional diet.
Interestingly, more and more research is being conducted on the influence an individual's genetic makeup has on the outcome of cardio metabolic disease. For example, those that have a genetic variant on the gene APOA could need to include different kinds of fat in comparison to those that do not have the variant in order to optimally function the body as well as reduce the risk for cardiometabolic disease. Genetic testing is making its mark as to how we can truly individualize optimal nutrition.
What does this mean for our work with autoimmune or chronic illness?
Our questions surround what influences and causative factors are there for influencing the manifestion of autoimmune disease? What role does metabolism play other than poor digestion and absorption of nutrients? Are there genetic variant commonalities that end in expression of autoimmune across the scope of those diagnosed?
It is an exciting time as there is much to explore and connect to continue to find puzzle pieces for the big picture of resolution.
Vitality structuring/support tips in this area:
* Pay attention to your next lab values and compare them to functional values.
* Make focused diet a priority. Don't accept simply the status quo of eating what's available on the shelves. Like our lab values, just because this is "normal" does not mean it is "optimal". Looking back over time when did processed foods become the norm anyway? Compare these time frames to trends in health and you're likely to see a correlation.
* Make eating something you do for your body's benefit, not just because it tastes good.
Things to do next:
* create a food and symptom diary so you can compare what you eat to how your body feels. This will help you become in tune to your body and how it's functioning off of what you are fueling it with.
* Learn our Food Fx program, which is a blueprint of balance across the food options. It's easy to learn at home and at your own pace when you purchase the course.
* Work with us! It's nice to partner with a team that has your whole being in mind. Learn about your own genome and biomarkers. Check out our website at anmcholistichealth.com or message us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're always happy to hear from you!
* Did you know we have a program just for those trying to improve cardio health, weight rebalancing, and blood sugar? Love My Body is a step by step strategy to improve function and overall optimal health through mastery of skills and an education lifestyle approach. Call 320-630-5799 to find out more or get started!
Other resources you might like:
Is the mediterranean diet right for you? "The Mediterranean Marvel: Why This Diet is Top of the Food Chain"
Let's talk about FAT: "The Most Talked About Nutrient of 2021 and What the Guidelines Have to Say"
1 Ross, K. Presented: Assessment of Cardiovascular Function. Presented as part of Masters of Clinical Nutrition program at SCNM, Viewed July 22, 2021: Canvas online.
2 Functional lab values. (n.d.). Dr J Supplements. https://drjsupplements.com/functional-lab-values.aspx
3 Garcia-Bailo, B. Presented: Lipid Metabolism. Presented as part of Masters of Clinical Nutrition program at SCNM, Viewed July 22, 2021: Canvas online.
4 Pagana, Kathleen D., and Timothy J. Pagana. Mosby's Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests. Maryland Heights: Mosby, 2017.
5 Ross, K. Presented: Assessment of Insulin Dysregulation. Presented as part of Masters of Clinical Nutrition program at SCNM, Viewed July 23, 2021: Canvas online.