NATURAL MEDICINE: Veins of Truth

By on May 3, 2016

Understanding your results from the Health Fair blood draw will help you take control of your health.

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JACKSON HOLE, WY – Every spring, St. John’s Hospital runs their annual Heath Fair blood draw, which is a great way to keep track of your health.

These tests evaluate lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides), basic chemistry panel, TSH and Vitamin D. On May 7, you can have your results interpreted with a health care professional at the Health Fair.

Having blood drawn is unpleasant for some, but the benefits of tolerating it are substantial. Your blood work is a key aspect of your health/disease picture and it’s always a learning experience to review your results with your physician. Below, I will cover some alternative treatment options to change your lab results with vitamins herbs, diet and exercise.

Cholesterol

Your cholesterol results will be expressed by your HDL and LDL levels. HDL is often called “good cholesterol.” In naturopathic medical school, we learned that if this was too high you may be revved up and stressed out. LDL is “bad” cholesterol and is thought to have a greater impact on coronary artery disease. You can lower your cholesterol by up to 20 percent if you simply stop eating animal products or foods known to be high in cholesterol like liver, red meat, eggs, shrimp, cheese and processed foods with trans fats.

Another excellent way to lower cholesterol is to work on your liver by taking supplements that support detoxification. For example, herbs like milk thistle and turmeric, or amino acids like cysteine and methionine support detoxing. You should also decrease alcohol and eliminate high fructose corn syrup, which is as detrimental to your liver as alcohol.

Eating a diet full of colored vegetables is great for lowering cholesterol. A good goal is to make vegetables half of your lunch and dinner plate. The more bitter ones are particularly good for your liver. If you shop the Farmers Market in the summer, or buy a farm share from one of the local organic farms, you’ll notice the greens have far more of the good bitter flavor that makes your liver happy.

If your HDL/LDL levels are high, or you have a family history of heart disease, you should consider a more comprehensive test for cholesterol, such as the VAP.

The supplement Red Yeast Rice has a similar mechanism of action as a statin and can lower cholesterol; both should always be taken with coenzyme Q10.

Triglycerides

If you are eating too much sugar and too little fiber, you will likely see elevated triglyceride levels. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Sources of soluble fiber are psyllium husk (like Metamucil), flax seeds, apple pectin and oat bran. Insoluble fiber is found in vegetables, beans and whole grains. Both fibers are needed for health, but soluble fiber is the one most people don’t get in adequate quantity. Start by eating an organic apple every day or sprinkling flax seeds on your cereal.

Glucose

If your glucose is high, you may want to follow up with a hemoglobin A1c test. The glucose is just a snapshot and will be higher if you didn’t fast before your blood test. The HbA1c provides a three-month value which can indicate a blood sugar/diabetic problem. For a diabetic, eating foods with a low glycemic index is essential but changing your response to sugar is treating the cause. This can be done by changing our cell membranes through the consumption of more omega 3 oils in fish and flax seeds, and less saturated fats found in meats.  Taking a fish oil supplement is a sure way to get enough.

AST and ALT

Increases in these levels indicate your liver cells are dying, possibly due to hepatitis, or more often, toxic exposure. In my practice, alcohol and environmental toxins are common causes. Medications, exposure to Roundup, or oil paint have been some of the causes of the increase. High AST/ALT levels require removal of the toxin, and starting a program of treating your liver naturally. You should also take the additional step and quit alcohol.

TSH

If you are above the reference range you are probably feeling tired. Most people feel best if their TSH is lower than 2. In my practice, thyroid and adrenal conditions are the most common causes of fatigue. To encourage your thyroid to have optimal function, your treatment program needs to give it the substrates necessary for normal function: tyrosine, B6 and iodine found in food and supplements. Yoga will also help your thyroid—the shoulder stand and fish pose will increase blood flow to the gland. If your TSH is above the reference range, tests like the Free T3, Free T4, thyroglobulin antibody, thyroid peroxidase antibody, and reverse T3 can all be good next steps.

Vitamin D

The levels for a healthy adult should be ≥50 nmol/L (≥20 ng/mL). If it is lower, the easiest way to raise your Vitamin D is to take a supplement. I usually recommend 2,000 mg/day. The most natural way is to sit in the sun. You can make 40,000 mg in an hour… just don’t burn yourself.

Spring is a great time to check in with your body. The Heath Fair blood draw is the perfect way to plan your goals for a healthier new life of exercise and a better diet. PJH

A 16-year Jackson resident, Monique Lai, ND, is an alternative health expert with a family practice where she works with patients to restore their health. She obtained her doctorate in naturopathic medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1996. Monique enjoys working with a variety of health challenges, particularly autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, digestive disorders, menopause and diabetes. For more info, visit drmoniquelai.com.

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