When Paleo Doesn’t Cut It: My $1500 Lab Test Results


photo-55-300x225.jpgTMI alert! This post is about my body and its functions, so if you’re not into that kind of thing, stop reading now. But since we all have bodily functions, and many of us are on the same diet, and many of us are still having symptoms and seeking answers, I thought I’d share my illuminating recent findings from the $1500 worth of testing I just had done with my naturopathic doctor.

Why I Did The Tests
In my last couple posts (here and here) about iodine, I told you all that I’ve been having some serious breast tenderness. That’s not the only reason I went to my naturopath; that was actually an afterthought. I went because I started having diarrhea in April of this year and it hasn’t totally stopped, even now.

I spent the summer in a cycle between diarrhea and fatigue for a week, then no diarrhea for a couple days, then back to the diarrhea. I thought I had giardia because my first trip to Rifle, CO, where I do my dishes in the river, was in April and it started shortly after that. There are definitely cows pooping in that river so you can bet there’s giardia in there, too. You may be wondering why it took me until August to go to my doctor about this. My mom asked me the same question. Well, I was busy with wedding stuff and climbing and I neglected myself. It happens.

I didn’t want to go to a normal Western doctor because I knew if they found a parasite in me they’d put me on some toxic pharmaceutical that would give me chalky poops for the next 3 years. I wanted a more… holistic approach than that. My naturopath wouldn’t work with me unless I did a large battery of tests, though. After a lot of contemplation, I decided I’d take the plunge and not only figure out why I had diarrhea, but also why I’ve had:

  • terribly painful and heavy periods my whole womanly life
  • occasional debilitating headaches
  • flashing lights in my eyes and two ocular migraines this year (I went mostly blind in my left eye for 6 weeks because of the flashing about 10 years ago)
  • morning fatigue that has led to some noticeable puffiness under my eyes lately
  • occasional acne outbreaks (that have gotten WAY better since going Paleo)
  • occasional eczema (also better now)
  • tendency toward depression
  • joint pain
  • my two week bouts with gigantic, sore boobs every month lately
  • and we’re planning on having a kid sometime in the next few years, so I wanted to make sure my hormones were lining up for that.

The Tests 
The tests he ran on me were the following:

LabCorp Tests (blood draw)

  • Usual blood markers – fasting glucose, white blood cells, iron, cholesterol, etc.
  • Female hormone panel
  • IBD panel that tested for Crohn’s, etc.
  • Mononucleosis
  • Immunoglobulins – to see if my immune system was over or underactive
  • Tests for auto-antibodies for lupus, rheumatoid, Hashimotos and some other autoimmune disorders
  • DHEA test to check my adrenal health status
  • Full thyroid panel
  • Test for histamine – indicative of inflammation in general plus sleep, ability to handle stimulation, allergies, libido and sexual function, etc.
  • Several individual nutrients like zinc, magnesium, copper, and iodine

Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. Tests (blood draw)

  • Cholesterol and cardiac inflammation stuff, including:
  • Lipids – LDL, HDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides
  • Lipoprotein particles and apolipoproteins – more heart health molecules of all sizes (small dense LDL, Apo B etc.)
  • Inflammation oxidation and homocystein – markers of cardiac inflammation or oxidation (the real indicator of heart disease risk)
  • Myocardial stress – detects heart stress and damage
  • Genetic markers for specific diseases and malfunctions
  • HbA1c – average blood sugar over last 3 months
  • Omega 3/Omega 6/other fatty acids content in red blood cells – inflammation

Metametrix Tests for Gastrointestinal Function (poop test)

  • Bacteria (good and bad)
  • Yeast
  • Parasites
  • Short chain fatty acid content – colon health
  • Inflammation markers – IBD markers
  • Immunology – immune reactions to bacteria, yeast or other microbes and gluten sensitivity and stress markers
  • Fat malabsorption – to see if you’re digesting fat properly

Direct healthcare Access II Inc Test (urine test)

  • Checks to see if you pee out too much of your vitamin B6 and/or zinc

Are your eyes glazed over yet? Not me.

The results of these tests constituted the most exciting 2-hour conversation I’ve had in a long time. Yes, it was expensive, but it was well worth it. I’ll briefly lay out the results and subsequent protocol here. Now, as a caveat, everyone is different. If you’re having symptoms of your own, you shouldn’t just go willy nilly taking supplements or pharmaceuticals. Testing like this will tell you what is wrong with YOU, and then put you on a track to getting it fixed. I’m just sharing my results so you can see what might be possible for you if you go to an awesome ND like I did.

The Results
Ok, here we go. First of all, I can’t tell you how many times my ND sang the praises of Paleo. He’s a Paleo advocate himself, but he just couldn’t believe how good a lot of my results were, and how much I’ve improved over the years. The good news is:

The Good

  • My blood sugar, white blood cells, and heart health markers were fantastic.
  • I had no inflammation to speak of in my cardiac parts.
  • The female hormone panel was pretty normal, much to my surprise.
  • My immune system is working pretty darn well.
  • No autoimmune stuff going on.
  • No bad bacteria or yeast in my gut.
  • My zinc, magnesium, iron, and copper are all pretty good.
  • I’m not peeing out too much zinc or B6.

The Not So Good

Motherfu$ker Gene
I have a gene called Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR), also known as the motherfu*&er gene :), which inhibits my ability to turn folate from food into the active form of folate. Since methyl folate helps clear estrogen and keeps colon cells healthy, having this gene is correlated with having colon and breast cancer. I also have a ton of breast cancer in my family, so this wasn’t surprising. The good news is that I just need to take methylated folate for the rest of my life! This little gene may be causing my bad periods, PMS symptoms, my breast tenderness, and who knows what else. He told me that some people think more clearly when they have this gene and they take methylfolate. We’ll see. I’m hopeful, though, and I’m taking it religiously.

Vitamin D and Omega 3’s
Vitamin D is low, as are my omega 3’s. I have to supplement them. I’ll probably supplement vitamin D forever, since I live in Colorado and get little exposure to the sun at the proper times. (We climbers tend to seek out shady caves to climb in when we’re outside…).

I’m not digesting fats well, which may be one reason my omega 3’s and D are low. I’m supposed to take an enzyme with all of my meals for a while.

Here was one of the most interesting parts of the conversation. I wrote about iodine recently, and in those writings I wondered if iodine was the cause of some of my stuff. I talked to my ND and he told me to stop supplementing. Well, I kept putting the iodine on my skin, and had been for about a week or more at the time when I was tested for iodine in my blood. Turns out my iodine was TOO HIGH! It was at 161.7 ug/L and it’s supposed to be between 40 and 92. So pretty high. Needless to say, I won’t be supplementing iodine anymore. I’m glad I didn’t take it orally. This is part of the reason I wrote this post at all is because I want people to know that it’s dangerous to supplement willy nilly. I haven’t ever been a big supplement taker because I never really know what I NEED to take. Now I know, and you should too before you go buying out the supplement section at Whole Foods.

My thyroid has been improving over the last 4 years since going Paleo. However, I may have messed it all up with my iodine supplementation. My stimulating hormone (TSH) jumped from 2.3 6 months ago to 6.83! Very alarming for me and pretty disappointing. I don’t know what else would have done that, since my TSH has never been higher than like 3.2. What that means is that I’m hypothyroid. My other thyroid markers were fine by conventional standards, but by his more functional standards they were off, pointing to hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue. I’m taking a thyroid support supplement that contains nutrients and some glandulars (actual thyroid hormones from a cow).

My DHEA was low, which means my adrenal glands aren’t producing enough of the stuff. It affects female reproductive hormones, strength, memory, and cardiac health. I’m taking an adrenal support supplement that contains herbs and nutrients to help heal the adrenals and coax them into making more DHEA. The thyroid and adrenals are very strongly linked, so by helping one I’ll be helping the other.

My histamine was high, which might be contributing to joint inflammation and depression. I’m taking a glutathione support supplement and the methylfolate supplement will help with this, too. Glutathione is the major antioxidant in the body and helps to decrease histamine.

That’s it. Ha! That’s it? That’s a lot, but I’m so excited to have possibly found some answers to these lifelong issues. I hope this helps you understand what a highly skilled naturopath might be able to do for you, and how complicated the root of symptoms sometimes can be. I’m diligently taking my supplements and I’ll report back in about a month to tell you if it’s working.