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

TMI 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.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. I too have had chronic symptoms that have complicated causes. I look forward to hearing your results!

  2. Thanks for posting this, while my regular doctor was all for me going Paleo(yes I know that’s rare) and he did a full blood work up prior to me starting. I think I may need to find a ND in the NYC area to do a screening like yours.

  3. So you got all these tests through a naturopath? I have been unhealthy for years since having children and no doctor seems to help much :(

  4. I sought out a Naturopathic Doctor several months ago and haven’t been back to my traditional doctor since! She is amazing! I had struggled for almost a year with a condition that my regular doctor kept saying he would have to do a major surgery to get rid of. Through supplementation and the paleo diet my symptoms are almost completely resolved. If you need help locating a Naturopathic Doctor try http://www.naturopathic.org. Good Luck!

    1. julianne – Thanks for the suggestion. I read those blog posts and they’re incredibly informative. I basically only eat bananas, strawberries, and bacon off of that list, but I’ll definitely give it some consideration. I’m actually seeing a lot of improvement so far with the supplements I’m taking (update to come), so I’ll keep going with his protocol for now and reassess in a couple of months. Thanks again!

  5. Any suggestions for similar testing for those of us who can’t afford $1500 worth of blood work, stool samples and doctor’s visits? Is there anything we can/should look for in blood work done through our traditional physicians? (I ask for a full panel pretty much every year I have a check-up because of family history of diabetes, heart disease, hypothyroidism and my own personal problems with iron absorption and fat digestion thanks to having gluten sensitivity and no galbladder).

    1. Hi Amy – Some naturopaths don’t require you to do all of that testing. You could just do some of those tests that are pertinent to your situation to cut down on costs. Yes, there are certainly things to look for in blood work you get from your normal doctor and I’ve been trained to analyze that data. It’s not something I can really describe in a comment, though :) If you want to talk about it more, just email me at neely@paleoplan.com

  6. science-y comment. Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase is referring to the product of a gene, in this case a protein that acts as an enzyme, not the gene itself. The gene itself is called the MTHFR gene. Everyone has this gene. But there can be variations and/or mutations in this gene which results in changes to the protein which effect the enzyme activity, which is what you have. Gets confusing, I know. Just an FYI though.

    1. CTA – Thanks for the clarification. My main focus on that gene was just that my doc called it the Motherf#%ker gene :)

  7. In your list of symptoms at the top of the page, you wrote that you experienced “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).”

    However, in the body of your post, I don’t think you mentioned discussing this topic with your new doctor.

    These symptoms sound similar to some of the hallmarks of “optic neuritis”, which in young or middle-aged women often is the first sign of multiple sclerosis (like in 75% of optic neuritis cases in women under 45 in the US, or a high % like that).

    Usually (but not in all cases), most of the perceivable vision *impairment* caused by optic neuritis clears up on its own (without any treatment) after a couple weeks or possibly up to about 12 or so months, but there is often irreversible damage done to the optic nerve, and optic neuritis can occur again later to the other eye, and to the same eye as well.

    Because optic neuritis is often a person’s first indicator that they may have multiple sclerosis, and sometimes steroid treatment is done for MS before many symptoms show up, if you have not had an opthalmic exam of your optic nerves in the last few years, you may want to get one. If your optic nerve does show signs of having gone through an episode of optic neuritis, usually the opthalmologist will send you to a neurologist to get an MRI scan done, to check the brain for other signs of early multiple sclerosis.

    I am dealing with this worrying issue right now, so that’s why I picked up on your vision disturbances.

    If you are sure that your symptoms were only due to migraines, and you have an eye exam at least once every two years, then just ignore this. :-)

    1. Adonna – Thanks for your concern. I did have MRIs done for the flashing in my eye because they thought it was MS. No signs of MS. I did have an exam by an ophthalmologist as well, and a migraine specialist, a neurologist, and family practitioners. Nobody had any answers for me and could not give me a diagnosis, which is why I turned to diet to solve my problems. I did talk to my new doc about it, and it has improved since I started with him. A lot actually :)

      Again, thanks for your concern. I hope you get your situation resolved.

  8. I wish you would have posted the results of all the different treatments after several months had gone by. Perhaps you can update us? I’d like to know if you recovered. You don’t mention that….

  9. Hi Neely, thanks for the post. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for health care providers that could do the same in the Los Angeles area. Thanks !

  10. I have been quite a strict paleon since March 2013 since being diagnoised with gluten and dairy intolerance, so now its a full twelve months. I am a personal trainer, who only 7 years ago was very fat and unhealthy.
    I have also taken a tablespoon of coconut oil everyday for this duration as there is much research on it for improving memory and i at the time was 38 and mine was terrible, so much so my mum was going to get me assessed.
    In a matter of 2 weeks my memory improved and i now do not take a shopping list as i can remember it.
    One older adult in one of my weekly classes told me my Cholesterol would be sky high if i keep taking coconut oil and eating the way i do, so off i went to my GP and had a blood test.
    Results are in, Iron perfect, thyroid perfect, B12 perfect, Vitamin D perfect, folate perfect, Cholesterol, LDL reading so low she had never seen them that low and HDL so high she has never seen them so high.
    My GP told me i am a perfect specimen and keep doing what i am doing.
    So anyone out there considering paleo, do it you will never regret it.

  11. Interesting that what prompted you to go to an ND was the persistent diarrhea, and the lab results showed you were really high (too high) in iodine thanks to your zealous supplementation! A couple of months ago, I suspected my low energy and inability to lose weight might be from low thyroid (I’m a 48 yo female) and so after my own ‘research’ I began to supplement my body with iodine by applying it to my skin every day. Within a week, I noticed I was getting diarrhea and had not changed my eating habits. I looked up the symptoms of ‘iodine overdose’ and sure enough, diarrhea is a symptom. So I stopped the iodine skin application and the diarrhea went away. Since I want to know what my thyroid levels are doing, I too ‘bit the bullet’ last month and decided to go to a ND for the first time. She ordered a battery of lab tests (amounting to about $1000), but I was able to get half of the tests done for ‘free’ from my regular health insurance (western doctor – just don’t tell them you’re working with a ND!). I’m still in the process of getting the other tests done, but was encouraged to read your story!

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