In these series of articles, I will discuss the importance of blood workup interpretation from a functional medicine point of view. We will take a look at the optimum range of various biomarkers and and contrast them with the normal levels as presented by the various laboratories such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics. It is my intention to inform the reader on the importance of keeping her/his blood chemistry within optimum levels through lifestyle considerations including nutrition, exercise and stress management. But first, some background.
Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis Part I
Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis Part II
Lab workup is the most used tool in medicine as a gateway assessment of the function of our organs including the heart, kidneys, liver, digestive, endocrine, hormonal, and cardiovascular systems and much more. More than thirteen billion tests (13,000,000,000) are performed each year in America at around 250,000 labs.1https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/what-everyone-should-know-about-lab-tests/
Laboratory tests results are generally used by physicians as an additional tool which when interpreted in light of the patient’s health history, chief complaints, age, gender, family history, vital signs, etc., can guide to a working diagnosis, or to further testing. Results also guide a treatment plan and follow ups are used to monitor treatment progress.
There are several types of lab workup including blood, urine, saliva, sputum, semen, feces, hair, tissue biopsies, and other bodily fluids that can be collected for testing. In this article I will focus on blood samples and later we’ll take a look at urine and saliva.
The Life Of The Flesh Is In The Blood2https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Leviticus-17-11/
Human life is inseparable from the presence of blood. It is said that “The blood is the life”.3https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Deuteronomy-12-23/ The ancient Chinese saw blood as the “Mother of Qi” – “Qi”, here, meaning function, information, vital force. It is also said that Qi is the commander of the blood. In other words, blood needs the propelling function of the heart Qi to circulate; the cleansing function of kidney Qi to detoxify; the metabolic functions of the liver Qi for glucose and the proteins blood transports, and the health of bone marrow where fresh blood is made in a 120 day cycle. Of equal importance is the absorption of nutrients from the digestive system and the removal of metabolic waste through the function of lung Qi.
The health and quality of the blood is intertwined with the health and function of the organs it supplies. It becomes clear, then, why maintaining the smooth flow of blood is of the highest consideration for physicians of Chinese medicine and of all medical traditions – for blood stasis is at the root of illness and primary cause for premature aging.4https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780443101854/blood-stasis
It is not wonder, then, that as physicians we find the need to take a closer look at the blood – the river of life. Blood analysis opens a window into the cells that make up the tissues of our organs. For some tests just a drop is all that is necessary, and for an extended workup anywhere between 3 and 10 milliliters, an equivalent of 1 to 3 teaspoons. Not very much when you consider the average human contains about 5000 milliliters of blood or 9 to 12 pints.5https://www.healthline.com/health/how-much-blood-in-human-body
What’s in the Blood?
The main components that make up the blood are plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Most of the blood is made up of plasma which accounts to around 55% of the total blood volume. Plasma itself is around 90-92% water and its in the plasma where we find proteins, salts, sugars, enzymes, hormones and fat particles. Suspended in this plasma are the red blood cells that transport oxygen to the tissues. White blood cells ready to protect the body from infections, and platelets that can prevent blood loss.6https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2263/
In part II of these series, we’ll take a closer look at the elements of blood and set the stage upon which we’ll see the role each component plays in the script we call life.