Types of Lab Testing: Complete Blood Count

If you’ve ever been to the doctor for diagnostic work, the first place that he or she is likely to start is with a CBC, a Complete Blood Count.  While CBC doesn’t tell us everything, it is typically a reasonable starting place to look at the broad spectrum of what is happening inside of our bodies, ie: infection, cancer, and anemia.

Beyond that starting point, metabolic panels are also available to look at your heart, kidney, and liver function by measuring electrolyte, calcium, and blood glucose levels. For instance, if your doctor wants to check your heart function in terms of disease risk, they may order a lipoprotein panel to measure your HDL, LDL, and triglyceride levels. As a rule of thumb, age tends to make our bodies produce more cholesterol, so it’s important to check levels every 4-6 years (I recommend more often) to ensure that everything is still functioning well, even if our lifestyle choices have remained the same.

Ideally, our total cholesterol level should be less than 200 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter), our LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL, and HDL should be kept higher, at least 60 mg/DL, to be considered optimal.

While blood tests are great and necessary to identify certain aspects of our health, they can also be misleading; this is especially true when discussing hormones.  While CBC can measure what is circulating within our blood at that moment, it does not measure what our bodies have been able to utilize.  When I say utilize, I mean what has our body been able to extract from the blood and put into practice for our organs and nerves?  This is a crucial aspect of diagnosis and treatment; however, it is unfortunately often overlooked.

In tomorrow’s newsletter, we will discuss urine testing and how it relates to understanding what our body has actually done with the fuel we put into it and how efficiently it is operating.  Remember, your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

 

Lab Tests

We are back to scheduled programming this week, and as such, are back on track with the daily newsletters.  On yesterday’s show, we discussed the different types of lab tests that are used in diagnostic workups and broke down what each test assesses and why your doctor may select one over another.  If you weren’t able to tune in, check out a replay here: https://www.unityonlineradio.org/dr-evelyn-higgins-show/types-testing.

The most common types of lab tests are blood, saliva, and urine, and this week will be dedicated to giving you the tools to have an informed conversation the next time you visit your doctor for diagnostic work. More than likely, you’ve had what’s known as a CBC (Complete Blood Count), but is this the go to test to find out everything that’s going on in our bodies?  When is it time to look towards other types of testing to get a better sense of what’s happening inside of our greatest machines? Stay tuned for this week’s exciting series!

Remember, your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

Gluten Free 2:3

As we touched on yesterday, there is heavy marketing in the gluten-free product area, but why are we suddenly inundated with this rapid uptick in the health food industry?  My assumption is that this trend is like any other product: if people see it enough times, they buy in.

For those suffering from Celiac Disease, gluten in the smallest amount of 50 milligrams can trigger an autoimmune response that is debilitating. Individuals following a gluten-free diet means more than giving up things that we consider carbs such as pasta, pizza, beer, cereal, and traditional breads.  It also means slashing a variety of frozen veggies in sauces, soy sauce, and some vitamins/mineral supplements.  If you do not have Celiac Disease and have opted to avoid gluten because it has helped you lose weight or feel less bloated, keep in mind that you are likely losing an easy source of B Vitamins.  Often, our breads and cereals are fortified with folic acid as well as easy sources of dietary fiber.  If this is the case, it’s important to supplement your diet to ensure that you meet the recommend amount of both.

Yes, you’ll probably see initial weight loss by avoiding products with gluten, but it’s more likely that you’re seeing the weight loss because you’re cutting back on calorie heavy foods – nothing to do with the gluten.  You’re going to lose weight if you’re not drinking beer.  You’re going to lose weight if you’re not eating a full pizza.  Gluten doesn’t pile on sloppy weight in the way that advertising leads us to believe; quite the opposite actually.  Read the ingredients list the next time you pick up a gluten-free product.  Typically, they are heavy in sugar and fat which can lead to weight gain over time, and unless they’re fortified with fiber, you may experience digestive issues — two things that you were likely trying to avoid by starting the diet.

Just as with any nutrition profile you choose to follow, listen to your body.  If you find that avoiding certain foods makes you feel better, figure out what about that food is making you feel better or worse.  Do your research and pick what makes sense for your lifestyle to make this a sustainable way of eating for the long run.  Your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

 

Gluten Free 1:3

This week’s series is about a diet that’s gained momentum over the past 10 years: The Gluten-Free Diet.  We’ll discuss what the diet is, what it effects, and how you may or may not benefit by following the protocol.

Just as any other diet, it is important to not get lost in the advertising, marketing, or one size fits all approach.  Eating clean, whole foods is the ideal way to provide our bodies with the nourishment they require, however if you’re noticing a pattern when you eat certain foods or types, it’s important to listen to these ques and figure out why you’re experiencing symptoms.

The gluten-free diet was created to help individuals afflicted with Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder with which only 1% of the population has been diagnosed.  Granted, there may be people who go undiagnosed, however, it is interesting that there is so much marketing and so many gluten-free products for such a minute portion of the population. This week, we’ll talk about who may benefit from avoiding gluten if they suspect a sensitivity or allergy to the protein and why all gluten-free products are not created the same.

Your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

Vitamins Part 4 of 4

The last point that I want to leave you with for our vitamin series is optimizing our intake of each of the 13 essential vitamins through diet versus supplementing with pills/tinchers/tablets/capsules.  My standard line to patients is that they’re called supplements for a reason, ie: meant to be an additional means of consumption rather than the primary method.

Toxicity is possible for certain vitamins, especially the fat-soluble ones, and that becomes a reality when using supplements because it is easy to get concentrated amounts in a pill form rather than solely from food.  One of the most critical points when seeking out supplements, be it online or in the store, is to look for pharmaceutical grade supplements.  Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, there is no standard for how much of a vitamin is in the pill or the process by which it is made.  So that 99 cent vitamin C that you pick up from the drug store is 99 cents because it’s likely 99 percent filler and 1 percent vitamin C.  You’re actually doing your body a disservice in this regard because the kidneys and intestines are now working so much harder to filter out the fillers, chemicals, and any other unnecessary product to get that little bit of C.

There are specific companies that I have my patients order from because they are pharmaceutical grade, meaning that they hold themselves to the same standards that a product that is FDA regulated would be held to.  Another means of optimizing product usage is through testing.  I know that I’ve hammered this point all week, but I honestly cannot stress its importance enough.  Treating based on symptom description is archaic when we have the technology to test for exactly what levels of almost any vitamin, mineral, hormone, or neurotransmitter are in the body.

I’ll end on this note: if you’re going to supplement your diet, use only pharmaceutical grade products and if you’re experiencing symptoms that make you suspect depletion of one or more vitamin, get tested. Most of us can use get ourselves on track by considering what we’re eating and adding more or less in certain areas to get the recommended amount of a specific vitamins.  With the world we live in today, the soil is less rich than previous generations, so meeting the recommended amounts is more challenging, but it is still possible.  Treat your most incredible and intricate machine, your body, with care and feed it what it needs to thrive.  Remember, your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

Vitamins Part 3 of 4

I hope that yesterday’s newsletter wasn’t too overwhelming.  Every so often, I think it’s worth it to save articles that are very content heavy as a resource to refer back to rather than try to digest in one sitting.  It’s not like we’re studying for a test, we’re just broadening our knowledge!  The last four essential vitamins that I’ll discuss today are Vitamins C, D, E, and K.

Vitamin C (aka Ascorbic acid) is a water-soluble vitamin, and although deficiencies in the vitamin are rare, it is still possible to be suboptimal without necessarily being classified as deficient.  A few symptoms that may be a warning sign of low C are poor skin condition, unusual body hair and follicles, spoon-shaped nails with lines or red spots, easy bruising, weak bones, and slow healing wounds.  Once again, all of these symptoms can be attributed to something else which is why testing is paramount.  Foods high in C are fruits and vegetables, but bear in mind that cooking destroys the integrity of the vitamin, so raw is best in this case.

Vitamin D (aka Ergocalciferol) is an interesting vitamin because our body is able to produce it in our skin through exposure to sunlight.  This vitamin is important in a host of areas including heart, brain, and lung health, gluten tolerance, and mood.  Seasonal Affect Disorder can be linked to suboptimal levels of vitamin D because of our decreased exposure to the sun in specific months/seasons. Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, it is possible to become toxic if overconsumed without proper supplementation protocol.  Try fatty fish, eggs, beef, liver, and mushrooms to help boost your D levels when the sun isn’t an option.

Vitamin E (aka Tocopherols) is another fat-soluble vitamin that is very important in nerve conduction performance, heart health, wound healing, and overall slowing of the aging process.  If you’re deficient, there are a myriad of symptoms that you may experience from age spots, decreased sex drive, cataracts, leg cramps, to muscular weakness.  There are a few others, however they follow the same pattern of aging, so to slow this process it’s important to have an optimal level of E in our bodies.  Try kiwi, almond, avocado, nuts, leafy greens, and whole-grains to boost your intake through diet.

Vitamin K (aka Phylloquinone) is the last fat-soluble vitamin that we’ll discuss. This vitamin is divided into subsets, but for our purposes, we’ll consider it to be one main vitamin that impacts our bone, blood and heart health, along with the slowing of tumor growth (that last one is still undergoing studies).  Deficiency can lead to blood that is slow to clot or bleeding more easily than someone with optimal levels. Think leafy green vegies, parsley, kiwi, and avocado for strong sources of K.

Hats off for getting through these last two newsletters.  No doubt, they’ve been the most difficult reads, but I want to make sure that everyone has facts at their finger tips rather than just my interpretation of them.  Tomorrow we’ll get into supplementing our diet with tablets/tinchers/pills rather than simply consuming the recommend amount through our food, along with how to select supplements when shopping online or in the store.

Your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

 

Vitamins Part 2 of 4

One of the most common questions I get from my patients who undergo micronutrient testing with me is, “are vitamin capsules better than food?”  I’ll get into this topic towards the end of the week, but for now, it’s ideal to get a majority of your nutrients from food and that includes vitamins.

So in what foods are our 13 essential vitamins found?  In the following breakdown, I think you’ll see a theme.

Vitamin A (aka Retinol) is a fat-soluble vitamin and is important for sight.  If you’re deficient, you may experience night-blindness and keratomalacia, which is an eye disorder that causes your corneas to become dry.  Since it’s fat soluble, it can remain in your body for extended periods of time, meaning that is it possible for you to consume too much of it overtime at which point it becomes toxic.  Vitamin A toxicity can result in dizziness, nausea, liver damage, rash, joint pain, even coma and death.  Good sources of this vitamin can be found in liver, carrots, broccoli, sweet potato, spinach, pumpkin, apricot, milk, and collard greens.

Vitamin B (aka Thiamine) is water-soluble and is important for nerves and the brain to be able to function optimally.  Severe Vitamin B deficiency can result in Wernicke-Koraskoff syndrome and beriberi.  While WKS is typically the result of chronic alcohol abuse, Vitamin B is affected as the result of the abuse and therefore depletes the body of its use in other areas.  Like we talked about in the Brain Health series, the body has a minute number of vitamins and nutrients to use in literally every single body process, so having depleted levels will result in a suboptimal way depending on where your body chooses to use the amount it has.  Good sources of Vitamin B are kale, cauliflower, oranges, eggs, yeast, pork, sunflower seeds, brown rice, and grain rye.

Vitamin B2 (aka Riboflavin) is water-soluble and is involved mostly with energy production and aids our vision and skin health. Deficiency may cause ariboflavinosis which is a condition that’s marked by lesions in the corner of the mouth and lips as well as around the eyes and nose.  Foods that contain a good source of this vitamin are asparagus, bananas, persimmons, okra, cottage cheese, yogurt, fish, and green beans.

Vitamin B3 (aka Niacin) is water- soluble and is integral in a multitude of metabolic processes in the body including converting serotonin to melatonin which we discussed in the Insomnia series. Markers for a deficiency include diarrhea, dermatitis, and difficulty focusing.  Fortunately, this vitamin is found in a multitude of foods: liver, heart, chicken, tuna, salmon, avocados, dates, leafy greens, carrots, whole grains, mushroom, and sweet potatoes.

Vitamin B5 (aka Pantothenic acid) is water-soluble and is required for our bodies to breakdown carbs, proteins, fats, and alcohol in addition to creating red blood cells. Pantothenic acid deficiency is rare; however symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, insomnia, constipation, and vomiting.  Given this symptom presentation, it’s a great example as to why we should test for deficiencies rather than guess because so many of these symptoms can be attributed to a different deficiency rather than simply B5. Good sources are meats, whole grains, broccoli, avocados, and royal jelly.

Vitamin B6 (aka Pyridoxine) is water-soluble and is very important for blood and nervous system health.  A lack of B6 can cause damage to parts of the nervous system outside of the brain and spinal cord along with anemia.  Great sources of this vitamin are bananas, vegetables, nuts, and various meats.

Vitamin B7 (aka Biotin) is one that you may have heard about in the context of beauty enhancement products such as clear skin and full hair.  This is because Biotin is needed for a multitude of metabolic processes as well as healthy cholesterol levels.  Over and under consumption, just as in any vitamin, can have negative consequences such as poor skin pallor and texture, hair loss, muscle pain, fatigue, and depression.  Good sources of this vitamin are cauliflower, chicken, egg yoks, peanuts, and mushrooms.

Vitamin B9 (aka Folic acid) is critical in the formation of red cells which carry oxygen throughout the body.  B9 is also important for women who are pregnant or plan to become pregnant because it aids in the development of the fetal nervous system.  Just as all of the other B Vitamins, this too is water-soluble and can be found in leafy vegetables, liver, sunflower seeds, citrus fruits and liver.

Vitamin B12 (aka Cyanocobalamin) aids in nerve ells preservation, mental aptitude, and red blood cell formation.  Because B12 is most generally found in meats, milk, cheese, eggs, deficiencies are common in vegans and the elderly.  Symptoms of deficiency include depression, memory loss, lack of appetite, and fatigue.

For today, we’ll stop at the end of the B Vitamins as I recognize that it’s a lot of information to absorb at once.  I hope that you’ve seen how many symptoms can be attributed to multiple deficiencies which is why it is important to not self-diagnose.  If you’re experiencing fatigue, for example, that can be a result of a multitude of suboptimal levels from a multitude of causes.  The micro-nutrient testing that I use for my patients offers a panel that determines the value of over 30 micro-nutrients, so we are able to isolate deficiencies or toxicity rather than guessing based on symptom presentation.

Motto to live by when it comes to diagnosing: find the cause in order to find the solution. Your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

Vitamins Part 1 of 4

Remember when mom would tell us to eat our carrots so that we could have good eye sight?  Or how about when we were told to drink our orange juice so that we wouldn’t end up like pirates with scurvy?  Back then, most of us didn’t understand what mom was talking about, but now we know she was referring to foods that contained retinol and ascorbic acid, also known as Vitamins A and C, respectively.  This week, I want to discuss the different types of vitamins, the foods that contain them, conditions that result from vitamin deficiencies and toxicity, and the pros and cons of supplementation.

As of now, 13 vitamins have been discovered and those vitamins are divided into two groups: water soluble and fat soluble.  Water soluble vitamins are not able to be stored in the body for long periods of time as they’re excreted through the process of urination, and therefore must be replenished often.  On the contrary, fat soluble vitamins are stored in our fatty tissue and liver, and can stay there for days, even months in some cases.  Fat soluble vitamins require the help of fats to be absorbed in the intestinal tract; in this sense, fat should be viewed as a requirement for metabolism…like I always say, everything in moderation, fat included.

Tomorrow, I’ll go into detail about our 13 essential vitamins, why they’re important, and the foods that contain them.  Remember, your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

 

4/4 Hydration

Summer’s officially here and drinking enough water during these hot months is going to be more important than ever. Use some of the tips that I gave you in last night’s newsletter and apply them to your day.  At first, drinking 8+ glass a day may feel like a chore, but take it in incremental steps and commit to drinking the recommended amount for a full week.  In 7 days, I guarantee you’ll feel more energized, have more regular trips to the restroom, think clearer, and likely shed a few pounds.

Just like any habit, it takes time to make a routine something that we no longer think about – we just do it.  Make water that new habit and you’ll thank yourself later.  Remember, your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.

 

 

3/4 Hydration

Although drinking water is incredibly important, sometimes it can feel like a chore.  Drinking 8 glasses a day can seem daunting, however, that amount of wine can seem like an easy task when we put our minds to it!  So how can we make drinking water a more routine part of our day?  Below are some tips for getting our bodies adequately hydrated without breaking a sweat in the process.

One of the easiest ways to make water interesting and dynamic for the palate is to add fresh fruit, veggies, or herbs.  Try grapefruit, strawberries, lemon, lime, cucumber, ginger, celery, basil, mint, or lavender to give the water a bit of a lively taste. Just imagine, if you did 1 of those each day, you’d have a different flavored drink for more than every day of the week minus the calories and chemicals of a soda!

Another way to increase your water intake is to drink before an activity.  Take using the restroom or sitting down to eat for example.  After using the restroom, drink a glass of water.  Think of it as replacing what you’ve lost and get that extra 8 ounces in!  Even before you sit down to eat a meal, drink a full glass of water before your plate arrives.  One of my personal favorites is to order a glass of water regardless of what I chose to drink for the evening, be it a cocktail or a soft drink.  Having the water at the table is a mindless way to drink what is readily available!

If you’re in the mood for a sugary drink, try watering it down.  A juice, lemonade, or iced tea can be “cut” with water to make it less sugar laden and caffeinated by adding water.  Odds are, you won’t even notice that it’s got less sugar than what you’re used to.

Here’s a personal favorite: keep a jug of water on stand by. If it’s there, I drink it, even if it’s just out of convenience and habit.  Like I said yesterday, by the time we’re thirsty, we’re already dehydrated.  Keeping a jug near by allows us to drink when we see it, even if we’re not thirsty yet.  If it helps, get a marker, and draw on the jug.  Put tick marks every 30 minutes from the time you wake up until the time you go to sleep.  Draw a tick mark so that you know how much to drink by what time of day.  That’s a simple way to hold yourself accountable and get through the day in incremental steps so that it doesn’t feel like a monumental task.

Last but not least, it’s summer and we’re likely to attend a few summer time parties where alcohol is available and flowing readily.  Stick to a one-to-one rule: for every drink you have, match that with a water.

I hope these tips are helpful in finding new ways to stay hydrated!  Remember, your heart is the greatest healer of your life.  And your soul is the heart of your life.  Let’s start living, folks.  Today starts now.  Until we meet again, this is Dr. Higgins saying, good bye.