Blood Testing

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CHICAGO NUTRITION TESTING:

A Critical Step In Assessing Your Overall Health


After your exam, we may recommend some blood tests to get more information on your health status and body systems.

Detect Small Problems Before They Become a Major Crisis or Get to the Underlying Cause of Your Symptoms

The Chicago nutrition testing that is ordered is a critical step in assessing your overall health. Generally, we will be using these tests to diagnose or rule out a condition, or screen for some mild underlying conditions that may not yet be showing symptoms other than in your blood. These results can be used to provide you expert nutrition counseling that empowers you to manage and improve your health on a daily basis.

Detecting small problems before they become a major crises is one of the best and easiest ways to manage and maintain your health – not to mention save you loads of money. Consider how much less expensive it is to deal with it a medical concern when it’s small than if you wait until it develops into an overwhelming medical condition. That's the value of Chicago nutrition testing which is then followed up with individualized nutrition counseling by an expert Chicago nutritionist.

The Functional Medicine Approach

Most importantly, however, because we are Chicago nutrition experts, we view the the whole person as a holistic entity with all of its many facets and components fully interconnected, we therefore believe it’s vital for total health and wellness to get a regular view of the entire body and all its systems together and interpret testing using "Healthy Ranges".

How Do We Know It Works?

We re-test to measure your progress and make sure you are on track to get results.  A re-test may be done in a few weeks or months depending on each individuals situation.  Then once your blood values are stable, we recommend comprehensive annual examinations, including any relevant testing, for all our patients to keep you on track.

The Essential Health Solutions Basic Nutrition Profile

Below is a list of general blood tests we at Essential Health Solutions nutrition counseling experts may use to determine your health status. This list is not comprehensive. After your exam, and review of your health history, fewer or more tests may be recommended and will be reviewed with you before proceeding. To read more about a test, you may click on it and be brought directly to that section.

 

An important point about this list:

In instances where recommended levels of various substances tested are mentioned, it must be kept in mind that these are general guidelines and do not take into account the many factors – like diet, lifestyle, weight, age, and genetics that influence an individual’s personal healthy and unhealthy levels.

 
Glucose – This test measures how much glucose you have in your blood. Glucose levels that are either too high or too low can be problematic.
 
Glucose is the primary form of energy that your body produces from the carbohydrates you eat. When glucose levels get too high, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin to lower them. When the pancreas fails to produce enough (or any) insulin, glucose levels elevate. As such, a glucose test is often used to check for and monitor treatment of diabetes. Excessively high glucose levels over time can also cause damage to the blood vessels, kidneys, nerves, and eyes.
 
Abnormally low glucose level (or hypoglycemia), on the other hand, can be associated with malnutrition (including that from anorexia or bulemia), lowered thyroid function (hypothyroidism), liver disease, kidney failure, Addison’s disease, a pituitary tumor, or diabetes medication.
 
There are several types of glucose testing:
  • 2-hour Postprandial Blood Sugar – measured precisely 2 hours following a meal;
  • Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS) – measured after fasting for at least 8 hours;
  • Random Blood Sugar (RBS or a Casual Blood Glucose Test) – measured regardless of how long ago you last ate;
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Which glucose test or tests the doctor orders for you depends primarily on what he is looking for.
 
Hemoglobin A1c – This test is used to diagnose and monitor treatment of Types I and II Diabetes or detect the possibility of pre-diabetes, by looking at how much (or little) sugar is coating your hemoglobin, or the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. The more sugar on your hemoglobin, the poorer your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. Therefore the risk of developing one of these two types of diabetes, or developing complications from them is much greater.
 
You may also hear this test referred to as a Glycated Hemoglobin, Glycosylated Hemoglobin, and HbA1c test. It's benefit over daily self-testing is that it shows your average blood sugar level over the past 2 or 3 months instead of merely at one particular point in time.
 
For monitoring purposes the test is typically taken twice to four times per year, depending on the type of diabetes and the patient’s progress in keeping their blood sugar levels under control.
 
Uric Acid – This test measures the amount of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid is produced as a natural byproduct of the breaking down of food and the body’s cells.
 
Typically the kidneys filter the uric acid out of the blood and release it in the bodily wastes (mostly the urine).
 
When uric acid builds up in the blood it can lead to the formation of solid crystals in the joints which in turn causes the painful condition commonly known as gout. Excessive uric acid in the blood can also lead to kidney stones and kidney failure.
 
BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) – This test measures nitrogen in your blood, but only the nitrogen coming from urea (the waste product the liver makes when protein is broken down, and which passes through body in urine). Since it is the kidney’s job to remove that urea from the blood, the BUN test is used as an indicator of how well the kidneys are functioning.
 
As creatine is also a common indicator of kidney function, a BUN test and a Creatine test are often recommended together. This allows the doctor to examine a patient’s BUN-creatine ratio which can also be used to help diagnose certain problems.
 
Sodium – Both a mineral and an electrolyte, sodium helps regulate the body’s balance of water and electrolytes. To function properly, the nerves and muscles depend on there being the proper amount of sodium in the body.
 
Around 85% of the body’s sodium can be found in the blood and lymph fluid.
 
Excessive sodium in the diet can elevate blood pressure, and in cases of patient’s with high blood pressure can exacerbate risk of heart disease, kidney damage, and stroke, and lead to heart failure. Low sodium levels are rare and are generally the result of taking diuretic medications or heavy sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Sodium levels and potassium levels often fluctuate in reaction to one another, with one going up when another goes down.
 
Potassium – Like sodium, potassium is both a mineral and an electrolyte that helps maintain water-electrolyte balance and is integral to proper nerve and muscle function.
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Potassium levels in the body can be affected by the amount of dietary potassium consumed, the blood’s pH, the kidney function, certain hormone levels, certain medications, and certain cancer treatments.
 
Symptoms and conditions that may be the result of excessive or insufficient potassium in the blood include muscle weakness, muscle cramps, frequent urination, dehydration, diarrhea, nausea, low blood pressure, irritability, confusion, heart arhythmia, and paralysis.
 
Chloride – One of the body’s most important electrolytes in that it helps the body maintain a proper balance of fluids inside and outside the cells as well as helps the fluids in the body to maintain their proper pH, blood pressure, and blood volume.
 
Chloride can be tested in skin sweat (primarily used for diagnosing cystic fibrosis) and urine, though the blood test is more informative.
 
A chloride test is often done at the same time as tests for potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate.
 
Magnesium – Magnesium is a vital mineral for several reasons: it is integral in the process of building and repairing bones, teeth, and protein; it is necessary for proper nerve and muscle function; and it helps to fight infection.
 
Calcium – One of the body’s most prevalent and vital minerals, calcium helps build and repair bones, clot blood, and is integral to proper nerve, muscle, and heart function.
 
Most of the body’s calcium is stored in the bones, but that which is not ends up in the blood. Typically calcium levels in the bones and blood are carefully regulated, with one providing the extra calcium to the other when needed to restore balance.
The body’s calcium levels can be affected by diet, how much calcium and vitamin D your intestines actually absorbs, and by certain hormones like estrogen and the parathyroid hormone. Phosphate levels also affect calcium levels in a reverse manner so that when one is low, the other is high.
 
High calcium levels could be involved with weakness and fatigue, poor appetite, nausea, constipation, vomiting, frequent urination, pain in the belly or bones.
 
Low calcium levels could be involved with muscle cramps, twitching, muscle spasms, tingling sensations around the mouth and fingers, confusion, and depression.
 
Low calcium levels can be caused by low albumin levels in the blood (albumin being one of the two primary types of protein in the blood), since around one-half the calcium in blood is attached to albumin. Therefore the doctor may also recommend a Calcium/Albumin Ratio test in order to distinguish levels of calcium attached to albumin from ionized calcium levels.
 
Other tests the doctor may recommend with a Calcium test are Chloride, Phosphates, Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy, and blood tests related to parathyroid hormone levels and function.
 
Calcium/Albumin Ratio – As mentioned above involving the Calcium test, half of all the blood’s calcium is attached to albumin (one of the two majority types of protein in the blood). Calculating the Calcium/Albumin ratio reveals how much of a calcium deficiency is free calcium in the blood (or “ionized calcium”) and how much is attached to albumin.
 
Phosphorus – The body requires the mineral phosphorus to build and repair teeth and bones, as well as to help make nerves and muscles function properly.
 
Total Protein – There are two basic groups of proteins in the blood (albumin and globulin) and this test measures the total level of both of these groups combined, or all the protein in the blood.
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Albumin – One of the two main groups of proteins in the blood (the other being Globulin), Albumin serves several important purposes: it helps to keep blood from leaking through the blood vessels; it is necessary for tissue growth and regeneration; and it carries many medications through the bloodstream.
 
It is made primarily in the liver, and so can be a key marker of liver health and function. It can also provide insight into kidney health and function as well.
 
As the ratio of albumin levels to globulin levels in the blood is as important for proper health as each of these individual readings alone, albumin levels will often be measured in combination with globulin levels to determine the albumin/globulin ratio. Albumin levels may also be measured as part of a Total Protein test.
 
Globulin – Globulin proteins are a vast and sundry group, comprised of several different types (alpha, beta, gamma), made in different places (the liver or immune system), and performing different functions. Some globulins help fight infections, some transport iron and other metals through the bloodstream, some bind with hemoglobin.
 
As the ratio of globulin levels to albumin levels in the blood is as vital for good health as each of these individual measurements alone, globulin levels will often be measured in combination with albumin levels to determine the albumin/globulin ratio. Globulin levels may also be measured to determine the amount of Total Protein in the blood.
 
Albumin / Globulin Ratio – The two main types of proteins – albumin and globulin – perform different functions, both vital for maintaining good health. What’s more, the ratio of one to the other is just as important. Normally there should be a slight bit more albumin than globulin – but not much more, and certainly not less. Imbalances like these can help the doctor identify the source of a medical problem.
 
Total Bilirubin – Bilirubin is a substance found in bile, produced by the liver when it breaks down old red blood cells. The body then eliminates this bilirubin in its stool. There are two forms of bilirubin that circulate through the bloodstream – direct and indirect bilirbuin – and the Total Bilirubin test measures the combined levels of both of these forms.
 
Direct bilirubin (also known as conjugated bilirubin) is water soluble (it dissolves in water) and is formed in the liver out of indirect bilirubin. Indirect bilirubin (also known as unconjugated bilirubin) is insoluble in water (does not dissolve), so it travels through the blood to the liver which transforms it into direct bilirubin, which is soluble in water.
 
The doctor may recommend a Total Bilirubin test to check on liver health and function, especially if the patient is taking medication that could harm the liver. This test is used for early detection of liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis.
 
This test is also used to help identify gallstones, pancreatic tumors, and certain other conditions, including those like anemia which cause increased red blood cell destruction.
 
If a patient is experiencing jaundice (a yellowing of skin and the whites of the eyes) the doctor might recommend a Total Bilirubin test as well, to see if liver disease is the cause.
 
Alkaline Phosphatase – Often referred to as ALP for short, alkaline phosphatase is an enzyme in the blood that’s made primarily in the liver.
 
An ALP test is often done in conjunction with other tests relating to liver function, including AST, ALT, and Bilirubin.
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Creatine Kinase – Often referred to as CK for short (and sometimes CPK), Creatine Kinase levels rise in the blood when ever muscles or heart cells are damaged. Therefore it makes an ideal marker for possible heart attack and other muscular injuries (in particular, skeletal muscles).
 
This test is also used to check for muscle damage throughout the body – such as that from a sudden physical shock like a car accident or a fall, from an injection, or from surgery – and may be recommended to patients complaining of muscle pain or weakness.
 
A high reading on this test (or a subsequent reading that has increased over a previous reading) tells the doctor that some degree of damage has likely occurred to the heart or muscles, in which case a more specific test may be ordered to determine what occurred.
 
Important to keep in mind is that people with more muscle mass, like athletes and those who work out regularly, along with African Americans tend to have higher creatine kinase levels in their blood than others. Some cholesterol-lowering medications and excessive alcohol consumption can also elevate CK levels, while during the early stages of pregnancy, CK levels decrease.
 
The CK test is often done in conjunction with other tests relating to heart function.
 
Lactate Dehydrogenase (LDH) – Both an enzyme and a protein, LDH accelerates chemical reactions inside the body. It can be found in most organs (heart, lung, brain, liver, kidneys), as well as your muscles and red blood cells.
 
Since LDH exists in five different types, their individual measurements can tell the doctor exactly which organ might be damaged.
 
SGOT (AST) – Also known as aspartate aminotransferase, AST is a blood enzyme found mainly in red blood cells and the heart, liver, pancreas, kidneys, and muscle tissue. AST used to be called serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (or SGOT).
 
AST levels normally remain low in the body, only rising in response to organ damage. Levels of AST in the blood rise in proportion to the extent of the damage, so the higher the readings from this test, the more severe the tissue damage.
 
As AST levels are highest when the damage or disease is first developing or the injury first occurred, decreasing levels of AST can indicate healing and recovery.
 
This test is often done in conjunction with a test for ALT levels.
 
SGPT (ALT) – Also known as alanine aminotransferase, ALT is a blood enzyme found primarily in liver, but also in the kidneys, heart, pancreas, and muscles. ALT used to be called serum glutamic pyruvic transaminase (or SGPT).
 
This test is often done in conjunction with tests for AST and alkaline phosphatase levels.
 
GGT – Also known as gamma glutamyl transferase, GGT is both an enzyme and a protein found primarily in the liver and bile ducts, that accelerates chemical reactions within the body.
 
GGT is present in large amounts when there is liver damage or liver disease, but it is not present at all in the case of bone disease. GGT testing is therefore commonly conducted with an ALP test in order to identify liver disease. GGT tests are also commonly done with an ALT test to help identify the disease that’s causing the liver damage.
 
A GGT test is commonly recommended to check for liver damage caused by alacohol abuse, though high GGT levels may also be caused by certain medications (including phenobarbital) or by blocked bile ducts that result in inflammation.
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Serum Iron – The body requires iron in order to produce healthy red blood cells and certain enzymes. When testing iron levels in the blood, there are two types of tests that can be run: one testing iron levels and the other testing total iron-binding capacity (TIBC). In a Serum Iron test, both of these measurements are taken together. This tells the doctor how much iron is actually being carried in the bloodstream.
 
This pairing of iron and TIBC counts in the serum iron test gives a clearer indication of an overall iron deficiency or excess, as iron levels fluctuate throughout the day, and taking an iron test without the TIBC only measures iron levels in the blood at a particular point in the day.
 
The serum iron test is also recommended by the College of American Pathologists for everyone over the age of 20 to check for hemochromatosis, a hereditary disease that is easy and inexpensive to deal with, if caught early on.
 
Serum iron tests are often done in combination with ferritin, hemoglobin, and hematocrit tests.
 
Ferritin – While the two tests in the serum iron test tell the doctor how much iron is being carried in the blood, a ferritin test tells how much iron is being stored for later use. As such, a ferritin test is often done in combination with a serum iron test.
 
Ferritin is the preferred indicator of iron deficiency it also is an excellent indicator of excessive iron.
 
Total Cholesterol – Cholesterol is one of two categories of lipids – or fat – in the body (the other being Triglycerides). Some cholesterol in the body is necessary, but too much of certain types can put a person at risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
 
Checking cholesterol is a routine element of preventative health care and a common part of a regular physical exam. Cholesterol tests differ from most other blood tests in that rather than being used to diagnose or monitor a condition, doctors use it to assess risk of possible disease in the future – in this particular instance: heart disease.
 
It is generally recommended that anyone over the age of 20 get their total cholesterol levels checked at least every five years. Checking your cholesterol (and other lipid) levels while young and healthy is invaluable in establishing a baseline the doctor and you can use in gauging your cardiovascular health as you age. Testing cholesterol levels can help prevent clogged arteries and other contributors to heart disease.
 
Cholesterol testing is particularly indicated for anyone who is overweight, has a diet high in fat, smokes cigarettes, is physically inactive, has diabetes, has a family history of cholesterol problems or heart disease, or is over the age of 45 for men and 55 for women. Anyone under 20 years old for whom any of the above applies may also be recommended a cholesterol test, particularly any a child 2-10 with a family history of heart disease. It can be used at any age to set a healthy baseline.
 
Important to keep in mind when thinking about your cholesterol (and relevant for all cholesterol tests described here) is that a person rarely shows signs or experiences symptoms of high cholesterol; so a person might not know he has high cholesterol until damage has already been done. That is why your cholesterol levels are never something to take for granted.
 
The Total Cholesterol test checks for levels of HDL, LDL, and VLDL cholesterols.
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HDL Cholesterol – Commonly referred to as “good” cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (or HDL) cholesterol removes “bad” cholesterol (or LDL) from the bloodstream and prevents it from building up in the arteries, thereby helping protect against heart disease. It is one of the three main lipoprotein particles (the others being LDL and VLDL cholesterol).
 
LDL Cholesterol – Commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (or LDL) cholesterol unchecked builds up in the arteries in fatty deposits known as plaque, which restricts blood flow and increases the risk of heart disease. It is one of the three main lipoprotein particles (the others being LDL and VLDL cholesterol).
 
Triglycerides – Triglycerides are one of two categories of lipids (or fat) in the body (the other being Cholesterol). The three main types of lipoprotein cholesterols (HDL, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol) all contain some amount of triglycerides in them. Some triglycerides in the body are necessary, but too much can put a person at risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.
 
Most of the fat in food and in the body exists in the chemical form of triglycerides. Anytime you eat, whatever calories the body does not immediately use (that is, burn for energy) is right away converted in triglycerides and stored for later use.
As with cholesterol testing, triglycerides testing is particularly indicated for anyone who is overweight, has a diet high in fat, is physically inactive, smokes cigarettes, has diabetes, is over 45 (if a man) or 55 (if a woman), or has a family history of cholesterol problems or heart disease. Anyone under 20 years old for whom any of the above applies may also be recommended a triglycerides test, particularly any a child 2-10 years of age with a family history of heart disease. It can always be used to set a healthy baseline.
High triglyceride readings indicate that you’re eating more calories than you use. High triglyceride levels can be a factor in being overweight or obese, in diabetes or those with high blood sugar levels, and in those who drink alcohol and eat sweets to excess.
It bears repeating that anyone over 20 should be checking their triglycerides (and other lipids) levels at least once every 5 years, and that you can establish a baseline that will benefit you for the rest of your life by simply checking your cholesterol levels while healthy (and ideally, young).
VLDL Cholesterol Standing for Very Low Density Lipoprotein, VLDL cholesterol is one of the 3 main lipoproteins (the others being HDL and LDL cholesterol). All 3 lipoproteins contains some amount of triglycerides; VLDL contains the most.
 
A VLDL cholesterol count is a typical part of a routine lipid profile, and it is used to help assess cardiac risks including risk of coronary heart disease.
 
High VLDL cholesterol counts could indicate increase dangers of heart disease and stroke.
 
Total Cholesterol / HDL Ratio – This test measures the proportion of HDL cholesterol in one’s total cholesterol count.
 
Triglyceride / HDL Ratio – This test measures the proportion of HDL cholesterol in one’s total triglyceride count.
 
T4 (Thyroxine) The T4 test measures the total amount of active thyroid hormone in the bloodstream. It is actually two tests in one: Free T4 and Total T4. Both are used to help diagnose hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), though the free T4 test is a newer and generally more accurate test that, unlike the total T4 test, is not affected by the amount of protein in the blood. Free T4 is considered the “active form” of thyroxine.
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T3 Uptake – This is a measurement of the thyroxine-binding proteins in the bloodstream that are not saturated yet thyroid hormone (or the unbounded thyroxine-binding globulins) Despite its name, it has nothing at all to do with the T3 thyroid hormone.
 
T7 Free Thyroxine Index – Also known as an FTI test, this figure is a better indicator of thyroid health when protein-binding plasma abnormalities are present. It is ordinarily calculated by multiple Total T4 levels by T3 Uptake levels. In hyperthyroidism, this figure is high; in hypothyroidism, this figure is low.
 
TSH – Also known as Thyrotropin, TSH stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. TSH levels tend to rise whenever the thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormone; likewise, when there is too much thyroid hormone in the body, the TSH level lowers to compensate. It is commonly checked to help diagnose thyroid conditions (particularly hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism – or an underactive and overactive thyroid gland, respectively).
 
In combination with a T4 test, a TSH test can also be used to help diagnose and monitor infertility in women and in evaluating a patient diagnosed with goiter. Periodically, though not as often, this test may be conducted to evaluate pituitary gland function.
 
Lymphocytes – Made up of CD4 lymphocytes and CD8 lymphocytes and also known as T-helper cells (and the test a T4 count), lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that act as a clear marker of the health and functioning of your immune system. As such, this test is regularly used to monitor the progress of HIV infection and disease. But it is also used simply to detect viral infections, give a general reading on the strength of your immune system, and to help your doctor predict any potential risk of infection and disease. Lymphocyte levels increase when viral infections are present.
 
A test for lymhocytes generally reflects percentage of lymphocytes in the blood, but to get the absolute lymphocyte count, just multiply the lymphocyte percent by the total white blood cell count.
 
White Blood Cell Count – Also known as leukocytes, white blood cells are directly related to immune function: when a person’s immune system is healthy and strong, white blood cell counts are high; when medication or illness causes immune dysfunction, white blood cell levels drop.
 
This test, also sometimes referred to as the WBC count, is most commonly ordered as part of a routine complete blood count, though the doctor may also recommend this test to help diagnose and monitor recovery from an infection or disease that affects white blood cell production.
 
There are 5 different types of leukocytes: neutrophils, monocytes, eosinophils, basophils, and lymphocytes.
 
Red Blood Cell Count – Also known as erythrocytes, red blood cells contain hemoglobin, the red pigment hemoglobin which carry oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from the body’s tissues.
 
Oxygen increases red blood cell production, therefore active people typically have higher RBC counts and people living at high altitudes may naturally have lower RBC counts.
 
Abnormal red blood cell counts are fairly easy to correct, and respond to treatment well (usually by simply removing the problem causing it).
 
Hemoglobin – Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen to all the tissues of the body. A hemoglobin test (like a hematocrit test) is generally done as part of a complete blood count.
 
Heavy smokers tend to have more hemoglobin in their blood than non-smokers.
 
Hematocrit – Measuring hematocrit levels tells the doctor the percentage of a patient’s blood that are red blood cells. So naturally hematocrit levels rise and fall in direct proportion with red blood cell production and destruction.
 
A hematocrit test (like a hemoglobin test) is generally done as part of a complete blood count.
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This test indicates both the quantity of red blood cells in the blood and their volume. To determine the volume alone, the doctor may also recommend an MCV test.
 
MCV – This test reveals the average size of the red blood cells in a volume of blood, or the Mean Corpuscular Volume. MCV is one of four red cell indices that calculate different measurements related to one’s red blood cell count, the other being: MCH, MCHC, and RDW.
 
An MCV test is typically done as part of a complete blood count.
 
The MCV test does not indicate the quantity of red blood cells in the blood, however. For that, a hematocrit test may be recommended along with this test.
 
MCH – Or the Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin, this test reveals the amount of oxygen-holding hemoglobin there is in the red blood cells in a volume of blood, or the Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin. MCH is one of four red cell indices that calculate different measurements related to one’s red blood cell count, the other being: MCV, MCHC, and RDW.
 
An MCH test is typically done as part of a complete blood count.
 
MCHC - This test reveals the actual concentration of red blood cells in a volume of blood, or the Mean Corpuscular Hemoglobin Concentration. It is one of four red cell indices that calculate different measurements related to one’s red blood cell count, the other being: MCV, MCH, and RDW.
 
The MCHC is a calculation performed using the hemoglobin and hematocrit readings as part of a complete blood count.
 
RDW - This test reveals the variation in sizes of the red blood cells in a volume of blood, or the Red cell Distributions Width. RDW is one of four red cell indices that calculate different measurements related to one’s red blood cell count, the other being: MCV, MCH, and MCHC.
 
An RDW test is typically done as part of a complete blood count.
 
Platelets – This test measures the amount of platelets in a quantity of blood. Platelets are a vital part of the body’s defense and repair systems, circulating through the bloodstream and clumping around any damaged epithelial tissue – the kind that lines your vital organs and is part of your skin.
 
This test is routinely conducted as part of a complete blood count.
 
Symptoms that may prompt the doctor to suggest a platelet count are unexplainable bruising, inexplicable bleeding from the mouth, nose or rectum, a small cut that seems to take an excessively long time to finish bleeding, and menstrual period that seem to last unusually long.
 
High altitude living, heavy exercise, and post-partum pregnancy can all elevate platelet counts, as can certain medications (like oral contraceptives and estrogen).
 
Polys/Neutrophils (SEGS-PMNS) – The most common type of leukocyte, neutrophils comprise about 55-70% of all white blood cells. Also known as polys (short for polymorphonuclears), SEGS, and PMNS, neutrophils collect at sites of infection and injury, and are the body’s main defense against physical stress and bacterial infection.
 
Monocytes – These are a type of white blood cell involved in the body’s immune function. Normally moncyte levels remain low in the body, typically making up between 1-3% of a healthy body’s total white blood cell count.
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Levels tend to rise in the bloodstream in response to an infection or in cases of stress. Inflammation is also a common cause of elevated monocyte counts.
 
Eosinophils – These are a type of white blood cell involved in the allergy response and in the body’s response to infection. In addition to evaluating and monitoring allergies and infections, eosinophils testing is also used to manage blood disease, infectious diseases, and asthma. This test can also be used to diagnose drug reactions, parasite infections, Hodgkins disease, collagen disease, and meloyo-proliferative diseases.
 
Cigarette smoking, amphetamines (including appetite suppressants), psyllium-based laxatives, tranquilizers, certain antibiotics and interferon can cause elevated test results, as can eczema, hay fever, autoimmune diseases, and leukemia. Labor and intoxication by alcohol can cause lowered levels, as can an overproduction of steroids (like cortisol) in the body.
 
Basophils – These are a type of white blood cell involved in the allergy response. It is a useful marker for doctors because it contains certain dyes when stained, making it easy to see under a microscope.
 
Basophil levels remain relatively low in healthy individuals, comprising less than 1% of all white blood cells in the bloodstream. Basophils typically climb in response to an allergen or an infection. High basophil counts are also commonly seen in people with asthma.
 
ESR – Standing for Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate, an ESR test is typically done to help determine the underlying cause for chronic inflammation, which may be infection, autoimmune disease, or cancer, among others. This test is considered “non-specific” as it does not locate the inflammation site in the body, nor can it alone diagnose the cause of any inflammation without the support of the doctor’s other related clinical findings results from additional testing, and the patient’s general health history and exam.
 
Another marker of inflammation in the body is C-Reactive Protein (CRP) which is often tested in conjunction with the ESR test. The difference between the two is that ESR levels do not fluctuate nearly as rapidly as CRP levels, not at the start or end of the inflammatory process. And ESR does not make as good of a marker of inflammation because a lot more factors affect its levels than affect CRP levels.
 
C-Reactive Protein (CRP) – The body produces C-reactive protein as part of its inflammatory response to infection or injury. Therefore, CRP can be used as a marker in the body to indicate inflammation somewhere in the body. Unfortunately it cannot, however, determine the specific site in the body of the inflammation.
 
Because inflammation is plays a major role in having clogged arteries, the CRP test is a useful component in helping form a larger, overall sense of your cardiovascular health. It alone, however, cannot indicate a patient’s heart disease risk.
 
The American Heart Association recommends the test for patients with risk of heart disease.
 
Another marker of inflammation in the body is Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (or ESR) which is often tested in conjunction with the CRP test. The difference between the two is that CRP levels fluctuate more rapidly than ESR levels, at both the start and decline of the inflammatory process. And CRP makes for a better marker of inflammation because far fewer factors affect its levels than affect ESR levels.
 
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – A CO2 test to measure the quantity of CO2 in the blood is typically conducted as part of an overall electrolyte panel (which in turn is typically conducted as part of a routine blood screening), both to screen for electrolyte or pH (acid/alkaline) imbalances, and to monitor their progress under treatment. Because most of the body’s CO2 exists in the form of HCO3- or bicarbonate, this test is also known as a Bicarbonate test
Abnormal CO2 readings indicate either that the body is having difficulty regulating is acid/alkaline balance or that your body has an electrolyte imbalance (possibly by retaining or losing fluids).
 
Important to note is that there is no official reference range for CO2, and so each lab uses their own. While most labs’ reference ranges are quite similar, they are nevertheless required to present a printed reference range with your results, which your doctor can then help you interpret.
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MPV (Mean Platelet Volume) – This is a measurement of the average size of one’s platelets. Platelets are largest when they’re new, so an elevated MPV level typically reflects platelet production in the bone marrow. Elevated MPV readings can indicate an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
 
Vitamin D 25-Hydroxy - This test is conducted to find out if a patient has a vitamin D deficiency.
 
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, older women, dark-skinned women, homebound or institutionalized women, or women with poor absorption are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency and should get tested for this more regularly. Also, studies have shown as many as half of all women and elderly men being treated for osteoporosis may have a vitamin D deficiency.
 
Low 25 Hydroxy Vitamin D readings could indicate insufficient exposure to sunlight or vitamin D sources in one’s diet, or poor vitamin D absorption by the intestines. High levels could reflect too much exposure to sunlight or over-supplementation. High levels of vitamin D could ultimately cause calcification and damage to organs – the blood vessels and kidneys in particularly.
 
ABO Blood Type – This is a worthwhile test to get if you do not know your blood type, as it could come into play in a medical emergency, and you don’t want to be caught without that information in a crisis. In terms of a blood transfusion, matching donor and recipient blood types could make the difference between life and death.
 
There are two types of blood tests that look for certain markers called antigens on the red blood cells; one of these is the ABO test. The ABO Blood Type test will reveal which one of four blood types you posses: A, B, AB, or O.
 
Different blood types are compatible with some other blood types and incompatible with others. Incompatibility can occur for a donor, a recipient, or both.
 

Lipase Test - Lipase is an enzyme that helps the body to absorb fats by breaking them down into fatty acids and glycerol, thereby helping the body to absorb fats. As lipase is produced and released by the pancreas, a lipase test can be extremely useful in helping to identify problems involving the pancreas, including pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, and pancreatic cancer.

 

A lipase test may be called for in the presence of certain symptoms, including: loss of appetite, nausea, fever, and severe abdominal pain. High levels of lipase in the blood can indicate damage to the pancreas or pancreatic duct obstruction (a blockage in the tube leading from the pancreas to the small intestines). You should avoid eating 8 to 12 hours before a lipase test and avoid taking certain medications as instructed by your Chicago nutritionist.

 

Often a lipase test will be ordered along with an amylase test. Lipase levels take longer to rise than amylase levels, but once elevated, remain elevated longer than elevated amylase levels.

 

Amylase Test - Amylase is an enzyme that helps the body to digest carbohydrates and starches, breaking them down into simple sugars. Because amylase is produced and released by the pancreas (in addition to the salivary glands), amylase levels are often tested to check for problems involving the pancreas, such as pancreatitis, gallstones, and pancreatic duct obstruction. An amylase test may also be ordered to help monitor patients with cystic fibrosis. Typically only small amounts of amylase are found in the blood.

 

Often your Chicago nutrition expert will order an amylase test in conjunction with a lipase test when symptoms of pancreatic problems are present, like severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea, and loss of appetite. Elevated levels of blood amylase can indicate disease, inflammation or blockage of the pancreas or salivary glands. Amylase levels rise faster than lipase levels, but do not remain elevated for as long.

 
Disclaimer: the tests listed above are common tests performed by our office. By no means is this list all inclusive or meant to be used to self diagnose. If you believe you have a condition or need a test, please seek professional assistance from us or another qualified healthcare provider of your choice.
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