Santa Cruz Natural Health Blog

My Acupuncturist Wants to See My Labs?

Wow, am I inspired!

I just returned from Portland, OR, where I took a 3  day seminar  on Functional Blood Chemistry analysis with over 250 other MD’s, Nurse Practitioners, Naturopaths, and Chiropractors. The medical doctors I spoke with there said they hadn’t gone into nearly as much depth when they learned lab analysis in medical school, because generally labs are used to identify overt disease, not to screen for degrees of wellness and optimal function. When was the last time you had a routine lab panel run and evaluated as a general checkup?  There is no general screening tests that is more efficient, effective, or affordable than a basic comprehensive blood chemistry panel.

            There are two main types of ranges when reading blood work: a pathological range and a functional range.

The pathological range is used to diagnose disease; the functional range is generally slightly narrower, and  is used to assess risk for disease before the disease develops.   Normal lab ranges that you read on your lab results are called “pathological ranges” because if your test results are outside of the range, it generally indicates disease.  These ranges are calculated based on an bell-curve analysis of all the people who have had blood drawn at that lab over a certain period of time, which means that factored into that calculation is the blood of people who may have liver or kidney failure, cancer, or other chronic diseases.

Have you ever looked around the waiting room when you went to have your blood drawn? You’ll often notice people with oxygen tanks or who generally don’t look like a picture of health. People who are chronically ill get their blood drawn more regularly, so their lab values have greater influence on the  calculated “normal” lab ranges; in other words, you could be considered “healthy” because your lab results fall in the same range as the majority of the sick people in your county.  These numbers are good for identifying overt disease, but are probably not how you want to evaluate your general level of wellness, right? Have you ever noticed how your lab values are either inside or outside the normal ranges?  Interestingly, you can go to 2 different labs within the same city and they will have 2 different “normal” ranges, which means that depending on where you go for your draw,  you might be labeled as sick or health.

   Health is a continuum, not  black or white evaluation.  Unfortunately, today’s healthcare model is disease management, not early detection or prevention.

I often get a look of surprise from my patients the first time I ask them to bring in their lab work.  “But you’re an acupuncturist….” they say, quizzically.    In California, acupuncturists are Primary Care providers, which means that we can order and assess labs.

This is why I always ask my patients to bring me their labs:

So often, a patient tells me that their doctor ran labs and that they all came out “normal”.  Most healthcare providers believe that treatment should only be given when disease is present because conventional medical training teaches physicicans to evaluate blood chemistry in comparison to pathological ranges, and that if pathology is not apparent from the lab values, the patient is “healthy”.   This is not the way I choose to define health.

Labs that were “in-range” often give us deeper insight when looked at within functional ranges.

Even in young athletic types, with basically healthy diets, I have often seen early changes pointing at subtle imbalances.   Catching these earlier shifts can show critical changes in the body before they manifest as pathologies such as anemias, diabetes, cancers, autoimmune disease, thyroid imbalances, or many other  chronic health issues.  When you choose to look at the WHOLE person, and not just at diagnoses of disease, you get much better results. When we see shifts outside the functional values on labs  we also take into account a detailed health history, and physical assessment (such as tongue and pulse diagnosis in Chinese Medicine, or feeling someone’s thyroid gland to check if it is swollen), to determine what the root cause of the imbalance is.  This is a much better service to our patients than scanning a list of labs and telling someone that they are “healthy” since nothing seems to be highlighted as falling outside of the pathological reference range.


Call my office to find out more about having your recent lab work analyzed,  or to get a blood chemistry panel run.

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