Health Tests Doctors Ignore

Analytics, Diagnostics

Hey doc, how healthy am I? Can you give me some lab tests to see where my weaknesses are, and a prescription or procedure to improve them?

If you asked your doctor these questions, what would he or she say? Would you get those lab tests, or health-enhancing prescriptions? Probably not. Most doctors have little to offer when it comes to improving vitality or optimizing health. They aren’t trained in that. They are trained in diagnosing diseases and treating symptoms. Also, optimizing health doesn’t fit their business model. Healthy people don’t go to doctors.

Why are some people healthier, or heal faster, than others? It boils down to the vitality of your cells and tissues. Imagine getting a cut on your foot. You clean it, bandage it, it heals. It may get a little red, sore, and swollen for a while, but that goes away and your foot heals. However, if you’re a long-time diabetic with edema and poor microcirculation, that injured tissue will have very little inherent vitality and may be too weak from a lack of oxygen and nutrients to repair and heal itself.

This can be considered a metaphor and microcosm for many chronic conditions. Your healing capacity is limited by the vitality of your cells and tissues. If your tissues are healthy, you heal. If they’re not, you don’t. A diabetic sore is extremely dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. It can lead to infection, gangrene, sepsis, and death. Medically much can be done to prevent that, but healing still requires that cells have sufficient energy to repair themselves and replicate. Before that can happen with a diabetic sore the ‘infrastructure’ needs fixing. Glucose and insulin levels need to be normalized, and blood and lymph circulation restored.

Diabetes is the most expensive chronic condition in the US. More than 37 million people of all ages (over 1 in 10) have diabetes, and 96 million adults (1 in 3) have prediabetes. $1 out of every $4 in US health care costs is spent on caring for people with diabetes (CDC.) The CDC Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES) provides a program to educate and help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. It’s been a Medicare-covered service for prediabetic beneficiaries since 2018. Yet, few people have heard of it. How many doctors promote it?

The old maxim about “an ounce of prevention” is better than a pound of cure” applies to a lot of conditions. A better approach would be to prevent future damage by changing dietary and lifestyle habits while still pre-diabetic.

The question, Hey doc, how healthy am I? strikes at the core as to why chronic diseases are so prevalent today. There’s too much focus on ‘disease’, and not enough focus on maximizing health. Cellular and tissue health and vitality is the key. Healing can’t occur without it.

So, what can you do? Find someone who will perform functional health tests to determine your level of health and wellness, and advise as to science-based, non-medical healing interventions for improving it! “What might ‘functional health tests’ look like?” Here are a couple of examples:

Weight

Body Composition Analysis

Weight is often checked when we see your doctor. The problem is that, except for extremes or disturbing trends, a once-a-year recording is of little value. If you’re looking for information as to your state of health, a basic Body Composition Analysis (above) would be better. It takes about the same time. The above example is me. 163 pounds and a BMI of 23.4 looks pretty healthy on the surface. If you look closer, however, that 163 pounds includes 34 pounds (20.8%) of fat, and suboptimal Muscle Mass and Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). So maybe there’s room for improvement. Excess fat is not only excess baggage, but an inflammation generator that can cause its own set of problems.

Possible Healing Intervention: Spend less time sitting at the computer, engage in regular movement and resistance exercise, and perhaps add more high-quality protein to help build muscle mass. And, start now. Replacing fat with muscle gets harder the older we get.

Oxygen and Heart Rate Regulation

Oxygen and Heart Rate Test

This is particularly important as we age. The above is an hour and 20-minute recording of peripheral Oxygen (SpO2) and Heart Rate from a finger Oximeter. The first 20 minutes includes a brisk walk. The rest, miscellaneous daily activities. Notable during the walk were drops in oxygen levels to as low as 84%, and a pulse rate as high as 134 BPM. This indicates some tendency towards dysregulation during moderate exercise, and possibly limited oxygen utilization capacity (VO2Max) and cardiac stress.

Oxygen utilization capacity and heart rate regulation are quick proxy indicators of overall vitality and resilience to physiological stress. Regulation and resilience typically declines with increasing age and inactivity, but can be improved with monitored exercise routines.

Possible Healing Intervention: In this case, 1) purchase and use a consumer heart rate and oxygen monitor, 2) Breath training to increase oxygen utilization efficiency, and 3) exercise regularly within an age-appropriate training zone. Frequency and variety are often more important – and sustainable – than intensity.

Stress

Heart Rate Variability Test

Medical research estimates that 75-90 percent of all illnesses are stress-related. High blood pressure, vascular disease, heart disease, ulcers and other digestive issues, allergies, asthma, and migraine headaches have all been linked to stress (PubMed). Even though most health professionals agree that stress can be a contributing factor in making existing medical problems worse, stress loads and Autonomic Nervous System balance are rarely evaluated.

Our Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) has two basic parts:

1) The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is designed to kick in during imminent threat, ‘fight-or-flight’ emergencies. It prepares our bodies for extreme exertion by shutting down digestion, the immune system, repair, and other essential housekeeping functions to maximize available energy for running or fighting. It dramatically unbalances and strains our metabolism and physiology to prepare us to survive life-threatening situations. But, this comes with a cost. After short, intermittent periods, the body can restore balance. After prolonged periods of stress, damage is done and restoring balance becomes increasingly more difficult.

2) The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS), our normal calm, everything-is-OK, ‘rest and digest’ system that nourishes, sustains, and heals us.

Stress’ technically refers to the pressure placed upon us. ‘Strain’ is the resultant imbalance or distortion. Strain is what does the damage. Physical and mental factors play a part in how much. There’s the actual stressor, followed by our perceptions, beliefs, judgments, emotions, and mental ’chatter’ that ‘wrap around’ the experience or event. Then, there’s our Autonomic Nervous System’s reaction to our mental/emotion reaction, and the physiological and metabolic imbalances and constrictions caused by the PNS’ reaction to our mind’s reaction. Long-term, there are additional, compounding physiological and metabolic stresses caused by the chronic imbalances, often in a vicious, self-reinforcing downward spiral.

Few ask, “Where those stressors really such an imminent threat to our survival, and the hyper-reactivity really more important than the costs and consequences of the extreme metabolic imbalance to our health?” In retrospect, maybe not. Remember that…

The body cannot heal in an anxiety-driven, ‘fight-or-flight’, sympathetic-dominant state.

Yet modern life stresses and diet, constant stimulation (e.g. the news) and our reaction to them, along with disrupted circadian rhythms keep us in a sympathetic-dominant state much of the time. Could this be why healing can sometimes be so elusive? A tremendous amount of scientific study suggest it’s a major factor. A simple Heart Rate Variability (HRV) test can help you find out if it is for you.

The client in the above example has struggled with autoimmune issues for years. The HRV test indicates a strong Sympathetic Nervous System dominance and a lack of the parasympathetic required for healing (low ‘Coherence’.) This may be a significant factor in their immune system issues.

Possible Healing Intervention: Everyone is different as are their paths to healing. Reducing sympathetic dominance can include identifying and and resolving areas of old traumas and current stress, practicing forgiveness and gratitude, learning Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or other self-help ‘letting go’ techniques, spend time in nature, meditate, practice HRV coherence training, and more. Only when you can learn to let go and relax, does the parasympathetic healing state become available.

The good news is that the parasympathetic healing state is available to us all. It’s just a matter of learning again to access it, to let go, relax, reconnect and feel good. Not only can this support you body’s ability to heal, but it can dramatically improve many other areas of life as well.

This is an extremely important test, especially if you have a chronic disease which, by definition, is a condition that isn’t healing. The good news is that this is correctable. Learn more about Heart Rate Variability and Coherence and scientifically-proven methods for supporting healing states.

Additional Functional Diagnostics and Assessments:

  • Allostatic Stress Load Assessment – A systematic review and summary of inflammatory biomarkers to quantify inflammation stress.
  • Redox Balance – This is an indication of the body’s capacity to neutralize oxidants. Our ability to maintain Redox (Reduction-Oxidation) balance deteriorates as we age. Inadequate ‘reduction’ (processes that supply needed electrons, the opposite of oxidation which robs electrons) leaves acidic byproducts that damage our cells’ and tissues’ and destroy their ability to function. Chronic Redox imbalance is a primary cause of inflammation which, in turn, is a primary cause of most chronic disease.
  • Breath Hold Test – An easy indicator of O2 reserves, CO2/O2 balance in the blood, and a proxy for oxygen utilization capacity.
  • Energy and Vitality Balance Sheet – A systematic listing of the negative energy drains, chronic conditions, drugs and medical procedures, life stresses, toxins, infections, and inflammation levels vs. a listing of positive energy enhancers, stress reduction practices, regenerative therapies & resilience-building practices. Which is greater in your life? The uppers or the downers?
  • Detailed Pain Map – An in-depth mapping and analysis of pain patterns in the body. A practical indicator of total inflammation load.
  • Posture & Movement Analysis – Much of the pain in our bodies comes from years or decades of misuse. When we spend too much time sitting, our muscle tone becomes unbalanced, and joints become misaligned and inflamed. Habitual posture patterns from endless hours of screen time on a computer, cell phone, or TV literally unbalance and reshape our bodies and take their toll. Misaligned, injured and inflamed spinal joints won’t heal until proper alignment is restored.

There are many ways healing can be compromised. The good news is that they are many things that can be done to help restore it. At Revitalize Restore we don’t chase or treat symptoms or diseases. We look for blockages or imbalances in our body’s natural healing processes (the root cause of ‘disease’) and ways to stimulate, reactivate and support the body’s natural healing processes.

At Revitalize Restore you can learn again how to heal.

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Marty Gronewald, FMHC

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