When your labs are “normal”… but you don’t feel normal

Doctor holding a stethoscope

Have you ever been to the doctor and gotten your labs run, just to be told everything is “normal”? Maybe it was on in your journey toward getting a diagnosis when doctors were testing for everything BUT celiac (ask me how I know!). Or maybe you’ve been gluten-free for awhile now but have lingering digestive issues. In both cases, you’re sent home with no satisfying answers as to WHY you’re constipated, bloated, gassy, fatigued, and/or planning your life around the bathroom. It can feel defeating and frustrating, to say the least.

When this happens, it means the doctor or practitioner isn’t looking deep enough or they’re basing your health solely on a piece of paper without listening to you. Or both.

The labs run might just be skimming the surface, so the first step is to make sure you’re getting a truly comprehensive list of labs done for your situation.

This is where a functional medicine approach can be helpful. Functional medicine is about taking a holistic view to find underlying causes, and it’s more interested in getting to the root of health issues rather than putting a band-aid over symptoms.

Moreover, functional medicine uses slightly different reference ranges for labs. Functional ranges are narrower than the standard ones and are designed to show OPTIMAL levels rather than just the level needed to avoid frank disease. Bottom line: what appears to be in “normal” range for some labs, might not be ideal for you.

lab vials

That said, it’s also important to work with a practitioner who understands both the benefits and limitations of functional testing, as some are more validated than others. For instance, food sensitivity blood testing is notoriously inaccurate, and there are certain stool test companies claiming that they can analyze your gut and give you recommendations for exactly how much carbohydrates, fats, and protein you need which is, quite frankly, hogwash (the science just isn’t there yet).

Using validated functional medicine testing can yield more answers, but it’s not the stopping point.

Labs give us a ton of insight quickly on a level we can’t see, but they don’t tell us the whole story. Our symptoms and lived experience are just as important, and YOU know when something is off.  Understanding our body and healing takes a combination of all that science has to offer along with a hefty dose of our own intuition.

In my practice, I look at both labs and what my clients are telling me, because humans are NOT textbooks and we cannot base health off of metrics and numbers alone. I spent many years of my own journey with celiac disease being told “it’s just IBS” or that “everything is fine” when I absolutely did not feel fine. These moments of dismissal are still vivid in my memory, and why I feel so lucky to help change this experience for others in the same shoes.

If we are listening, our body will always let us know when something is “off.” May we remain fiercely trusting in this. 

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