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A Crash Course On Finding Out What Is Happening Inside Your Body.

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Ben Greenfield racing a Half Ironman last weekend, photo courtesy James Richman

Do you ever wish you could know exactly what is going on inside your body?

In my recent bout with MRSA (a nasty staph infection), I certainly wished I could know what was going on inside my body.

After all, how on earth could a young, vibrant, healthy guy like me somehow have an immune defense system that can’t handle external attacks from a tiny staphylococcus organism?

Something just didn’t seem right.

What about you?

Do you get tired a lot? Brain fog every afternoon?

Short of breath when you’re going up stairs?

Difficulty sleeping?

Sore muscles no matter how well you feel like you’re managing recovery?

Slower or weaker than you think you should be compared to the amount of actual training that you do?

That stuff isn’t normal, and it shouldn’t be happening to you. So in today’s post, I’m going to walk you through exactly how I found out what was going on inside my body, and the tools I used to do it – which are totally accessible to you too.

In this day and age, self-testing is easier than you think, and by the time you finish reading this crash course on finding out what is happening inside your body, you’ll know exactly how to take charge of your own health and identify all the things that could be causing problems for you - including hormone levels, protein allergies, gut issues and more.

After you read this post, feel free to leave any questions that you have below, as I know that this stuff can get confusing sometimes!

Baseline Blood Assessments

My recommendations for baseline blood assessments include the basic tests that your general practitioner physician might order if you were to go in for your annual physical, but when I did my baseline testing, I added in some variables that are very important to truly understand what’s going on inside your body (these are the same “add-ons” I recommend in Podcast Episode #188: What Blood Tests To Ask Your Doctor For When You Go In For Your Physical).

For what costs about $199, I personally split my baseline assessments into 5 basic categories: 1) Cardiovascular Health; 2) Inflammation; 3) Metabolism/Hormones; 4) Liver/Kidney; 5) Nutrients/ Electrolytes.

Below, I’ll show you a quick video of my WellnessFX dashboard (WellnessFX is where I got these baseline blood markers tested) and then describe these tests in more detail below, along with my notes on what was good and what was bad in my case.

Cardiovascular Health

Over 50% of heart attacks occur in people with totally “normal” cholesterol levels, and two-thirds of people with what modern medicine would describe as “healthy” cholesterol have other diagnosable risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For those of you want to really geek out on cholesterol, my friend Peter Attia has a great series on cholesterol at his EatingAcademy blog, but what the issue comes down to is this:

When it comes to cardiovascular markers for health, particularly your cholesterol and lipid panels, you need to go beyond typical tests for total cholesterol, HDL and LDL to uncover the actual risk factors for early heart disease.

The tests that I had performed were:

-Total Cholesterol – my levels are fairly high (228), but nearly half of that is HDL, and I eat a high fat diet, so no surprises there! Remember, total cholesterol is not an indicator of heart disease.
-HDL – good
-LDL – good
-Triglycerides – good (low)
-Lp(a) – good
-ApoB - this was slightly elevated in my case, probably due to the fact that I had some inflammation and oxidized cholesterol in my bloodstream from a Half-Ironman the week prior.

Inflammation

Tons of research has shown that high sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) inflammation marker is associated with lack of recovery from hard workouts and also with the future onset of diseases such as cancer, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and many other chronic diseases. There are other inflammatory markers you can test, but hs-CRP is the most important.

-hs-CRP - my levels turned out to be low, probably due to my high intake of Capraflex and Phenocane.

Metabolism & Hormones

Among the issues that can affect your metabolism, thyroid disease and insulin/blood sugar issues are the most common hormone imbalances and can lead to many symptoms such as fatigue or restlessness, heat or cold intolerance, and weight gain or loss. Tons of people have undiagnosed thyroid imbalance and/or insulin insensitivity.

My tests for metabolism and hormones were:

-TSH – slightly elevated, so I will follow up with T3 and T4 testing to make sure my actual active thyroid hormones are adequate.
-Glucose – good.
-HbA1c – slightly high, and as a 3 month snapshot of blood glucose, this was not as surprise, as I have several high carbohydrate weeks during race season.

Liver & Kidney Health

Your kidney and liver are you body’s filters, and they detox your body of harmful pollutants from your everyday environment. When these organs are optimally functioning, they play a large role in helping you to avoid chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, and also let you handle environmental pollutants much better.

For liver and kidney, I tested:

-BUN – high, pretty typical in active individuals who are breaking down muscle on a regular basis, so no surprises there.
-Creatinine – also high, for the same reason above.
-AST – high. In this case, my liver was processing the antibiotics I had just come off from the MRSA, so again, no surprises, but my WellnessFX physician recommend I get another liver test soon just to make sure.
-ALT – good
-Total Bilirubin – good
-Albumin – good
-Total Protein – good

Nutrition & Electrolytes

Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium and others are critical in allowing your body’s cells to function properly and the right balance of electrolytes helps to optimize nerve and cellular function that supports nearly every system in the body.

In addition calcium and Vitamin D are essential for hormone and steroid formation, strengthening the immune system, and reducing the risk of cancer.

For these markers, I tested:

-Vitamin D – I see Vitamin D levels low in nearly everyone I help with testing, but my levels were very high (almost 70), likely due to my high amounts of sun exposure and cod liver oil consumption.
-Calcium
-Sodium
-Potassium
-CO2

So how did it work if you want to get these baseline blood markers?

Basically, after purchasing a test kit, you just print a “requisition form” and visit one of the WellnessFX partner laboratories for a blood draw. Then you’re notified to schedule your phone consultation with a physician of your choice to review your results and discuss their recommendations.

You should know that WellnessFX is currently available in California, Oregon, and Washington, but will soon be available in Texas, Colorado, and Massachusetts, and they’re rapidly expanding to new regions in the U.S. based on demand. If they’re not available where you are, another good source for these type of baseline markers is DirectLabs.

Summary so far: so far you know that I found out that I (and you!) need to continue to be careful with total carbohydrate intake (returns to Risk vs. Reward of hardcore triathlon racing), especially because when eating a high fat diet. But there were no “serious” issues noted on my baseline blood markers that indicate I’ve got any serious health issues.

———————————————————

Allergy Testing

If you’re eating foods to which you’re allergic, you’re going to be inflamed, and that can set you up for a hyper reactive immune system. This can lead to things like resistance to weight loss, getting sick frequently, or lack of performance, which is why my REV Diet book starts by simply eliminating all basic food allergy triggers.

But let’s say you want to actually test to see what exactly you’re allergic to.

Allergic and other hypersensitivity reactions to foods can actually characterized by elevated allergen-specific antibody levels in the affected individual’s blood. There is one type of test called an Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) methodology that test allergies and sensitivities to a variety of common allergens.

One name for this type of test is an “immunoglobulin test”, and under the advice of my naturopathic physician, (Dr. Todd Schlapfer, in Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho), I went ahead and did a quick blood draw for this test (I simply got this blood draw done at the same time I did my WellnessFX blood draw, and was at the lab for a total of about 10 minutes).

Here’s a link to the US Biotek Antibody Assessment that I did, and here is what the results look like:

Immunoglobulin test

If you cock your head just the right way, you can see the little yellow marks that my physician placed on these test results.

It was very interesting to see that:

A) any dairy from a cow (not a goat)…

B) and also chicken eggs…

…cause my body to mount an inflammatory reaction!

Considering the amount of omelets, raw dairy yogurt, raw dairy cheese, Greek yogurt and even grass fed cattle whey protein bars I consume, this was very valuable news for me to have, and based on this information, I can cut these immune triggers out of my diet and switch to goat based milk products only.

Another very good option for food allergy testing (especially for gluten) is Cyrex Labs. They do their testing through salivary panels that cover all areas of gluten, and also make available a test that can pinpoint the very areas of your body that are being most affected by gluten.

To get your hands on either of these food allergy tests, you must go through a licensed medical care provider, meaning that they need to order the test for you, but that’s easy to do and both sites I linked to above give you instructions on how to do it.

Summary so far: Obviously, this was a biggie for me. I’m cutting cow dairy and eggs.

———————————————————

Secretor Blood Type

The secretor blood type test is based on Dr. Peter D’Adamo‘s blood typing test protocol and blood typing diet.

If you  have a reason to want to be even more strict in adhering to the diet for health concerns, such as my aforementioned concerns about my MRSA scare, this home kit for saliva testing, which runs about $50-60, allows you to refine your diet even further.

While the average person may not really need this information, people with special needs and more serious health concerns may want to know their secretor status in order to open the door to even more specific dietary guidelines. In my case, because of the MRSA issue, I was encouraged by Dr. Schlapfer to also complete this test.

As you can see, I was identified as a “Type A Secretor”:

Secretor type blood test

Based on this information, Dr. Todd supplied me with list of appropriate foods for a Type A Secretor (in this case, he specifically gave me a low glycemic index food chart, because I try to keep my blood sugar levels very well controlled).

Here’s a sample page from my food list:

Secretor Type Food List

Summary so far: I’ll be sticking to my secretor type list for the next 30 days to see how I look, feel and perform.

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Gut Testing

Although I did not do a gut test in the past couple months, I can’t write a post about how to test your body without including this vital information.

The first time I decided to do gut testing was when I interviewed Anne Louise Gittleman in the episode “How Many Critters Are Living In YOUR Gut, Making You Fat, Tired, Lazy, Bloated and Sick?“, in which you learn about how testing your poop can reveal presence of things like parasitic infections, candida yeast, digestive enzymes and more.

The test that I performed was the Expanded GI Panel, which runs about $440 and is the most complete gastrointestinal test you can get. It tests for parasites and intestinal function using multiple stool and saliva samples, and helps to find causes for digestive problems, gluten intolerance, hyperactivity, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.

It also tests for H. plylori and pathogenic bacteria, Candida albicans and fungus – in addition to screening for many types of protozoa and worms, including C. difficile, Giardia, E. coli, Blastocystis hominis, Roundworm, Toxoplasma, Trichinella spiralis (from swine) and Tapeworm.

Intestinal function markers including GI immunity-SIgA, pancreatic enzyme output, blood in stool, and stool pH are also  included in the results. In the privacy of your home, 3 stool samples and 2 saliva samples are collected and then sent to the laboratory.

At the risk of information overshare, here are my complete results of this test, along with a link to the explanation of results:

-Metametrix GI Panel

-Metametrix GI Panel results explained

Because of my frequent travel, especially to Asian countries, I’ll be redoing the Expanded GI Panel at the end of this year, just to double check and make sure my “gut is clean”.

Summary: My gut is clean. But I’ve discovered through self-testing that I need to watch my carbohydrate intake (even when exercising), be much more careful with dairy and eggs, and test foods that are more in line with my specific blood type.

———————————————————

Whew!

You now know more than 99% of the population about how to self-test your body, and I hope that was a valuable crash course for you.

It may seem expensive, but all these tests together are less than a thousand bucks, and to me, that is well worth the investment in health and savings in health insurance premiums and hospital bills.

Now it’s your turn!

If you have  questions about what you should get tested, WellnessFX, your baseline blood marker tests, allergy tests, secretor tests or gut tests, then leave your comments below, and I promise to answer!

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36 Responses to “A Crash Course On Finding Out What Is Happening Inside Your Body.”

  1. I'm not a doctor.

    But that CK at 699 is what concerns me most. That's an inflammatory firestorm. I'd be doing some serious anti-inflammatory protocols and if you're exercising right now, I'd consider putting that on hold for a bit.

    If your labs show a high reverse T3 level this means that you are converting most of your T4 into reverse T3. T3 is the most active form of thyroid and it is converted from T4, but the problem with reverse T3 is that it will bind to T3 receptors with no activity – so high reverse T3 levels can give you signs of hypothyroidism even though the other thyroid hormones are normal.

    Excessive cortisol (stress) can amp up reverse T3. I'll bet you know what I'm going to say: give yourself some recovery!

  2. Reka says:

    Bit scared. If I was told to stop eating eggs, I don’t know what I would do.

  3. Quoc says:

    Hi Ben – Great post! Unfortunately, Wellness FX isn't available in Pennsylvania. Is there an equivalent test package from DirectLabs that you would recommend?

  4. James says:

    When US Biotek antibody assessment checks for cows milk do they specify if it is A1 or A2 milk? I hear that makes a big difference. What is the cost just for the assessment? Checked the site but you have to have it ordered with your primary and before I jump through any hoops thought you could tell me the cost (I'm sure my insurance doesn't pay). Thanks.

    • James, A1 vs. A2 is not differentiated on the US BioTek test.

      My total for all labs except WellnessFX looking at my receipt was $340. So I know that the secretor was about $60, which means the antibody was probably about $280…and that includes the lab fees and the fact that I paid out of pocket with no insurance co-pay…

  5. Melanie says:

    Hi Ben,

    For Podcast #187, I had asked about metabolic type diets and blood type diets. You responded that in general you didn't put much stock in those and might be more trouble than they are worth. Does this testing you have done and info you put in the post mean that you have changed your opinion or are you simply saying that you are willing to try out the blood type diet to see how it goes? *Interesting to note that some cow dairy is on your Type A list, but your allergen test suggests it is a problem.

    Melanie

    • Exactly Melanie. This is a self test of blood typing protocols. And in that podcast, I directed MOST of my eyebrow raising towards metabolic typing compared to blood typing.

      Also, the list that I received on a Type A Secretor diet is a standard list that is not created with individualized immunoglobulin considerations, which is why you see that cow dairy on it.

  6. Melanie says:

    Hi Ben,

    One other question… The expanded GI Panel claims to test for dairy and egg intolerance. When you did this test previously did it not show eggs were a problem as now this other test is showing? I know you have mentioned in the podcast previously some issues with cow dairy that you were aware of. I've been wondering for myself if any type of dairy is a problem or if eggs are and have considered the expanded GI panel since I don't have to go through a doctor. I don't have a doctor and haven't in years needed one and hate to try to find one just to get allergen testing. I have an OB/GYN that I go to about every two or three years, but don't think they will order this type of testing.

    • I think the immunoglobulin test is BETTER for protein allergies. I'd stick with the GI panel for parasites, yeast, etc. though. Some tests are better than others at identifying specific markers.

  7. Great post Ben. As a functional medicine specialist I have a couple things to add. While meta metrix labs are great. Other functional med labs are just as good. I use diagnos-techs lab for my comprehensive GI panels. Equal if not better results for under 300. The only down side is that the report isn’t as pretty. Also your followers really should consider an adrenal salivary test that measures cortisol and dhea. Then you would have certainty regarding the hormone panel. Food sensitivity testing is a bit of an art because there are so many theories and ways to test. I love your approach. Test, follow the results for 30 days and reevaluate.

  8. pei55plusgames says:

    What is considered HIGH in terms of total carbs when on a high-fat diet and actvitiy level is about 1hr aerobic per day?

  9. Mark says:

    Hey Ben, do you know where I could get these tests done in Australia?

  10. Stu Cameron says:

    Mark, you beat me to the question there, we seem to miss out on some of the cool stuff that you have over in the US

    • Mark says:

      Yeah i know, I always try to find an Australian outlet for anything that I find worth trying, but struggle with most

  11. Mer says:

    interesting that you mention cow/chicken dairy detriment. are you cutting them out completely? coincides timingn-wise with this article in the atlantic on eggs and cholesterol (yolks being as bad as cigarettes)

    • Mer, actually that egg/cholesterol study is something completely different. See my response to Dennis below. In my case, it is simply an allergy issue – so I am almost completing cutting out 1) cow dairy and 2) eggs.

  12. certainly like your web-site however you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling issues and I find it very troublesome to tell the reality however I will definitely come again again.

  13. Dennis says:

    Good morning Ben, I just read a Yahoo research post from Canada that claimed eating egg yokes was as bad for your arteries as smoking. What do you think of a study with this outcome?

    • Yes, I responded to this on Twitter.com/BenGreenfield from someone else, but basically I can completely believe this. Dietary sugars, vegetable oils and grains were not controlled, and neither was the omega 6 fatty acid content of the eggs (i.e. grain fed chickens). That is a recipe for oxidized cholesterol and artery damage, and also a real reason to AVOID EXCESS SUGARS and VEGETABLE OILS if you are eating high fat, otherwise it becomes dynamite.

  14. Michael Brooks says:

    I noticed your Pylori count was high what would you recommend if anything/ ? mine was about the same Im trying Matula tea and Mastic gum right now Im going to retest soon

  15. [...] else I recently wrote about was the blood testing that I’ve been doing through WellnessFX. The more I dig into quantifying yourself through blood, saliva, urine or stool testing, the more [...]

  16. AMar says:

    Hi Ben

    why cut out dairy/eggs if you have no igE response, igG and igA just mean you've seen it before?

    • Not necessarily. I know what you're saying, but there are varying levels of igE and igA and mine were off the charts for regular eggs and dairy, even though I was rarely eating them anyways!

  17. [...] 96703 commentshttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.bengreenfieldfitness.com%2F2012%2F10%2Fhow-your-cells-talk-to-each-other%2FHow+To+Get+Your+Cells+To+Communicate+With+Lightning+Speed2012-10-20+09%3A30%3A45Ben+Greenfieldhttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.bengreenfieldfitness.com%2F%3Fp%3D9670 Click to subscribe to all my fitness tips. Tweet (function() { var po = document.createElement('script'); po.type = 'text/javascript'; po.async = true; po.src = 'https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })(); !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs"); In Episode #155, “Way Beyond Naturopathic Medicine“, I interview my personal physician, Dr. Todd Schlapfer, from Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho, and also mention Dr. Todd in my Crash Course On Finding Out What Is Happening Inside Your Body. [...]

  18. SC. says:

    Freakin Out! Had blood test today, but very little info from the Doc. Said I am dangerously high cholesterol and border line diabetic. Total cholesterol 291, TG 205! And HBA1c 5.7. Note I have been low carb, high fat medium protein for 6 months, and the blood test was taken after 12 to 14 hour fasting. 6 months ago on embarking on a ketogenic diet blood work was ok according to the doc. Can't find any decent info on especially high HBAc1 data, only on diabetic websites, not much on Paleo sites etc… Male 46yrs. 186cm, 82 kg, fat about12%. Please point me in direction of any good reading materials for me to study up on! Thanks so much!!!

  19. [...] know this if you read my article “A Crash Course On Finding Out What Is Happening Inside Your Body“, in which I tell you about a ton of different blood, saliva and urine tests that you can [...]

  20. [...] *In addition to what Armi recommends, I’d also seriously consider checking out variables such as inflammatory markers (i.e. C-Reactive Protein), potassium and magnesium levels, etc. Check out the article “How To Test Your Body“. [...]

  21. zogodogo203973 says:

    Hi Ben, just wondering whether it's worth doing a blood test like WellnessFX if you're still growing (16 years old?). I compete a lot in sports and am in a national team for my sport, so am looking to improve performance and well being. Is it worth it when you're still young? Cheers

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