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ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE: Blood tests

Medics have been studying blood since the advent of the microscope and possibly before. High-power magnification and computers have now made the observing and measuring of the components of the bloodstream extremely easy and swift. Almost anything can be measured, ranging from the number and type of red blood cells to the presence of pesticides or other toxins. The following gives an insight into some of the more common tests.

Cholesterol and triglycerides

Triglycerides are small molecules of fat that are absorbed via the digestive system or made up in the liver. Measurement of both of these components can tell us about fat metabolism, intake and risks such as of developing atheroma, which may lead to high blood pressure and strokes.

Cholesterol is subdivided into several groups -high-density lipoproteins , low-density lipoproteins , and very-low-density lipoproteins are the most common. All forms are needed for survival but as a general rule too much LDL is dangerous .

Electrolytes

Atoms with positive or negative charges are known as electrolytes. These include sodium, potassium and calcium, which are positive, and chloride and bicarbonate ions that are negatively charged. The balance of these electrolytes controls the amount of fluid in our system and the levels are maintained by the functioning of the kidneys and the amount of water and nutrients that we take in. Measurement of these electrolytes, which should be within narrow bands, enables a practitioner to assess water balance and kidney function.

Urea is the byproduct of protein metabolism and is a compound that gives the name to urine. Measurement of urea enables a practitioner to assess kidney function and is usually assessed with a specific protein known as creatinine, which is maintained as a normal level only if the kidney is functioning properly.

The ESR

The erythrocyte sedimentation rate is a non-specific test for a variety of conditions. The investigation is performed by placing a blood sample in a tube and measuring the speed with which the red blood cells settle. This sedimentation should run at a rate of about 1 cm/hour but alters under various conditions. Pregnancy may cause the ESR to ‘rise’ . Destructive conditions such as arthritis or cancer may cause the ESR to rise higher and certain inflammatory conditions may actually cause the ESR to reach over the 100 mark. An ESR rises due to a decrease in the viscosity of the serum in which the blood cells survive. A healthy bloodstream reacts similarly to placing a coin on the top of a pot of honey, as opposed to on a glass of water.

Full or complete blood count

This test measures red and white cell numbers and also microscopy is used to examine the shape, size and colour of the cells. This can give information about the presence of anaemia, how the red blood cells are taking up iron, B12 or folic acid, the number and type of white blood cells

ESR 2 mm/hr 0-11

Biochemistry

Sodium 138 mmol/l 135-145

Potassium 4.0 mmol/l 3.6-5.0

Chloride 109 mmol/l 98-111

Bicarbonate 25 mmol/l 18-31

Urea 4.6 mmol/l 2.9-7.0

Creatinine 78 umol/l 60-125

Bilirubin 8 umol/l 2-22

Alkaline Phosphatase 43 iu/l 30-95

Aspartate Transferase 17 iu/l 10-35

Alanine Transferase 26 iu/l 8-45

HBD 88 iu/l 70-135

CK 73 iu/l 33-186

Gamma GT 23 iu/l 5-50

Total Protein 66 g/i 60-80

Albumin 38 g/i 32-50

Globulin 28 g/i 23-39

Calcium 2.25 mmol/l 2.20-2.60

Phosphate 1.12 mmol/l 0.65-1.55

Uric Acid 327 umol/l 159-475

Random Blood Glucose 6.1 mmol/l 3.5-7.9

Triglycerides 1.68 mmol/l 0.50-2.10

Cholesterol 4.42 mmol/l Optimum<5.20

HDL Cholesterol 1.14 mmol/l 0.8-1.9

HDL % of total 26 % 20 and over

LDL Cholesterol 2.52 mmol/l Upto-4.0

Iron 22 umol/l 11.0-32.0

Endocrinology

Total Thyroxine 83 nmol/l 58-154

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone 1.32 miu/l 0.35 -5.00 bloodborne immune system. A differential count refers to the types of white blood cells and can tell a practitioner whether an infection is bacterial, viral, fungal or absent. Excessive white blood cells are usually present in infection or more serious conditions such as leukaemia. In the latter case the cells look different as well as being in abundance.

Liver function tests If liver cells are damaged their contents spill into the bloodstream and can be measured. The liver also produces proteins known as albumins which indicate the state of function rather than level of damage. Tests for these albumins are all grouped together and known as LFTs. Conditions such as hepatitis, alcoholism and cancer affecting the liver will all alter the LFTs by damaging the cells. Different intracellular chemicals come from different parts of the cell and the extent of the damage can be measured by defining which liver enzymes are actually present in the bloodstream. Some chemicals exist in the substance of the cell, whereas others live within the nucleus or brain of the cell. These latter chemicals are not released unless severe cell damage has taken place, so measuring the amounts in the bloodstream is as important as measuring their presence.

Thyroid function tests Thyroid function tests measure thyroxine, which is the main hormone produced in the thyroid gland, and another form of thyroxine called tri-iodothyromine . TH3 is produced in smaller amounts but is far more important in its effect. The levels of these two hormones indicate the function of the thyroid gland.

Also measured is the controlling hormone, known as thyroid-stimulating hormone , which comes from the pituitary gland .

Toxicity tests

A few laboratories are sophisticated and forward-thinking enough to be checking blood samples for toxins. Most chemicals can be detected but may require special requests. These few laboratories actually have panels to test for heavy metals, pesticides, insecticides and other environmental toxins. Any neurological condition or chronic problem, such as postviral fatigue syndrome or even cancer, needs to be assessed from the toxicity point of view.

Other tests

Most known compounds can now be assayed through blood testing. Levels of glucose, iron, toxins and prescribed drugs and special chemicals produced by particular inflamed tissues can all be isolated and used in the process of assessing organ function and body deficiencies and toxicity.

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