Entering the Biochemical Era

Vitruvian_timeFor a long time, we’ve thought of our bodies biomechanically, focusing on our visual anatomy for clues of health or illness. But we’re far from the time of DaVinci and the early anatomists, when physicians worked by looking and palpating for obvious signs and symptoms of disrepair.

As we’ve become better able to track what’s happening within our bodies on a cellular level, we’ve gained the power to examine things that we might not be able to see, but that we can still measure.

Biochemical interactions and cascades within the body can now be monitored and analyzed. Blood diagnostics have become the gold standard of tracking invisible and asymptomatic imbalance. And even now, researchers are working on less-invasive home tests that are simpler and more affordable.

It makes more sense than ever to start thinking biochemically: What’s in our bodies? How can we get the things we need into it? How do we get the things we don’t need out? How do we achieve a balanced ratio and create our optimal interior environment?

As the paradigm for diagnosis and treatment continues to change, there tend to be fears and objections to this new way of looking at health and disease. Here are some thoughts to help making the transition easier.

Knowledge isn’t scary

Detractors worry that when healthy people have their labs done, seeing a deviation from normal numbers can lead to anxiety and panic. But looking at your lab values should make you worry less, not more.

Even if there are numbers that are out of range, it’s often not cause for alarm.* Overall, the actual numbers are much less important than the trends. Looking at lab values periodically (annually is enough if there are no issues, and every 3-6 months is valuable if there are) can paint an accurate picture of your health over a given year.

Furthermore, these numbers should only be worrisome if there is nothing that could be done about them. Fortunately, there are lifestyle adjustments and treatments that can help modify almost every basic biomarker. Learning more about these can give you ideas for appropriate responses to abnormal lab values.

With a broad range of available solutions, ignorance is a poor choice.

Testing is low risk

Some might argue that blood testing is an invasive procedure, and as such should be done as infrequently as possible. Testing requires one needle stick, with minimal risk of minor issues like bleeding, fainting, bruising, and infection. And moving forward, testing will become even less invasive as simpler procedures are currently in the works.

Testing benefits the healthy

Some say that periodic testing is a waste of time and energy, or that it taxes the healthcare system and wastes money. But there are benefits to knowing about changes in your biochemical makeup, even if you’re healthy.

For example, looking at cholesterol levels periodically can help motivate people to improve their diet, exercise more, and take their prescribed medications or supplements. And it’s easier to see which treatments work and which don’t, meaning less time and money wasted on ineffective treatments.

Screening for basic biomarkers is quite different than getting tested for rare diseases. These tests provide a snapshot of overall health, and can help healthy people create effective regimens that help them stay well.

The Chinese classic medical text (the Huang Di Nei Jing) states that it is “superior to prevent disease … mediocre to treat disease before evident … and inferior to treat the full-blown disease.” It’s time to catch up to that ancient wisdom, and to track and adjust imbalance well before the visible signs and symptoms of disease.

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* And of course, if a lab value is wildly out of range, contact a healthcare professional.

 

The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.