Just a wee update on my recent article titled Functional Insight into blood tests. Its been quite the topic of debate lately, and as the person that reads and interprets blood tests for all my athletes (willing to submit to the needle) I just wanted to pass on some helpful insights and articles.
I read research all the time; and don’t believe in regurgitating it if someone else has written it accurately and eloquently, this means that often you will find me mention/ link and credit a well-written article. This isn’t laziness, it’s all about your empowerment and the more time I can spend in research, the better. No point re-writing what has already been well-written.
When numbers are off
I often see little anomalies in athletes’ blood test results. Athletes are not normal people and they certainly do things that most don’t consider ordinary. So it is important to know what the meaning in the number is, what this tells me about your health and whether it is even significant, and also most importantly what do we need to do practically to support your health, training and ultimately your goals.
If you are having blood tests done, please do this on a day off unless you want to frighten your doctor with an elevated enzyme count related to the muscles but often interpreted as liver or cardiac problems!
I really am going to keep this post short, after an epic length and helpful ‘must-read’ post yesterday: How to prepare for Kona Ironman – from flight to first food shop.
Please bear in mind that the following is not a comprehensive list, and is written informatively and not diagnostically. Please have anomalies diagnosed correctly and medically and confirmed in a second test. I am a big believer in holistic medicine but I am also adamant that health is assessed medically and accurately. Work with your doctor, specialist, or support team (coach, chiro, osteopath, nutritional therapist, dietitian, herbalist, acupuncturist, etc.); ensuring that all are specifically trained in sports medicine and familiar with conventional as well as alternative medicine diagnostic tests.
So what do I often notice?
Again this is a very brief over-view; when reading blood tests I take everything about the athlete into consideration including their current health, health history, family health history, current and recent diet, travel, recent and current training, etc.
As mentioned this article is merely informative and I urge you to work with an expert in the interpretation of blood test anomalies.
What can you do?
In the clinic I work each athlete as an individual putting their test findings into context with their current health, training programme, forthcoming competition schedule and pending travel. We may decide to do more tests such as adrenal function tests (salivary), assessment of a substance called secretory IgA or conduct more comprehensive analysis of inflammatory compounds and immune system factors, nutritional screening, and if needed more comprehensive explorations of the health of the gastrointestinal or hormonal systems.
Information provides solutions.
More importantly we look to tweak the diet, improve training nutrition, address negative lifestyle patterns, improve sleep, support the immune system with herbs and adaptogens, and improve the resilience of the body to stress with several strategies that resonate with the individual athlete. In other words we take ACTION!
It can be complex unraveling all of the picture, so I highly recommend working with an expert trained in medicine, functional medicine, and diagnostics.
If fatigue is an issue we also explore many other diagnostic and treatment options including energy healing work to bring the athlete back to full health and fitness as fast as possible.
As of yet I am not completely convinced by heart rate variability assessment using phone or other apps; not because it is not valuable as a biometric but because of limitations to accurate assessment.
Similarly heart rate variations can occur for many reasons other than training stress.
Our current training ‘gadgets’ and platforms such as Training Peaks are phenomenal to empower us with knowledge but NOTHING trumps listening to your body and being honest about how you feel. Even blood tests have their limitations. They are a moment in time when a needle was stuck in your arm; so I encourage you please to always listen to the amazing intuition of your body. It is difficult to listen objectively as an athlete so share your observations and concerns with your coach or nutritional therapist/ dietitian or doctor.
The body is a truly phenomenal miracle; for all the science in the world we like to think that we are smart and know the reasons, the how’s and all the answers but we still don’t know it all. With every new development another belief is discredited and it is important to remember this. We only know as much as we know today and this will change tomorrow. And in our modern world technology is released before we have all the answers in the hope that users will provide more data; effectively we are all guinea pigs in our modern tech world.
Do you ever stop to think for a moment while you are pounding the pavement, pulling invisible water molecules in the ocean, or baring your back to the sun on a hot bike ALL that your body is doing in that moment. The chances are no; and meanwhile the body just carries on being awesome. It is in our favour to work with it and not against!
Here are a few interesting links to explore:
Training for Endurance Sports and Your Immune System; this is a great article and one that I recommend reading, although I would caution athletes against messing around with lower carbohydrate diets or fasted training sessions without seeking the guidance of an expert as this is a highly complex area for many performance, physiological, hormonal and immune related reasons.
Professor M. Gleeson has written many helpful science papers about the immune system of athletes; here is a basic Pubmed search if his writings, and this is a sample of one of his papers: Immune system adaptation in elite athletes
If I can be of any further assistance please do get in touch,