Welcome to week three of Quit Eating Like Crap. In week one we talked about getting inspired, and in week two we talked about making one small change by eating your greens. I hope you play along at home!
One of the main reasons I wanted to change my family’s diet was to be more pro-active about our health. I wanted to go beyond my doctor visits every year or so, which basically consisted of “well you seem fine to me”…
I was educated enough to know that there is so much more to the story. That so many people go to the doctor every year and seem fine, until all of a sudden they aren’t.
Except it’s not all of a sudden, because so may of the degenerative illnesses that affect us in the modern world develop slowly over time–they’re just not diagnosed until symptoms present.
And by then they are way more advanced and you’re dealing with an actual illness rather than just a vitamin deficiency, or elevated triglycerides, or something else that you could have headed off sooner.
So this week is all about being pro-active and gathering information. Specific, actionable information about your own body. I can’t stress that last bit enough (I’ll just have to settle for bold AND italics, tee hee!)
Have you ever gone onto an internet forum (or, um, talked to people in real-life) and seen some version of this conversation happening?
Person A: I am feeling tired and sluggish.
Person B: Try a B vitamin supplement! It worked great for me!
Bonk. (<–That is my head banging against a wall.)
Anecdotal advice about supplements will only help you if you have those same deficiencies. If not, they’re useless.
So this week’s assignment is get a blood panel.
Last year, after about six months of being vegan, I had a full-spectrum blood test down to tell me what micronutrients I might be missing from my diet. (It was called a Spectracell analysis. I have decent insurance and I paid about $100 out-of-pocket. Without insurance the cost would have been about $250.) This is a great comprehensive test to get for a baseline health/diet assessment.
There are also a few other tests you might want to get depending on your risk factors or symptoms: such as checking your triglycerides, or allergen test(s). Your doctor will be able to direct you, but you may have to be specific with them about the fact that you are trying to be pro-active about gaining information about your health, since often people just want the bare minimum.
Some of the results of my test surprised me. The main surprise was how little I knew about all of the nutrients that are needed for the human body to function! I was deficient in things that I had only vaguely heard of (zinc, vitamin K), and totally fine in other things I’m always hearing scary stuff about (vitamin D, iron, B-12).
A blood panel can give you so much actionable information when it comes to your diet. I don’t know about you, but I am a total geek and I found this ridiculously exciting.
Another thing I found out from my blood work was that I had slightly elevated glucose levels (or “glucose-insulin interaction”)–as my doctor explained, it basically meant I had too many blood sugar spikes, most likely caused by eating too many refined carbs unaccompanied by protein.
At my stage it was totally no big deal, but if it continued along these lines it was something that can lead to diabetes. I was so happy to learn about this when it wasn’t yet a problem, because it led me to do my great sugar-free trial, and generally cut way back on sugar and be smarter about what I pair it with when I do eat it.
That was so empowering and motivating! To be able to see what was going on inside my body and make positive changes. Changes based on the needs of my body, not something I had read about in a book that I “should” do.
If you have mild deficiencies, a blood panel will give you a road map for what foods you might need to add to your diet (For example, because of my zinc deficiency, I am diligent about adding pumpkin seeds to my super cookies or eating a small handful every couple of days. Easy peasy! But I never would have known about that without gathering my information.)
If you have severe deficiencies, you can consider taking a supplement for a while until you get your levels closer to the normal range.
A blood panel is the number one (the only, really) way to see where you might have gaps or issues in your diet before they become a major problem.
You can catch small vitamin or mineral deficiencies that lead to health problems early and make corrections when they are really easy, before you start showing symptoms. Testing for other issues such as elevated triglycerides will highlight changes you can make to avoid major illness as well. If you are having digestive upset, an allergen test may show you what foods to avoid to find relief.
The point is, by getting a full-spectrum blood panel (and any other indicated tests) you’ll have real information that you can use, not just hearsay and theories about other peoples bodies. This will be a major guide (and a way to measure your progress) as you proceed to Quit Eating Like Crap!
What do you think? Have I convinced you? Have you ever had a blood panel done, and did the results surprise you?