Micronutrient Testing:  What you should know

Today we live in a society of OVEReating and UNDERnourishment. It’s estimated 1 in 3 Americans are deficient in at least 10 key minerals. Those numbers are no surprise given an increase in processed foods and nutrient poor soil. What’s worse is there is no routine testing performed to identify your levels.

Blood testing provides a powerful tool to improve your mental and physical performance, reduce your future risk of chronic disease, and increase your longevity. It is well known that blood tests are used to diagnose disease — but blood work is most powerful when used to monitor your health in a more proactive way.

Blood tests allow you to take an inside look at your body and how it functions. Getting regular blood work is the closest thing we have to x-ray vision to see inside the body. Understanding your blood biomarkers — the molecular signs of health — will help you make more informed decisions about your diet, lifestyle, fitness, and supplement choices.

Extracellular vs. Intracellular Testing

Serum testing is a simple lab test that determines what is in the liquid part of your blood. It tests what is floating or passing through your body in that moment of time and is measured outside of the cells (extracellular). 

Alternatively, a test that measures inside your red and white blood cells (intracellular) would be the most adequate way to measure because it looks at the nutrient status inside.

Extracellular can be misleading as it doesn’t truly indicate what your body is absorbing at a cellular level/functional need. Metabolism, protein synthesis, hormone production and detoxification all occur inside. Therefore, measuring the outside cells tells you nothing about these important functions! Imagine this scenario, you’re dehydrated and desperately thirsty. You jump into a pool but don’t drink the water. What happens to your thirst? Nothing. Because you didn’t drink the water, it didn’t make its way into your body. Just like the pool water and dehydration, your body could potentially be denied of essential vitamins and nutrients because they aren’t making their way into your cells even if your serum results show they are surrounded by the cell itself.

A common example of the powerful difference between results with extracellular (serum) vs. intracellular is a B12 deficiency. Your serum test results come back within normal reference range, but you’re still feeling symptoms of chronic fatigue. You seek out an intracellular test to see if your cells are truly absorbing B12. You may discover that you’re not only low or deficient, but that it’s also the case for all your B vitamins! B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12 and folate are all cofactors necessary for converting food into energy. Unfortunately, you won’t make this essential discovery through just a serum test. Serum levels often fall in the normal range when a true intracellular deficiency exists. Deficiency of a nutrient can cause cellular disruption. If your cells aren’t functioning, your body isn’t either! Additionally, serum tests can be transient, meaning it fluctuates greatly and your results may not always be truly accurate. The lifespan of cells tested in intracellular testing are about 4-6 months, so it displays your nutrient status over a period of months, not days or hours.

Why is serum testing so commonly used?

It’s widely available, easy to perform, inexpensive and the way it’s been done for decades. Reference ranges are well understood and easy for your doctor to check or uncheck a box for your results. The truth is that intracellular testing is much more clinically informative. Not only will you know what your body needs to function properly, you’ll also obtain valuable information on how to best boost your levels. Often based on the results of your test, people may be able to supplement some of what their body needs through dietary and lifestyle changes.

Who should test?

Everyone is a good candidate for intracellular testing! Whether or not you have symptoms, it’s still beneficial to know what your body needs. There are a number of chronic conditions caused by micronutrient deficiencies including migraines, fatigue, autism, inflammation, osteoporosis and mood disorders. The amount of each nutrient you need varies from person to person and depends on genetics, age, overall health, pregnancy/breastfeeding, and the amount of physical activity you do at what intensity level. It’s important to understand that even though you may be consuming an adequate diet, your intake levels may not be sufficient and still provide risks for deficiencies and the disorders associated with them. So, if you don’t eat a wide range of foods in your diet, you’re especially a good candidate for testing!

How do I get tested?

For more information on Intracellular (Micronutrient) testing contact 618.632.9000 (O’Fallon, IL) or 314.833.9000 (Town and Country, MO).


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