The Importance of Achieving Optimal Laboratory Test Readings
When most physicians review a patient’s blood, saliva or urine test results, their primary concern is if any results fall outside the “normal” laboratory reference range. The problem is that standard reference ranges usually represent “average” populations rather than the optimal physiological levels required to maintain good health. In addition there is no consideration of appropriate balance which is especially important when dealing with hormones. Hormone results may lie within the normal range and yet still remain unbalanced relative to each other.
It now appears that most reported standard reference ranges are too broad to accurately detect any imbalances. It is not uncommon for there to be a 10 to 15 fold difference between the low end and high end of the reported normal reference range. Therefore there could potentially be a 10 to 15 fold difference in readings and both are considered to be normal – which obviously could not be the case. This inability to accurately diagnose imbalances is especially true when these reference ranges are relied on to diagnose aging patients or younger patients with a serious medical disorder. Standard laboratory reference ranges only represent average populations and are generally based on statistical analysis rather then individual patient symptoms and are now becoming more widely considered as an ineffective means for diagnosis as they do not represent optimal physiological levels required for good health.
In our experience conventional medicine tends to neglect the hormone imbalances that develop in both men and women as they grow older or for younger patients with chronic illnesses such as chronic fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, etc. The result is that many patients needlessly suffer from an array of symptoms which are easily correctable and preventable if simple hormone adjustments are made. We see patients all the time where their test results indicate hormone levels are within the so called “normal” reference range, usually at the low end of this range, and yet they continue to experience all the typical text book symptoms of the hormone deficiency. Their physician’s response is usually that their hormone levels are normal so it could not possibly be hormonal even though all their symptoms are to the contrary. They then proceed to offer a band aid treatment which only addresses the symptoms without ever addressing the cause of the problem. As an example, we see many cases such as depression and anxiety which are usually treated with antidepressants and other pharmaceuticals when it was actually a result of an adrenal, thyroid or sex hormone imbalance. In cases such as these, where symptoms indicate the need, we help them raise their hormone levels up from the low-normal reading into the optimal range through supplementation. This usually always results in an elimination of all their hormone deficient symptoms by treating the cause of the problem and not just the symptoms.
Standard reference ranges are also failing aging people because their normal reference ranges are age adjusted. Since it is normal for many aging persons to have hormone imbalances, standard laboratory age adjusted reference ranges reflect these imbalances and thus do not flag hormone imbalances such as high levels of estrogens or deficient levels of testosterone and DHEA in men, or deficient levels of estrogen, progesterone, thyroid and DHEA in women.
As an example, aging men often suffer from an excess production of estrogen and insulin, with simultaneous deficiencies of free testosterone and DHEA. The standard reference ranges for all four of these hormones are so wide that most men would fall into the so-called normal category. Standard age adjusted reference ranges indicate that high estrogen and insulin levels are “normal” in older men but so are heart attack, stroke, cancer, benign prostate enlargement, weight gain, type II diabetes, etc which have all been associated with excess estrogen and insulin. The same standard age adjusted reference ranges for free testosterone and DHEA show that low levels are perfectly “normal” for aging men. It is no coincidence that aging men with low levels of testosterone and DHEA also have high rates of depression, memory loss, atherosclerosis, senility, impotency, cholesterol, abdominal obesity, fatigue, and many other diseases related to low blood levels of testosterone and DHEA.
Similarly with aging post menopausal women standard age adjusted lab reference ranges consider it normal to have very low estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA levels. But then so too are conditions such as osteoporosis, age related weight gain, type II diabetes, alzheimers disease, cardiovascular disease, low libido, etc which have all been linked to declining hormone levels with age. It would make more sense to use optimal reference ranges which maintain healthy hormone levels and thus help prevent many of these age related illnesses which may be a result of certain hormone imbalances that occur with advancing age.
There are many more examples that could be discussed, such as the short comings of regular thyroid test reference ranges, however I feel the point being made is now quite clear. If you suffer from symptoms of any of the hormone imbalances discussed on this website (adrenal, thyroid, sex hormone, etc) and your physician claims your test results are “normal” it would be worth your while seeking a second opinion from someone whom understands the short fall of such ranges and adheres to optimal reference ranges – as their interpretation of your test results may be quite different. The correct interpretation of your results in conjunction with your signs and symptoms may make all the difference for you to receive the appropriate treatment and thus help you on your way to recovery.