Blood tests are an incredible window into the health of the human body. Blood travels through the highway that is the cardiovascular system and carries essential nutrients all around the body. It is mostly made up of water but within it crucially also carries:
– Oxygen on proteins called haemoglobin in your red blood cells
– Most of your immune system
– Salts – a key component of your body’s electrical system
– Vitamins and minerals
– Hormones (chemical messengers)
– Chemical energy (like sugar)
As it’s a transport system, it also carries waste products and damaged cells which are filtered by the kidneys and liver. Clinicians can tap into this information: damaged cells can be used as a biomarker of disease, built-up waste products indicate an issue in the factory producing them or the machinery that clears them (often the kidneys or liver). Some tests can even detect the possibility of cancer as almost every disease releases some sort of distress signal – many of which may of which are yet to be discovered. Amazingly it can give us an indication of the past too – one test can even indicate your average sugar levels over the last three months (HbA1c)!
Amazingly all this data can be gathered from just a few drops of blood. Often as a clinician, the challenge is deciding which tests are important enough to request from the lab to make a real-world impact. For example, testing for signs of infection in an otherwise young, fit and asymptomatic person will not yield anything useful in most cases. Fortunately testing easily replaceable things like Vitamins and Minerals can be justified. However, with all this data swimming around in your blood you need a trained eye to report what it all means.
The human body has adapted to handle individual chemicals by various pathways – vitamins and minerals are no different. Understanding the way they are processed helps explain when supplements will work.
A great intuitive example is sugar, if you ingest too much, the body stores it in the liver temporarily (in a different form) or semi-permanently in fat, to save it for a rainy day. However, in the case of water, there is a very limited amount of safe storage space and so any excess gets removed almost immediately, mostly in urine.
Vitamins and Minerals have this variation between them too – there are some vitamins – A, D, E and K that if taken in moderate excess, can be stored in fat for use when needed. This is especially useful in the case of Vitamin D as it requires sunlight to be broken into its active form, and many countries do not get enough sunlight throughout the year to do this (such as in the UK). On the other hand, taking too much of it can build up to toxic levels in the body.
Other vitamins have little to no storage space (and are not fat-soluble) and so what you have in the blood is most of your supply – hence they need constant topping up from your diet or supplements. On the flip side, it means if you take too much of them, your body has nowhere to store them and your body excretes them.
Vitamins are important for critical cellular pathways in your body and if you haven’t ingested enough these processes grind to a halt. Since your body can’t – by definition – manufacture vitamins (more on this in another blog) – the levels of it are entirely dependent on how much you ingest. This is why doctor’s find these blood tests incredibly useful – they are a quick, reversible method of correcting something that could fix a myriad of pathways and therefore many different symptoms. It’s akin to driving with a deflated tyre – sure it’s possible for a few miles – but the car doesn’t operate as smoothly – changing it makes a world of difference to your driving experience. Getting the wrong tyre for your needs can make things worse rather than better.
See “The Science Behind our Tests” on the Mytamin Page to see all the symptoms vitamins and minerals can effect, these include but are not limited to tiredness, healthier skin, stronger bones, and improved sleep.
TL; DR Blood tests can tell you more about yourself than your Instagram page – but choosing what to test and deciding what it means is another challenge altogether. Vitamin blood tests are incredibly useful for objectively treating lots of different problems at once – replacing them correctly can improve your life experience