John is a former vegetarian, who recently started eating a more vegetable-rich “Paleo” diet. He’s feeling great, and at his ideal weight, but does have some nagging digestive issues like heartburn and occasional diarrhea, that don’t seem to be going away. These issues were present when he didn’t eat meat. He takes over-the-counter supplements to support his body, and isn’t quite sure if they really help all that much. He was perusing the internet, and “Dr. Google” suggested he could have leaky gut, malabsorption problems, and many other possibilities. He saw a gastroenterologist about this, who diagnosed him with IBS and suggested he eat more fiber. He was not pleased with this recommendation, especially because he eats plenty of fiber! What’s his next step?
Although “Dr. Google” is the bane of many practitioners’ practices, it is also a source of information that can be beneficial. John did the right thing in seeing a gastroenterologist, but unfortunately many specialists prefer to treat diseases not symptoms, and if there isn’t a good pill or procedure for this, they aren’t really sure what to do. It isn’t the fault of the doctors for not knowing about nutrition or supplements, but luckily there are people in this world who do have knowledge on this subject. And these people/practitioners often use lab work to evaluate for nutrient imbalances. You can skip the practitioner (initially), and get this bloodwork for yourself.
There are many ways to evaluate nutrient status, but it is a good start to look at what’s in the blood through nutrient biomarkers.
Maybe you’re thinking of taking a vitamin B12 supplement – you can look at your bloodwork to see if you really are in need of this.
Maybe you’re thinking of taking vitamin D, or maybe you do take vitamin D – this in particular is important to look whether you are taking a supplement or not. If your vitamin D levels are too low or too high, this can cause problems. Check this every 6-12 months when taking a supplement (to make sure it’s the right dose).
There are many nutrients that can be tested. Before buying that next expensive supplement, make sure you actually need it! And if you correct your nutrient imbalances, and you’re still have bothersome symptoms, seek the care and evaluation of a good integrative/functional medicine provider.
Connection between inflammation and low vitamin D: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4160567/
Best levels of vitamin D: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5541280/?_ga=2.67143127.750667243.1515071227-1387819590.1509682613
Laboratory testing for B12 deficiency: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573090/
Redefining B12 deficiency: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2011.02485.x
About the Author:Meg McElroy is a PA with over 20 years of experience in the art and practice of functional medicine. She believes the first step in getting better is to embrace your current health situation (rather than dwelling in the past!), and recognize that health is ultimately impacted by our daily habits and choices. Persist and stay patient, give grace to those that are trying to help you on your journey, and remember that health is a journey, not a destination!