Are My Labs Really Normal?
I can't tell you how often someone tells me they had labs run and all the results came back normal, yet they still feel like crap. It happens on a regular basis. And often times the reason for this comes down to what is normal for one person is not for another.
If you have ever looked at lab ranges on your lab reports, you will notice that for many of the regular labs run, the ranges are pretty wide. The reason for these large ranges comes down to how they are calculated in the first place. Most labs determine their reference ranges from large populations of people. These people can be in various stages of their lives, take a variety of medication, and have a wide range of health conditions. None of these factors are taken into consideration when establishing the lab ranges we see on our lab reports. In addition, we don't know the lifestyle, dietary habits, or even genetics for any of these people. All of this makes it very difficult to establish something as "normal," which is why the ranges are so large.
There is a stark difference between normal lab ranges and optimal lab ranges. Optimal ranges are more condensed and tend to be more in tune with how a healthy body looks and feels. Optimal ranges are more precise, and when people fall into a more optimal range,
they generally have less symptoms and feel much better. I heard a great analogy recently that helps to explain the difference between "normal" lab reference ranges and optimal ranges.
Imagine I asked you to throw a baseball and hit the side of this barn. You could hit it up high near the roof, or you could hit it down low near the ground. You could hit it all the way to the left or all the way to the right. As long as you hit the barn somewhere, you are considered within the normal range on a typical lab reference range result.
If you miss the side of the barn completely, then you are considered out of range. Now imagine I asked you to hit the side of the barn ONLY within the target. The target is OPTIMAL range. Can you see how drastically different your results can be?
The bottom line is when you are looking at your lab ranges, it's important to take into consideration how you feel. If your doctor declares, "Everything looks good! All your labs are within the normal range," but you are dealing with less than desirable symptoms, something isn't "normal." Remember, the ranges are large and wide, just like a side of a barn. But the closer we can get to that target, generally the better we feel.
So if you are in this pattern of all things looking normal, but yet you are struggling to feel your best, it means something is off for YOUR body. As a functional health coach, I tell people all the time that the labs are only part of the picture. How you are feeling and your symptoms is also part of the whole puzzle. Recognizing that normal may not be normal for you is the first step in achieving optimal wellness.