What Do My Test Results Mean?


Having a hard time understanding the lab tests ordered by your health care practitioner? It's easy to get confused by all the terminology you see when looking at your test results, so let us help you better understand the meaning of some of the most common tests ordered by your functional medicine provider.

Food Allergy Testing

Immunoglobulins

Depending on the nature of your specific symptoms, you may need or have had a blood test to detect if your immune system is reacting to certain substances--be it various types of food, animal dander or types of bacteria, viruses, fungus or parasites--by producing antibodies. Antibodies--also known as immunoglobulins--are produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance in your body. Antibodies attach themselves to the foreign substance in order to mark it for destruction by other antibodies and by other components of your immune system.

Too High, Too Low or Just Right: What Do Your Immunoglobulins Say About Your Health?

There are several major types of immunoglobulins (IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, IgM), with each type responding to specific foreign substances. We will look at 3 commonly tested ones: IgA, IgE, IgG. Examples of tests used by Dr. Sarah Williams to analyze these immunoglubulins include: Cyrex Array tests and Allergix Food Antibody Assessement from Genova Diagnostics.

  • IgA: Functions to protect the body from invading foreign substances and is found in the digestive tract, nasal and airway passages, ears, eyes, and vagina as well as certain body fluids (tears, saliva, blood). Elevated levels of IgA indicate a functional immune response and can occur in certain autoimmune diseases, liver disorders, a certain type of cancer called multiple myeloma, gluten sensitivity or be of unknown significance. Low levels of IgA may indicate nephrotic kidney disease, certain types of leukemia, or digestive disorders, to name a few. Low levels of IgA can also increase the risk of developing infections or an autoimmune disease. A certain proportion of people do not produce any IgA antibodies. In this case, a test for IgG may be run concurrently. An example of this can be seen in the Cyrex Array 3 test for wheat/gluten reactivity and autoimmunity. Even if you are low in IgA or do not produce any IgA antibodies, a disorder will be picked up if your IgG antibodies are elevated.

  • IgE: Functions to protect your body against allergenic substances such as pollen, fungus spores, parasites, and animal dander and, thus, are found in the skin and in the mucous membranes of nasal passages, the airways and the gut. IgE is also involved in allergic responses to foods, some medications, and poisons. Elevated levels of IgE can be found in allergic reactions, parasite infections, people with asthma, actopic dermatitis, certain forms of auto-immune disease, and some types of cancer. Low levels of IgE can occur in a rare inherited disease called ataxia-telangiectasia.

  • IgG: Play an important role in fighting bacterial or viral infections and are found in all body fluids. Elevated levels of IgG may indicate a circulating immune response, chronic infection like hepatitis or the presence of an autoimmune illness such as multiple sclerosis. IgG is also elevated in multiple myeloma. Low levels can be seen in certain types of leukemia and in nephrotic kidney disease. In rare instances, a person may not produce IgG antibodies, putting them at higher risk for developing infections.

Hormone Testing

Our bodies produce many different types of hormones which act as important chemical messengers in numerous bodily functions from sleep to sugar metabolism to reproduction. The sex hormones, chiefly testosterone and estrogen, represent just one group of hormones. If you are suffering from fatigue, low libido, depression, or menopausal symptoms, your health care provider may recommend a hormone test--such as Genova Diagnostics Complete Hormone--to see if there is an imbalance in your hormones and their by-products.

Healthy Estrogen Metabolism: Important for Women and Men

If your healthcare practitioner has ordered hormone tests for you, you may be wondering why he or she is talking about your liver function. That's because the metabolism of such hormones as estrogen (which happens in men, too!) is performed primarily by your liver and the by-products of improper estrogen metabolism can set you up for various health problems. In fact, an imbalance in estrogen metabolite ratios such as:

  • 2-methoxyestrone to 2-hydroxyestrone ratio or

  • 4-methoxyestrone to 4-hydroxyestrone ratio

can lead to a build up of compounds that increase your risk of breast or prostate cancer.

Analysis of your liver function looks at two metabolic pathways:

  • Phase I Pathway: Hydroxylation

  • Phase II Pathway: Methylation, Sulfation & Glucuronidation

As estrogen is metabolized--or broken down--(hydroxylation), its metabolites undergo further transformation to make them less toxic (methylation) and facilitate their safe elimination from the body (sulfation and glucuronidation). Methylation involves an enzyme called COMT(catechol-O-methyltransferase). When COMT activty is impaired, whether from excessive stress, poor nutrition or genetic mutations, estrogen metabolites which are procarcinogenic--favor the development of cancer--may build up in the breast and prostate.

Proper Liver Metabolism is Key to Good Hormone Health

Evaluating your liver function with regard to hormone metabolism is a vital step in improving your overall health. Changes in diet along with nutritional supplements are available to support proper methylation and restore balance to your hormones. Ask your healthcare practitioner if nutritional support for proper methylation is right for you. For more information, contact us today.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~

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