If you’re feeling tired, lethargic, depressed, listless and unmotivated, or if your skin is pale, or even if you’ve noticed more headaches, your memory and concentration declining or tingling and numbness in your arms and legs, it could be anaemia.
Anaemia is a major issue, but the trouble is that it’s not being properly tested by docs.
I’ll explain why shortly, and I’ll also let you know about a brand new blood testing service we’ve developed to make sure you get the most out of your blood work.
Please read to the end as this information is critically important for your wellness and that of your family.
Having done a lot of blood tests with clients lately, I’ve realized anaemia (or anemia for our friends in North America) that is a real problem.
I’ve found that a lot of people are walking round with mild to moderate anaemia that is not being picked up by standard blood testing.
Before we look at how to properly test for anaemia, let’s cover off what is actually is.
A lot of people think anaemia is related to iron deficiency, which is partly true because iron deficiency anaemia is probably the most common form of the condition.
But anaemias of different types can be caused by deficiencies in the following nutrients:
Typically, a standard blood test at the doctor’s office will cover serum iron levels, which is inadequate for assessing iron status, let alone the other four nutrients.
Anaemia symptoms differ depending on the cause (i.e. which nutrient is depleted – sometimes is several or even ALL the nutrients listed above).
Common symptoms that apply to iron deficiency anaemia sufferers are:
Fatigue and loss of energy
The symptoms are very similar to those listed above, with some additions:
Why there is a lot of confusion
As you can see, iron deficiency anaemia and B12/folate anaemia symptoms can have significant overlap.
A major problem is that routine medical screening typically only checks for iron deficiency (and it doesn’t do a particularly good job of it).
So what if your blood test shows normal iron levels even though you have a bunch of these symptoms, and you’re sent home thinking everything is ok on your blood test?
Unfortunately, this is a situation a lot of people find themselves in – perhaps even you?
Let’s add B6 and copper deficiencies to the equation
Vitamin B6 is really important because it’s required for dopamine, serotonin, GABA, adrenalin and noradrenalin production, all of which are vital neurotransmitters.
It is also needed for the production of glutathione, your body’s primary cellular antioxidant and detoxifier.
Thus, the symptoms of B6 deficiency can be really far-reaching:
Copper is a funny one because it’s a crucially important nutrient, but in excess its very toxic and problematic.
For now, we’re going to focus on copper deficiency symptoms, which include:
Ooops… you can see that once again, there are a many overlapping symptoms here when you compare the list with iron, B12, folate and B6 deficiencies.
On a general blood test, serum iron will nearly always be assessed (although I have seen tests that did not include this marker).
But serum iron isn’t an ideal test for iron deficiency, with serum ferritin being considered the best test.
Ideally a full iron panel would include serum iron, serum ferritin, total iron binding capacity and % transferrin saturation.
Unfortunately, these additional markers are rarely tested, meaning you’re getting short-changed with your iron analysis.
I always check at least serum iron and serum ferritin with clients – I won’t accept anything less than this.
Blood cell markers
When they are too low, red blood cell levels, haemoglobin, haematocrit and other markers related to your red blood cells are excellent anaemia markers.
The trouble is that they don’t tell you specifically which type of anaemia you might have.
Are your red blood cell counts low because of iron, B12, folate, B6 or copper deficiencies?
Of course, if you have a full iron panel done as part of your blood test, or serum B12 and folate, you can gain much more insight into your specific anaemia pattern.
Serum B12 and folate level testing
Some doctors include these markers with your blood work, but some don’t.
If you’re lucky enough to have these markers checked, you can put them alongside your symptoms, red blood cell and iron markers and deduce whether iron, B12 or folate (or a combination) may be a problem for you.
However, the serum B12 and folate tests are controversial because the ‘normal’ reference ranges are way too wide.
I will address this in a separate article because it’s one of the most important things you may ever learn about assessing your health.
Testing B6 and copper levels
It’s not so easy to test B6 and copper, largely because it’s hardly ever done in the medical setting.
However these nutrients can easily be tested at home if you’re willing to pay a private lab.
On your blood test, you can get some clues about B6 status by looking at liver enzyme levels.
Usually, liver enzyme levels will only be flagged as ‘abnormal’ if they are elevated, indicating liver cell damage or fatty liver.
However, when these enzymes – namely ALT, AST and/or GGT are too low, it can be a strong indicator of B6 deficiency.
Why? Simply because these enzymes are B6-dependent. In other words they can’t work without B6.
An organic acids urine test is an excellent way to assess B6, with high levels of two urinary compounds indicating B6 deficiency.
Incidentally, the organic acids test also has excellent markers for B12 and folate deficiency among many others.
Copper is trickier: a great way to check copper levels is through a hair test, looking at the copper level itself as well as the zinc to copper ratio.
Serum copper can be added to a standard blood test, or ordered from a private laboratory.
Confused? What can you do?
I realise this is all confusing, so let’s recap.
Anaemia can be the result of deficiencies in several nutrients, namely iron, B12, folate, B6 and copper.
You could have one deficiency, several or all (no kidding: I’ve seen people who are low in all these nutrients, and more).
Common symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, loss of zest for life, headaches, weakness, pale colour, mood and memory problems, and immune problems (sore tongue, ulcers, skin problems, etc.)
Standard testing can miss some of these subtle deficiencies, especially B6 and copper.
When interpreted carefully, a good blood test can give a lot of clues about your specific pattern of nutrient deficiencies.
The key is to get an initial blood test that checks for all the major parameters:
On top of these, you may need one or two additional tests to fill in the gaps, but not always.
I talk more about these in separate articles – they’ll be easy to find under their rightful article and blog categories.
As I said above, we’ve been working hard to develop a new blood testing service to make sure you get all the markers you need.
To me, there’s nothing worse than feeling unwell and being told your blood test is ‘normal’.
It doesn’t add up.
This happens for a few reasons:
Standard blood tests don’t always contain a full range of markers (We look at 55-60, some tests I’ve been sent by clients only cover 20-30
Standard tests typically do not have a full iron panel, serum B12 and folate, or serum copper
They don’t consider low values to matter, when in fact these low values can give you really important information
The reference ranges are too wide and don’t show subtle changes in important levels that may indicate a problem for you.
What’s more, some blood tests only contain information on 25-35 parameters, whereas we cover more than 50 (as a bare minimum).
The new blood testing service we’re aiming to provide resolves all these issues so you don’t have to worry about whether you’re being ‘duped’ by incomplete testing.
Stay tuned more info next time, and look out for the next article on anaemia, where I’ll explain why anaemia develops in the first place and what you can do about it right away
Meanwhile, if you’d like conduct an initial case review and consult to unravel confusion you may have about your case right, now, you can learn about one here.