7 Most Important Lab Tests I Highly Recommend for You

Written By

Rhea Dali

Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Microscopes In The Laboratory For Different Lab Tests

Lab tests are significant to have informed decisions to provide the most appropriate treatment for a patient. Learn what are the most essential lab tests for you!

Everyone is into tracking nowadays!

Doctor Recommends Lab Tests

In fact, there are approximately 10-million active FitBit users alone—and that’s not counting those of you who own Apple Watches, My Fitness Pal apps, heart rate monitors, and other logs and metrics that help you keep up with your own health and fitness.

A common question I get from both clients and other practitioners is what general lab tests I recommend for assessing a baseline for health—particularly if there are no serious health conditions to monitor.

Is it even worth it to run lab tests?

Lab testing can get expensive and not something insurance always covers. In addition, most docs don’t run them unless some imbalance is suspected.

However, having a baseline of health can be a powerful tool in your own tool-belt for “hacking your own health” and monitoring the effects (both positive and negative) of any lifestyle change or nutrition change you make.

Here are my top 7 lab tests I most often recommend to clients who come to me wanting to feel better, improve their digestion, balance their hormones or “boost their metabolism.”

I’ve also included a little explanation as to why these can be impactful, under what circumstances I recommend running them and healthy (functional*) lab ranges markers to look for on the test. 

*Functional lab ranges are a more accurate, up-to-date healthy lab range that are used to assess risk for disease before the disease develops,  compared to the standard lab ranges, many of which have not changed since the 1960’s and are used to diagnose disease once it is already a disease. In layman’s terms:

  • Standard reference range

The range most lab reports tell you is “normal” (but may actually indicate imbalance and early disease)

  • Functional reference range

The ideal range you want; an accurate lab reference range before disease, imbalances or risk factors develop.

Top 7 Lab Tests: 

  1. Comprehensive Wellness Panel, including: Vitamin D, Total Cholesterol, Complete Blood Count, Vitamin B12 & Folate
  2. Fasting Glucose & Blood Sugar Profile
  3. Comprehensive Thyroid Panel (TSH, T3, Reverse T3, T4)
  4. SIBO Breath Test
  5. Food Intolerance Test (Cyrex)
  6. Comprehensive Stool Test
  7. DUTCH Complete Hormone Testing

Note: Not all of these may be warranted, based on your personal symptoms and needs. However, these are the most common ones I recommend.

Lab Testing 101

1. Comprehensive Wellness Panel

This includes: Vitamin D, Total Cholesterol, Complete Blood Count, Vitamin B12 & Folate

A general blood panel is a great place to start for assessing if you have any nutritional deficiencies that we can support via nutrition, supplements and potentially gut support. If levels are off or imbalanced, it indicates to me you’re missing something in your diet, as well as potentially not absorbing your nutrients (warranting a further investigation into your gut health). Here are some of the lab ranges I am looking for:

  • Cholesterol

Standard reference range: Male and female: 100–199 mg/dL
Functional reference ranges: Male: 150–220 mg/dL Female: 150–230 mg/dL

  • Folate

Standard reference range: > 3 μg/L
Functional range: > 8 μg/L 

  • Vitamin B12

Recommended: 500 pmol/L+

  • Vitamin D

Recommended: 50-70 ng/ml

2. Fasting Glucose & Blood Sugar Profile

This test is for the client who has blood sugar imbalances, as well as an indicator of a need for more or less carbohydrates.

And get this: you don’t have to eat Skittles or donuts to have “blood sugar imbalances.” Common signs of blood sugar imbalances include: Headaches, afternoon crashes, caffeine or sugar cravings, PMS, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, “hanger” if you don’t eat every 2-3 hours, constant thirst, fatigue most often relieved by food, and feeling wired and tired at night. If you want to know if your blood sugar levels are normal, here’s what to look for:

  • Glucose

Your blood sugar levels in your body (fasted). If these are elevated or suppressed, indicates you have blood sugar imbalances, and/or you are not eating the right nutrients for your body (undereating, not enough healthy fats, potential digestive issues if not absorbing nutrients properly).

Standard reference range: 65–99 mg/dL
Functional (ideal) reference range: 75–85 mg/dL 

  • Hemoglobin A1c

A diagnostic for diabetes. An elevated hemoglobin A1c reflects higher-than-normal circulating glucose levels for the preceding three months.

Standard reference range: 4.8–5.6%
Functional (ideal) reference range*:

3. Comprehensive Thyroid Panel (TSH, T3, Reverse T3, T4)

“Thyroid” is a buzz term in health sphere, but what does it encompass? The thyroid gland is an endocrine gland located in the front of your neck that stores and produces hormones impacting the function of virtually every organ in your body.

Thyroid hormone (T3) governs your metabolism and is associated with changes in body weight, energy levels, hormone imbalances and appetite/digestion imbalances. If your thyroid is off, you can bet your bottom dollar you’re health is off. I typically suggest lab tests like this as a baseline, but particularly find it necessary for those who come to me complaining of unexplained weight gain or weight loss/difficulty maintaining weight, fatigue and hormone imbalances.

  • T3 Free

Standard reference range: 2.0–4.4 pg/mL
Functional reference range:
2.5–4.0 pg/mL

  • Reverse T3

Healthy reference range: 9.2–24.1 ng/dL

  • T4 Free

Standard reference range: 0.82–1.77 ng/dL
Functional reference range:
1.0–1.5 ng/dL

  • TSH

TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone. Critical for every function of the thyroid.
Standard reference range: 0.45–4.5 µIU/mL
Functional reference range: 0.5–2.0 µIU/mL

  • Thyroid Antibodies (If Hashimoto’s—low thyroid—is a concern)

TPO: Reference range: 0–34 IU/mL
Tg: Reference range: 0–0.9 IU/mL 

4. SIBO Breath Test

Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is an underlying pathogen associated with many gut issues that don’t “seem to heal”—no matter how clean you eat or probiotics you take. As the name suggests, this is a bacterial imbalance in your gut, triggered from an overgrowth of bacteria in your colon to your upper GI.

While we all have bacteria in our guts—good and bad—this fermenting bacteria triggers a host of digestive and health imbalances including: IBS, IBD, bloating and gas, skin breakouts, allergies, low immunity, hormonal imbalances, thyroid imbalances and malabsorption. Often times we cite “leaky gut” as being the cause for digestive complications, but SIBO is a common silent culprit that often flies under the radar.

*Take Note

(Note on SIBO Testing for Clinicians: There are two types of SIBO testing: Lactulose and Glucose breath testing, but both monitor the methane and hydrogen levels of the gut. Hydrogen based SIBO triggers more bloating and gas after meals. Methane-based is frequently associated with more loose stools and IBS like symptoms down the line. Many people take this test and only look at the hydrogen levels or treat SIBO based solely on its presence in the upper GI (and bloating), and thus, miss out on the diagnosis of the disease. You want to look at both the hydrogen and methane results, and also recognize, due to the length of testing, there are often false negatives and false positives reported (since the test cannot assess the entire 12+ hour length of your digestive process for the full picture).

If digestive symptoms continue to persist, it is often recommended to begin an “anti-microbial” treatment (kills bad bacteria), coupled with a basic paleo diet (including some carbs and starches, like fruit and sweet potatoes/potatoes, jasmine rice) with the supplements). 

What to look for:

A high spike in the hydrogen over 20 ppm at any point in the test, and/or a spike in methane levels over 12 parts per million (or even over 3 ppm according to some criteria).

5. Food Intolerance Test (Cyrex)

Food sensitivities indicate gut imbalances, as well as can be highly informative to explain certain health conditions you may have—based solely on foods you eat that don’t sit well with you.

Lab Tests Needed To Determine Food Sensitivities

There are multiple panels you can run and I prefer to use Cyrex, based solely on the research and science backed by this testing, as well as the fact that the test assesses tolerance to foods in their most-consumed forms (raw or cooked).

Most food intolerance tests only test foods in raw form—not accounting for the fact that cooking foods changes the chemical makeup (and our tolerance or intolerance) to foods. I will most often run the Gluten (Cyrex Array 3), Gluten-Cross Reactive (Cyrex Array 4) and Total Food Sensitivity Panel (Cyrex Array 10), depending on the client’s symptoms.

6. Comprehensive Stool Test

This guy picked lingering parasistes and gut flora imbalances. I run a three-time sample to get a clear picture of any missing links. All ya gotta do? Just go. Parasites, fungal species and absorption dysfunction can all be indicated with the results from this test.  This gives me a better idea as to why your “clean eating” is not helping or health conditions persist.

7. DUTCH Hormone Panel.

A urine sample assessing your estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol levels. This test takes a total of 4 samples in a day to get a clear picture of hormonal balance and levels throughout the day (as opposed to a blood sample that is just one shot in time). In addition, I will sometimes run the DUTCH 28-Day Cycle Mapping test if hormone imbalances or irregular periods/missing periods are indicated to see what your cycle is doing throughout an entire month in order to best support your nutritional needs. Lab tests like this one is very helpful.

Get it? Got it? Good!

If your doc won’t run these lab tests for you, consider working with Dr. Lauryn, OTD, NTP in her Austin clinic. You can also visit her virtual clinic to take back your health. Start today and become the best version of you, from the inside out. 

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