Real-time Diagnostics on the Couch!

Well, this is different, now I’m watching you! 😆 In early 2021 we released our very popular MasterCourse I: Comprehensive Diagnostics, as a ‘self-paced’ online offering for the many who missed out on attending live in 2020.  Many have grabbed this opportunity with both hands (& a headset and some hardcore Do Not Disturb! signs) but we know that for some, doing the entire course on your own, >24hrs of video presentations, can be a tad onerous & overwhelming. We want to remove these barriers and empower & upskill as many practitioners in pathology interpretation as are keen, and as a means to achieve this, we’re offering the MasterCourse I Watch Party.  So bring your bhujia and a beverage and let’s do this!!

Practitioners who sign up for this will be able to watch each session’s video replay live with other practitioners and have the opportunity to ask Rachel questions & participate in case discussions at the end. Another key detail is that we will run the sessions weekly, so that the full course is covered in just 6wks, from July 8th to August 12th.

MasterCourse I: Comprehensive Diagnostics LIVE WATCH PARTY
24 hours of live Zoom sessions + Bonus sessions!
8, 15, 22, 29 July & 5, 12 August on Thursday at 3.30pm to 7.30pm AEST.
Each Thursday, the video presentation for that week will be played so we can watch it together. Then Rachel will open up her webcam and mic, inviting you to do the same, to participate in a Q&A  as well as set case discussionsWhen you register, you get immediate access to watch our preliminary/preparatory sessions, prior to 8 July: Accurate Pathology Interpretation Starts Here and the RAN Patient Pathology Manager Tutorial.

Below is an overview of the Watch Party schedule.

Week 1 – 8 July | SESSION 1: Acid Base Balance & Electrolytes
Week 2 – 15 July | SESSION 2: Renal Markers
Week 3 – 22 July | SESSION 3: Liver Enzymes
Week 4 – 29 July | SESSION 4: Lipids & Glucose
Week 5 – 5 August | SESSION 5: Immune Markers
Week 6 – 12 August | SESSION 6: Haematology

“I thought my pathology skills were pretty up there until I did Rachel’s Diagnostic Masterclass course!  Nothing like being knocked off my perch by a literal avalanche of new information, especially when it comes from the most commonly tests that we all use so often.  The course has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me, and has since helped me pick out many intricacies in cases that have previously been missed.  

The course structure was great, the level of detail was right up my alley, and the case studies were entertaining (in true RA fashion).  Once again Rachel has increased my knowledge base, and help me provide way better service to my patients.” – Rohan Smith, Naturopath


Join Rachel on MasterCourse I: Comprehensive Diagnostics Watch Party and register here.
MasterCourse I is a pre-requisite to join MasterCourse II which will be delivered live in 2022.

Well…Does He Need Iron?!

If I could be granted 1 wish regarding all health professionals, it would be that we were all competent in reading Iron Studies.  Think that’s overstating the issue? Or not a bodacious enough way to ‘spend’ my wish? I don’t. Especially when you consider the impact of GPs in this space. 

This 57Y male was asked to make a follow up appointment with his doctor, to discuss his ‘abnormal’ results which he was informed constitute Iron deficiency. 
Consequently he was was advised to start an iron supplement! #@!*

Your thoughts?  Revoke this doctors medical licence?  Insist on some very du jour ‘re-training’ at the very least?  I mean, if you think this Iron pattern flags a deficiency or shortfall, then you’re as good as reading a map upside down and back to front…and written in a foreign language!! The ‘Ls’ in his latest labs flag he has suppressed transferrin, indicative of negative feedback inhibition of GIT uptake of this mineral, secondary to healthy stores or inflammation. And it’s not just that more iron is not indicated but that more iron in fact presents a patient like this with increased and unnecessary risk: to their microbiome, intestinal wall health, even according to the larger longer studies a potential correlation with colorectal cancer risk, if taken long term. Let alone the whole cardiovascular conundrum.  Better still this same patient was told a few years back that he might have iron overload!  Again the ‘map’ could only have been being read, upside down, back to front to reach such a conclusion! 

So the one patient in just a few years by 2 different doctors has been diagnosed incorrectly with 2 different iron issues. Yep.

And sadly I have sooooo many more cases of missed and mis-diagnoses with regard to this mineral.  The latest RACGP Position Statement on the Use of Iron Studies, underscores that assessment of iron status and GPs competence in knowing when to do this and how to interpret, is an important part of core general practice. Given it “is the commonest nutritional deficiency state in Australia and is significantly under-diagnosed” This succinct document offers a quick crash course in Iron nutrition for doctors and it hits all the right marks with advice about not ordering ferritin as a stand-alone because “the interactive nature of the three components allows for more accurate interpretation” and this simple but sage advice:

Transferrin, iron transport protein, tends to increase in ID…
A better strategy (than being tricked by Serum Fe) is to report transferrin saturation.
A low transferrin saturation in the setting of an equivocal ferritin level is suggestive of iron deficiency.
An elevated transferrin saturation is the first manifestation of iron overload.

I mean seriously, do doctors read these RAGCP resources & recommendations, or is it just me? 🤓😂  

Need a rip-roaring review on how to really read iron studies?  Or know another health professional who does?!! Consider this Easter Educational Gift Instead of Eggs!!
So You Think You Know How To Read Iron Studies?
Overt Iron Deficiency Anaemia or Haemochromatosis aside…do you understand the critical insights markers like transferrin and its saturation reveal about your patients iron status?  Most practitioners don’t and as a result give iron when they shouldn’t and fail to sometimes when they should.  This audio complete with an amazing cheat sheet for interpreting your patients Iron Study results will sharpen your skills around iron assessment, enabling you to recognise the real story of your patients’ relationship with iron.

 

Ask Alexa?

‘Hey Alexa, What’s that formula for correcting urinary iodine for hydration status?’
Oh yes, if only she could answer these kind of questions!

There’s no one here by that name but we get these kind of emails all the time [Oh and also for Freya who hasn’t worked here in like 5 years!!😂]  But we love them because it means our blogs provide useful, sought after and (we like to think!) really really hard to get anywhere else answers . But hey try it, Ask Siri!  We’re always forthcoming with references – not just citations but the full low down and dirty full texts (as long as we’ve managed to get our hands on it!!) and we know which topics particularly hit a spot across our professional group by not just the number of enquiries but how far the actual blog they’re referring to, dates back.  So we’ve just received more comms regarding one that’s often on high rotation…a post I wrote on urinary Iodine Assessment & how and why we should adjust for hydration!  That was 2014…what a vintage 🤩 Show’s though how topical and tricky this little test is. 

So I dove back into the musty archives (no seriously we don’t use parchment) and thought it might be good to create a central source for all things Iodine…because…well there’s a LOT!
If you haven’t read the original post on the iodine creatinine correction – the fun starts HERE!
We named names (the companies that did correct for creatine and those that didn’t) – way back in 2015
We told you companies may change their reporting style but there’s one easy way to tell if the correction for hydration has been done for your patient’s results
I clarified, the Pitfalls of (so-called) Patch Testing for Iodine Status
And we linked you to my Free-for-all-FxMed talk on the Intricacies of Iodine – which discussed assessment & so much more!

Then there’s iodine and breast pain, iodine and sub-fertility & & &…& [ahem] turns out I perhaps have been a little Iodine Infatuated.  But you know, it’s still 100% warranted, right?  I mean here’s that latest Newsflash post Australia’s ‘genius’ bread fortification: Women Remain at Risk of Iodine Deficiency during Pregnancy: The Importance of Iodine Supplementation before Conception and Throughout Gestation. Oops, Britney style, I think I just did it again! Oh and don’t forget our website does have a search function – top right 😉

Iodine Deficiency, Toxicity & Treatment – Where are we now?

The iodine landscape has undergone radical change recently.  We’ve moved from recognising the resurfacing of a widespread deficiency, to large-scale food fortification that has failed to correct deficiency in most and produced excesses in a few. Parallel to this, we have the ever growing incidence of thyroid disorders and some radically contrasting ideas regarding iodine’s role in both aetiology and treatment.  Micrograms V milligrams?  Random urinary iodine or iodine loading test? Important new evidence and clinical experience helps us understand more about how to accurately assess patients’ need for iodine and know when & how to use it therapeutically & when not to!

Are You Ready To Be Lab Literate?

The first time I saw a set of lab results was when a patient brought them in to her appointment.  True.  In spite of the comprehensive training I’d received in nutrition and biochemistry and pathophysiology my undergraduate did not include one single lesson on lab interpretation & now here I was faced with some badly formatted inkjet printed document full of numbers I was supposed to make sense of.  Was the patient right to expect me to be lab literate?

We profess to be proficient in identifying and correcting nutritional deficiencies, as much as, cardiovascular risk, chronic inflammation, methylation imbalance etc etc so surely these ‘numbers’  are essential to informing our baseline understanding of & decision making regarding the management of our patients, as well as tools for monitoring their progress & safety.

Let alone the knowledge we need to work collaboratively with other health care professionals and show ourselves to be the asset that we are. 

And herein lies the golden opportunity, I believe.  Most of us do possess excellent foundational knowledge in nutritional biochemistry etc, much more so than other health professionals, who are ordering and seeing these results routinely, they will often tell you this themselves. And while more recent naturopathic, nutritional & herbal medicine graduates have had some basic orientation and education in pathology, are we really making the most of this powerful marriage of knowledge areas? What would we see, if we made it our business to view the same labs? So much more.

We can see warning signs well before the diagnosis, we can see the process behind the emerging or established pathology rather than simply a disease label, and accordingly, the individualisation of our patients’ presentations and their prescriptions. 

But first we need to learn our labs.

That very first patient who turned up with results in her hot little hand started me on this path to lab literacy. Later, I was lucky enough to find a kindred spirit  & mentor during my time at SCU, with Dr. Tini Gruner and then Dr. Michael Hayter, whom I co-presented my first diagnostics course with many years ago, and every day my patients and my mentees’ deepen my understanding.  This path to lab literacy goes on forever I suspect, but with every new corner I turn, I am reminded of and rewarded by all that it has gifted me and my patients. 

I’d like to share that gift with you through stories filled with new favourite characters, like ‘Mr More More More Monocyte’ above, engaging animations, loads of real cases, heaps of humour and plenty of practice in pattern-recognition, that make remembering, what can be very detailed content, doable.

In other words: The MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics I is finally here as a self-paced learning program you can undertake yourself.  We know you’ll get as much out of it as those who attended live:

 

“I thought my pathology skills were pretty up there until I did Rachel’s Diagnostic MasterCourse! Nothing like being knocked off my perch by a literal avalanche of new information, especially when it comes from the most commonly tests that we all use so often. The course has been a fantastic learning opportunity for me, and has since helped me pick out many intricacies in cases that have previously been missed.”
– Rohan Smith | Clinical Nutritionist

 

MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics is a self-paced online program
Gives you access to 24+ hours of streamed video presentations2 x Bonus Update in Under 30 episodes (The Calcium Conspiracy & Using Urea to Creatinine Values for Protein Adequacy) PLUS resources, a template and pdfs of all presentations. This package includes $200 worth of bonus material and remains forever in your online account. You will also receive access to any future updates of resources and our template. More information can be found here.

This is a pre-requisite for MasterCourse II that will be delivered live in 2021.

 

 

The Temporal Tap On Thyrogastric Autoimmunity

I love a little temporal lobe tap. Especially the kind patients provide.  This week mine came from a mentee’s patient who, while presenting with concerns about possible perimenopause, was found to have radical shifts in her thyroid hormones, largely thanks to a dramatic increase in TPO Abs (>1000).  The patient’s other presenting complaint was ongoing gastritis (confirmed via scope) and reflux…and that’s when I started to deep-dive into the archaeological archives of my brain…with the…’didn’t I have somewhere in here, in some dark dusty deep recess…a connection between the two?!’

Aha!  With the help of a torch [read Google Scholar] the temporal tap bore fruit.
1 in 4 patients with AITD (Hashimoto’s or Graves, you choose!) test positive to Parietal Cell Antibodies

I’ve created (clearly, not-so)SmartArt graphics on powerpoint slides on this exact topic, waxed lyrical about it in my thyroid training packages…but in fact needed a temporal tap to be reminded!  And in turn thought, well gosh if this has slipped from my mind, it might just have slipped from yours too! ‘Thyrogastric autoimmunity’ as it’s called, refers to a patient group that exhibit antibodies to both and remember, the antibodies precede the condition in both disorders, so you can have a patient with established AITD, who has zero gastric symptoms but tests positive for the antibody…an important heads-up, as it speaks to significant risk of the subsequent development of gastritis in the following years.  This excellent prospective study of AITD patients by Tozzoli and colleagues mapped exactly that! Jump forward just another day or so and…

I’m preparing for our final FiNAl FINAL Q & A on Haematology for our MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics and I’m wrestling with all the conflicting ‘facts’ about the anaemia that may present alongside hypothyroidism – it has been documented and described as being macrocytic, normocytic and even microcytic… how can it possibly be so diverse I wonder and then 💡
I’m guessing the presence or absence of these parietal cell Abs likely has something to do with it!!

Anyway, it’s getting towards the end of a VeRy loooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong year…thought we could all do with a temporal tap 😉

 

MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics is a self-paced online program due for release in December.
The course has over 18 hours of video presentations plus 2 free bonus sessions 1) Accurate Pathology Interpretation Starts Here and 2) Patient Pathology Manager and access to resources and tools within, for your own use.
This is a pre-requisite for MasterCourse II that will be delivered live in 2021.

This skillset has been found by many to be biggest ‘game-changer’ in Integrative Health
You can view the full course outline here.

The Year For Iron & Gin

A few things really took up a disproportionate amount of our time & attention in 2020: Zoom, Mask Fashion & Gin based hand sanitiser. On a personal note I need to confess another: Iron. So while my one true (mineral) love remains zinc, iron answer hunting has infiltrated a lot of my days and some nights! There’s no hiding it…3 out of my 12 UU30 episodes this year have iron in the title 🙄 a sure sign its been on my and my mentees’ minds and sitting across the desk from a lot of health professionals in human form. And this affair I’ve been having, like most, started innocently… it started with a just a ‘quickie’, you know a quick question from a well meaning practitioner: “So, what’s expected in terms of ferritin levels across pregnancy?”

There are 2 answers to this.
The first reflects the practice guidelines for GPs and obstetricians in most western countries: > 30 mcg/L regardless of trimester
And then there’s another that is [ahem] evidence based, accounts for the essentiality of physiological anaemia in pregnancy &, naturally, trimester specific

There’s a big Fe-ar factor at play when it comes to answering the question, ‘Does this woman have enough iron for her and bub?’ Public health and practice guidelines appear to assume we are ‘guilty’ until proven innocent, patients are worried and health professionals are plagued with their own doubts about whether they’re ‘reading this right?!’  I’m sure we’ve all been in the situation where we feel our pregnant patient is doing well iron wise early in pregnancy, only for them to have that routine antenatal 28wk GP/Ob visit and discover a total panic has descended upon the patient and the rest of the health care team, with calls for ‘IV Iron STAT!’ But 28wks is the height of haemodilution right?  You know, that time when ferritin, Hb and Hct should look at their lowest, right?   There certainly is a limit to how low we want any pregnant woman to go – for her and her baby’s health but that limit is not the one routinely used and the truly evidenced based one is going to shock you. So what? What’s the issues if we are a little Fe-ar based about Fe, resulting in hypervigilance (calling a deficiency when there isn’t actually one) and giving them a ‘boost’ of more iron, surely this is good news ultimately for baby’s iron levels and for lactation and for…sorry what? No?

There’s a U shaped Curve for Iron supplementation & serum Ferritin levels in pregnant women?!!

Say it isn’t so!!  But I can’t.🤐

Pregnancy Iron Balance – Sorting the ‘Normal’ from the ‘Noise’

It starts with a simple enough question: What should women’s ferritin levels be in pregnancy? But the answer will surprise many. There are in fact two. The first reflects the practice guidelines for GPs and obstetricians in most western countries regardless of trimester and then there’s another that is arguably more evidence based, accounts for the essentiality of physiological anaemia in pregnancy & is also, sensibly, trimester specific. To challenge the ‘noise’ and have the confidence that ‘normal’ is ‘enough’,  we need to better understand the mother’s protective physiological adaptation of iron regulation and the intricate systems the foetus has to ensure its needs are met.  This of course is not without limit, so we need to also be clear about the maternal serum ferritin threshold for negative impact on the foetus and newborn. Getting the balance or iron right in pregnancy for both mother and baby, is perhaps easier than we have been led to believe. 

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase Pregnancy Iron Balance here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

The Pathology Path

Well, obviously(!)…this has been a year heavy on pathology interpretation for me and the huge number of practitioners who’ve just spent the last 6 months taking that learning journey with me.  I celebrate and congratulate them all for their commitment to their own professional development and also their investment, in what is arguably, the most potent yet overlooked set of skills of any health professional… the ability to read bloods.  Basic bloods.  Mainstream labs.  No…but to really read them. Backed by all the scientific understanding about what these parameters actually are, how they perform and what they (dis)prove e.g. subclinical inflammation and ramped up oxidative stress – not an informed guess but mappable…right there but where no one else can apparently see it! But I digress!

Actually what I wanted to discuss was the whole erroneous notion of ‘normal’.
No, I am not speaking from the heart about my personal quirks, sense of humour or dress sense but rather the incorrect assumption that a reference range defines ‘normal’ and that our answer for each patient and each result is, a Yes or a No!

In this brilliant article by Whyte & Kelly published in the BMJ they spell out this falsehood succinctly.  They note that the term ‘normal range’ has slipped into medical language from the misunderstanding that all lab results follow a Gaussian (aka bell shaped curve & later referred to as ‘normal distribution’) pattern but many simply don’t. So for some parameters a result near the ‘middle of the reference interval’ constitutes aspirational whereas for others it spells danger.  Add to this, that these reference intervals are mathematically determined to reflect the expected values of 95% of your patient population (mean +/- 2 SD either side) so…that means the chance of a YES…”Your patient’s results are ABNORMAL!”… is just 5%.  And hey…who said all the values within the reference range are all equally “normal” or better yet, healthy?!  Not these authors, nor I, nor the praccies who’ve just done our course. So while, in many regards, these goalposts are too wide, they are also too narrow – typically only representing a subset of adults age-wise and Caucasians, yes they are both ageist and racist (yep, I said it!).  And if our practitioners have learnt anything it’s about keeping an ol’ eagle eye on the sneaky intra-individual shift!  Only spotted, of course, if you know your patient’s normal (not theirs compared to anyone else…just theirs) and then spot a shift. [I can hear they’re shushing 🤫me…they’ve got it already, alright!!]

So this is music 🎻to my ears, from Whyte & Kelly:
“The intraindividual variation in laboratory values is usually much smaller than the interindividual variability (ie, the variation in the population). Variation in the concentration of an analyte, if significantly outside of a patient’s usual values (but still within the reference interval), could be a sign of early or latent disease”

So if you want to tap into the power of pathology…start with Whyte & Kelly, maybe even dip your pinky in the pool by checking out Accurate Pathology Results Interpretation Starts Here – an easy little 1.5hr kickstarter…or jump right in the deep end with the rest of us pathology reading polo players and sign up for the MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics for some DIY summer fun 🌊

ps I know your type and know that is EXACTLY the kind of weird nerdy thing you have planned for your break…you should see my summer fun list!!! 😅

 

MasterCourse 1: Comprehensive Diagnostics is a self-paced online program due for release in December.
The course has pver 18 hours of video presentations plus 2 free bonus sessions 1) Accurate Pathology Interpretation Starts Here and 2) Patient Pathology Manager and access to resources and tools within, for your own use.
This is a pre-requisite for MasterCourse II that will be delivered live in 2021.

This skillset has been found by many to be biggest ‘game-changer’ in Integrative Health
You can view the full course outline here.

 

Where To Now?

As a health practitioner, you are always actively building: your reputation, your practice and your knowledge. There’s theoretical …and then there’s applied. Some of the biggest leaps we take forward as practitioners come with being shown how (rather than told) & then being forced to ‘do the work’ ourselves, rather than being exposed to simply more information, be that about pathology, patient prescriptions or practice structure!  The slogan ‘Just Do It!’, might have already been nabbed and TMed by a huge corporate beast, but this doesn’t undo the universal truth of it! Prefer your mantras to come from mystical philosophers rather than monster multinationals?  How about this then?

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
Confucius

This mentoring community that I am a part of, we are about applied learning.  We learn by doing.  We learn, not just through each individual’s patient encounters but through the collective clinical experience.  We make what can otherwise be an isolating experience of constantly, seemingly, reinventing the wheel, if not many wheels (!), into one of collegiality and ‘using the force’.  If you haven’t experienced Group Mentoring with me previously and are thinking about next year being your year (see below to find out more about our 2021 offerings), we put together this fun little video here to get across that mentoring isn’t about a conversation between just two people. 

So….HoW dO YoU gET FroM HeRE tO tHeRe?

With Group Mentoring you’ll be learning, through the application of core clinical skills, improved patient questioning, methodical information gathering, evidence based answer finding  & getting access to resources that you can apply in real-time in your own practice.

“Having the group session each month, as well as having Basecamp to bounce ideas around in, is a reassuring connection to know is there if I need it. Having just started practice this year and working in an environment without other Nats around, I have noticed the occasional feeling of isolation. So having the monthly catch up keeps me feeling connected to other clinicians and gives me exposure to other cases and perspectives that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.” – Georgie

 

We have a range of groups on offer to suit all levels and most types of integrative health modalities. Go to our Group Mentoring page to discover the groups and bonus extras on offer for 2021.

Going by the landslide registrations for 2020, our ongoing excellent retention rate of practitioners from year to year & our already overflowing waitlist for 2021, the reputation of RAN Group Mentoring is highly regarded and a popular choice.  

So, if being part of our community excites you and if the thought of learning and applying collective knowledge from expertise outside of our own, now’s the time to put your hat 🎩  in the ring, put your hand up ✋🏼  &  join the conversation 📣  through Group Mentoring.

2021 Group Mentoring Program Applications Open on 9th November!
Email admin@rachelarthur.com.au to let us know you are interested.

 

In Need Of Some Fuel Reduction?

We’ve been talking all about the dangers of excess fuel in our blood recently.   You know, just like nature…too much fuel underfoot creates a fire hazard.  So too in the bloods of our patients.  The key fuels I am referring to, of course, are lipids (triglycerides & cholesterol) and glucose. Our tissues need ready access to both but Balanced Blood Supply & Mastery of Management is key.

In terms of excesses,  lipids play the long-game…wreaking havoc over a long period primarily via their vulnerability to form peroxides, which in turn create a chain of oxidative stress and depletes our antioxidant artillery.

In contrast, even outside of insulin dependent diabetes, for the rest of our patients, glucose plays a fast and furious game, being a highly reactive substance capable of causing both glycation and oxidation.   We describe even high-normal levels of glucose as something akin to the ‘Bull in the China Shop’, disrupting the function of the endothelial linings and damaging a variety of plasma proteins (not just haemoglobin) that float within them.  But do we have a way to routinely measure the level of damage occurring in our non-diabetic but somewhat glucose intolerant patients?   Sure!  Just check the C-CCTV footage!

The extra C stands for ‘Carb’ and yes we can potentially check the Carb-Closed-Circuit-TV ‘tape’ in every patient.

It’s called HbA1c and measuring this provides us with an opportunity to review their personal ‘tape’ of the last 2-3 months for evidence of excesses.

Helpful, hey. But we actually have so many great tools through regular routine labs at our disposal to understand the glucose disposal or dys-disposal(!) at play in our patients!   You’ve just got to know where to look (urate, triglycerides, insulin, HOMA-IR etc) and what each piece of information is telling you. We’ve had SO MUCH FUN with this particular topic in the MasterCourse this month…or is that just me 🙄 No, I know it was, because our live session chatbox was full of ‘blown brain emojis’!! 🤯🤯🤯  I can’t wait to share this course content far and wide at the end of year with those of you that missed out on attending live.

In the meantime if you want to learn more about glycation which is the new inflammation, out there in research-land, you know…the source of all evil including ageing itself(!!) then check this out

Glycation is a normal physiological process that,  just like inflammation and oxidative stress, can get out of hand, contributing to disease processes. Currently there is an explosion of correlational research suggesting relationships between higher levels of Advanced Glycation End-products (AGE) in individuals who have fertility problems, psychiatric conditions, osteoporosis, premature skin ageing, cancer…you name it! New research implicates diet heavily in the determination of individual’s levels of AGE but there is devil in the detail – there are ‘4 Ps’ of dietary AGE contribution that we need to be mindful of when we are giving dietary advice and trying to move patients towards wellness. This Update in Under 30 recording: Are You Feeling Your ‘AGE’ will open the lid on the ‘new black’ in chronic health & ageing.

 

 

 

 

A Simple…

My how the time just flies when you’re chasing answers from private pathology companies!  As Brisbane based naturopath, Sandi Cooper, can attest to having recently been down the seemingly eternal email trail with a pathology company trying to ascertain if their urinary iodine result accounts for the concentration of the urine sample (via the iodine:creatinine) or doesn’t….because of course it can make the world 🌎  of difference. Like clarifying that someone who appears to have very little iodine in their urine, actually has a lot or vice versa!  I wrote about this back when I was a mere ‘babe blogger’, more than 5 years ago. After recently reading this historical document, Sandi has been practising due diligence and checking with her providers whether they have already corrected for creatinine..or whether she needs to herself and she shared that multi-departmental epic email endurance event thread with me.  The short answer? They used to and now they don’t. Why? Oh…formatting issues or something 🙄

But just in case you do want the ‘short answer’ regarding your particular pathology provider…without emailing enigmas…the answer is, in fact, in front of you & it’s Super Short!

mcg/g Vs mcg/L

If your patient’s urinary iodine result  (random or 24hr) is reported using the units on the left, sometimes actually written mcg/grCR, then BiNGo! The pathology provider has done the creatinine correction for you.   If they only report the urinary iodine results using the units on the right…it’s time for some maths to avoid misinterpretation.  No one panic, the formula is easy: Iodine (mcg) ÷ Creatinine (mmol) X 8.85 = Corrected Iodine.  So don’t lose time sending endless emails like poor Sandy or placing countless calls, like poor Nina on my team…who has to pursue pathology providers on an almost daily basis for answers to our zillions of sensible questions!!  Just check the units! You’re welcome everyone 😉 oh thank you Sandi for chasing this again and sorry about needing to chase this again! 😳

And if all of this is nEWs to yOU, you might want to review what you thought you knew, about Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment too!

We can never rest when it comes to learning more about the individual nuances of our patients thyroid pictures!  In this 90min recording, Rachel covers the key thyroid parameters both functional & autoimmune (TSH, T4, T3, rT3, TPO, TgAbs, TRAB).  As well as the most accurate methods of assessing relevant thyroid nutrients: iodine & selenium & a genuinely game-changing insight on interpretation of these .  Finally she pulls all the individual parameters together to illustrate common patterns of thyroid imbalance – making it almost as easy 1-2-3! Well, hey..it’s the thyroid…a fickle fellow.

 

White Australia Pathology?

Here’s a newsflash for absolutely no one, we’re all practising healthcare in racially diverse communities, right?  Take Australia for example.  At last count, at least 1 in 4 were not born here and of those who were, 3% are indigenous and many many more come from migrant families.  This spells DiVeRSIty.  Yet our pathology reference intervals are a whitewash, frequently derived from in-house samples that stratify by gender and age but not race, or adopted external data from predominantly Caucasian countries. Think it doesn’t matter?  It does. I learnt this as (almost) always…on the ground.

I have had the privilege of mentoring health professionals in South East Asia for several years but in hindsight, I can see I was under-cooked for the role: Almost every patient these professionals discussed with me, had a vitamin D result that made me feel faint at their ‘rickets-like readings’.

“But all our patients have blood levels like this, that’s normal here”, they reassured me.

And of course, they were right.

I hit the books science databases to find out more and sure enough, new evidence has emerged of racial differences in relation to vitamin D binding and therefore definitions of ‘adequacy’ in terms of blood levels of 25(OH)D, and this has been particularly well documented amongst SE Asians Gopal-Kothandapani et al., 2019  But who of us knows this outside of that region?  When we see patients of this background, are we alert to the strong genetic differences that drive different Vitamin D metabolism and therefore redefine healthy, or are we incorrectly comparing them to Caucasian Cohorts?!   I have to confess in the past I’ve done the latter 🤦‍♀️ So what else are we over or under-diagnosing or just plain misunderstanding, in our patients who are not Caucasian? Chances are quite a lot.  But the more I’ve dug into the topic, looking at racial differences in pathology markers, the more complex it gets, with plenty of conflation for example with increased rates of certain diseases. So it’s not an easy answer, granted, but that shouldn’t stop us from trying to achieve better clarity, for us and our patients.

We all pat ourselves on the back because we’re across the understanding that a healthy weight is defined differently depending on your racial background, we’ve nailed (hopefully!) the whole ‘healthy BMI < 23 in Asian populations and the smaller WC cutoffs’…but really…there’s so much more that needs to be done.

Want to be on the front foot with critical pathology interpretation?  Join the club!

There is such a groundswell of naturopaths, nutritionists, physical therapists etc working in integrative health that are ‘lab literate’.  It appears to be a combination of both a choice and consumer expectation.  With patients thinking, surely, we can make sense of those numbers on the page that remain a mystery to the patient…and tbh to some doctors!?  We should.  We’re currently halfway through our 6 month long MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics which is custom-built for this context. It has been incredibly well attended and well-received to date and we’re excited about the amazing content that Rachel has had to redevelop along the way.  If you missed out on the actual live classroom experience…your chance is coming soon.  Promise. Your DIY Diagnostics version will be released at the end of this year.
Let us know if you’re keen by sending an email to admin@rachelarthur.com.au, and we’ll put you on the ‘first to know’ list.

 

 

 

The Platelet Puzzle in Psychiatry

We’re midway through mentoring 2020 and we’ve temporarily shifted gear out of case presentations and into dedicated time for answering praccies toughest questions…and oh man, I love these opportunities!  This year in our Mental Health Primer Group, there are clinicians whose questioning…nEVeR sTOps. [insert: excited squeal] and that means I have an excuse to dig deeper, go further, read more research and ensure I can provide answers confident of their comprehensiveness and that they reflect all the contemporary information to date. So amongst stiff competition – here’s my favourite from the gIAnT piLE on my desk right now…

“We often hear that the bulk of our body’s serotonin is in our platelets – so do platelets (counts, activity etc) have a role in mental health?”

Well, I’m so glad you asked! Yes, 99% of your body’s serotonin is found inside your platelets.  Where did this come from?  From the plasma. How did it get there? Using the identical transporter mechanisms that your neurons do.  Sounds like all the pieces fit right…oooooh so low platelets might drive low serotonin and poor mood and and and…

No. 
You may get excited when you get a box of jigsaw pieces but you must first complete the puzzle and ensure everything is in its rightful place.

Platelets are linked to depression but not as a cause but as a consequence.  Because their transporter systems & receptors for serotonin are virtually identical to those in the CNS, they suffer from the same serotonin deficit…in spite of a relative abundance in the plasma they’re floating in.   So really platelets are of interest in mental health as a more accessible way of studying and understanding neurochemical regulation in the brains of those affected.  Did she just say neurochemicalS…as in, plural.  I sure did.  Because healthy platelets contain a whole plethora of substances, even a relatively large quantity BDNF, the concentration of which also becomes  severely compromised in the platelets of depressed individuals.  So it seems like its tough-talkin’ Tuesday and just to bust a few more moves myths while we’re here…

Your platelets get their 5HT from the plasma
Your neurons make it themselves
Platelet numbers are not indicative of your 5HT producing capacity…anywhere
Therefore treatment objectives that speak to platelet numbers or platelet activity are clearly non-sensical
A bit like measuring serotonin derivatives in your urine…and imagining that reflects the <1% from your CNS….hey?

Yes.  That’s what I said.  Want to learn more?  Please do. A great review paper by Marlene Williams, from the World Journal of Psychiatry, for starters, anyone? 🙂

If this last point is news to you…sounds like you really Need to Start  Here!  Accurate Pathology Interpretation

Don’t be fooled by the false promises of functional tests.  Make sure all the pieces of the puzzle fit to actually make something sensible, accurate, reproducible and meaningful. Mainstream pathology results actually offer a goldmine of information and insight about your patients However to realise their full value and make the most accurate interpretations we need to first learn more about ‘lab language’, upskill in finding our way around reports which are packed with a surprising amount of hidden extras, demystify reference ranges and then develop a logical critical process we can apply to every result of any patient to get the real take-home. Packaged with numerous specifically developed resources to aid in your application of these skills this is a foundational offering that changes practices.

Walk Towards The Light!

Now find a comfy spot everyone & I’ll tell you a story…’Once upon a time, a long long time ago, we lived our days out in the dark, regarding potential calcium dysregulation!’ But ever since serum Calcium has become a standard lab included in most routine screening tests (General Chemistry aka ELFTs) abnormal calcium handling is no longer an ambush for patients of ‘stones, moans and abdominal groans’, as the saying goes in hyperaparthyroidism.  A diagnosis historically only mad, when someone presented with this constellation of rather advanced symptoms. But actually being able to identify your patients’ typical blood calcium levels offer us so much more than just a heads-up re parathyroid disease

 It may tell us something about their Magnesium status, cardio cautions, be a bit of ‘bone barometer’ and probably most immediately important, flag their suitability for calcium supplementation!

Yep…rather than the current-criminally-crude-calcium-checklist:
1. Patient is female
2. Patient probably doesn’t consume enough calcium
3. Patient may be at risk of osteoporosis (yup…that accounts for practically every woman, right there!)

… and then the indiscriminate prescribing of calcium doses that could rarely be achieved in a single meal…(and hence run the risk of over-riding our critical regulation of this edgy electrolyte) we could…wait for it…individualise our approach!  I know, like a broken record 😂

But seriously, if you just do a full review of the vast literature on this topic, what?! Not enough time?! How about then, just skim read a couple of key papers? Still baulking at that?…maybe just a wafer-thing editorial (??!) will tell you that, consuming elemental amounts of calcium (> 250mg), that are beyond even the biggest Dairy Diva’s Diet Diary, may be deeply problematic for many.  And guess what…this doesn’t pertain to supplements alone…even calcium fortified foods are not free from concern!  But let’s not let yet throw all our calcium fortified foods in the same bin as the folate ones we did a while ago!!  Let’s step out of the dark and into the light that shines upon us, care of fasting serum Calcium measurements, to help us recognise whether Calcium is the cause, the consequence, a cure or a curse for person sitting in front of you 🧐

The Calcium Conspiracy Controversy Continued

The Calcium Conspiracy arises primarily from misperceptions about it being ‘the boss of bones’ but becomes more of a controversy when in spite of ongoing advice for broad-scale use we review the evidence and have to acknowledge that the recommendation to supplement post-menopausal women with large doses of Calcium, not only lacks strong evidence but may cause harm to some.  In this detailed discussion of the two schools of thought – Rachel finds a position somewhere in between. Reinforcing the need for an individualised approach and personalised risk benefit analysis while teaching you how to undertake this in every client.

 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed!!!

You can purchase The Calcium Conspiracy Continued here.
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find it waiting for you in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

 

 

Is This You?

Gotta love all the clever inquisitive minds among our integrative health practitioner community.   I think each of us, as children may have been that one kid who just never stopped asking questions.  What a great quality to have because it prompts us to think outside the box, then outside the triangle, then the hexagon and beyond! Simultaneously, busy minds that never stop questioning and never quiet down can also feel like a curse!  None of us have the time to go find the answer independently to every single question that our patient, prescription & pathology encounters raise for us.  We need to use the force. Our colleagues, our workmates, our informal and formal practitioner networks, our mentors, our associations, our educators etc.  A lot of practitioners recently got some questions answered with the Update in Under 30: Separating the B12 from the B*S#!...and then guess what…they had some more B12 related questions 😂😂

Q: What might a normal or even high serum B12 together with low Active B12 combination flag in a patient?

A: Exclude COCP use, & gross liver pathology, refer for B12 antibodies if possible & review the case for other evidence of functional B12 deficiency, as TCII values are more specific and sensitive than serum

Q: What evidence do we have to use a higher cut-off value than the labs give us for Serum B12 (< 400 pmol/L), as a decision limit for follow-up investigation for B12 deficiency

A: Just the findings of some of the biggest studies on B12 assessment – correlating serum values and markers of functional deficiency such as Harrington et al 2017, Spence et al 2016, which flag that there is already metabolic impairment typically when serum values drop below 400, well before the classic features such as macrocytic anaemia

You’re welcome 🙂 It’s nice to be surrounded by like-minded curious kids (disguised in big people’s bodies!)  I love playing my part in adding to the collective knowledge in different ways and for those of you who are our Update in Under 30 subscribers, and of course anyone that purchased this as a single download, well we’ve gone that extra step and put together a nice little pdf: A B 12 Assessment Decision Tree for you and added that in as a bonus to your Separating the B12 from the B*S#! episode.  So go take a look now and hopefully that answers just a couple more questions and we can all have at least 1 good night’s sleep… before you come back with more 😉 🧐 😂

Separating the B12 from the B*S#! 

B12 is a routinely under-rated and recognised micronutrient, which is in fact in high demand by many of our patients. As nutritional research pushes back against defining adequacy as simply the prevention of the deficiency-associated disease (macrocyctic anaemia, irreversible neurological damage) we enter a new landscape of more individualised approaches where we’re better able to recognise and treat those at risk of falling below ‘optimal’.  But how do we accurately identify this and then choose the ‘best’ B12 (methyl- cyano- adenosyl- hyroxo-) supplement? Does it need to be this complex?  Time to sort the B12 from the B*S#!!
This recording comes with a bunch of great resources including a clever clinical tool.  
And now a new one to boot!!

________

You can purchase Separating the B12 from the B*S#! here
If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you will find the new resource in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

 

Balancing Protein With Personalised Requirements

You guys know I can’t help myself.  For the last year or so I’ve been immersed in developing and redeveloping and redeveloping 🤓 [ahem apologies to my team!!] teaching tools for all practitioners to better understand what the routine renal markers can offer us in terms of understanding our patients…and it is far above and beyond renal function, promise.  Just one example of this, is the sophisticated yet incredibly simple urea to creatinine ratio calculation that I was originally taught by Professor Mel Sydney-Smith. In adults with preserved renal function, this is the key to the kingdom, in terms of being able to objectively quantify whether patients are truly meeting their own individualised protein requirements.  The Marvellous Mel (well he is, who can argue with that?!) added this one to my toolkit a long long time ago and in turn, I’ve been using it and spruiking it ever since. 

In fact, I just lost 30 mins of my life listening to myself (ewww) in an old Update in Under 30 from 2013 that I recorded on this very topic.

[Sigh] I sounded so youthful…and…about 7 years younger too in terms of experience with this crafty calculation in the hundreds of labs I have encountered since!

My reliance on this ratio has remained but my wisdom regarding how to apply it has widened….and so, as I prepare to initiate another hundred or so practitioners into this secret sect 😉 via our current MasterCourse in Comprehensive Diagnostics, I couldn’t help myself and decided to re-record this UU30 episode: Using Urea & Creatinine as Markers of Protein Adequacy and also throw in a new pdf resource to boot [once again, ahem,apologies to my team!!]  You see our ability to identify protein adequacy without this tool relies on the rather-rudimentary-‘rule’ that your protein requirements increase linearly with your weight…that’s the whole g/kg body weight thingo, right?  But what if your weight gain is ‘all adipose’ Vs ‘mega muscle’ – are the protein requirements really the same for both people? Absolutely, not!  This calculation enables us to step away from the rough approximation of the RDI and be able to determine if each individual is meeting their genuine requirements as driven by their own unique muscle mass hunger…oh and it reveals a few other very helpful things along the way to boot! 

But this simple calculation comes with some caveats: 1. there are people and presentations in whom this calculation is not appropriate or accurate 2. because there are no magic numbers, right, it is about matching your labs with the patient in front of you and 3. looking (as always) for patterns.

…and a word of warning to the uninitiated: You’re going to love it!

So for those of you who are already Update in Under 30 Subscribers…happy Wednesday!  Because you always benefit from any updated recordings etc.  you’ll find this rejigged resource is already in your Active Content and for those of you who may have purchased this as an individual recording in the past, the same applies.  And for anyone else keen to make some real meaning out of the most routine labs we see over and over again, and understand a whole world more about what they tell us about our patients’ muscle mass health, trajectory and the dietary protein piece of this puzzle…you might want to check this out too! And for those of you who think ‘total protein’ on a patient’s blood test results reflects ‘total protein’…boy have I got news for you!!

Out of the Archive – Rejigged & Re-resourced: Using Urea & Creatinine as Markers of Protein Adequacy

This comprehensive analysis of two standard indicators, urea and creatinine, that are often part of the patient’s standard blood chemistry tests. These commonly available results can provide insight into protein ingestion and uptake as well as muscle mass and, in extreme cases, kidney and liver function.

 

If you are an Update in Under 30 Subscriber, you can listen to the updated version which is waiting in your online account.
You can become an Update in Under 30 Subscriber to access this episode and the entire library of Update in Under 30 audio’s and resources here.

The ‘Perfect’ TSH?

Have you been told somewhere by someone that the ‘perfect’ TSH is 1.5 mIU/L?  This is a wonderful, terrible & wonderfully terrible example of ‘magical numbers medicine’.  As a push-back against the published reference ranges we’re given, that are so wide you could drive a truck through them, there has been an over-correction by some, leading to the myth of ‘magic numbers’.  We can narrow the reference range substantially for many parameters with good rationale, make no mistake about that but once we start setting ‘aspirational goals’ that are explicitly rigid…well we’ve done 2 things 1) forgotten about the patient to whom this result belongs and 2) disregarded viewing each result as part of a ‘pattern’, that we must piece together and make sense of.

Back to TSH then… if my obese patient had a value of 1.5 mIU/L this in fact would be woefully inadequate.

Also too low for any patient, no matter their size, if their T4 is low and we’d like a higher value as well for risk minimisation in our elderly clients too. 

But the same result would be excessively & worringly high in my patient who’s undergone thyroidectomy. 

Being given a list of ‘magic numbers’ will never replace learning labs correctly.   When we do this, we come to truly know that meaning can only be made of the markers when you can answer the following questions:

  1. What is this (metabolite, analyte, binding agent, plasma protein etc)?
  2. What do I know about its physiological and biochemical context – what is its role and regulation in the blood, what moves it and to what magnitude?
  3. How have the reference ranges been determined for this lab – who am I comparing my patient to?
  4. Therefore, what is the significance of a result that is: ‘normal’, ‘low normal’, ‘high normal’, below or above the range?
  5. Does this value ‘fit’ with my patient?
  6. What else could explain an unexpected result?
  7. How strong is my level of evidence?
  8. What do I need to do from here to confirm or refute this?
  9. And a few more 😉

 

Realising the full value of any test result in terms of what it reveals about the person sitting in front of you, requires these skills. Unfortunately, in contrast a list of magic numbers will often lead you astray.  And building your scientific knowledge about  labs will not only help you avoid the pitfalls of pathology but will strengthen your pathophysiology prowess in surprising ways, saving your patients a packet in terms of additional extraneous testing and help you truly personalise your prescriptions…because the ‘invisible (biochemical individuality, oxidative stress, genetic probabilities, subclinical states, imbalanced or burdened processes etc)  just became visible’.   I started requesting lab results early in my career and years later was lucky enough to be taken under the wing of Dr. Tini Gruner.  I found some of our shared notes, from 10 years ago, scribbled all over patient results recently and I was struck by just how lucky I was to have her encouragement to really pursue my interest and how she was a guiding force about learning to recognise pathology patterns over single parameters.  A decade on I can confess, much of clinical and educative success has come off the back of this foundational skill-set and I know, this is true for so many I’ve taught too.  

“The guidance I’ve received over the years from Rachel in relation to pathology interpretation has been one of the most valuable (and fascinating) investments I’ve made as a clinician. Her teachings have filled gaps in my knowledge base I never knew needed filling and have significantly enhanced my understanding of the inner workings of the body! Rachel has an incredible ability to make the numbers that patient’s so often present us with, both understandable and clinically meaningful. The knowledge I’ve gained by investing in this skillset has paid off in dividends and I’m certain will continue to do so into the future.”

Stacey Curcio – Cultivating Wellness

I hope you’ll join me for the most exciting up-skilling opportunity in learning labs yet. Oh…and all this talk about thyroid testing..that’s just a serving suggestion 😉 this year my MasterCourse is focused on the most routine labs of all: ELFTs, FBE, WCC, Lipid and Glucose Panels…an absolute treasure trove of free integrative health information about your patient!

This skillset has been found by many to be biggest ‘game-changer’ in Integrative Medicine!

There are limited places. To sign up for the MasterCourse: Comprehensive Diagnostics click here.
For more information about the program click here.

What We Learned in Lock Down Last Week…

What does lockdown look like for you?  More time spent…

A) Learning or
B) Losing sleep over things outside of our control or
C) Losing days just watching Tik Tok

I’m choosing ‘A’ and I know I’m keeping good company because last week many of my ‘nearest and dearest’ gathered on 2 occasions for some serious extra brain gym. The first was the ACNEM Fellowship Community of Practice that I had the privilege to co-chair with Dr. William Ferguson.  A fantastic new initiative by @ACNEM to offer more hands-on mentoring and support to their doctors.

The second, our own Give-back-Gratitude Live Q & A for our Update in Under 30 Subscribers where I used the time to check-in and see if we could further the learning offered by our monthly audios and clinical tools.

Having all of those who attended, in my ‘home’ was a fabulous contrast to our social distancing ‘new norm’, and seeing all those lovely faces and buzzing brains behind them, warmed the cockles of my cortex!

For those of you that couldn’t make our UU30 date, I wanted to share a few things we learned in lockdown this week:

  1. Copper can be absorbed through the skin and penetrate to deeper layers potentially increasing serum levels but the degree of uptake is highly variable and more likely with prolonged contact e.g. jewellery and pastes not showers etc
  2. Just like the Zn:Cu, when reviewing patients’ albumin:globulin, we must first look at each value individually and consider causes and consequences of low or high values, otherwise we can ‘miss the message’
  3. When understanding labs of anybody who is not a couch potato we need to ditch reference ranges based on the general population because they essentially are…couch potatoes and ask ourselves 3 questions: 1) Who is this person outside of being ‘sporty’ 2) What is the nature of their sportiness because exercise ain’t exercise in terms of physiological effects and 3) When are the tests being done in relation to any exercise

On that last note, I am so thrilled to be able to share my brand spanking new presentation The Impact of Exercise on Pathology Tests – Beyond Artefact to Understanding which I put together B.C. (Before COVID19) for a NZ speaking engagement.  This actually has been one of the most satisfying areas of research to expand my own knowledge in…explained a LOT about what labs go whacky (and why and how to navigate around and through this) not just in what you might call ‘real athletes’ but in weekend warriors, crossfit crazies, MIL (men in Lycra) and the increasing number of middle-aged or older women who just love pounding the pavement.  Know the types?  Our clinics are full of them…it is time to learn their labs properly.

 

The Impact of Exercise on Pathology Tests – Beyond Artefacts to an Understanding

Overwhelmingly when we look at our patients’ labs we compare their results with a reference range derived from ‘the general population’ aka couch potatoes!  Therein lies our first problem. Exercise is recommended for health but we don’t know what this ‘looks like’ in terms of labs. The reference ranges reflect and assume ‘average’ muscle mass & haemodynamics & ‘average’ nutritional requirements in people consuming the SAD (standard Australian diet) none of which apply to the exercise enthusiast, weekend warrior, least of all the professional athlete! Given an increasing number of our patients are embracing exercise, this is an important instruction in what healthy looks like, how to make meaning of otherwise meaningless comparisons and ultimately enable you to distinguish between what is healthy exercise-induced adaptation, an artefact and an actual aberration that flags possible negative impact of emerging pathology for other reasons.

 

Click here to add The Impact of Exercise on Pathology Tests to your online RAN Library.

For all UU30 Subscribers
the full Live Q&A Recording is now available in your ‘active content’ of your online account.

Helping Patients Achieve Their PB

Listen to me, I’m sounding all sporty 😂. I’m not though, just in case you suffer misguided visions of my virtues!  But it’s not just the self-declared serious athletes that we need to have on our radar in relation to optimising their oxygen carrying capacity (aka window to winning). Our clinics are full of people, regularly running, doing triathlons for fun (!), riding vast distances clad in Lycra to drink coffee in other town’s cafes etc. etc. whose FBE might be feeling the pinch! That’s right!  All these individuals, depending on the frequency and intensity of their exercise, could have the so-called, anaemia of an athlete.

Long gone is the idea that exercise-induced changes to your haemoglobin and red blood cells and perhaps even your iron, would only affect the ultra-marathon runners among us.  It’s the swimmers, the cyclists, the Roller Derbyists, the CrossFitters, the basketballers, the Gym Junkies, the lawn bowlers..ok I may have gone too far now…they all are at increased risk.

Why? Isn’t exercise good for you?  You know I so want to say, ‘Surprise! It’s not!’ but alas.  Of course it is good for us BUT there are some fascinating challenges regular exercise can throw at your dear old blood and its bestie, iron. These challenges are incredibly dynamic – having one effect during exercise, a different one immediately following, and yet another in the days of rest in between. And sometimes, in fact, often, our patients can end up on the wrong side of these seismic shifts.  Here’s how the story usually goes

“Oh yeah..I’ve had anaemia for ages!  You know and it doesn’t matter how much Iron I take or how I take it – it never budges. But I’ve been told to stay on the Ferrograd anyway”

Typically, being told it’s ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’ is the first, in a series, of many many errors to follow. Because in fact, there is no such thing.  That’s right. Anaemia is a symptom not a disease and exercise induced anaemia comes in 4 common flavours: Dilutional, Heamolytic, Iron Deficient & Acute Anaemia of Exercise, and knowing the difference is critical to correct management.  Only 1 of them will reliably improve with iron and it needs to be prescribed in a totally novel way. Others will get worse with more iron. Yep. And one is a complete illusion. So when we don’t make the right diagnosis, which of the 4 types your patient actually has, we fail to find the fix. And while all of our patients may not be overly obsessed with improving their performance or even winning, let’s face it, they all want to achieve their PB, that’s why they came to see you.  So can you tell the difference? 

WARNING: I got so enthused about this topic that I went over.  The current ‘Update in Under 30’ is a ‘serving suggestion’ only!  And you may need to speed up your playback to squeeze in another bonus 10 min, if you can only afford your usual 30 min car trip to listen!

Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia

Persistent ‘hard-to-resolve’ anaemia is a common presentation for anyone participating routinely in sport and that can be at any level, not just among the professionals. From our lovely ladies who take up running or CrossFit in their middle-age, to our MIL (men in Lycra) and ‘weekend warriors’, they may love it but their haemoglobin and their iron doesn’t! Anaemia equals reduced oxygen carrying capacity, a concern for anyone interested in optimising their performance but equally relevant to patients just trying to manage their energy throughout the day. In this important episode we identify 4 different types of anaemia seen in patients as a result of exercise, incorrectly lumped together as ‘Athlete’s Anaemia’.  Each type is easy to recognise once you know how and effective treatment of each is remarkably different. This summary and the super handy clinical resource that accompanies it will help you and your patients absolutely outrun it, at last. 

The latest Update in Under 30 has landed.
You can purchase March’s episode, Outrunning ‘Athlete’s’ Anaemia here.
For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, you will find it waiting for you in your online account and don’t forget the **EXTRA BONUS LIVE CALL WITH RACHEL.
**This live Zoom call with Rachel is for current Update in Under 30 Subscribers ONLY. A Q&A session for subscribers on the UU30 episodes released in 2020. Contact the RAN Team to reserve your spot!

 

 

Are You Being Gaslighted?

Ever suspect you’re being gaslighted by your patients’ results?  Especially when their CRP result says, ‘nothing to see here’!  But every other piece of information and every one of your senses tell you they’re inflamed and their immune system is up to something!! Me too.  You probably then look at their other results, their ESR or their white cell count searching out something that supports your hunch, but they too can look disappointingly unremarkable. That’s the moment when you wish life was like a televised sports match and you could check the video evidence rather than believe the mere mortal (and clearly blind!!) man in white on the pitch. Well guess, what…you can. 

Albumin

÷

Globulin

As long as you know how to divide one figure by another using a calculator. I’ve found it requires the same digital dexterity as pushing the ‘on’ button’ on my blender…so if you can make a smoothie, you’re sorted! So while almost every lab routinely reports these two as separate parameters that are also routinely in range…I haven’t seen many that actually do the calculation for you and give you the Albumin:Globulin (AGR) on a platter.  Yet this one step maths transforms the mundane into magic and can reveal almost all to you regarding your patient’s level of immune activation, inflammation and oxidative stress, from the largest number and variety of drivers.  That’s why I call it, 📣The Master Inflammatory Marker 👑

When factoring in your patients pathology results is at its best – it makes the invisible suddenly visible to us.  We could have sat and eyeballed that patient all month and never suspected that their Hcy was too high, or they had antiphospholipid antibodies or, or etc.

But the albumin to globulin ratio goes one step further & trumps the other inflammatory markers we’re so familiar with, because it even sees what they can’t! 

And a low AGR (≤1.2) signals just that to you. So when the patient with joint pains, or just a little bit of belly fat or an emerging yet unnamed autoimmune condition presents exasperated saying, ‘but apparently I’m not even inflamed!’…you can let them know you do see it, and it’s just that others weren’t looking in the right place, then  get busy rolling your sleeves up to move those markers!  That’s right, a low AGR is a clear call to action for practitioners engaged in risk minimisation, prevention and for working towards best outcomes in established disease and  monitoring a patient’s AGR is a series of clear sign-posts about whether you’re leading them in the right direction or not.  There’s a lot more to say on this this third umpire & ripper of a ratio – about kids, the contraceptive pill, confounders, a role in cognitive impairment prevention and what optimal might look like but hey…the cricket’s back on…gotta go 😂

Patients’ labs lie, not often, but sometimes and the inflammatory markers performed routinely like CRP and ESR have been known to tell a few.  Like when everything about a case screams inflammation but both of those say there’s none there.  Why do they miss it?…well basically it’s not their lot.  CRP and ESR have specific signals they only respond to and therefore reflect only certain immune reactions and at specific stages of that response.  But there’s a nifty little calculation you can perform with all of your patients labs and suddenly see the immune activation, inflammation and oxidative stress that was lurking beneath.  It’s called the albumin to globulin ratio and it’s going to change your understanding of what’s going on in your clients and your ability to monitor the efficacy of your management.
The latest Update in Under 30 has landed.
You can purchase February’s episode, Your Master Inflammatory Marker here.
For Update in Under 30 Subscribers you will find it waiting in your online account.
-Your RAN Online Account has a NEW LOOK!!-
Next time your log in, you will experience a more user friendly way to search,
view, listen and download your resources.

 

 

Are You A Sucker For ‘Secret Herbs & Spices’?!

Me neither. I value transparency in all things impacting my health.  So when the ‘Colonel’ tells us the magic is in not knowing…I think….hmmmmmmm, no thanks!

Similarly, when the provider of a test tells us, ‘We’d like to give you independent scientific support for our markers and our method but we just can’t because it’s patented!’…well that’s as good as the so-called ‘Colonel’ and his mysterious unidentified herbs and spices, as far as I’m concerned. 

It’s effectively like they have created for themselves a ‘Get out of jail free card’ but unlike in Monopoly, they can play it over and over again.  Trouble is, as the referring or just ‘reading’ practitioner (many of my patients present with results of these tests in hand) you have to practice either utter blind faith and believe every word that report tells you or you feel like you have to disregard the entire thing because you don’t have the time to sift through every parameter, searching out any independent scientific discussion of their markers, to distinguish fact from fiction.  Utterly exasperating.  Because of course, a test that offers a huge panel of results may consist of both – some of high value, some utter nonsense and some somewhere in between. 

There’s one 24hr urine test from an OS company that I tend to see increasingly and it purports to be able to assess just about everything from gut health, to neurotransmitter levels, to your antioxidant capacity, mitochondrial health and beyond! How is this even possible in one 24 hr non-preserved urine sample that goes off-shore to be analysed? Well they can’t say…it’s a secret. 🤐 Pu-lease!

But always HATING to be the one to throw the baby out with the bathwater, I lose hours of my time, over and over again, trying to determine the worth in this multi-paged report and salvage some value along the way, given these patients’ significant financial outlay.  So it’s handy when the test also professes to accurately determine whether these patients are nutritionally replete for basic vitamins.  Aha!  Now we’re talking! The science of nutritional assessment includes volumes and volumes of studies, reviews, discussion and luckily enough I happen to have a strong foundation in this area and read such research for recreation! Today I am looking at a patient’s results that flag profoundly low Vitamin B6.  Several hours of reading later I can call BS. Seriously. The marker used by the company is urinary pyridoxic acid which is 1) reflective of recent intake only, failing to reflect both tissue levels and coenzyme activity 2) needs to be reviewed in light of protein intake, as high protein produces lower excretion and B2 levels because B2 deficiency will produce a secondary abnormally low B6 in the urine. There’s zero mention of any of these limitations or considerations in the report, sadly 🙁

To boot all the lights and sirens are on for this patient who appears to have such little vitamin C in their urine, they’re at risk of scurvy! That is except for the fact that Vitamin C readily oxidises in urine only to turn into….wait for it….Oxalic acid! So, anyone surprised to hear  she is also reported to have an exceptionally high oxalate load?! 

Secret herbs and spices?  No thanks, I’d prefer science.  As the saying goes, “Keep an open mind but not so open your brain falls out!” Sorry but tough-talkin’ Tuesday is back and it’s gotten all toothy!

Update in Under 30: Oxalate Overload – Assessment and Management

Oxalates are present in many healthy foods and in all healthy people, but when ‘normal’ levels are exceeded they can spell trouble in a whole raft of different ways due to their extensive distribution across the body. Some tissues, however, have more problems than others, especially the urinary system and soft tissue and joints but now there are also questions about oxalates’ relationship with thyroid and breast issues.  We review the latest evidence about the health consequences, blow the lid on accurate assessment for oxalate excess and talk management in this jam-packed update.