Health Tests for a Wheat-Free Lifestyle - dummies

Health Tests for a Wheat-Free Lifestyle

By Rusty Gregory, Alan Chasen

When you are talking to your doctor about a wheat-free diet, you might try a few other tests in addition to the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) test. These tests indicate your risk factor for heart disease without telling you whether your arteries are clogged. Bring this list with you when you go see your doctor.

Surprisingly, many doctors don’t request them, perhaps because they’re less familiar with tests that weren’t around when they were in medical school.

All the tests listed are common tests but, at the same time, aren’t necessarily routine tests. In fact, you may find they were included in your last physical, but you didn’t realize it or understand their importance at the time. Your doctor probably won’t think twice about ordering them.

Simply realize the importance these particular ones play in knowing the status of your overall health. Knowing these numbers will also allow you and your doctor to make informed decisions about your care moving forward. Your physician will probably appreciate the fact that you have taken an interest in your health care.

Your doctor is working for you, so don’t be afraid to question what blood tests he’s ordering. Taking control of your diet should be followed by taking control of your medical care. If your doctor refuses to accept your request or isn’t aware of the tests, find a new doctor. You can easily find other doctors who understand the importance of turning over every stone.

Here’s a list of additional tests:

  • C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP): Inflammation of the arteries is a big risk factor for cardiovascular heart disease. High concentrations of C-reactive proteins (CRPs) in the blood are an indicator of inflammation in the body.

    Of course, inflammation is a normal response to many adverse events — including fever, injury, and infection — so you shouldn’t have the test done while you know you’re sick. However, long-term inflammation results from a steady dose of wheat/grains, sugar, and high omega-6 vegetable oils.

    A result of less than 1 mg/L indicates low risk for cardiovascular disease; 1 to 2.9 mg/L indicates intermediate risk; and greater than 3 mg/L indicates a high risk.

  • Fibrinogen: Fibrinogen is a protein that determines how sticky your blood is. You want your blood to be somewhat sticky (so it will clot), but too much stickiness is an indicator of cardiovascular disease. Fibrinogen should be considered in context with other blood markers.

    If your other markers are good, your fibrinogen is probably fine; however, if your other markers are bad, you have another reason to cut the inflammatory foods from your diet. Smokers; people with high blood pressure, body weight, and LDL-C; and women past menopause usually have higher levels of fibrinogen.

    Normal levels are between 200 and 400 mg/dl. There really isn’t a treatment for elevated levels.

  • Lp(a): Lp(a) is LDL attached to a protein called apo(a). In a healthy person, Lp(a) repairs and restores damaged blood vessels. If your body needs too much repair, however, it can promote oxidized LDL in the artery wall.

    A reading higher than 30 mg/dl is related to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke. No drug is available to fix high levels, and lifestyle doesn’t really affect the number directly. Knowing you have a higher Lp(a) would hopefully inspire you to cut the wheat, excess sugar, and vegetable oils so you can be as healthy as you can.

  • Homocysteine: This amino acid byproduct causes sticky platelets to form in blood vessels. Like fibrinogen, a minimum amount of about 5 umol/L is needed by the body, but levels above 10 start to show increased risk for atherosclerosis, heart attacks, stroke, and blood clots.

    Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, which are all in short supply in grains, can decrease your homocysteine levels. Shoot for between 7 and 9 umol/L. Many of the autoimmune diseases that are caused or made worse by eating grains require drugs that increase homocysteine levels. You then have a double whammy!

  • Hemoglobin A1C(HbA1C): HbA1C reflects your average blood sugar level over the preceding three months. The three-month average is a much better picture of your blood glucose levels than a fasting blood glucose test because the levels change by the minute even after a nighttime of fasting; the wider-spanning test takes these fluctuations into account.

    Less than 5.3 is ideal. Under 5.7 percent is good. A range of 5.7 to 6.4 percent indicates pre-diabetes, and over 6.5 percent is considered diabetic. A high level indicates that either you’re not producing enough insulin or you’re insulin resistant and your blood glucose isn’t getting taken up from your bloodstream.

    Both situations are very dangerous. Even small increases in blood glucose can be an indication that you’re heading in a dangerous direction on the diabetes spectrum. (Remember, diabetes doesn’t occur overnight; keeping tabs on changes in your blood glucose over time can signal that it’s coming.) Cutting wheat and sugar will help lower this number for the same reasons it lowers fasting glucose.

  • Iron (Serum Ferritin): Ferritin is a protein that helps store iron in your body. A test for it tells you whether you’re in the correct range for iron stores. Iron deficiency (anemia) can wreak as much havoc in the body as iron overload.

    In fact, iron overload can contribute to heart disease. Because iron is stored in the body, the only way to rid yourself of it is through menstruation or donating blood, so men and postmenopausal women should never take supplemental iron unless prescribed by a doctor.

    Ideal levels are between 40 and 60 ng/ml.