Recently we started seeing a nutrition counselor and one of the things she wanted us to do right away is get some blood tests done. Thankfully I was able to get them all done through our insurance and as the results trickled in, I forwarded them to our counselor. The results didn't say much to me, and didn't warrant an alarmed phone call or email from Ellie's doctor or mine, so I assumed there wasn't much news to be found. But late last week I sat down with our counselor and went over the results and what she shared with me was fascinating. I thought I'd share.
Carbon Dioxide - Ellie's carbon dioxide level was low. Apparently this is commonly the case when a person is constipated and could be a contributing factor to that. Our counselor told me that she sees low carbon dioxide frequently in people who are dealing with chronic pain, as in people with fibromyalgia. It made me think of the several months Ellie was seeing a chiropractor regularly. I was amazed as I was able to literally watch stuck parts of her body, especially in her skull and jaw, unwind from trauma she had experienced during her very long birth. It made me sad to think she is still in regular pain - from what I'm not sure - but I wasn't surprised. Our counselor suggested I work with Ellie daily doing breathing exercises to help her develop the habit of taking in deeper breaths and therefor absorbing more oxygen.
AST - AST or aspartate aminotransferase is a liver enzyme that can give an indication of the health of the liver. Ellie's level was high. According to Web MD,
When body tissue or an organ such as the heart or liver is diseased or damaged, additional AST is released into the bloodstream. The amount of AST in the blood is directly related to the extent of the tissue damage.So high AST is not good news. Our counselor told me this result showed us that Ellie's digestive system is not breaking her foods down appropriately, which is taxing her liver. It also indicates she's living with some level of toxicity. We can support Ellie's liver by doing warm castor oil packs over her liver, as well as castor oil tummy massages. We may also introduce milk thistle as a supplement in the future.
Iron - Ellie's iron levels are low. We tested Ellie's iron about six months ago and it was very low, and it has come up some since then. But considering what a high-protein diet she has been on since then, her iron is still too low. Our counselor told me this is likely not an indication that Ellie isn't getting enough iron in her diet, but that her stomach is not absorbing the iron. She recommended supplementing with iron, either with a topical iron (which would be absorbed through her skin) or with Floravital. Iron supplementation is not recommended by the SCD/GAPS community because apparently the bad gut microbes thrive on eating iron (not clear about the details on this). So anyway we are pursuing the topical supplement at first to see if that can bring her levels up.
Vitamin D - Ellie's level was low and mine was really low. We have started supplementing with Fermented Cod Liver Oil (GAG!) and a straight Vitamin D supplement.
White Blood Count - This was the most concerning result by far. Ellie's white blood count is high. Particularly the lymphocytes and monocytes were high. Typically, our counselor said, this indicates some type of infection, something like mono. "Can toddlers have mono?" I asked incredulously. "No," she said. "At least it would be very unusual. But it tells us she's having a chronic heightened immune response." That heightened immune response could be to food. It is possible that she is having low-grade reactions to foods we still haven't been able to identify. She recommended having an ELISA food allergy test done. This test looks at IGG reactions to foods, which fall into the category of food sensitivities rather than allergies because they are usually characterized by a delayed reaction of several hours or even days. Ellie has had several food allergy tests done through her allergist/immunologist but they were of extremely limited help. One skin prick showed a mild reaction to eggs and another barely showed a response to oranges (interestingly, both welts got much bigger after the nurse's time window had expired, meaning she didn't measure the welt at it's largest size and that Ellie's reaction took longer than what they normally anticipate). At the times of those tests Ellie was having serious reactions to eggs and citrus. All of her IGE blood tests have come back negative. So we pricked poor Ellie's finger last night and dropped her blood on the test card and I'll put it in the mail this afternoon. Our counselor told me not to get hung up on whether the test comes back with clear results or not, because any information we get will be helpful. If it shows lots of food sensitivities, then that tells us her gut is still leaky and her immune system is constantly responding to food proteins entering the bloodstream. If it doesn't show much or any food sensitivities, it tells us there something else going on and we need to look elsewhere to find out why her white blood cell count is high.
After writing this all out I can now clearly see why I've been feeling so stressed the past couple days. This is a lot of information to absorb, and a lot of changes to make. We have been working in the dark for so long, and I am truly happy to have some actual, concrete information on Ellie's health to hold onto. At the same time, it's difficult to hear that her body is truly not functioning as it should. (You would think I would know that based on everything we've been through, but somehow it's different to see something as concrete as numbers on paper.)
As we wait for the ELISA test results, we will keep marching forward with GAPS. We've started a totally different breakfast routine, which I'll write about next time.