Monday, June 20, 2011

What our blood can tell us

Day 61

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.


  1. hi annie. yes that is a lot of good information. good to have. i think i might get some blood tests too! about the vit D/fermented cod liver oil: (oh btw yes gag! i can only get the straight stuff here in the UK, wish i could try the flavoured, but might wimp out next time i order and get the capsules instead!) do you have the one blended with the high vit butter oil? i think it might be worth looking into taking both. i got them separately (but now take them together) as i wasn't sure how i would get on with the butter oil seen as i can't tolerate any dairy even ghee but wanted to try as the dose is so tiny and will provide what i'm missing with no dairy. so far so good. and also i got it because i read this article on the weston price website about how the synergy of the 2 together really massively helps the absorption of A and D from the cod liver oil:
    the more i read the more it seems that yes vit D is vital for nursing mums. i had a few headaches from the fermented cod liver oil, i think its powerful stuff, but feel its doing good (much better than the other regular cod liver oil i was taking minus the butter oil too). Louie is more back to normal with his nursing amounts after the initial gorging but still looks a bit more rosy for it. oh i also just started taking a bit of frozen raw grass-fed liver chopped as 'pills' (easier by far to take than the FCLO!) each day for the vit A which i think has enriched my milk too. hope you can get those D and iron levels up soon and both feel the benefits.

  2. Julia - We have the ginger flavor and I can only imagine how bad that stuff must taste plain! I would totally go for the capsules if I were you! I do have the CLO w/ butter oil, but that one is sitting in the cabinet because I am do worried about dairy at this point. It's really great to hear that you can tolerate it even if you can't do ghee. I think we'll give it a shot once the bottle we're using now is gone. Thanks for all this info!

  3. syncronicity - the newsletter i got this morning from is also all about vit K! (one of main things in high vit butter oil) and how it is essential for good vit D absorption. seems you can get a supplement of K if worried about the dairy.

  4. ps just found this list of other food containing k2 too. I do always like this guys blog and info.
    he recommends the FCLO and butter oil too. hope you might be able to tolerate that soon. but i understand your caution its taken 6 months+ for me on gaps to try even this tiny bit of dairy. does ellie take the FCLO too?! its great it comes right through in breastmilk for them when we take it anyway!

  5. Julia - Thanks for that link - I'll have to check that out when I get a sec. Yes, Ellie takes the FCLO! Shocking! She has to be "rewarded" with a bite of sauerkraut afterward. LOL - only a GAPS kid would think of kraut as a reward :)

  6. Annie,
    Have you tried l-glutamine? My nutritionist friend says that is one of the best nutrients (aside from broth) for the intestines and if she does have leaky gut I would have her on at least 500 mg a day taken in between meals and not late in the evening. Also have you two ever tried Kombucha?

  7. Janelle - L-glutamine is another thing I have sitting in the kitchen cabinet ready to go, but have not had a good window to trial it. There just aren't enough days in the year! And, no, we haven't tried Kombucha. Right now I am highly skeptical of a food that starts out with white sugar in it. I figure there are many other ways for us to get our ferment on.

  8. Annie- please don't think sugar is the devil! It is just food for the yeast and bacteria, yes a little bit will end up in the ferment so that its not pure acetic acid, but its a small amount. I had IBS for as long as I can remember and that was the only addition to my diet a while ago and it pretty much cured me of it, I believe in fermented foods wholeheartedly, and kombucha makes many beneficial acids that is helpful in cleansing the system as well. But thats okay if you don't want to try it out, I would definitely start the l-glutamine though. Those blood tests are concerning especially since you've been on the diet now for a while it would seem that some of it would have been starting to turn around. I will be praying for her!