What the heck is the difference between Folic Acid, Folate and Vitamin B9?

Vitamin B9 is an essential nutrient, mainly present as folate and folic acid. It is commonly taken in supplements, and is even added to processed food in North America.

Folate is the naturally-occurring form of vitamin B9. Before entering the bloodstream, the digestive system converts it into the biologically active form of vitamin B9, 5-MTHF.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of vitamin B9. The body does not convert it into active vitamin B9 very well, so un-metabolized folic acid may build up in the bloodstream.

High levels of un-metabolized folic acid may negatively affect health by increasing cancer risk or hiding vitamin B12 deficiency. This build up happens very easily, and the full impact on health is not yet known.

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What the heck are Thyroglobulin Antibodies

Thyroglobulin antibodies are antibodies that recognize and bind to thyroglobulin, interfering with its function. Thyroglobulin is critical for thyroid hormone production, so thyroglobulin antibodies usually indicate thyroid disease. The thyroglobulin antibodies test is usually ordered after thyroid abnormalities have been detected with some other testing, such as TSH (Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone) and FREE T4. It is ordered along with the Thyroid Peroxidase (TPO) Antibodies test. Thyroglobulin Antibodies (TgAb), attack thyroglobulin, which your thyroid uses to produce its hormones. They are typically elevated in Hashimoto’s patients.

Optimal reference range for Thyroglobulin Antibodies:

<4.0 IU/mL

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What is Red cell distribution width (RDW-SD and RDW-CV)?

Red cell distribution width (abbreviated as RDW) is a measurement of the amount that red blood cells vary in size. Red blood cells help carry oxygen in the blood.

Red cell distribution width (RDW) is a red blood cell parameter that measures variability of red cell volume/size (anisocytosis). Depending on the types of hematology analyzer instruments, RDW can be reported statistically as coefficient of variation (CV) and/or standard deviation (SD), RDW-CV and/or RDW-SD, respectively.

RDW-SD takes measurements in “fL” and basically measures the width of red cells size distribution histogram – it calculates the width at the 20% height level of the histogram. The average RBC size therefore has no effect on this parameter and you get MCV or mean corpuscular volume.

RDW-CV is expressed in percentage and is calculated from MCV and standard deviation.

The reference range for RDW is as follows:

  • RDW-SD 39-46 fL
  • RDW-CV 11.6-14.6% in adult

Reference ranges may vary depending on the individual laboratory and patient’s age.

For more information click on the links below:

RDW-CV (Red Cell Distribution Width)

RDW-SD (Red Cell Distribution Width)



potassium electrolytes healthmatters

What is “Potassium”?

Potassium is an essential mineral and electrolyte – a mineral that dissolves in water and carries an electrical charge – that helps control fluid balance in the body. It is required for nerve impulse transmissions and muscle contraction, among other vital functions. Potassium helps maintain nerve and muscle growth, heart function, and balanced pH, and assists in the cellular metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins. Intake of potassium can significantly affect your risk of high blood pressure and stroke. In addition, a recent study showed that if your potassium level is chronically in the low-normal range, you are more likely to develop diabetes within the next decade of life.

Potassium is found especially in fruits and vegetables. There are many factors, including illness and diet, that may cause your levels to become too high or too low. Low potassium is a condition called hypokalemia. Too much potassium, or hyperkalemia, leads to high potassium levels, which has similar symptoms as hypokalemia — weakness, fatigue, and even heart arrhythmias in extreme cases. Hyperkalemia often starts with gastrointestinal problems.

The National Council on Potassium in Clinical Practice supports the recommendation of a minimum blood serum level of 4.0 mmol/L (4.0 mEq/L), but further suggests that an optimal level for healthy patients would be 4.5 – 5.0 mmol/L.

www.healthmatters.io potassium scorcard

A serum potassium test can help detect adrenal, digestive, heart, kidney, and muscle disorders, as both high and low levels are potentially detrimental.

The USDA recommends adults get 4,700 mg of potassium daily. To help make sure you’re on track to adequate potassium in your diet, here’s a list of 10 foods rich in potassium:

  • Avocado –> 708.1 mg per cup, or about one serving
  • Coconut Water (1 cup) –> 575 mg of potassium
  • Crimini Mushrooms –> 5 ounces = 640 mg of potassium
  • Banana –> One medium-sized banana = 360 mg of potassium
  • Acorn Squash (1 cup/cooked) –> 486 mg of potassium
  • Sweet Potato (1 cup) –> 448 mg of potassium
  • 7. Potato -> medium sized potato with the skin = 926 mg of potassium.
  • 8. Prunes –> 528 mg per serving
  • 9. Raisins –> One-half cup of raisins (roughly a handful) = 600 mg of potassium
  • 10. Spinach –> ½ cup serving of spinach = 420 mg of potassium

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sodium serum optimal reference ranges

What is “Sodium”?

Often sodium is not seen as a helpful nutrient. Although it has a bad reputation, sodium is actually a very essential electrolyte. Together with potassium, sodium balances fluids in the body. At the same time sodium influences blood pressure regulation, heart rhythm, muscle contraction, and nerve impulse transmission. Because sodium is so essential, the body has built-in mechanisms for keeping blood levels within a very tight range. Blood sodium is regulated by the kidneys and hormones produced by the adrenal glands and the pituitary gland.

Unusual serum sodium levels can indicate an underlying medical condition like Cushing’s syndrome (overactive adrenal glands) or Addison’s disease (underactive adrenal glands). Unbalanced sodium levels are also very often related to the body’s hydration status, meaning dehydration or overhydration.

When there is an excess of water in the body, sodium becomes diluted, resulting in low sodium levels in the blood, or hyponatremia. It does not happen often, but it is possible, for hyponatremia to be caused by drinking too much water. Cases of this have been seen as a result of water-drinking contests, a hazing ritual used by some fraternities in the U.S.. On the other side, when the body does not have enough water (is dehydrated), there is a relative surplus of sodium in the blood, which is known as hypernatremia. This condition may occur as a result of not drinking enough water or excessive sweating. It is seen most frequently among the elderly, since the thirst mechanism declines with age. Therefore, elderly people are urged to drink water even if they do not feel thirsty to avoid becoming dehydrated and developing hypernatremia, which can be fatal in very severe cases.

Although “salt” and “sodium” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same. Table salt is actually sodium chloride, a specific type of sodium obtained through the diet rather than produced naturally by the body.

Sodium levels are measured on a routine basic metabolic panel test, but a separate blood sodium test may also be ordered if a person displays symptoms of hypernatremia or hyponatremia.

sodium serum optimal reference ranges

Optimal reference Ranges for Sodium in the blood (www.healthmatters.io)

If a blood test shows an abnormal sodium level, a urine test may be used to determine the cause if the imbalance.

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yoga cortisol blood lab results depression

Yoga and Cortisol

Yoga is associated with lowering of cortisol and general stress levels.

A study from 2013 by the Department of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India was tasked to find out whether Yoga can have a positive impact on a patient’s level of depression and serum cortisol levels.

What is Cortisol?

Outpatient depressives who were not suicidal were offered yoga as a possible antidepressant therapy. A validated yoga module was used as therapy taught over one month and to be practiced at home daily.

Out of 58 patients, 38 were never treated and 20 were medication-free for at least a month.The severity of depression was measured before start of treatment (baseline) and at the end of 3 months using the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) by a rater blind to the treatment group status of the patients. The research was done under the Advanced Centre for Yoga – Mental Health and Neurosciences, a collaborative centre of NIMHANS and the Morarji Desai Institute of Yoga, New Delhi.

The patients got to choose one of the three treatments:

  1. Antidepressant medication alone (n=16)
  2. Yoga-alone (n=19)
  3. A combination of both (n=19).

All patients agreeing to be treated with yoga were trained in yoga practices by the same therapist. They were requested to attend the training sessions on a daily basis for 2 weeks and again at weekly intervals for the next 2 weeks. “Booster” sessions were provided once each in the 1st weeks of 2nd and 3rd months of the study.

Each session of training/practice lasted one hour. On all other days patients were encouraged to practice yoga at home daily. The same was reinforced through telephonic contacts. A relative staying with the patient confirmed the patients’ accounts of yoga practice at home. Adherence to treatment was operationally defined as doing 50 or more yoga sessions in the 3 month period and/or using medications for at least 2 months.

The results clearly showed a relation between the practice of Yoga and the decrease of stress levels and cortisol levels in the sample set of patients. In all patients who received yoga with or without medications the change in serum cortisol level was significant; it was not so in those who received only medications.

The findings support that yoga may act at the level of the hypothalamus by its ‘anti-stress’ effects (reducing the cortisol), to bring about relief in depression.

Sources: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3768222/

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What is Calcium

What is “Calcium”?

Calcium is the most abundant mineral in the body. An average healthy male contains 2.5 to 3 pounds of calcium, while an average healthy female contains about 2 pounds. Approximately 99% of the body’s calcium supply is found in the bones and teeth, leaving only 1% in the cells and body fluids. Calcium is essential for not only strong teeth and bones, but also for proper nerve impulse transmission, enzyme function, blood clotting, and energy production. The level of calcium in the body is regulated by a complex feedback loop – a pathway that controls a certain physiological function – involving parathyroid hormone (PTH), vitamin D, and calcitonin. The amount of magnesium and phosphorus in the body also affects calcium levels. It’s important that you consume an adequate amount of calcium, which is found in a variety of foods such as leafy green vegetables. As you age, be sure to maintain adequate intake of the mineral, since both high and low levels can increase your chances of developing conditions relating to the bones, heart, kidneys, nerves, and teeth. Hypercalcemia (high calcium) can put you at risk for kidney problems, for example, while long-term Hypocalcemia (low calcium) typically leads to osteoporosis – the gradual thinning of bone tissue and loss of bone density.

A blood calcium test (also called an ionized calcium test) indicates the amount of calcium in the blood, not the bones. This amount is reflected in the results of a total calcium test, which measures both free (circulating) and bound forms of calcium in the blood. The optimal reference ranges for calcium are referenced here:

Calcium optimal reference ranges - healthmatters.io

A urine calcium test may also be ordered if, for instance, a person is exhibiting classic symptoms of kidney stones.

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