Annual testing is crucial to maintaining good health. For people with autoimmune disease, undergoing routine tests can allow you to gain a more thorough understanding of your overall health and keep track of your healing progress. If you don’t yet have a diagnosis but are experiencing autoimmune-like symptoms, annual testing may reveal patterns that can help your care team decide whether you need to undergo more advanced tests. In this article, we will be discussing 5 essential blood tests to do every year as recommended by our care team at WellTheory, as well as why it is important for those with autoimmunity.
Complete Blood Count
A complete blood count (CBC) is a blood test that is typically done at your yearly check-up with your primary care provider and offers information that helps to evaluate your overall health. A CBC measures several components of your blood including:
red blood cells, which contain hemoglobin
white blood cells that fight infections
hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to your organs and tissues, and carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues to the lungs
hematocrit, or the percentage volume of red blood cells in the blood
platelets, which bind together to aid clotting and also have a role in inflammation
Aside from giving a picture of your overall health, a CBC helps your care team screen for a wide range of conditions. For example, having low levels of red blood cells, which is a sign of anemia, may indicate nutritional deficiencies or inflammation. Abnormally low or high levels of white blood cells may be caused by autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. For those who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, a CBC can also characterize the level of disease activity. (Source, Source)
Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
A comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP) provides crucial information on your body’s chemical balance and metabolism. It helps to understand your:
The CMP is often paired with a CBC to give an overall snapshot of your health. Like a CBC, abnormal results may indicate a variety of conditions such as kidney and liver problems, diabetes, or autoimmune hepatitis. For example, elevated fasting blood sugar is typically a sign of type 2 diabetes, and elevated ALT and AST levels are commonly found in those with autoimmune hepatitis. (Source, Source, Source)
Why Is Getting a Lipid Panel Important for Autoimmunity?
Research has found that fats help modulate the immune system. Every single cell in your body relies on fat, or lipids. Cell membranes, which are responsible for protecting cell contents and controlling what is allowed to enter or leave cells, are largely made up of lipids. Any changes to immune cells’ membranes may disrupt their ability to respond to threats when the immune system is activated.
Moreover, T cells, white blood cells that protect your body from toxins and foreign invaders, interact with the gut microbiome and have been found to be significantly influenced by the fats you consume. A study done in the journal Cells has suggested that high density lipoprotein cholesterol (also known as “good” cholesterol) enhances the ability of regulatory T cells to suppress inflammation and prevent autoimmune disease. For more on why fats are essential for our health, check out our article Is Fat Bad for You? (Source, Source, Source)
Vitamin D Test
Vitamin D deficiency is common in those with autoimmune disease. Symptoms of deficiency include muscle weakness, bone pain, fatigue, and mood changes. The vitamin D test measures levels of vitamin D in the blood. (Source, Source)
Why Is Getting a Vitamin D Test Important for Autoimmunity?
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher autoimmune disease activity and an increased risk of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus. This is because vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system and also helps to reduce inflammation. (Source, Source, Source)
Hemoglobin A1C Test
The hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) test measures your average blood glucose level over the last 90 days and may give an indication of inflammation levels in the body. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen, but it also picks up and carries glucose. The higher your blood sugar level, the more glucose will stick to your hemoglobin. Studies have found that high blood sugar levels can cause inflammation by increasing the production of pro-inflammatory molecules and reactive oxygen species. (Source, Source, Source)
Why Is Getting a Hemoglobin A1C Test Important for Autoimmunity?
High blood sugar levels can lead to an increase in oxidative stress in the body by promoting the production of reactive oxygen species which in turn, leads to inflammation. Any changes in blood sugar levels may be an indication of autoimmune disease such as type 1 diabetes. Those who are diagnosed with autoimmune disease are at a higher risk of developing other conditions, so monitoring blood sugar levels may also help to prevent any future health complications. (Source, Source)
The Bottom Line on Blood Tests to Do Every Year
Regardless of whether you have an autoimmune condition or you just want to live a healthier lifestyle, annual blood tests are a great way of learning more about your body and optimizing your health. If you want to dive even deeper and uncover the root causes of your symptoms, WellTheory offers a range of a la carte advanced testing that goes beyond what your primary care provider will run, including: