Lab technician with a tube of blood

Blood Work-Conventional Labs vs Intra-cellular Testing

The problem:

Have you ever had this all too frustrating experience? You have some given symptom…perhaps fatigue, headaches, PMS, weight gain, etc.  You go to your doctor, and they run a bunch of tests, typically starting with some basic blood work.  The results are back.  Good news.  Turns out, there’s “nothing wrong with you”.  Go home.  You’re fine…  But you’re not fine.  You know you shouldn’t have this symptom all the time.  It’s hurting your life.  So now what?  Are you crazy?  You can feel the symptoms!  It’s NOT all in your head.  As a holistic doctor and clinical nutritionist, I hear this story from clients on a regular basis.  

Do conventional labs even help?

Your conventional labs can help facilitate somewhat of an understanding of potential nutrient challenges.  Even basic blood panels can give some indicators about how your body may be responding to your current diet and lifestyle.  We can often deduce things about your protein intake, hydration levels, digestion, specific vitamins and minerals, and various organs or glands that may need support.  For example, if your blood test shows that your sodium is high (sometimes referred to as hypernatremia), I may not know exactly why but it allows us to explore together some of the common reasons as to why this could be.  For sodium, it could be high from dehydration or from consuming too many salty processed foods or salty animal products (pepperoni, cheese, etc).  These are relatively simple to fix.  As tests like this can also give us some warning before things get worse.  For example, sticking with the high sodium case, if it’s ignored, it can eventually cause issues in the kidneys and other challenges like high blood pressure1.  

Limitations of conventional labs:

However, there are some limitations to conventional blood tests.  First, conventional labs, (barring a few exceptions) can be dramatically altered by what you ate just the day before.  For example, if you normally have good hydration and sodium levels but you just happened to have your once-a-month pizza party with friends last night, it is likely that your sodium levels will be overly high.  Many medical practitioners don’t ask about your diet overall or what you may have done the 24 hours before testing.  They will most often just make reasonable generalities about what that test means.  Another major drawback of these blood tests is that they are looking at what’s floating around in the blood.  This gives little indication about what is making it into the cell so your body can use it to carry out metabolic functions.

A better option in addition to your annual labs:

Therefore, more and more I am encouraging my clients to do the micronutrient test.  This test gives information about what is going on INSIDE the cell.  It tells which vitamins, minerals and amino acids that you are deficient in based on the internal environment of the cell.  For example, let’s say we find you are deficient in choline, not only will this deficiency impact the brain and nervous system, but it also impacts the integrity of the cell membrane which can alter the absorption of all other nutrients2.  Unlike a conventional blood test that mainly is looking at a point in time, the micronutrient test is using red blood cells that give information about what’s been going on in the body for the past several months.  

Is there a point in doing conventional labs at all?

Yes, I am a fan of gathering lots of information so we have the best shot to inform us in what you need.  That said, conventional blood tests which may include a lipid panel (cholesterol), electrolytes, blood counts, etc, can be good to do on occasion (annually is great).  There are also some functional tests that can be helpful in certain circumstances.  And, it can be good to see trends (for example if your liver enzymes are slowly creeping up year after year).  It’s not that these labs shouldn’t be done, but it’s just that they don’t give us the full picture. 

Conventional labs vs. intra-cellular micronutrient testing:

In fairness, to some degree, we are comparing apples to oranges in the sense that these tests don’t give us the same information in many ways.  However, I have seen several clients in the past few months who have gotten a high vitamin D level back on their (conventional) labs, only to run the micronutrient test to find that although there may be plenty of D in the blood, it’s not making it into the cells where it can help them!  This means that even though they were supplementing, they were still deficient.  No other test could give this information (and therefore help lead us to the best course of action to correct this problem).  And having this information is powerful in terms of really getting to the root of your original symptoms.  

Other resources:

If you are having challenges with your health (physical or mental/emotional for that matter), you may have an underlying nutritional deficiency.  With a few exceptions (such as iron deficiency), conventional labs will not give you reliable and accurate information on this.  For more information on the Cell Science micronutrient test, check out the blog on “How do you know what YOUR body needs?” or click here to order.  

Of course, there could be other issues besides nutritional deficiencies that are leading to your health challenges such as immune stress, poor digestion, imbalanced hormones and more. If you’d like help, please reach out.  Call the clinic today for more information on scheduling an initial consultation.  269-204-6525


1. Carey RM, Muntner P, Bosworth HB, Whelton PK. Prevention and Control of Hypertension: JACC Health Promotion Series. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2018.07.008

2. Health NI of. Choline Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Office of Dietary Supplements.

Nothing said or implied in this post is intended to treat, cure, diagnose or prevent any disease.  It does not take the place of a qualified health care practitioner and is intended for educational purposes only.

Dr. LeAnn Fritz, PhD

Dr. LeAnn is a practitioner, coach, speaker, consultant, and the founder of New Hope Health. She is also the author of The Quantum Weight Loss Blueprint, and Get Healthy Now. She is laser-focused on practical, evidence-based practices to empower her clients to get real results that last. She sets the bar when it comes to radiant health that will change every area of your life forevermore.

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