Its January and we are all probably making health and fitness related resolutions, but how can we know what we want to change, or improve upon, if we do not have an accurate measure of our bodies current state?
By far, the biggest fitness trend of 2018 was ‘tracking’, whether by wearing an activity tracker, like a Fitbit or counting calories using My Fitness Pal, it’s now a hard job to find anyone who does not track at least one aspect of their health and fitness related data. Over the last few years and particularly in 2018, tracking fitness metrics has become the norm and conversions about macro’s, steps and sleep quality have become daily home and office chat, but is this data really giving you a clear way to measure whether you are truly living a healthier lifestyle?
Measuring health and fitness metrics, I believe, is a good thing, however are these vague parameters enough?
Perhaps you want to lose weight, so you begin to count calories and increase your daily activity by counting steps, but what if you are dealing with fatigue, poor sleep, reduced performance or gut problems?
What if you want to control and measure other aspects of your life that affect your body and health?
The tests outlined below, which can all be obtained through your doctor or online, go beyond simple wearables and can provide you with a deeper understanding of how your body is working and may provide you with a more precise and proactive approach to your health…
1. Blood Work
Blood tests provide greater insight into the inner workings of your body, allowing you to assess your nutrient status, hormone levels, thyroid function, blood sugar, inflammation, and can even identify risk factors for chronic and degenerative disease. Gathering such data is not only useful as a preventative medicine approach, but it's often used by people who aren’t getting the answers they need from doctors, who more often than not simply measure metrics based on perceived symptoms and presumed diagnosis.
If you want a thorough insight into your bodies current state, you can now order your own blood tests and choose exactly what is assessed. Companies such as Medichecks can be found online and only need a finger prick of blood, sent through the mail, to produce a staggering array of data, inside a week. You can then decipher the data yourself or seek out professional online services who can analyse your data and convert it into more palatable information, such as what you can do to improve.
2. Poop Test
The key to a man’s ‘health’ is in his stomach, and the same for you ladies.
There are yeasts, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and all sorts of things living in your digestive system and this whole microbiome has a massive impact on how your body functions. A lot of the bacteria in your gut is good and healthy: nearly five hundred species and 1.4kg of bacteria live there, helping you digest food, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, and produce vitamins and other vital compounds. But with the prevalence of antibiotics, poor diets and anti-bacterial shower gels your gut bacteria can become out of balance.
By investing in a poop test, or stool evaluation (the sensible name), you can assess the state of your gut and check for any imbalances, food sensitivities, inflammation and/or the presence of any harmful parasites, which can all have a huge impact on our digestive function, nutrient absorption and overall health.
With this new knowledge of your poop, you’ll be able to figure out exactly how you can improve your gut health, whether by taking probiotics, restricting/removing intolerable foods or looking to herbal remedies.
Check out Complete Health Clinic for a poop test.
3. Urine Test
So, I think everyone can assess the colour of their pee, however our urine can tell us a lot more about our bodies than just our level of hydration. Urinalysis can indicate infections, liver problems, raised blood glucose, kidney problems, gallbladder dysfunction, muscle breakdown and even hormone issues (Urinalysis is used by many sports anti-doping organisations).
You can buy home test kits which can identify most of these issues, however for those of you struggling with problems such as fatigue, poor sleep, and hormonal imbalances, you may find a DUTCH panel, which measures hormones levels within your urine, to be particularly useful.
4. DNA Test
You have all seen these on tv. You get a kit in the mail, swab your cheek, send it back to the lab and you’ll then receive a picture of your genetic makeup - the map to your past, present and future.
But this test is not just for tracking your ancestors. This is the one test that will allow you to make personalized health decisions for both lifetime body function and prevention of deficiencies and disease. Your data will tell you how best to customise your diet, what nutrients you may need, which diseases you may be more prone to and how to reduce your risk, how your body adapts to certain training, and even things like how late you should drink your last coffee and if dairy will give you gas. Pretty cool huh?
You can order a DNA test from companies like DNAFit, which will give you personalized diet and fitness recommendations based upon your genetics.