We all know that our blood can tell us a lot about our overall health. We go to get a blood test when we want to learn about nutritional deficiencies, markers for auto-immune disorders, hormonal imbalances… the list goes on.
What may shock you is just how much we can learn about our health from a single finger-prick. Darren Saunders pHD from Drop Bio Health, a personalised, digital health company that uses at-home finger prick blood tests to assess overall health, shares what your blood can reveal.
First thing’s first: what is blood?
Most of us know that its primary job is to circulate oxygen and fuel to the cells of our body, and take away carbon dioxide and metabolic waste. But blood is so much more than that. It’s a complex “organ” that is critical for so many aspects of our physiology. For example, the suite of specialised cells in our blood form a critical part of our immune system, our defence against disease.
But did you know that blood is also our internal information superhighway? An incredibly complex array of chemical messengers – like hormones for example – travel around our body in blood. They convey biological information about the performance of various organs and body systems, along with data about the outside environment. This information keeps us alive by coordinating our bodies’ finely tuned response to both internal challenges and changes in the outside world.
So, how do blood test work?
These chemical messengers are often present in miniscule amounts, but advances in technology mean we can detect even the most subtle changes in just a drop of blood. In this context the chemical messengers are called biomarkers, and changes in the levels of these biomarkers can tell us a lot about our health and wellbeing.
Biomarkers are a window into our metabolism, our immune system, hormone status etc, and how these systems respond over time to changes in our lifestyle, environment, or health status. The complex relationship between our genetics, environment, and everyday decisions influence circulating levels of a panel of established biomarkers known to respond to changes in our sleep, stress, energy levels, nutrition & diet, exercise, inflammation and alcohol consumption.
By tapping into our biological information superhighway, we can better understand these relationships. Measuring biomarker response to changes in our lifestyle helps build a link between how you feel and what is actually happening in your body. It provides new opportunities for modifying our behaviour and decision making for better health and wellbeing.
And what can they tell us?
For example, the hormone cortisol is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration. Cortisol has a range of effects, including increasing blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and suppressing immune response. Altered metabolism of cortisol may play a role in obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Other blood proteins called interleukins may indicate inflammation and response to exercise.
The real power in this approach lies in simultaneously measuring a panel of multiple biomarkers, capturing a range of biological insight. Having the sensitivity to do this in a drop of blood from a simple fingerprick makes this approach accessible to many.