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Self-Care vs Self-Medication

Eating right and taking vitamins and supplements seems innocent enough. Natural is good and you're taking control of your health. What could be wrong with that?

Ideally nothing. However, when it comes to the body, decisions made without research, testing and doctor's advice may make you sick.

This doesn't mean you should toss your natural remedies or discontinue your vitamins. Instead if you have been taking them without medical guidance, you may want to consider changing your approach from self-medication to self-care.

Woman in yoga pose

What's The Difference Between Self-Care And Self-Medication?

The practice of treating yourself without medical supervision is known as self-medication. It applies to taking any medication—prescription or over-the-counter—without medical expertise or supervision.

Self-care means taking an active role in your health through conscious, informed choices to improve your overall well-being.

How Can I Improve My Self-Care Routine?

The usual advice for self-care includes getting more sleep, exercising, learning to control stress better, eating a lower fat diet, etc. That's true for most everyone. But there are plenty of conditions that require medical intervention. When symptoms are sudden, persistent or severe, hopefully you don't hesitate and you seek medical advice right away.

On the other hand, symptoms that linger, are minor or you expect to occur when you age may keep you on the fence or entice you to self-medicate.

Out Of The Gray And Into The Light

A big opportunity for improvement lies in these "gray areas." Symptoms that are mild or come and go are easy to ignore or misinterpret. Disregard them and you could miss a chance for early diagnosis or a serendipitous discovery for health enhancement.

Too much guessing can lead to inertia. Without data to back up your hunch, an endless list of possibilities like a busy week, a junk food binge, time off from the gym, etc. can make you throw your hands up in frustration. If you do take action and self-medicate, you risk creating harm or worsening a situation. 

At-home lab tests can help you understand signals the body sends when balance is interrupted. Indicators of possible health issues that you may overlook include thinning hair; skin changes like acne, dryness or hyperpigmentation; low libido; sexual dysfunction; difficulty losing or gaining weight; headaches; and agitation or nervous energy. 

4 Ways That At-Home Lab Tests Can Help You Take Control Of Your Health

1) Decide to take action on subclinical findings.

Lab test results usually come with a reference range. They are "normal values" based on studies of large groups of people without medical conditions that are within your age group. They serve as guidelines to help monitor your health, support preventative medicine and offer insight to help diagnose a medical condition.

Measurements that fall outside of normal ranges will be flagged and may include a notation providing further insight into what normal ranges mean and additional details on what your test revealed. Results that fall within those ranges but are on the high or low side may be overlooked. Brushing over these subclinical results, however, could be a missed opportunity in prevention and optimizing your health.

For example, The Diabetes Prevention Program looked at the impact of preventative treatment over a 15 year period on participants whose blood glucose levels and insulin resistance were within normal levels but on the high side. Preventative measures delayed the onset of diabetes, with the most successful results holding off the Type II diabetes by 15 years for 27% of the study subjects.

Male hormone health evaluation questionnaire

2) Present new medical treatments that you or your doctor may not have heard about. After all, you can't get what you need until you know what you need. 

3) Help validate your instinct.

Discovering your gut was right can help restore trust in your own judgement. This can then lead to more informed health decisions in the future.

4) Early diagnosis and prevention. 

Thyroid problems are notoriously common and infamous for going undetected. Meanwhile, a thyroid condition can impact every part of the body, especially major organs including the brain, heart, skin and digestive system.

Conditions affecting this endocrine gland include hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, cancer and goiter. A thyroid disease may not be curable but studies show some can be well-managed with medication. If caught early enough, diet and lifestyle changes may restore your thyroid's health. 

  • Up to 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid dysfunction.
  • Over 60% of people with thyroid issues are unaware of the problem.
  • Women are up to 8 times more likely than men to have thyroid condition.

Evaluating Testosterone In Men

Men and women both need testosterone, albeit at different levels.

Testosterone less than 300 nanograms per deciliter (ng/dL) is considered low for men. However, testosterone begins to decrease 1-2% each year past 30. If you're over 40, your T is expected to be lower than it was at age 35. At what point is it too low?

If you're a man and feeling fatigued, experiencing sexual dysfunction or gaining fat but losing muscle then your testosterone could be too low for you. Determining what is right for you can begin with a test.

Low T In Women? Yes, It's Possible

Testosterone is a main driver of women's libido and supports cognitive function. Along with other hormones, testosterone declines as women age. Although menopause is closely associated with insufficient estrogen, testosterone may also be low.

Results of female hormone test

Adding testosterone to an assessment can help women identify a potential issue. Female treatments for low T include testosterone replacement therapy or, as studies have shown, Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) treatment may help.

Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (bHRT) is a treatment using prescription formulas to restore levels of sex hormones that the body no longer makes in sufficient levels. Bioidentical hormones are derived from wild yams or soy and are molecularly and structurally identical to the hormones created by the body (endogenous).

Peptide Treatments: Latest Advancements In Active Aging

As science and medicine look for new ways to improve quality of life as we age, the benefits of peptide therapy are gaining traction.

Peptides are strings of 2–50 amino acids. Amino acids comprise proteins and proteins are the building block of life. The science of peptide therapy involves identifying the roles of specific proteins and peptides in the body and isolating them. They are then recreated in a lab and administered as targeted treatment.

Peptides should only be administered under a doctor's supervision and require a prescription. Additionally, before a recommendation for peptide therapy can be made, your medical information and lab test data are needed. An IGF-1 test measures the amount of growth hormone in your body. If you are deficient, a treatment plan may include bHRT and/or peptide treatments with sermorelin or ipamorelin or others.

Learn more about the signs of vitamin deficiencies and hormone imbalance that you might be missing and how at-home lab testing can get you back on track: Signs of Vitamin Deficiencies, Hormone Imbalances & Food Intolerances.

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