Blood Testing Detects Autoimmune Processes

 In Autoimmune/Allergy Medicine, Pain Medicine

Dicken Weatherby, ND

Blood testing is one of the best ways to detect autoimmune processes before they become full-blown diseases. Simple patterns that can be seen on a standard blood chemistry screen and complete blood count (CBC) can help assess a patient’s inflammatory state and move them in the direction of health, rather than letting an undetected autoimmune process wreak havoc for years, until it becomes a manifested disease state.

The Autoimmune Process

I don’t like to use the term “autoimmune disease.” As a preventive-oriented practitioner, I look for early signs of what I would call an “autoimmune process.” Most autoimmune diseases, such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), don’t spring up overnight, but are a result of a number of mechanisms that lead to system-wide dysfunction that ultimately causes the body’s immune system to attack itself. Pro-inflammatory cytotoxic cells (cytokines and interleukins) are directed against “self-antigens” in the body. The net result of this is prolonged and chronic inflammation.

Some causative mechanisms I feel are closely associated with a developing autoimmune process and chronic inflammation include:

  • Continued exposure to heavy metals and environmental pollutants
  • Increased consumption of sugar in all forms (glucose, sucrose and fructose) and oxidized fats, both of which form advanced glycation end (AGE) products. A better term for these is “glycotoxins.” As glycotoxins accumulate, they cause an increase in inflammatory cytokines.
  • Oxidative stress
  • Chronic sleep deprivation – even mild sleep restriction adversely affects pro-inflammatory cytokine levels.

Continued exposure to the above will cause many of the important systems of the body to become dysfunctional. These include:

  • Impaired gastrointestinal function, including hypochlorhydria, dysbiosis, bowel toxemia and intestinal hyperpermeability
  • Impaired liver detoxification
  • Blood sugar dysregulation, marked by insulin resistance, hyperglycemia and increased glycotoxin production
  • Chronic and prolonged inflammation.

The trouble is, once these advanced syndromes have been identified, it is usually very challenging to reverse the damage entirely, and the patient has to endure compromised health for a much longer time. The good news is it’s not difficult to detect these trends long before they manifest as a disease. That’s why prevention really is the key, and we all have tools at our disposal. One of my favorites is blood testing.

Blood Testing for Autoimmune Processes

Blood testing is a convenient and cost-efficient way to gather information about a patient’s state of health. Many causes of autoimmune processes can be detected and reversed before they cause major problems.

My first line of detection of an autoimmune process is to order a standard Blood Chemistry and CBC Panel. Here’s what I check for:

  • Signs of gastrointestinal dysfunction and hypochlorhydria: high globulins, high total protein, high BUN, low serum calcium and low serum phosphorous.
  • Signs of liver dysfunction: high ALT, AST or GGT, and low albumin.
  • Signs of blood sugar dysregulation: increased fasting blood glucose and an increased hemoglobin A1C, which is a sign that the body is being exposed to dangerous levels of glycotoxins.
  • Signs of oxidative stress: increased uric acid, total cholesterol below its historical level, a decreased lymphocyte count and decreased albumin level. You may also see a low platelet count and increased total globulin.
  • Signs of inflammation: increased ESR, increased uric acid, decreased albumin, increased eosinophils and an increased neutrophil count.

If a number of the above patterns appear on a blood chemistry and CBC panel, look for signs of what I call an “emerging” autoimmune process: a combination of two or more of these blood test results – e.g., low cholesterol, low triglycerides, high HDL, high LDH. If triglycerides are decreased with low or normal cholesterol, I look for the possibility of an autoimmune process, usually one of an inflammatory or destructive nature. I’ll also look at HDL and cholesterol. If low triglycerides are present along with high HDL levels and cholesterol at low-normal levels, these factors together point to a possible autoimmune process.

To rule out other etiologies, take a history. It’s important to look at historical levels of HDL and ask if there’s a genetic predisposition or a dramatic increase in exercise, which could explain high HDL. If there is no other explanation at present, see how the current level compares with the historical data. An otherwise unexplained change would point to more likelihood of an autoimmune process.

If this final pattern is visible, more testing needs to be performed to evaluate for the presence of pro-inflammatory markers in the blood. I recommend testing for C-reactive protein (CRP). While most NDs are aware that an increased CRP increases the risk of stroke and myocardial infarction, what is less understood is that an increased CRP indicates that levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, the underlying cause of systemic inflammation, are elevated. If the autoimmune process pattern appears on a chemistry screen, and an elevated CRP is also evident, then follow up with Inflammatory Cytokine Blood Testing or the Cytokine Panel (CP). The CP tests for Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1b), Interleukin-6 (IL-6), Interleukin-8 (IL-8) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α). Increased levels of any of these interleukins are indicative of systemic inflammation, and individual interleukins are associated with specific autoimmune processes.

Follow-up may also include an increased CRP with specific markers for autoimmune diseases: antinuclear antibody (ANA) is associated with SLE, and rheumatoid factor (RF) is associated with RA. Also look at LDH, alpha-1 globulin and alpha-2 globulin, as increased levels of these would indicate that tissue destruction is present.

Once an autoimmune process has been identified, treatment will vary according to the practitioner. Fortunately, the earlier we can detect these inflammatory processes that, if left unchecked may lead to outright disease, the more likely our naturopathic protocols – using methods such as homeopathy, diet and supplements – will be effective.

Dicken Weatherby, ND is based in southern Oregon. A graduate of NCNM, Dicken is co-author of the bestselling book Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis-Clinical Laboratory Testing from a Functional Perspective. He has self-published seven other books in the field of alternative medical diagnosis, has created numerous information products, and runs a number of successful Web sites (, and He is involved in research, writing and consulting, and teaches functional diagnosis seminars in both the U.S. and his native country, the U.K.



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