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The medical community often makes a big deal about “biomarkers” and the role they play in detecting certain diseases or in the development of pharmaceutical drugs. But what exactly are biomarkers, and can regular people also benefit from knowing about biomarkers within their own bodies?
Turns out, biomarkers may be able to help some individuals choose diets or exercise routines that are optimal for their unique genetics. Let’s break down everything you need to know about biomarkers and where you can get tested for them.
A biomarker, which is a term short for biological marker, is exactly what it sounds like: it's a measure of some biological condition or state.
Biomarkers can be all sorts of biological elements, molecules, hormones, or other readings that doctors and other wellness professionals can use to prescribe medicine, recommend treatments, or give you advice based on the current condition of your body.
In most cases, biomarkers are used in medical contexts in order to perform scientific or clinical assessments. For instance, doctors can use biomarkers to:
Biomarkers are extremely useful and a cornerstone part of medical analysis and medication recommendation. But individuals who aren’t necessarily doctors may also benefit from learning about their body's biomarkers and what that information means for their own wellness and health-related efforts.
There’s technically no real limit to what constitutes a biomarker. So long as the element, molecule, or cell provides some medical information, it can qualify as a biomarker. Most biomarkers are safe and easy to measure, cost-efficient to follow up on, modifiable with treatment (so a doctor can see if a treatment works), and consistent across ethnic and gender groups.
But some common examples include:
Biomarkers are so diverse that medical professionals are the ones who most often use this information to prescribe medication or offer health advice. But with the right knowledge, regular folks can also learn about their own biomarkers and safely discern what those biomarkers mean for their own health.
Biomarkers are used for measuring all sorts of things in the medical world and for personal investigation.
Possibly the most well-known use of biomarkers is for cancer detection or monitoring. In a nutshell, bodily cells can make multiple types of DNA and RNA: the key molecules that act as instructions for cellular division and behavior.
By analyzing certain types of proteins, DNA, and RNA, doctors can catch the warning signs of cancer relatively early. If cancer develops before being caught, doctors can still use similar biomarkers to measure how cancer is spreading across the body.
Even more importantly, doctors can use certain biomarkers to tell whether a certain treatment is progressing well or if they need to change their treatment plan to counteract cancer’s response.
Many regular people use their biomarkers to estimate their own wellness. Looking for biomarkers of healthy aging, increased testosterone or estrogen production, or proper metabolism can go a long way toward telling you whether your exercise and diet routines are appropriate for your age and activity level.
However, doctors can also gather biomarkers to develop a kind of bird's eye view of a patient’s wellness across the board. This, in turn, can help them screen for common age-related conditions or developments, like certain types of health issues that people get when they age, dementia, arthritis, and other illnesses.
The development of new drugs is incredibly complex, and most new drugs have really bad failure rates in the beginning. Thus, many pharmaceutical companies and medical clinics will use biomarkers in order to maximize the efficiency of their drug tests and development cycles.
Basically, biomarkers are used by pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that don’t harm their patients and that are actually effective at treating whatever they are meant to. Biomarkers serve as the measures of drugs’ effects since patient responses or recordings of their experiences can’t always be relied upon, especially when you take the placebo effect into account.
Absolutely. By measuring most of the important biomarkers that relate to your overall health status, you’ll learn much more about your body than you ever did before. While it’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals for pain or comfort, biomarkers can give you a more in-depth and scientific view of the things that may affect your health in the long term and going forward.
For instance, many of the best biomarker tests will measure things like testosterone, which is a vital hormone for both men and women. For men in particular, measuring your testosterone biomarkers may help you know whether you need to boost your testosterone production to build muscle more effectively or enhance your sex drive.
Or you can measure things like C-Reactive Protein or CRP. This common biomarker often indicates systemic inflammation, which can itself indicate a variety of different under the surface bodily conditions or diseases. For instance, high CRP sometimes indicates coronary heart disease and certain cardiovascular diseases.
You might also measure biomarkers like vitamin B12. Since B12 is one of the most powerful vitamins in nature, more if it could indicate that your body is moving and working like a well-tuned engine. But if you have low vitamin B12, your biomarker test might tell you that you need to start taking more supplements or eating more vitamin B rich foods.
All told, there are numerous benefits you might receive upon learning about your body’s biomarkers.
In some cases, an overview of your body’s biomarkers could tell you whether certain drugs or medication will be a good fit. Doing this, when used in conjunction with expert advice from a medical professional, could help you avoid certain serious but rare side effects that arise from sudden complications that could be anticipated beforehand.
Measuring biomarkers that indicate your cells’ telomere status may end up giving you some insight into your body's aging progress or speed. Telomere length basically indicates how youthful or healthy your cells are, and telomeres usually shorten as you get older since your cells replicate over and over and telomeres get shorter with every successful replication.
By checking for biomarkers that indicate telomere length, you could gain a better understanding of your body’s biological age than just from looking at your skin alone.
Of course, certain biomarker tests can also provide you with a few warning signs of cancer. This could be integral if cancer is hereditary in your family and you want to catch certain types of cancer before it metastasizes or becomes too hard to handle.
Again, however, looking over biomarkers with a qualified test and in conjunction with a visit to a medical professional is the only way to come to good conclusions about these things. Don’t try to diagnose yourself with cancer if you don’t have medical qualifications.
As mentioned, biomarkers may help to provide you with a plethora of general health information, including:
The best way to learn about your body’s biomarkers is to sign up for a detailed blood test with a health optimization clinic like Next Health.
For example, Next Health provides a dedicated Baseline test. This blood draw test will measure most major and critical biomarkers in your body related to holistic wellness and bodily health, including testosterone, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and CRP.
But you can also go after more specialized or directed testing. Next Health’s DNA Fit test also involves a blood test, but it’ll directly examine your DNA to provide information about:
Taking these tests and going over the results with qualified and skilled health optimization professionals is the best way to both learn about your biomarkers and truly grasp what they mean.
All in all, learning about biomarkers is a great way to learn much more about your body than you could otherwise. It's also a great idea if you want extra support for your diet plan or exercise routine – through biomarkers, you may be able to fine-tune a lifestyle that's perfect for your unique genetics and health requirements.