Determining Your Ideal Wellness Routine—Through Your Blood
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Determining Your Ideal Wellness Routine—Through Your Blood

Can blood work help provide a road map for our beauty and lifestyle choices?

By Fiorella Valdesolo
Fri, Aug 27, 2021 10:02amGrey Clock 4 min

Blood work is a standard component of annual physicals, but what if it were also commonly done at facialist appointments? Such is the case when you book a session with Bay Area–based skin-care specialist Kristina Holey. The results of clients’ blood panels help Holey, who does all of her consultations in tandem with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner Justine Wenger, guide her choices for holistically treating their skin concerns.

The human blood system interacts with the entire body—organs, tissues and all. “It supplies nutrients and oxygen, removing CO2 and other waste products, and it’s also a medium through which all our tissues and cells communicate via a bewilderingly complex chemical cross-talk,” says Paul Clayton, a medical pharmacologist and fellow at the Institute of Food, Brain & Behaviour, affiliated with Oxford University. The most basic blood panels cover metabolic function, lipids (or cholesterols), iron, thyroid and, sometimes, vitamin D. But they can get far more granular and include a comprehensive thyroid, zinc, B vitamins and ferritin. If hormones are suspect, then Holey looks at a reproductive hormonal panel for any imbalances. Blood panels can also identify toxic exposures and markers for cellular function, which can give you an idea of your cell’s ability to repair damage, says Chika Okoli, a functional medicine physician at the New York City location of the Well, a wellness facility that consistently uses blood work.


“During Covid consumers became more conscious of their health,” says Lola Priego, founder and CEO of Base, an at-home diagnostic system that relies on blood and saliva testing. A physician reviews all results before uploading them to the Base app, and the Base medical advisory board oversees the algorithms giving users nutritional, supplemental and lifestyle suggestions. In addition to finding conditions like hypo- or hyperthyroidism, elevated cholesterol and diabetes, looking at blood data can help to address issues like sleep quality and chronic fatigue, Priego says. The clinical laboratory market experienced growth throughout the pandemic. Base, for example, launched and raised a $3.4 million round of funding during this time, while London-based blood-testing brand Thriva raised a $4.8 million extension to its series A funding in May 2020. “The so-called ‘lab on a chip’ technology is developing rapidly,” says Clayton, adding that Theranos, the failed blood-testing company, is an example of how badly things can go wrong. “It’s eventually going to become something like what Theranos promised but couldn’t deliver,” says Clayton. For the time being, most of these companies outsource to established labs to get the results.

The state of our blood can also affect our skin. Without healthy circulation and microcirculation, the skin, like any other organ, doesn’t function as well. “It leads to accelerated aging of the skin and reduced elasticity, hydration capacity and probably immune function,” says Clayton. Holey frequently looks to blood tests for guidance when troubleshooting a skin symptom. She says she sees correlations between anemia and perioral dermatitis or rosacea, while low vitamin D levels sometimes connect with psoriasis and eczema, and high cholesterol and poor digestion with breakouts or seborrheic dermatitis. “I am not an M.D., so it is never about diagnosing,” says Holey, who studied engineering and cosmetic chemistry. “If what I am seeing topically lines up with my hypothesis given what I see from labs, then I can better direct to the most appropriate M.D. or specialist.” She encourages her skin clients to keep up with annual blood work. “You can start to see trends or catch low or high levels from year to year,” says Holey. “It’s like starting a library of your health.”

“The so-called ‘lab on a chip’ technology is developing rapidly.”

— Paul Clayton

In the practice of TCM, blood plays a critical role. “We are constantly thinking about how strong the quality of blood is and how well it moves throughout the body,” says Sandra Chiu, acupuncturist, herbalist and founder of Lanshin, a Chinese medicine clinic in Brooklyn. But the method by which blood is evaluated is radically different from Western medicine’s approach. “We often look at, or ‘read,’ the skin to ascertain the state of blood,” she adds. For example, says Chiu, in eczema when the skin is dry and itchy, that is considered excessive heat in the blood manifesting on the surface; when skin is dark red or almost violet, as is the case with rosacea or some types of cystic acne, that means there is significant stagnation. Looking at the blood, via the skin, helps guide Chiu’s treatment approach.

Getting the details of my own blood work served as a guide for me as well. After I submitted blood and saliva samples to Base, my results were transmitted a few weeks later via the company’s app, along with an invitation to set up a consultation to discuss them. Some of the information was unsurprising: My HbA1c (blood sugar) levels were elevated, which meant I should cut back on refined sugars and carbohydrates, and my cortisol levels were wreaking havoc on my sleep, so I needed to reduce my stress levels, relax and meditate. Discovering that I was low on vitamin D—and learning how to improve that score with exercise, diet and supplements—did pinpoint a possible source of fatigue, brain fog and dry, patchy skin. While blood work can certainly offer helpful data in regard to our health and beauty choices, Holey cautions against letting it be our only guide. “Take it all with a grain of salt,” she says. “What we have really learned is that blood work is just one piece of the puzzle.”


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What We Fight About When We Fight About Money

New research tackles the source of financial conflict and what we can do about it

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When couples argue over money, the real source of the conflict usually isn’t on their bank statement.

Financial disagreements tend to be stand-ins for deeper issues in our relationships, researchers and couples counsellors said, since the way we use money is a reflection of our values, character and beliefs. Persistent fights over spending and saving often doom romantic partnerships: Even if you fix the money problem, the underlying issues remain.

To understand what the fights are really about, new research from social scientists at Carleton University in Ottawa began with a unique data set: more than 1,000 posts culled from a relationship forum on the social-media platform Reddit. Money was a major thread in the posts, which largely broke down into complaints about one-sided decision-making, uneven contributions, a lack of shared values and perceived unfairness or irresponsibility.

By analysing and categorising the candid messages, then interviewing hundreds of couples, the researchers said they have isolated some of the recurring patterns behind financial conflicts.

The research found that when partners disagree about mundane expenses, such as grocery bills and shop receipts, they tend to have better relationships. Fights about fair contributions to household finances and perceived financial irresponsibility are particularly detrimental, however.

While there is no cure-all to resolve the disputes, the antidote in many cases is to talk about money more, not less, said Johanna Peetz, a professor of psychology at Carleton who co-authored the study.

“You should discuss finances more in relationships, because then small things won’t escalate into bigger problems,” she said.

A partner might insist on taking a vacation the other can’t afford. Another married couple might want to separate their previously combined finances. Couples might also realize they no longer share values they originally brought to the relationship.

Recognise patterns

Differentiating between your own viewpoint on the money fight from that of your partner is no easy feat, said Thomas Faupl, a marriage and family psychotherapist in San Francisco. Where one person sees an easily solvable problem—overspending on groceries—the other might see an irrevocable rift in the relationship.

Faupl, who specialises in helping couples work through financial difficulties, said many partners succeed in finding common ground that can keep them connected amid heated discussions. Identifying recurring themes in the most frequent conflicts also helps.

“There is something very visceral about money, and for a lot of people, it has to do with security and power,” he said. “There’s permutations on the theme, and that could be around responsibility, it could be around control, it could be around power, it could be around fairness.”

Barbara Krenzer and John Stone first began their relationship more than three decades ago. Early on in their conversations, the Syracuse, N.Y.-based couple opened up about what they both felt to be most important in life: spending quality time with family and investing in lifelong memories.

“We didn’t buy into the big lifestyle,” Krenzer said. “Time is so important and we both valued that.”

For Krenzer and Stone, committing to that shared value meant making sacrifices. Krenzer, a physician, reduced her work hours while raising their three children. Stone trained as an attorney, but once Krenzer went back to full-time work, he looked for a job that let him spend the mornings with the children.

“Compromise: That’s a word they don’t say enough with marriage,” Krenzer said. “You have to get beyond the love and say, ‘Do I want to compromise for them and find that middle ground?’”

Money talks

Talking about numbers behind a behaviour can help bring a couple out of a fight and back to earth, Faupl said. One partner might rue the other’s tightfistedness, but a discussion of the numbers reveals the supposed tightwad is diligently saving money for the couple’s shared future.

“I get under the hood with people so we can get black-and-white numbers on the table,” he said. “Are these conversations accurate, or are they somehow emotionally based?”

Couples might follow tenets of good financial management and build wealth together, but conflict is bound to arise if one partner feels the other isn’t honouring that shared commitment, Faupl said.

“If your partner helps with your savings goals, then that feels instrumental to your own goals, and that is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” he said.

A sense of mission

When it comes to sticking out the hard times, “sharing values is important, even more so than sharing personality traits,” Peetz said. In her own research, Peetz found that romantic partners who disagreed about shared values could one day split up as a result.

“That is the crux of the conflict often: They each have a different definition,” she said of themes such as fairness and responsibility.

And sometimes, it is worth it to really dig into the potentially difficult conversations around big money decisions. When things are working well, coming together to achieve these common goals—such as saving for your own retirement or preparing for your children’s financial future—will create intimacy, not money strife.

“That is a powerful drive for feeling close to the partner and valuing that relationship,” she said.


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