Catecholamine Tests: A Moving Target

Published Categorised as Brain Health, Health, Personal

I have to get my catecholamines measured. A simple blood test, you’d think, eh? Uh no. Problem number one is finding a lab that tests them.

I had these tests done almost 20 years ago. Back then, the doctor’s office explained what tests were required and how to prepare for them. They handed me a sheet listing verboten foods, explaining not to eat them for a couple of days before and during the tests. They handed me the bottles for the 24 hour urine tests; they took my blood. That was back when health care was civilized.

I had these same tests repeated two years ago, and I asked for that list because who can remember it 15 years later. Oh, no list; you can eat or drink whatever you want. Are you sure? Of course (imagine slightly rolling-eyes look as if I’m talking nonsense). I was too ill to argue or to look it up properly on Google. This time around, I’m feeling a bit punchier and decided to look into it because I know there was a list and bananas and avocados were on it.

Well, there is one…or rather there are several, depending on the lab. The form I got mentioned caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol for 24 hours before and during the test. How many people know chocolate has caffeine in it? A local chain of labs, which does not do the blood tests, lists coffee, tea, chocolate, vanilla (do you know how many sweets that cuts out!), tomatoes, colas, and bananas as being verboten three days before and during the test. And you can’t take aspirin. Nothing about nicotine or alcohol. Another site lists the drugs that cannot be taken, but does not say for how long before the test they must be stopped. They include caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, and a whole host of other ones which thank goodness I don’t take as no one mentioned them to me. The one I found when first given the requisition forms (which by the way don’t list any no-nos) lists caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate, bananas, walnuts, avocados, fava beans, cheese (noooo!), beer, red wine, vanilla, licorice (this one should be on every single list as it’s a known food to eat if you need to boost your adrenaline levels!), aspirin, and tobacco. They also say abstain for two to three days (not very precise, eh?) and to stay warm, drink lots. And then there’s this one that says stay away from these things for several days and adds exercise and citrus fruits to the mix. Oh great, no one told me not to put lemon in my food!

It seems to me awful strange that the list changes from lab to lab, except for the coffee and tea, didn’t even exist at the lab I went to two years ago, and some doctors don’t even know about the list. But then a cardiologist I saw had never heard of HRV (heart rate variability) and thought I was talking (that word again) nonsense. It’s bad enough that doctor’s offices hand over test requisition forms to patients without telling them to fast — creating a wasted trip for at least a couple of people who came in to the lab after me — but to go through the inconvenience of a sensitive bunch of tests, not knowing if you have properly abstained and for long enough from those foods that can adversely affect the tests, is beyond ridiculous.

The upshot of uninformed testers is that two years ago, my test results were normal. The problem is they may’ve been normal because of the artificial boost from the foods I ate or they may’ve been normal because they really were. But I wouldn’t know. I do know that when I was given strict, clear instructions by a doctor and her office who knew about and understood the tests, the test results always came back the same: too low. And she did something about it.

Because in the end, the value of tests done well is a proper diagnosis that an intelligent doctor then knows how to act on to help us, the patient.

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