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The Thyroid Tests You Need to Ask Your Doctor For

Originally published Jan 24, 2013
thyroid tests After all of this research on how to heal the thyroid naturally, I keep coming across the idea that most doctors don’t order the tests that you really need. I’d been having a hard time believing that, I mean…….MOST doctors don’t know what lab tests to run?

Hmmmmm.

But as I kept reading, I’ve found out that it’s because it doesn’t matter what some of the other numbers are. All the treatment options are the same; medication until the organ completely stops working. And then more medication for life. Or until your diet and lifestyle help heal your thyroid and the medication is no longer needed.

I’ve also had many, many conversations with all of you through email and facebook, frustrated because you also feel like junk, but either your lab tests are “normal” or because you’re not feeling better even under the care of a physician. And in those conversations I’ve found that what I’m reading is true! (I’ve even had multiple people tell that that their doctors told them to stop coming back over the issue because there was nothing wrong with them!) Many doctors aren’t testing the thyroid the way it needs to be tested.

Not MD’s, not OBs, and not even RE’s.

That doesn’t mean that your doctor wouldn’t think to run them – it just means that there are doctors out there who don’t.You can also ask your doctor to run specific tests and any good, patient-minded doctor, should be more than willing to help you get to the bottom of your issues.

After our first post in this series, I hope you’ve called your doctor’s office and gotten your lab test results and written them down, because today we’re going to talk about WHAT you need tested. And if it hasn’t been done, it’s time to call them back and ask for more labs. We’ll also look at what the functional ranges for each are, as most doctors look only at a pathological range. (meaning that you could be within a range where you aren’t totally diseased, but also not feeling well)

Five tests for thyroid function

1. TSH

The Thyroid Stimulating Hormone is released from the pituitary gland when the levels of T4 drop. It’s one of the most sensitive markers for thyroid function and is commonly the only one tested. Though since it’s the pituitary gland that secretes TSH, it’s more of a marker on pituitary function, and how the pituitary is reacting to overall health. From many women I’ve heard from, by the time their TSH was enough out of range to get treated medically, they were in really bad shape.

Functional Range – 1.8 – 3.0 mU/L

Typical Lab Range – 0.5 – 5.5 mU/L

Most laboratories also give different ranges, as they all take an average of the tests from other people that come to their lab. So if you live in an area where hypothyroid is quite common (like here in Michigan!) the ranges could be quite wide. My labs range was actually .35 – 4.94. I have noticed though that many doctors are starting to look more at the functional ranges, which is a good thing. But again, just testing TSH is a poor indicator of overall thyroid health.

2. Free T3

This tests for the available T3 in the body, and since it is active thyroid hormone, is a good marker for how much of the hormone is accessible to your body and its cells. “Free” refers to the hormone in it’s unbound state, instead of when it is bound to proteins and being transferred through the body.

Functional Range – 300 – 450 mU/L

Typical Lab Range – 3.0-4.0 pg/ml

3. Free T4

Again, this tests for the unbound T4 in the body. While inactive, this hormone is converted by the body into the usable T3 hormone.

Functional Range – 1.0-1.5 ng/dl

Typical Lab Range – 0.7 – 1.53 ng/dl

4. Reverse T3

This lab test checks for any reverse T3 that the body produces; this can take place because of extreme stress or trauma.

Functional Range – 90 – 350 pg/ml

Typical Lab Range – 90 – 350 pg/ml

You can then figure out the ratio of free T3 to reverse T3 at Stop the Thyroid Madness. This way you can make sure that even if your labs show up as “normal”, that everything is functioning as it should.

5. Antibodies

Usually checking for multiple antibodies TPO (thyroid peroxidase) TGB (thyroglobulin). Sometimes a lab is run for thyroid stimulating hormone antibodies if Graves disease is suspected.

An antibodies check is HUGE. Why?

Because if it shows positive, you have a confirmed auto-immune disease. Your body is attacking itself and causing major damage to the thyroid. And some experts state that up to 90% of all cases of hypothyroidism are due to Hashimotos. Dr. Kharrazian also mentions that he will test a person twice (especially if they are on a gluten free diet already) if he suspects Hashimoto’s because the immune system fluctuates.

Other Important Labs

Thyroid labs: There are a few other thyroid labs that Dr. Kharrazian lists in his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?”, though the ones listed above are a really good start.

Adrenal Cortisol Levels: done by a saliva test, not a blood test.

Vitamin B12: B12 is a vitamin which has a key role in red blood cell metabolism of your entire body, giving you energy, sharpness in your brain, and healthy nervous system functioning. (source) Functional ranges in the US are from about 200 – 900, but other countries use 500-600 as a minimum. (mine was 380 and my DO wants to see it at 700)

Vitamin D3 (25-hydroxyvitamin D lab test…): We’ve talked a little bit about the role of Vitamin D in fertility and this is an overall good thing to check for everyone. Especially those who live in the mid to upper states or spend most of their days indoors. Functional ranges are 50-100, with most people feeling better around 75.

You can also find a few more recommended lab tests at Stop the Thyroid Madness.

Finding a lab

Many of us have decent medical insurance where many, if not all, of these lab tests are fully covered. Or at least covered with a copay. Not me, I have to pay for diagnostic tests. And I’m sure many of you may have issues paying for all of these lab tests too!

One of the online groups I’m part of mentioned a private lab, located throughout the states, that will run lab tests without a doctor’s prescription. Here’s a list of labs you can check with – make sure to call as I found out there were more locations than stated on a couple of these sites! Another bonus is that most of the time these labs are much cheaper than the laboratories your doctor may send you to.

HealthCheck USA – 1-800-929-2044

This was one I was referred to and they had a location closer to me than listed. While I didn’t use them (over an hour and a half away, I may use them when I want to get everything rechecked in a few months to save some money)

They have labwork specifically designed for readers of Stop the Thyroid Madness, as noted by STTM before the test name. Click here and find a discount code on STTM!

My Med Lab

You have to sign up to view the site, but comes recommended by STTM. Also has STTM specific lab tests.

Direct Lab

A discount lab where you can view your results online. Again, has STTM tests.

 

So for those of you who have your test results – did you have the proper tests done? And if so, how do your numbers look on the functional range guidelines compared to the pathological/typical lab ranges?

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? Until May 3, 2014 you can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!



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Symptoms of Thyroid Disorder

Originally published Jan. 22, 2013

natural treatment for thyroid disorders Thyroid disorders seem to be on the rise in modern civilization, but why? And how do we know if it’s something we deal with?

As many of you know, I’ve been basically feeling like crud for the last year. I’ve very much had feeling of depression and anxiety along with major fatigue and insomnia. I also think it’s probably something that’s been lingering for many, many years, yet only showed up in full force after my miscarriage.

I now am a believer that stress can cause or multiply health issues.

I’ve always dealt with many of the symptoms, but they’ve never interfered with my life before. Or they came and went within weeks/months. When I switched to a whole foods diet most, if not all of them, went away. But then I got too busy for my own good and had to have the help of a chiropractor friend to help pull me out of adrenal fatigue, and felt well afterwards.

But this last year has been a bugger of a year, as symptoms of a thyroid disorder showed up more and more. As a mom of young children, I shrugged off the fatigue. I mean, all moms are tired right? And the feelings of depression and anxiety could be related to the miscarriage and grief. Yet deep down I knew there was something else wrong.

My much awaited lab results showed me just that. And I have a feeling that many of you may also deal with thyroid issues and just don’t know it. Or maybe you’ve been tested and your doctor told you that everything was “normal”. Even when you feel that it’s not.

Thyroid Basics

We will just discuss the very basics of thyroid function, as to cover it all, we’d need to write a book!

The thyroid is a small endocrine gland, just above the adam’s apple in the throat, consisting of two parts. To me it sort of looks like a butterfly. An ugly one. This gland takes in iodine and produces thyroid hormones. Every cell in the body depends upon thyroid hormones for regulation of their own metabolism. It detects shifts in body chemistry (chronic blood sugar imbalance, hormone imbalances, chronic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, toxicity, liver congestion, poor digestive health, or even the use of hormones, synthetic or bio-identical) and helps the body compensate for them.

But the thyroid does not act alone. As with everything in holistic health, we must also look at how it functions along with other parts of our body. According to Datis Kharrazian in his book “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?“:

  1. The hypothalamus sends thyroid releasing hormone (TRH) to the pituitary. (this is basically the thermostat regulator in the body)
  2. The pituitary gland releases thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) to the thyroid gland, giving it the signal to produce more hormones.
  3. TSH stimulates thyroid peroxidase (TPO) activity to use iodine to create T4 and T3 hormones. 93% of the thyroid hormone production is T4, an inactive form which needs to be converted by different organs in the body. 7% is the usable T3. These hormones hitch a ride in the bloodstream on thyroid-binding proteins to the cells that need them and can convert the T4 to T3.
  4. 60% of the T4 produced by the thyroid is converted to T3 in the liver by an enzyme called tetraidothyronine 5’deiodinase. Another 20% of the T4 is converted in the digestive system via the sulfatase enzyme which is present in healthy guts.

Common Symptoms of HYPOthyroid (under active thyroid)

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low basal body temps and/or low temperatures throughout the day
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Morning headaches that go away throughout the day
  • Infertility
  • Fatigue
  • Cloudy thinking
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight easily
  • Sensitive to cold weather
  • Constipation
  • Digestive problems
  • Poor circulation
  • Slow wound healing
  • Need excessive amounts of sleep
  • Gets sick often (colds or viral infections)
  • Itchy and dry skin
  • Dry hair that breaks often, or thinning hair
  • Thinning of the outermost part of the eyebrow
  • High cholesterol

What happens in the body when you have hypothyroidism

There are actually different ways that hypothyroid happens in the body. Sometimes it’s because the pituitary senses the thyroid isn’t doing it’s job correctly and produces more thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Other times the pituitary is fatigued and not able to produce the TSH to signal the thyroid how many hormones to produce. Another pattern of hypothyroid is the inability of the body to convert T4 to T3 because of excess cortisol or chronic inflammation.

Some women with high levels of testosterone may also find that too much T4 is converted to T3, causing the cells of the body to become resistant to the hormone and not allowing it entry to do its work. (most often found in those with insulin resistance and PCOS- per “Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?“)

Symptoms of HYPERthyroid (overactive thyroid)

  • heart palpitations
  • heat intolerance
  • nervousness
  • fast heart rate
  • hair loss
  • muscle weakness

What happens in the body when you have hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a medical term that basically means your thyroid is producing to many hormones so you have to many thyroid hormones for the cells. This could be due to the thyroid getting the signal to produce too much, or the inability of the cells to absorb the thyroid hormone.

The following may also indicate Hashimotos, an autoimmune thyroid disorder:

  • heart palpitations
  • inward trembling
  • increased pulse rate, even at rest
  • feelings of nervousness and emotional distress
  • night sweats
  • difficulty gaining weight
  • people with Hashimoto’s also tend to go back and forth between the symptoms of hypo and hyper thyroid.

What happens in the body when you have Hashimoto’s

This is an autoimmune disease where your immune system is actively attacking your thyroid, destroying it. It is also the most common cause of hypothyroidism, some sources stating that up to 90% of hypothyroid cases are due to Hashimoto’s. This causes the thyroid to continue to lose function, eventually not working at all. It can cause hypothyroid symptoms  and then can change to hyperthyroid symptoms as a “flare-up” destroys the thyroid tissue and hormones stored in the gland flow into the bloodstream. Once these hormones get into the bloodstream, the body’s metabolism speeds up, and a person will experience the symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

The good news

You don’t have to live your life feeling like junk; depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, and overweight. There is hope for fixing thyroid issues without lifelong medications, and in the following days/weeks, we’ll be talking about ways to heal the body and focus on supporting your thyroid.

Have you had your thyroid checked? Your homework for the next couple of days is to call your doctor and get your test results. I cannot stress this enough! You need to find out your numbers and have them tell you exactly what thyroid hormones were tested and what ranges they used to decide what “normal” function is.

If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest signing up for the FREE Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.

Can’t take the time when it’s available for free? Until May 3, 2014 you can order the digital version of the entire online conference for only $49.00*! That’s a steal of a deal compared to the multiple doctor visits it normally takes to diagnose thyroid disorders!



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The top lab tests for fertility: part 1

Written by contributing writer Bridgit.

If you are ready to do a fertility check-up, you may be wondering where to start.  Today I’ll start with the best first lab for women, and next month we’ll talk about the guys.

A CBC ‘With Extras’ for Her

I think the best place for women to start is with an easy, peasy blood draw.  When you analyze blood work with a functional medical lens, it can tell you quite a bit about your health.  And when you order those tests with fertility in mind, you get a great base to get started on your fertility journey.

Here’s what to get:

top fertility tests for her

  • CBC with differential
  • vitamin D
  • Fasting glucose (you need to have not eaten)
  • HA1C
  • TSH
  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • TPO ab
  • TG ab
  • free testosterone

These tests will inform you about anemia, digestion, immune activity, liver, thyroid function, autoimmune hypothyroid and blood sugar/ PCOS.

But here’s the thing; your doctor may not be willing or able to order and/or interpret these tests for you. You can certainly ask your GP or GYN to order these tests, and you may have better luck with your endocrinologist or RE.  But many physicians are not trained to order or interpret blood work from a functional medicine perspective.

There’s no reason to get upset if you can’t get these tests this way.  We can’t ask physicians to suddenly practice in a way they are not trained for, and we can’t ask them to utilize your insurance benefits in a way that they can’t justify.

So what can you do?  You can order through directlabs.com and then set up an appointment with someone trained in functional medicine (either as a virtual/online consult like I do) or through a qualified local naturopath trained in functional and fertility medicine to have the results analyzed.  I think you’ll be quite surprised by what you haven’t learned through your labs thus far!

You can usually use your health savings account (HSA) to pay for these non-covered medical expenses, so that’s something to think about for next year if you don’t already have a HSA.

It’s worth the time and money to get this information so you can create a clear plan, based on fact, with your qualified practitioner.  And then you’re really on your way to making that baby!

What are your questions about labs?  I’m always happy to help!



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The decision of trying to conceive during chronic illness

(written by contributing writer Jessica)

All of my life I dreamed having a large family. I must have been sheltered because I never once remember hearing things like ‘miscarriage’, ‘PCOS’, or ‘chronic illness’. I thought if you wanted a baby, you would have one.

My bubble of security was busted after my first miscarriage. My feelings were all over the place, but fear of never having a child ranked high up in my list of worries.

A few years down the road, I also never imagined I’d have to weigh my health into the equation about the decision of trying to conceive.

the decision of trying ton conceive during chronic illness

The decision to wait until I’m healthier has been a heart breaking one, that included a lot of prayer and conversations with my husband. It is a joint decision that we pray is the right one at this time. Our hearts are ready to try but my body is not.

Chronic illness, in many cases is a delicate balance from day-to-day depending on the condition. A delicate balance that pregnancy can completely offset.

How do you decide if it is the right time to try to conceive when you are managing a chronic health condition?

 Here is a brief list that helped me to logically see the answer that was right for us.

Prayer. 

Prayer is the first step that our family uses when making a decision.

What does your doctor say?

While I don’t think your doctor is the end all be all in making this decision, they should have an educated opinion on how your condition is going to effect a pregnancy and your baby. They may also have helpful things to do to get your body ready to try to conceive. The other great thing about doctors in this situation is they do not have the same person feelings invested and can give you a logical look at things.

How would your illness effect a pregnancy?

Some times the chronic illness itself until controlled can negatively impact a pregnancy and the baby. Or, will the supplements or medications you need daily have an effect on the pregnancy or baby while in the uterus? These are two things to heavily factor into the process of deciding if it is the right time to try to conceive.

How do you feel?

If you are in mid flair or experiencing a lot of symptoms, how would a pregnancy effect that? I know in my heart right now that a pregnancy would add a very large burden to my already very taxed body. I would be short-changing a new little life and depleting myself of already scarce resources.

What is your time line for healing?

What if by waiting a few months your body can be more fully loaded and healed to take on the burden of a pregnancy? It’s good to have a goal and then prepare the body for pregnancy.

There are so many things to weigh when making a the decision to try to conceive while you are manage a chronic health issue. It’s even more tough when your heart is already longing for a child. However, taking the time to heal and get your body in shape is only going to help pave the way for a healthier you and pregnancy.

What are some of the things that you had to consider when making the decision of trying to conceive during a chronic illness?

 

 

 



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One simple way to raise your BBT (basal body temperature)

(Written by contributing writer Natasha)

One of the first things you’re told to do when you start working on fertility issues is to track your BBT (basal body temperature). Several years ago I started taking mine and immediately I had an issue. The handy little chart the doctor gave me? It didn’t go low enough. With the numbers starting at 97.0 and my temps ranging from 96.3-96.5, I was thoroughly confused.

Eventually I realized that my low BBT was a common aliment amongst those struggling with infertility. But what could I do about it?

one way to raise your basal body temperature    www.naturalfertilityandwellness.com

For seven years I tried numerous “treatments,” including, taking thyroid boosting herbs and supplements (like kelp), exercise, and natural progesterone.

After years of work, I was able to raise my BBT to 96.7-96.9. Better, of course, but still not stellar. However, by this time I was thoroughly sick of looking at unchanging temperatures and left my thermometer to gather dust in my bedside drawer.

Several months ago I went to a seminar about health and wellness. It was excellent and afterward I spoke with the speaker for a brief period of time. I mentioned some of the issues I have with losing weight and he made a suggestion. While I had been told that eating a “good healthy breakfast” would help me lose weight, he suggested pushing my first meal back until later in the morning.

“Our bodies need adequate time to digest our food,” he told me, “and if your body struggles with the normal routine of things, making sure that you have a 13-15 hour ‘fast’ in every 24 hour period can make a huge difference.”

The idea was simple: make sure there are around 14 hours between your last meal in the evening and your first meal in the morning.

It’s not hard to implement and completely flexible. (If, for example, you have late dinner the night before, just push your breakfast back until 10 or 11 the next day.)

It sounded like the easiest diet in the world, so I immediately started. Around this time I decided to begin taking my BBT again. Imagine my complete surprise when my temperatures almost immediately zoomed up! Since I made this one simple switch, making sure there is always a 14 hour break from dinner to breakfast, my BBT has held steady at 97.3-97.5 with an ovulating temp at 98.0-98.3.

When I researched online, I found it has already been documented that this simple change does raise your BBT, but for some reason I had overlooked it.

I feel like I have been handed a lifeline, one that frees me from swallowing handfuls of kelp capsules and remembering which days to apply progesterone.

Do you have a low BBT? What are the tricks and thoughts you’ve learned in the process of trying to raise your temps?

 

For more on raising your BBT:
Naturally Warmed Up, How to Raise Your Basal Body Temperature

 



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