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? How does the medical community not know what thyroid tests you need?!
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 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
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 who 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 lab’s 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 is 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.
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 Hashimoto’s. 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!
You have to sign up to view the site, but comes recommended by STTM. Also has STTM specific lab tests.
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?