Thyroid tests done in your doctor’s office may not give you the information you think you are getting. The standard blood thyroid tests that test thyroid function may provide a partial glimpse of the status of your thyroid. More complete thyroid blood tests exist that help you make a more accurate diagnosis.
Thyroid tests can be complete or incomplete…but from whose perspective? All physicians use a blood thyroid test looking for certain markers of thyroid function. But, a more natural thinking holistic physician uses thyroid blood tests that look for more markers and give you a better indicator of the health of your thyroid.
Traditional physicians usually order a blood thyroid test that looks for levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and T4. If you’re lucky, they may include T3 in this blood thyroid test.
Holistic physicians will test for TSH, T4, T3, reverse T3 (rT3), Anti-TPO and Anti-TG in their thyroid function test. It gives a far more complete picture of what is going on with your thyroid. (Definitions of each are explained soon).
How the Thyroid Works
A little human physiology is needed to be explained to understand why your physician should test for all these markers in your test for thyroid function.
In the brain is a gland called the anterior pituitary which monitors the bloodstream for many different chemicals produced by the body, including a hormone produced in the thyroid gland called T4. If it finds deficient amounts of T4, it increases its production of TSH. Makes sense that the thyroid stimulation hormone would stimulate the thyroid to do something. Right? In this case the thyroid makes more T4. If it finds too much T4, it stops making as much TSH to slow down the production of T4.
T4 is converted to T3, the active form of the thyroid hormones and the hormone that regulates many functions within the body. It does so with nutrients from your diet, hence the obvious need to eat a healthy diet. With low levels of T3, you may experience the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism that you went to see your physician for in the first place.
If you only do a thyroid test for TSH and T4, you won’t have any idea if your body is converting T4 to T3, will you?
If you only do a blood thyroid test for TSH, T4 and T3, you won’t have values for reverse T3 (rT3). You need values for rT3 because lab results from traditional laboratories are inaccurate because they are not sensitive enough to differentiate between T3 and rT3. rT3 is the brake that controls the overall amount of T3, and in traditional lab tests, rT3 and T3 are counted together, giving a false higher level of T3 leaving many patients unaware that they have deficient levels of T3 and therefore have hypothyroidism.
To confuse you even further, not testing for Anti-TPO (anti-thyroid peroxidase) and Anti-TG (anti-thyroglobulin) leaves out much of the puzzle. Awareness of these values help in the diagnosis of Hashimoto’s Disease or Graves Disease. (See below for more information about Hashimoto’s and Grave’s.)
How to Interpret Thyroid Tests
Now let’s talk in terms of highs and lows of these values in your thyroid test. There are many different combinations of high and low values. The problem with a traditional physician interpreting your thyroid test is that if you have a high or low value for TSH, regardless of the other values, you will be placed on a medication and it’s usually Synthroid, a synthetic and dangerous prescription.
- What if you have high TSH and normal T4 and T3? Do you need medication? Not in my opinion. But, you’ll get Synthroid in this case from a traditional physician.
- High TSH, normal T4 and low T3 gets you Synthroid, but in my office it means you are not converting T4 into T3 and you should look into changing your diet by including more foods containing iodine and selenium and use a natural supplement with those nutrients in them.
- High TSH, low T4 and low T3 gets you Synthroid, but here also you need a dietary change, a natural supplement and you do need a natural prescription like Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid or Westhroid.
- Normal TSH, low T4 and low T3 or normal T3 gets you Synthroid, but it may also signal a change in diet with an all natural supplement and/or a natural thyroid prescription.
- If just T4 is elevated, it is a signal of secondary hypothyroidism and you will need a new diet, supplement and natural prescription.
- High normal or slightly elevated TSH with normal T4 may suggest subclinical hypothyroidism and future repeat testing may be necessary.
- High levels of Anti-TPO or Anti-TG suggest Hashimoto’s and/or Grave’s Disease.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which the thyroid gland is gradually destroyed by your immune system. The resulting inflammation often leads to an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). This condition has many times been linked to the eating of gluten containing foods, though it is not related to Celiac Disease. This disorder is believed to be the most common cause of primary hypothyroidism in North America, so imagine not having these values included in your thyroid blood test?
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease causing the thyroid to enlarge to twice its size or more (goiter), become overactive, with related hyperthyroid symptoms. You could cut this condition off at the pass if you had this value in your thyroid function test.
Treatment for autoimmune conditions in my office involves dietary changes, the use of anti-inflammatory supplements and a food allergy test to identify the foods that are contributing to the inflammatory process.
Please read my article about the allergy test that I recommend by clicking on “Health Categories” on the top left of this page, then “Laboratory Tests” and then clicking on “Food Allergy Testing”.
Please also view my video about a hypothyroidism natural treatment by clicking on “Health Categories” on the top left of this page, then “Miscellaneous” and then “Thyroid”. It also gives information about the foods that contain iodine and selenium. Please note, it is not an explanation of how to conquer Hashimoto’s or Grave’s Disease. That requires much more explanation.
Please call my office anytime to discuss the right approach to solve your concerns about your thyroid.