Thyroid Diagnosis

Thyroid Tests: What Tests Should I Get?

This happened to me this past week.

A client that I’ve been working with over the past 4 months said this;

“My endocrinologist has never felt my thyroid.”

What?!@#

Now, I don’t want to point fingers or spread bad rumors, but this drives-me-nuts is concerning.

Too often in the Western model of medicine we rely solely on diagnostic tests without really understanding, knowing, or feeling what is going on for the client. [And, too often in the alternative medicine model, we rely on intuition without really knowing what ‘s going on in a person’s chemistry…..]. To be successful, we need to account for all: diagnostic tests, palpation, and intuition.

In my last post, I shared with you some “blood test pitfalls” when it comes to diagnosing hypothyroid. Blood tests are like snap shots. They give a distinct picture of what is happening in the body’s blood chemistry at a specific time. Blood tests do not account for fluctuations that naturally occur throughout the day, week or month.

A TSH test (a common general screening test for hypothyroid), can catch some issues with the thyroid gland, but it will not catch every hypothyroid out there.

thyroid tests- order
thyroid tests- order

If you’ve got a gut feeling that your thyroid might need some support, here’s some testing ideas for you to consider:

1. Blood Tests: Get the blood tests! [But not just-any-old-blood test.] Most docs will order a TSH test if you ask them. But, keep in mind, TSH tests are not going to pick up every low thyroid case.

Get the blood tests, but ask for a full thyroid panel. You’re going to want to numbers for your TSH, T3 and T4, Thyroid Antibodies, as well as Reverse T3. Lots of docs have a hard time jumping to the full thyroid panel because insurance companies may/may not cover the costs.

If you’re having a hard time getting these tests through your doctor, then you can order tests directly through sites like this.

2. Consider Tissue Analysis: You might need to special order this (through an alternative practitioner), but there are tissue analysis tests (ie. hair and nail) out there that can be helpful in determining whether or not your thyroid is functioning up to par.

Because blood is a high priority system, your body will try to protect it. Your hair is a different story. Your body can do pretty darn well without protecting your hair (that’s one of the reason’s why we lose our hair with hypothyroid and other hormonal issues).

Tissue analysis tests aren’t necessarily perfect, but they can be helpful in putting together a picture in conjunction with blood tests and at-home tests.

3. Keep a Thyroid Journal: Way too often in the Western model, we have to be our own health advocates. Doctors are so rushed in appointments that we need to clearly lay out the picture for them. Keeping a thyroid journal can be just the overview that a doctor needs so that you can get the appropriate testing.

I like to keep my Thyroid Journal in an excel spreadsheet. I record the date, my symptoms, and my cycle (this piece is very important) so that everything is easy to read and overlaps with natural hormonal changes throughout the month. Often, I’ll go back and color in or highlight transitions times like ovulation and the onset of my cycle. It’s so important for your practitioner to be able to see the rhythm that’s going on in your body.

Last, but not least:

4. Feel Your Thyroid: Make sure that you are touching your own thyroid! Massage your thyroid, get to know your thyroid- you must be able to describe how your thyroid feels so that you can get your doc or endocrinologist to understand your thyroid.

It’s very challenging to make an accurate diagnosis by relying solely on tests. Make a note in your Thyroid Journal about any changes that you might feel throughout the month. Remember, your body is not static. So….. any swelling or irregularities that you feel today, will likely shift and change throughout the month. And, if something persists, you’ll know.

Getting the appropriate tests is half the battle in getting the right diagnosis. These 4 steps will get you going in the best direction. If you’re still finding yourself confused, scattered or not-sure-what-to-do; then consider scheduling a free 15-minute consult with me. I'm here to help.

Here’s to knowing your thyroid, understanding your hormones, and living your best!

~ Kristin

What's Your Thyroid Test Missing {and what you can do about it}

This scenario happens in my office all too frequently.

Picture this:

A new client walks in.

She’s been struggling with her hormones for quite some time.

She's talked with her medical doctor and went ahead and

ordered a TSH blood test to check her thyroid.

The results have come back and everything is “normal”

[even though she’s exhausted, losing hair by the handfuls,

and her moods are making her bonkers].

She comes to me because she can’t understand why the tests say that there’s

nothing to worry about, when she knows in her heart-of-hearts that she feels like

the very definition of a low-functioning thyroid (aka: a crazy, hormonal mess).

What's your thyroid test missing
What's your thyroid test missing

Blood tests are the go-to test when it comes to taking a first

step towards a thyroid diagnosis, but are they always accurate?

We’ve come to rely on blood tests, because they seem like they

should be able to catch everything. Right?

Well…….blood tests might be our “gold standard”, but they certainly aren’t perfect.

When considering blood tests here’s a couple of points

to keep in mind.

1. Your Blood is Precious: Seems simple, I know- but let’s think about this one together.

Blood is such a precious fluid in the human body.

It brings oxygen, hormones and other vital nutrients to your brain, your organs

and your muscle tissue. It delivers nutrients to the cells and ferries waste away.

Your blood chemistry is pretty darn important for the overall function, health of your body.

Now remember, your body loves homeostasis- meaning your body will do whatever it can

to keep your system within a set, narrow margin.

And because your blood has such an important job (ie. feeding your brain),

your body will do whatever it can to keep the blood at a specific chemistry.

Because your body will compensate around your blood chemistry,

it can take years for a low-functioning thyroid to show up,

even though your symptoms show classic thyroid disorder.

2. TSH is Only A Part of the Picture:From reading my most popular article to date,

you know that your thyroid is just one gland in a very intricate system known as the endocrine system.

TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) is a hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland.

TSH levels infer thyroid function.

High TSH levels indicate a sluggish thyroid. When a thyroid isn’t responding to

thyroid stimulating hormone, the pituitary releases more TSH increasing the amount of

TSH circulating in the blood. On the other hand, low TSH levels suggest hyperthyroid-

meaning that the thyroid is working too fast.

There is one big caveat with diagnosing a thyroid solely on a TSH test. Ready?

The pituitary gland is not the only gland that determines thyroid function

nor does the pituitary gland determine the effectiveness of the thyroid’s hormones.

You might have a low functioning thyroid because the thyroid hormone is not being 

received at the cellular level, you might have a hard time converting the T4 hormone to T3,

or you might have antibodies built up against your thyroid.

All of these situations lead to poor thyroid function and they do not affect TSH levels.

3. Hormones Change: Perhaps this is one fact that blood tests just can’t get around.

Your hormones (TSH included) are like the tides in an ocean.

They have a rise and a fall and they’re known to change throughout the day.

Dr. Philip Young author of Thyroid: Guardian of Health writes,

“the output of thyroid fluctuates significantly throughout the day. This is just what

is to be expected if the body has to adjust to the differing metabolic challenges

throughout the day. Digestion, exercise and stress all demand differing energy outputs

and thus different amounts of thyroid hormone.”

Bottom line: your hormones are not static. In fact, they have to change and fluctuate to deal with the

different demands of each day. Think about it. The metabolic demands of a relaxing Saturday morning

are very different compared to the metabolic demands of a crazy Tuesday morning.

Blood tests do not account for day-to-day fluctuations, let alone seasonal changes.

So, if blood tests aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be,

how do I get an accurate diagnosis?

Again, Philip Young, MD writes,

“I believe Hypothyroidism may be the single most important health problem of today;

certainly it is the most important problem that is not being diagnosed. Every aspect of

bodily function is touched when hypothyroidism is present, and mild degrees of hypothyroidism

are very common. Dr. Broda Barnes believed that in the Denver area, where he practiced,

about 40 % of the population would benefit from being on thyroid hormone.”

The key to getting a solid diagnosis is knowing your body.

Self-checks, temperature tests, and good, old-fashioned symptom

checklists will help you get the answers you deserve.

How to Test Your Thyroid: 3 Easy Ways goes over the steps to check your thyroid at home.

These home tests might not seem high tech (because they aren’t), but they sure do give you

valuable information to bring to your doc.

I know this whole temperature test thing seems like a drag.

Most of us wonder how a temperature test can trump a blood test.

But time and time again, Broda Barnes [who developed the temperature test] proved that checking

temperature upon rising was, by far, the most effective method to catch any type of hypothyroidism.

So, if you’ve got an inkling that your thyroid might be lagging (even just a little bit),

check out these at-home tests so that you can bring some extra info to your next apt. These days, when we’re talking

about quality healthcare, we’ve got to come prepared and understand that just because we’re taking a “test”,

it doesn’t mean that it’s going to catch everything.

Make Sure to Pass This Along

Empowering ourselves and getting to know our bodies is one thing, but helping a friend is another.

Hypothyroidism affects a person on so many levels. It can affect our moods, our learning abilities, our reproduction,

as well as our digestion, metabolism, elimination and sleep cycles. Pass this article along to a friend who you might think

is in need or share it on your social media platform of choice (by clicking the quick links below).

I wonder how many of us have been told that our tests show everything is normal,

when indeed our systems [and our thyroid in particular] needs support.

Here’s to understanding our bodies and getting to know our thyroid just a little bit better!

~Kristin