thyroid tests

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

How to Test Your Thyroid: 3 Easy Ways

Self-testing is an easy and inexpensive way to get more clues about your thyroid.
Self-testing is an easy and inexpensive way to get more clues about your thyroid.

Wouldn’t it be handy to be able to monitor your thyroid from the comfort of your home?

Inexpensive and convenient, self-tests are not necessarily accepted diagnostic material,

but they do give you some solid information.

Once you get familiar with a few of the self-testing options, you can start to track your thyroid over time.

And getting into a routine of self-testing helps you develop a closer relationship with your body.

My three favorite home thyroid tests are:

1. Feeling your thyroid 2. Basal body temperature 3. Iodine patch test

These tests are pretty darn straightforward. You can start with just one,

or play around with a few. Best of all, bringing notes on what you learn to your next office visit

will help your primary health care provider do a better job.

Feeling Your Thyroid- This is the most intuitive test, giving you the opportunity to learn where

your thyroid rests in your body, and how it feels. A swollen thyroid often indicates

that the thyroid is under functioning.

Your thyroid is located in the neck just below your Adam’s apple. The lobes of the thyroid fall on either side of your trachea.

1. Stand in front of a mirror so that you can see your neck and thyroid. Make sure to remove any scarves or necklaces.

2. Lift your chin a bit to stretch your neck.

3. Using your dominant hand, run your fingers down the front and side of your neck, being careful to note any swelling or bumps.

4. If you do feel bumps or a swelling near your thyroid, it’s a good idea to follow through with more tests.

Temperature tests

Your thyroid is in charge of your metabolism. If your body temperature is too high or

too low, that can be a sign that your thyroid isn’t functioning well.

To do this test accurately, visit the drugstore and buy a basal thermometer. It should

be able to read your temperature to the 10th of a degree; i.e., 97.4.

You can take your temperature orally or under your armpit.

1. Keep your thermometer by your bed. Your temperature needs to be taken upon waking before you get out of bed, eat, drink or go to the bathroom.

2. When you wake up in the morning, put your thermometer deep in your armpit. Hold it there for up to 10 minutes. Record your temperature. If you’re taking your temperature orally, do so for 5 minutes. Then subtract ½ a degree from your result. This will account for the difference between your oral temperature and your body temperature. The normal underarm temperature averages 97.8–98.2 degrees F.

3. You’ll want to repeat this test for at least four days to get an average. If your average temperature is below 97.4 degrees, consider more testing,.

4. Menstruating women should test their body temperature starting on Day 2 or 3, to account for increased temperatures that come during the second phase of your cycle.

Iodine patch test

Although this test does not directly test thyroid function, it does give an indication

on iodine levels. Iodine is a critical mineral for your thyroid. Your thyroid uses iodine to

make its own hormones, T3 and T4. If your thyroid isn’t able to T3 and T4, you’ll most likely experience low thyroid symptoms.

1. Get a bottle of 2% iodine tincture at the drugstore.

2. Using a Q-tip, paint a 2-inch square on the inside of your forearm, just below the elbow. The skin here is fairly absorptive, while the skin on the back of your arm is more protective.

3. Let the patch dry. Do not shower, bathe or swim until the patch fades.

4. If the iodine patch fades away in less than 10–12 hours, it indicates that your body needs more iodine.

Now I’m curious, and I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever tried any of these self-tests at home? 

If so, let us know how self-tests helped you navigate your thyroid health.

~ Kristin