Beyond TSH: Other Helpful Thyroid Tests

Thyroid disorders are one of the many diseases on the upswing. There are an estimated 20 million people in the U.S. with thyroid disease of one form or another. The thyroid is an important gland and its hormone production is pivotal to endocrine (hormonal) balance in the body.

The thyroid gland regulates metabolism (how the body uses energy from food, the body’s temperature and how quickly the body burns calories); regulates growth and development, especially in children, but also the growth of tissues, organs, brain and bone; it regulates the heart rate; how quickly food moves through the digestive tract; regulates levels of calcium in the blood; affects mood and mental acuity; and does a dance with the adrenals to regulate our energy production. It is an important gland that needs more than just cursory attention.

Many people experience the symptoms of hyper or hypo thyroidism, which briefly include changes in energy, cold or heat regulation, muscle weakness, slow or fast heart rate, dry skin and hair, bowel irregularities, mood changes, and loss of hair or eyebrows, but don’t realize those symptoms can be associated with thyroid dysfunction. Furthermore, many times they experience multiple symptoms of thyroid disease, but because their doctors only do a cursory 1 or 2 tests, they are told they are “normal”, when in fact, if they dug a little deeper, did more complex testing, they’d find out differently.

There are several blood tests that can be run to diagnose thyroid disease. The most popular test is the TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. It tells us how hard the pituitary has to push to get the thyroid working. If you have a high level of TSH in the blood, that indicates your thyroid may not be working well. If you have a low level of TSH, that means the thyroid is working plenty hard, possibly too hard (hyper) and the pituitary doesn’t need to stimulate it very much. Free T3 and T4 measure the quantity of free active thyroid hormones in the blood. Two tests, Thyroglobulin and Thyroid Peroxidase Antibodies (TPO) tests show if there is an auto-immune thyroid condition. It’s not unusual for other thyroid tests to be normal, but then show anti-thyroid antibodies when checking deeper. The gonads (ovaries in women and testes in men), the liver, the hypothalamus, the kidneys and the brain all play a part in thyroid health and warrant attention if the thyroid isn’t healthy.

In addition to lab tests, we have ultrasound, MRI, biopsies or nuclear scans to determine iodine uptake, etc. There are also about a dozen more blood tests than can be done. They help us define which organ is not doing its job. The thyroid may be problematic because of another organ, not just the thyroid.

Improving thyroid health is multi-faceted, and as such should be addressed as a whole. Fortunately, there are many tests we can do to give us the information needed to get it functional again.

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©2024 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling

Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic.

Medical/Health Disclaimer:

The information provided in this article or podcast should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. No action should be taken based solely on the contents of this article or podcast. Readers/listeners should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being. The information and opinions provided here are believed to be accurate and sound, based on the best judgment available to the author, but readers/listeners who fail to consult appropriate health authorities assume the risk of any injuries.

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