What are the best tests for thyroid function and why?

Jane was having difficulty maintaining her energy throughout the day. She attributed it to poor sleep and more stress with her work, but she was also experiencing changes in her hair, increased anxiety, and she was putting on weight.

She set up an appointment wit her family practitioner, who checked some basic lab work, including iron levels, electrolytes, and a TSH.

All came back normal (or within normal lab limits according to the laboratory reference ranges). Her practitioner advised to eat less, exercise more, and lower stress.

But none of this worked, and she continued to have symptoms for years, before a friend mentioned that Jane probably needed a more comprehensive evaluation. With the right testing, she was finally able to get the right treatment and improve her life.

Unfortunately, all too often this scenario occurs in mainstream medicine. Often, the labs that are ordered are dictated by medical algorithms, which then determine insurance coverage of a lab. Patients know something is not right, and the practitioner often feels helpless by the inability to “cure” the patient’s symptoms.

There are over 300 symptoms that correlate with thyroid dysfunction. A low-output thyroid (aka hypothyroidism) is the most common condition, but 5% of thyroid problems can come from an over-active thyroid (aka hyperthyroidism). If you suspect you may have a thyroid condition, or know someone who does, it all starts with the right tests – tests that look at thyroid FUNCTION:

  • TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone): This hormone comes from an area of the brain known as the pituitary. It is not created by the thyroid (which is found at the base of the throat), but it does affect the hormones produced by the thyroid. Think of this as the “SOS” signal – there will be more signals if not enough thyroid hormones are being produced, and there will be no/few signals