All About Thyroid Tests

All About Thyroid Tests

thyroid

Written by Dr. Claire Arcidiacono, ND

For further questions or concerns email me at carcidiacono@invitehealth.com

If you want to know how your thyroid is functioning, these are the factors you need to check out!†

Important Thyroid Hormones

To start off, there are certain blood tests that are done to determine thyroid health. The first is TSH, or thyroid stimulating hormone. This hormone is in an inverse relationship to thyroid function. This hormone stimulates the thyroid to produce more or less hormones. For example, if there is too much thyroid hormone, the TSH will go down in order to stop stimulating the thyroid and lower the amount of hormone. If there is too little thyroid hormone, the TSH will go up in order to stimulate the thyroid to produce more hormones.†

A great way to think about this is to imagine two people talking. In order to get someone to listen, you might increase your volume, or in this case, if you wanted the body to hear you asking for more hormone, you would produce more TSH.†

Low TSH is associated with hyperthyroidism, or high amount of thyroid hormone, and high TSH is associated with hypothyroidism, or low amount of thyroid hormone. While the range for TSH is quite large, the optimum range is actually close to 2.0. Anything much above or below 2.0 should be addressed by working with one of our qualified nutritionists.(1)†

Moving on to thyroxine, or T4, and triiodothyronine, or T3. These are the main thyroid hormones that we test. These hormones come in two forms called bound and free. Bound refers to T3/T4 that is attached to a protein, kind of like a passenger on a ship traveling through the ocean. Free or unbound T3/T4 is the form that is active. One way to think about this is to think of a storage closet. The TSH is produced to tell the body to make more T4 and T3. Some of it is promptly put into storage, aka bound. The rest is put to use right away. Now, in case you were wondering what the heck the difference between T4 and T3 is, it is pretty simple. The T4 becomes T3, which then goes out to do its jobs, which is all the things we talked about in the last article.†

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Free T4 is the most common test, although free T3 is often done as well. If T4/T3 is low or high, it can indicate hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.  If only one of these markers is abnormal, that can indicate a conversion issue that should be addressed. (2)†

Moving beyond hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, there are tests for autoimmune, as well as thyroid inflammation. One of the causes for hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism is autoimmune. In the case of the thyroid, there are two antibodies that are highly sensitive for thyroid autoimmune.  These are called anti-TPO and antithyroglobulin. In addition to these tests, thyroglobulin can be measured as a test for thyroid inflammation. While this can be measured in a healthy thyroid, they are elevated in the presence of inflammation. (3)†

Additional Tests

In addition to blood tests, ultrasound of the thyroid can also be useful. This can be used to differentiate between “growths” such as nodules/goiters/cysts and can usually determine if a lesion is cancerous or not. Additionally, radio-labeled iodine can be used to determine the activity of nodules and even if cancer has spread beyond the thyroid.†

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A fine needle aspiration as well as computer tomography of the thyroid helps to evaluate the presence of cancer. (4)†

Last but not least is a new test available! Thermography is being used to help detect malignant thyroid tumors since they have a higher temperature than the rest of the thyroid.†

Ok if this seems like a lot to take in let me give you a fast summary: TSH, T3/T4 and thyroid antibodies are the most valuable tests for your thyroid. If TSH is high, the amount of thyroid hormone being produced is too little. If TSH is low, the amount of hormone being produced is too much. If T3/T4 is too high or too low, there is too much or too little thyroid hormone in the body. Antibodies are just bad and no one wants those.†

Now next week comes the exciting stuff. I’ve explained what the thyroid is and what it does. I’ve gone over tests. Now, let’s talk supplements!†

  1. Dayan CM (February 2001). “Interpretation of thyroid function tests”. Lancet. 357 (9256): 619–24. doi:1016/S0140-6736(00)04060-5PMID 11558500S2CID 3278073.
  2. Military Obstetrics & Gynecology > Thyroid Function Tests In turn citing: Operational Medicine 2001, Health Care in Military Settings, NAVMED P-5139, May 1, 2001, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Department of the Navy, 2300 E Street NW, Washington, D.C., 20372-5300 “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 25 December 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-25.
  3. https://www.thyroid.org/thyroid-function-tests/

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