Elk River Chiropractor | Elk River chiropractic care | MN | TSH

                      Dr. John W. Larson, DC                          Phone:  763-241-5436

                      200 5th Street NW                                       Fax: 763-241-5466

                      Elk River, MN  55330                 service@HealingChoices.com

TSH
 
Elk River Chiropractor | Elk River chiropractic TSH |  MN |

Thyroid Lab Tests:

Why TSH can be misleading

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TSH - also referred to as Thyroid Stimulating Hormone - is one of our 6 Critical Thyroid Lab Tests.  (To see a list of all 6 click here.)  It is the most common measure of thyroid function, but testing TSH by itself with no other thyroid testing can be misleading and give you the wrong conclusion about how your thyroid is functioning.

A Little More Background on theThyroid

A thyroid problem is associated with many symptoms.  In fact, the thyroid has the nickname of the "great mimicker" because poor thyroid function can cause so many different symtoms and mimic many other health conditions.  Some people go from one doctor to another trying to find out what is causing their symptoms . . . only to eventually find out that their poor thyroid function is playing a major role in why they don't feel as good as they used to.

Your thyroid is located in the front of the neck just below your Adams apple.  Many people describe the thyroid in the shape of a butterfly with the "wings" of the thyroid extending to both sides a wrapping around the windpipe or trachea while still being connected in the middle by a small band of thyroid tissue (called the isthmus) in the front of the windpipe.  This is where a doctor will feel for your thyroid gland to see if there are any lumps or if anything feels abnormal about your thyroid gland.

What's this stuff called TSH?

Your brain - or more specifically a part of your brain called the pituitary - controls your thyroid by releasing this hormone called TSH.  If your brain senses there is too little thyroid hormone in your system it will release more TSH to tell your thyroid to produce more thyroid hormone.  You can think of this as your brain is now shouting at your thyroid to get it to produce more thyroid hormone.  This means that if TSH levels are higher than optimal in blood testing there is likely not enough thyroid hormone in your body.

When your brain senses there is too much thyroid hormone in your system it will decrease the amount of TSH it produces.  You can think of this as your brain is now whispering to your thyroid to tell it to settle down and produce less thyroid hormone.  This means that when TSH levels are lower than optimal in blood testing there is likely too much thyroid hormone in your body.

While it is still important to be testing TSH . . . too many health providers rely on this as the only measure of thyroid function and patients are told that their thyroid is normal when in fact it is not.  I've have seen it many times with my own patients over the years where someone tells me they just had their thyroid tested at their medical clinic and they were told it is fine, and when I do my more detailed lab testing both the patient and I can see that it is not working as well as it should be.

What does the TSH lab result mean?

Let's first take a look at the reference ranges for this lab test.  Keep in mind these reference ranges many vary slightly from one lab to another, and the reference ranges shown below are in Standard U.S. Units (not Standard International Units) but a common range provided by the lab will look like this:

TSH  0.45 - 4.50

Also keep in mind that most labs will provide a reference range on their lab report that is very wide range, and does not represent what is actually considered an optimal level indicating the best function of your thyroid.  A more critical evaluation of the TSH lab test will look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking at a lab result for more than what is simply a Clinical High or Clinical Low result is referred to as "Functional Lab Testing".  This requires one to consider what is truly an Optimal range . . . meaning it is the best range for TSH to be in for optimal thyroid function.  It also considers a Functional High and Functional Low range . . . meaning it is starting to move in the wrong direction and a person is likely starting to feel some symptoms of poor thyroid function even though it is not yet in the clinical high or low range.  Here's what you want to be thinking about for each of these reference ranges:

TSH at Clinical High (4.51 or higher):  This indicates an obvious low throid function (hypothyroidism) and there is likley not enough thyroid hormone in your system to be healthy.  Remember - TSH increases when there is too little thyroid hormone in the body.  With TSH in the Clinical High range a person would likely receive a clinical diagnosis of Hypothyroidism, and then be prescribed some type of thyroid medication from their medical provider.  Keep in mind that there are many things that can be done from a natural or nutritional prespective that can help improve how your own thyroid gland is functioning.  It may not eliminate the need for a thryoid medication, but it can reduce your dependence on this medication by helping your own thyroid function the best it can.  If you are already on thyroid medication then your medication dose is too low, or you may do better on a different thyroid medication.

TSH at Functional High (2.51 - 4.50):  While many health providers will dismiss this as being within the labs reference range of "normal".  The reality is that many people are suffering with the symptoms of low thryoid function when their TSH levels are testing in this range.  I will often tell my patients to think of this as a "pre-hypothyroid" range.  Just like a person can be pre-diabetic . . . you will want to take action and make changes before they become a full diabetic.  The same is true of your thyroid . . . many people are pre-hypothyroid and we want to take action to improve this before it gets worse and becomes a full hypo-thyroid condition.  I have seen with my own patients that the right natural or nutritional therapies can work very well to improve thyroid function when the TSH is in the Functional High range, and will often bring the TSH lab test back into the optimal range.

TSH at Optimal (1.00 - 2.50):  This is considered the optimal range for TSH indicating you have the best or optimal function of your thyroid.  Keep in mind that what is considered the Optimal range may vary slightly when you are working with a doctor that specializes in Functional Lab Testing.  This slight difference of opinion on what the Optimal range should be is often based on the differences in the experience and training that doctors receive over their years of helping people, but the Optimal range among all Functional Medicine Doctors is usually near the suggested range shown here of 1.00 - 2.50.

TSH at Functional Low (0.45 - 0.99)While many health providers will dismiss this as being within the labs reference range of "normal".  The reality is that many people may be suffering with the symptoms of an overactive or hyperthryoid function when their TSH levels are testing in this range.  TSH will often be in this range for two reasons:  1) they are on a thyroid medication and their medication dose is just a little too high, or 2) their thyroid function is starting to go into overdrive - often in response to an auto-iummune condition which can be confirmed by testing the thyroid antibodies in lab testing (Thyroid Peroxidase Antibody or TPO and Thyroglobulin Antibody).  If an auto-immune thyroid condition is discovered, then the goal is to reduce the auto-immune reaciton using dietary and nutritional strategies - which can be very effective.  If a medication dose is too high, then the prescribing doctor will need to reduce the daily dose of the medication.

TSH at Clinical Low (0.00 - 0.44)This indicates an obvious overactive or hyperthyroid function (hyperthyroidism) and there is likely too much thyroid hormone in your system to be healthy.  Remember - TSH decreases when there is too much thyroid hormone in the body.  With TSH in the Clinical Low range a person would likely receive a clinical diagnosis of Hyperthyroidism.  Usually this is in response to taking a thyroid medication dose that is too high, or the thyroid has become overactive in response to an auto-immune condition . . . but could be due to other problems as well.  If an auto-immune thyroid condition is discovered, then the goal is to reduce the auto-immune reaction using dietary and nutritional strategies - which can be very effective.  If a medication dose is too high, then the prescribing doctor will need to reduce the daily dose of the medication.

In summary . . .  keep in mind that TSH is still an important test to be doing as part of a thyroid testing lab panel, but always remember that TSH does have its limitations and TSH can be in labs normal range - even in the Optimal range - and you may still have a thyroid problem when doing a more detailed lab testing of thyroid function.

Be sure to share this information with family and friends who have been diagnosed with a thyroid problem, or the people you care about who are suffering with symptoms of a thyroid problem.  The rest of the information on the 6 Critical Thyroid Lab Test will be coming soon!

Your partner in Health and Happiness,

Dr. John W. Larson, DC

Clinical Nutrition and Hormone Health Expert

service@HealingChoices.com

763-241-5436

 
 
 
Healing Choices - Natural Healthcare     200 Fifth Street NW     Elk River, MN  55330  
Phone: (763) 241-5436     Fax: (763) 241-5466     Email:  service@HealingChoices.com

Disclaimer:  This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  The information should be considered opinion and for educational purposes only.  Nothing on this webpage or website is intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.