Why Only Checking TSH for Thyroid is Not Enough

I’ve been seeing something a lot lately and I think patients have been hitting there heads with this issue as well.  It seems that many doctors, in an attempt to spare our health dollars, will only go so far as to do a screening thyroid check, i.e. TSH or Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.  If TSH is normal the thyroid is assumed to be normal and there is no further enquiry into the thyroid.  TSH is a measure of of how much the pituitary is trying to stimulate the thyroid to work harder, not an actual measurement of the thyroid itself.

This is problematic because normal levels or low normal levels of T4, the much less active thyroid hormone will create normal TSH readings (0.2 to 4.0 U/ml).  But if you had only T4 and no or very low T3, you would actually be in a hypothyroid state.

Why?  Like I state previously, T4 is much less active – it might take T4 10 times as long to perform the same function as T3, and thyroid hormones are all about metabolism. So if all your bodily processes take 10 times longer to complete, your metabolism will be very slow.  There are other issues with only checking TSH which will be covered in other posts.

How would you ever know this is going on if it’s never tested?

If your doctor refuses your request for a more full thyroid assessment (and he or she is well within their rights not to order tests that they perceive as unnecessary or lacking value), then come see a Naturopathic Doctor.  We can and do order more extensive labs to help get to the root of the problem.

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