Understanding Your Thyroid Blood Test

What Is The Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the front of your throat. It uses iodine to make hormones. Those hormones do many things, but one of the major things they do is trigger energy production in the cells of the body.

What Are Hormones?

Your body makes hormones. Hormones are messengers in the body. All they do is signal your cells to do things. A hormone is made in one part of the body, it floats through the blood to every cell in every part of your body and tells those cells to act. If the cells don’t react to the hormones, then the hormones are essentially useless.

An example of this is insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. The pancreas makes insulin and releases it into the blood. The insulin then travels through your blood to every cell in the body. The insulin then acts like a “key” that opens “doors” in the cells and lets glucose (blood sugar) into the cells so the cells can make energy. “Insulin Resistance” is a common term used today. It basically means that the cells are not properly responding to the insulin. There may be plenty of insulin being made and put into the blood, but the cells are not responding, so they are not getting the glucose (blood sugar) and so are not making energy.

The same thing can happen with other hormones in the body. Your thyroid can be making plenty of hormones, but if the cells are not responding, then you can have all the symptoms of hypothyroid (what they call it when the thyroid is not producing enough hormones) but your blood levels are perfectly normal.

A good analogy for this would be if your hormones are a traffic light and your cells are the cars. The traffic light is red and all of the cars are stopped. Now the traffic light turns green so all the cars drive. This is like your hormones signalling your cells to act. Now let’s say that instead of driving when the light turns green, all of the cars just sit there and don’t move. The traffic light (hormones) are signalling the cars (cells) to act, but they are not getting the signal, so just sit there.

The only thing hormones do in the body is signal your cells to act.

Thyroid Blood Tests

TSH – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone

Very often, when a doctor wants to test the thyroid, he or she will do a blood test for TSH (which stands for Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). TSH is actually not a thyroid hormone at all. It is made by the brain, but it tells the thyroid to make thyroid hormones. The brain will sense how many thyroid hormones are floating around in the blood and make more or less TSH to increase or decrease the production of thyroid hormones.

While normal ranges vary slightly by lab, in general, according to the current medical standards in the US, the normal range for TSH in an adult is between 0.5 and 4.7 mIU/L (source: http://www.globalrph.com/labs_t.htm). When the thyroid is functioning at a normal rate, the brain makes TSH within that normal range. That means that the brain sends a normal signal to the thyroid and then the thyroid does what it’s supposed to.

If the level of TSH is above the normal range, it means that brain sensed that the thyroid levels in the blood were too low and is sending the thyroid more than normal stimulation to work properly. If we take the car analogy again, say that the traffic light (in this instance, the TSH) has turned green but the car at the front of line (in this instance, the thyroid) doesn’t go. Now the cars behind the lead car start honking and the other drivers are yelling out the window, so finally the car at the front of the line starts driving. The traffic light turning green should have been enough to get that car moving, but that car — for whatever reason, needed a little more than normal to get him going. So if the thyroid is a little tired, or not working right, or busy doing other things — or for whatever other reason just not jumping into action with a normal amount of TSH, the brain will make more and more TSH until the thyroid finally starts working.

In the reverse situation, when the TSH is lower than the normal range, it means that brain sensed that there were too many thyroid hormones floating around in the blood — basically that the thyroid is over-reactive to the TSH. So the brain makes less and less TSH until the thyroid is making the right amount of thyroid hormones.

The purpose of TSH is stimulate the thyroid to the degree needed for the thyroid to produce the right amount of thyroid hormones. If the thyroid needs a lot of stimulation, then the TSH will be higher. If the thyroid is over-reactive, then it needs less stimulation and the TSH will be lower. The important thing is that the thyroid is producing the right amount of thyroid hormones. Remember that TSH is NOT a thyroid hormone. It should only be used as an indicator to see if more thyroid tests should be run.

Thyroid Hormones

Actual thyroid hormone blood tests show T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronine). According to the current medical standards in the US, the following are the normal ranges:

T4 (thyroxine) Total: 4.5 – 12.5 µg/dL or 58 – 161 nmol/L
T4 (thyroxine) Free: 0.8 – 1.8 ng/dL or 10 – 23 pmol/L
T3 (Triiodothyronine) Total: 80 -200 ng/dL or 0.8 – 2.0 ng/ml or 0.9 – 2.8 nmol/L
T3 (Triiodothyronine) Free: 2.3- 4.2 pg/mL or 3.5 – 6.5 pmol/L
(source: http://www.globalrph.com/labs_t.htm)

TSH and Thyroid Hormones Can Fluctuate During Detox

It is not unusual — in fact it is common for TSH and thyroid hormones to fluctuate high or low temporarily while detoxifying, especially if detoxifying bromine, flouride, chlorine, aluminum, toxic iron and toxic manganese from the thyroid. These toxins are actually stored in the thyroid. As we feed your thyroid and improve energy production in the body, the thyroid can start to move these toxins out of the cells of the thyroid. This is great! But while the cells are busy doing this detox process, the function can be temporarily impaired. This causes thyroid levels (T3 and T4) to drop low in the blood. The brain senses that the thyroid hormones are low and starts making more TSH to stimulate the thyroid into making more thyroid hormones, so the TSH goes high in the blood.

Other toxins can move out of other cells throughout the body which can temporarily irritate the thyroid and cause it to go into hyper-drive! While these toxins are floating around in the blood (during detoxification), the thyroid can get irritated and start make more hormones (T3 and T4) than normal. Then the brain senses the increased thyroid hormones in the blood and responds by reducing the TSH in the blood. Remember, less TSH means that the thyroid is less stimulated so produces less T3 and T4.

It’s not just heavy metals that can cause the thyroid to fluctuate. Both of these scenarios can also occur when the immune system is going after infection in the thyroid.

Just remember that if you get blood tests back that are off in any way, if you have been on a detoxification protocol, it’s most likely just a temporary fluctuation and will correct on its own once that detoxification or immune response has finished. We normally recommend that you wait about 6 weeks and those levels usually go right back to back to normal. We see this all the time. Don’t worry — or if you are worried, call us and we will talk you through it all. We are there for you!

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