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Blood testing for hypothyroidism: Functional ranges versus lab ranges

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Did your blood test for hypothyroidism say you're fine even though you suffer from fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, depression, or weight gain? Does your doctor say your thyroid condition "doesn't exist."

Many doctors dismiss thyroid symptoms because of an incomplete blood test or ranges that are too wide. In functional medicine, however, we use a blood test to screen for hypothyroidism before it gets too advanced for most doctors to diagnose. This way you can begin to manage your condition and symptoms.

A functional blood test for a return to health

Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of symptoms instead of overriding them with drugs or surgery. One tool we use to accomplish this is to interpret blood tests using functional ranges, which outline the parameters of good health.

In contrast, the ranges most doctors use are based on a bell-curve analysis of all the people who visited that lab over a certain period of time, many of whom are very sick. These lab ranges have broadened over the last few decades as health of the American population has declined. As a result, many people with real health problems are told they're ok because their results fall within these ranges. For instance, the lab ranges for hypothyroidism are often overly wide so that many people are told they're fine when in fact they have hypothyroidism.

Do you really want to evaluate your health in comparison to all the sick people who visited your lab, or do you want to look at a blood test for what constitutes good health?

Looking for patterns that contribute to Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Because functional medicine is based on an in-depth knowledge of human physiology and how various systems in the body work together, we also look at a blood test for patterns instead of just looking at individual markers. By doing this, we see how these different systems influence one another to cause a constellation of symptoms.

For instance, instead of just looking at TSH, we can look at whether immune, hormonal, or stress imbalances may be causing hypothyroid symptoms.

Other patterns can help us identify insulin resistance, fatty liver, leaky gut, different types of anemia, or other problems that may be contributing to thyroid symptoms.

Functional medicine can identify Hashimoto's hypothyroidism

A blood test for functional medicine also includes more markers that standard blood tests. For instance, we know Hashimoto's, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland, is responsible for 90 percent of hypothyroid cases in the United States. Therefore, we also test thyroid antibodies to screen for autoimmunity along with other thyroid markers for more information.

A functional medicine blood test can also help us know what other tests may be necessary, such as a gastrointestinal panel or further testing for anemia.

Principles of functional medicine for Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

Once the factors contributing to hypothyroid symptoms have been identified, the functional medicine practitioner uses a variety of science-backed, non-pharmaceutical approaches to manage health. These include:

  • Adjustments to the diet–a gluten-free diet is important for those with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
  • Lifestyle changes (such as eating breakfast, proper sleep hygiene, physical activity, or reduction of stress)
  • The use of botanicals or nutritional compounds to improve physiological function
  • Other natural medicine approaches customized for the patient based on lab testing

Meet the Author

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM.

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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