Why Your Thyroid Test is Wrong–And What to Do About It.


Do you or someone you love have thyroid disease?  Thyroid Disease is Epidemic.  Many doctors rely on the TSH Thyroid Test to figure out if their patients are sick or not. But they might be totally wrong.  Here's what you need to know about thyroid tests and what to do about this problem.

Thyroid disease is rampant these days and since the thyroid is affects and is affected by many things, including the food you eat and your adrenal glands, it’s important to get informed about this important gland as much as possible.

I’ve struggled with hypothyroidism for years. I started noticing severe fatigue, dry skin, weight gain, and joint pain when I was just 22 years old.

I wasn’t old enough to be feeling that bad. I went to the doctor on a few occasions and described my symptoms telling her I just didn’t feel well.

She blew me off and told me I was perfectly healthy.

Long story short, I was able to begrudgingly get my doctor to run a TSH test. (This is the standard test pretty much all doctors run to test thyroid function. I didn’t have any idea what it was at that point.)

Two days later I received a call.

Low thyroid levels.  Supposedly I had hypothyroidism.
The plan? Start synthroid (that was the first problem, but more on that later).

I started my meds and waited 6 weeks.

I still felt bad.

We tweaked my meds. Waited 6 more weeks.

I still felt bad.

Round and round we went until my search for information (and a new doctor) began.

(Before we get started, I want to let you know that I am not a doctor or any sort of medical professional. All of this information I have gleaned from my own research and should not be used for any sort of diagnostic purposes. Use common sense, do your own research, and talk to your doctor.)

TSH: The Useless “Gold Standard” Thyroid Test

In this search for information I’ve learned that the standard TSH test that most doctors rely upon for both diagnosis and treatment does not give a complete picture of what is going on with your thyroid.

You see, TSH, which stands for thyroid stimulating hormone, is actually a test of what the pituitary gland is doing.

That’s right, it isn’t even testing any of your thyroid hormones.

In theory, when your body does not have enough thyroid hormone, your pituitary gland should be releasing TSH to signal to your thyroid that you need to make more (sort of like a wake up call for your thyoid). Those with elevated TSH levels should theoretically have low thyroid levels and those with low TSH levels should have enough (or too much) thyroid.

So, what’s the problem? It seems pretty cut and dry, right?


There are many many reasons why doctors should not diagnose or treat a thyroid patient based on TSH levels.

Some people simply have a malfunctioning pituitary gland and this is why it is not producing TSH. Unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this post to go into all of the reasons as to why TSH is not an effective marker. You can read countless stories of hypothyroid patients who were not diagnosed for years and years because of doctors who simply tested TSH and refused to listen to symptoms and do further testing.

In theory, the TSH test isn’t so bad. But, in reality it isn’t so good.

What Lab Tests Will Help for Thyroid Problems?

So, if TSH isn’t the best lab test for diagnosing and treating thyroid disorders, what is?

First, I want to confirm—in case you haven’t already guessed—there is no test that can substitute for a doctor who will listen to how you feel.

You need to be seeing a doctor who will listen to you and will place great value in your symptoms when diagnosing and treating you.

Below are the tests that I believe are essential for anyone who is struggling with thyroid problems or believes they may be struggling with thyroid problems.

What to Do About Thyroid Problems

If you have thyroid problems, after getting proper testing here are a few more suggestions for getting your health on track.

1. Find a doctor who will not only complete the appropriate tests, but will also medicate you appropriately. I suggest finding a doctor who is comfortable using natural desiccated thyroid hormones (as opposed to synthroid or levothyroxine). The doctor should be determining medication based off of the above tests as well as how you feel.

2. Cut out gluten. Gluten is highly implicated in autoimmune thyroid disease. 90% of thyroid disorders are autoimmune in nature.

3.  Optimize Vitamin D levels. {From Adrienne. I have been learning that apparently you need to have good adrenal health before increasing vitamin D so please be careful and don’t self-prescribe.}

4.  Read this list of 5 Foods that Can Wreck Your Thyroid – Are you eating any of these?

{From Adrienne: This is a seriously important post.  I have been doing a lot of digging into thyroid research recently, for reasons which I will share soon.  So many people have issues with their thyroid and they don’t know where to go or what to do. If you haven’t already, please subscribe to my blog to make sure you get this information.  It’s crucial.

In the meantime, I would highly recommend the following books.  I am not saying this is the advice you should follow (i.e. this isn’t medical advice), but it is very very interesting and was very helpful to me.  By the way, the links to these books are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking on it I might make a commission. Your support of my blog is much appreciated and helps keep this free resource up and running.  Thanks!}

One of the best books on thyroid health in my opinion.

One of the best books on thyroid health in my opinion.

Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms?

Don’t sit back and let the doctor dictate to you. Ask questions. Make requests. Be an advocate for yourself!

Luke-Trisha-150x150Trisha Gilkerson is a homeschooling mom to four crazy boys. She blogs with her awesome hubby Luke at Intoxicated on Life where they talk about faith, homeschooling, and health. They’ve authored the Write Through the Bible curriculum and family Bible Studies and have recently released their first healthy living book – Weeding Out Wheat: A Simple Faith Based Guide. They love connecting with their readers, so be sure to follow them on their blogFacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.

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  1. I have been dealing with stupid doctors for 8 years. I have Hashimoto’s and they will not treat just wants to play the waiting game. My lab results are Thyroid Perx AB is 905 Anti Thyroglob is 4 TSH is 1.0451 FT4 is 1.10 Vit D is 30 high cholesterol enlarged thyroid is right lobe 5.4×2.2×1.3 left lobe is 5.3×2.4×1.7. I have been to all the endo’s that my insurance will cover and my pcp doesn’t know anything and wont do any testing. I have so many symptoms but no body will listen and I don’t know where to turn

    • Gina, I’m SO sorry to hear that you’ve been dealing with these problems for so long and no help from doctors. Unfortunately, I hear stories like this all too often. I’m not a doctor, but I can say it appears from the labs you’ve listed that there is definitely something wrong.

      Tomorrow, you’ll need to come check out the post on my site Intoxicated on Life that will give you 3 steps you can follow to find a good doctor (it’s work, but it’s worth it!) and also there will be a post here on Whole New Mom about questions you can ask your doctor once you find one that will help you decide whether they’re a good one for you (no point in wasting a bunch of time on tons of appointments if they end up not being a good fit).

      Are you gluten free? If not, I’d really encourage you to ditch the gluten. It’s implicated in Hashimoto’s. You can read more about that here –> http://intoxicatedonlife.com/2014/01/31/thyroid-gluten-connection/

  2. “Optimize Vitamin D levels. {From Adrienne. I have been learning that you need to have good adrenal health before increasing vitamin D so please be careful and don’t self-prescribe.”

    Can you please give more details on needing to have good adrenal health before increasing vitamin D? I am pretty sure I have adrenal fatigue. I took some vitamin d a couple months ago, and I think it made my insomnia worse. Any input you can offer would be much appreciated.

  3. Jo E Reynolds says:

    Thank you for this article. I have been dealing with thyroid problems for years and yeats. My doctor keeps changing my meds and I am getting worse and worse. I am so tired, my skin is so dry I am scared ect ect. This has given me courage to try a different approch hoping I can get feeling better. I have add magnesium and feel it is helping. Again, thanks Trisha and all the others who left comments.

  4. MomGrandma says:

    Didn’t post my name as their maybe legal implications …. Thanks for the info. My daughter had a deadly botched delivery. One twin lived & is 9 months old. She has gained extreme amount of weight. She is getting blood tests on friday. Thank you for the specific information! Praying for the health of my daughter and my grandson. (We still don’t know how the extreme delivery has affected him.)

  5. Cathy S. says:

    Just found your article, I have been fighting with my doctor for a couple years about this. He only orders the TSH test. And that comes back normal. I have had both my thyroids removed due to large growths on them. I am taking Levothyroxine (.05mg.). I tired all the time, my hair is falling out (it is very thin now, almost bald in the crown), my skin is very dry, I am having a very very hard time losing any weight (I had a gastric bypass in 2000, and did not lose that much weight), I feel lousy all the time. I am making an appointment with my doctor and requesting the tests that you mentioned in your article. Hopefully this will get him to listen to me. Thank you for writing this article.

    • I sure hope your doctor will run some more tests. If you have no thyroid at all it is SO important for you to be regulated well. You may also consider asking about switching from the synthetic T4-only thyroid to a natural desicated thyroid like NatureThroid or Armour (I currently take NatureThroid because the new formulation of Armour doesn’t seem to work as well for me). Anyhow, these thyroid replacements more naturally mimic your own thyroid because they also contain T3 in them along with the T4. Many people have much better results on these medications, but everyone is individual and will see different results.

      If your doctor is not willing to run these tests and/or consider different medication options I’d HIGHLY suggest you begin looking for a new doctor. Do not forget that your doctor works for YOU. I’ve written a couple of posts on this topic you may want to read.
      • 5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Doctor (here on Whole New Mom) http://wholenewmom.com/health-concerns/got-hypothyroidism-5-questions-need-ask-doctor/
      • 3 Steps to finding an Awesome Doctor to Treat Hypothyroidism (on my own site) http://www.intoxicatedonlife.com/2014/02/27/3-tips-finding-awesome-thyroid-doctor/

      Let us know how it goes! I hope you’re able to get your levels in check.

  6. Jasmine says:

    I am curious. I am hypothyroid, but I recently started on Reliv, a nutritional supplement based on non-GMO soy. My Dr. Says he doesn’t believe good soy is a problem. I know everything you read says to avoid it like the plague. I don’t want to make anything worse by taking it. Does anybody know anything about Reliv or have you benefited by taking it?

    • The prevailing info out there is that soy is not a good thing for the thyroid. I have heard some say that small amts of fermented soy is OK as long as it is organic / non GMO. This isn’t medical advice but I don’t think I would do it.

      • Hi Adrienne,

        Do you live in Perth? Just wondering what doc you see for your thyroid condition?
        Anyone know where Dr Ismail is now?

        • I don’t. I am in the US and am consulting w/ a natural practitioner via Skype and email. I do not know who Dr. Ismail is. I am happy to give you my practitioner’s info if you would like to email me. Thanks. wholenewmom at gmail.

  7. I just talked to my doctor and found out that, ever since I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism 9+ years ago he has NEVER tested me for anything but TSH. When I asked him why he never did the other tests he told me the answers I’d get from t3 and t4 tests would have a range that would be too wide in scope and that the TPO and TgAb don’t apply to hypothyroidism-only to hypErthyroidism. Then when I asked about Vitamin D he told me everybody generally has low D levels and we should all take Vitamin D daily. (I do know that he tested my cholesterol… for whatever that’s worth.) Does anybody know if any of these responses are even remotely accurate? I haven’t done much reading about the tests yet so I feel like some support would really help. :)

    • I can’t medically advise, but that sounds very odd to me. Why would antibodies to your thyroid only apply to hyper and not hypo? Has he heard of Hashimotos? I was told to be careful about vitamin D b/c it can affect Mg and Ca levels so I am going to try getting outside more and working on my gut health rather than taking D – we’ll see. Cholesterol is important from what I have heard b/c you need it to make hormones. Mine was apparently too low. I would be happy to tell you the email of the lady I am working with. I am hopeful – my antibodies have dropped to almost normal levels but I have a way to go on all of it.

  8. Great post! I am linking up to it in my post that will go live tomorrow. I had been telling my doctors for years that I thought I had a thyroid problem but they only ran a TSH, which was normal. I went to a naturopath last week who looked at my symptoms and said “you have a weak thyroid.” It took her two seconds to identify what doctors never would.

  9. I have been diagnosed with hypothyroid for years. The first time at 30. I am now 57. I was at the boarder. But I listened to them and started sythoid. I gain so much wieght. So I quit. I lost wieght. Hmmm. Over the years at a physical they tell me to take thyroid meds. I tell them no. I gain wieght. And they all say. No you loose weight. No. So not true. And again list last month. I listened to them again. Started Levon…. Sythoid. I have already started gaining wieght. In one month. I work out. 1.5 hours hard almost every day. I should not gain wieght. I eat super healthy. No gluten. ( almost none ). No sugar no proceeded anything. Only fresh foods.
    So anyway. I quit the medicine. I will be adding. D and magnesium and iodine. Anything else I can do to take care of this naturally. I just hate doctors. Why can’t they just listen to us. I do know my body better than they do.
    Whoo got that off my chest Thanks for any good advice.
    Anyone one gain wieght from the synthetic thyroid ??

  10. I’m 39 years old and for about a two years now I have felt like im 20 years older. I have every symtom of an underactive thyroid and my doctor say blood test come back in normal range.. It is getting so hard to live like this. I always feel tired gain weight , went from 140lbs to 200lbs. what seemed like overnight. And all i was eating was a turkey sandwich for dinner a salad fir lunch and oatmeal and toast for breakfast. I have no drive to do anything.. I have two sons 14 and 10 and i feel iam neglecting because of the way i feel… My skin feels horriable i get constapated often and the fatige is a nightmare i have no drive or ambition. So what i was wanting to kniw is for these tests do know what the numbers are for normal , below ranges are?
    Thank you..

    • I am not a doctor, but did your doctor test you for TPO thyroid antibodies? Have you thought about going gluten free? I can’t medically advise but gluten is often a problem with thyroid people.

  11. I have been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and not sure why? I have multi modular goiter, I am tired all the time and the endocrine doctor shrugs me off, but the ent doc. Thinks I have hashimotos?

  12. Hi! Thanks for info! I’m from Russia and have this Hashis too! My doctor prescribed me levothyroxine. What is desiccated thyroid hormone? What medicines do you take?

  13. Debra Clark says:

    I have had cancer of the thyroid. I am always looking for more information on the thyroid because I will be on medication the rest of my life. I have to have my medication levels checked every 3 months.

  14. One answer I’ve been scouring the Internet for is how to wean off of Synthroid. I was experiencing years of symptoms related to thyroid issues, plus as a runner I was frequently carb loading and therefore eating lots of gluten, which I now know was aggravating my condition.Needless to say I began to feel exhausted, always cold, foggy headed and more. My primary care doctor, who I only see for routine physicals – took a blood sample, told me I had an autoimmune disorder and wrote me a prescription for Synthroid, 25 mcg without really telling me much about it. I read up a little on it, and was made very uneasy by it – and even with expressing my concerns to my doctor and my obgyn they both assured me its what I needed to do.

    Obviously, since I found out I was pregnant I overhauled my diet and did tons of research. Since starting Synthroid 3 years ago, I’ve stayed at the tiny “introductory” dose and have never shown need to increase the dosage – however, I haven’t felt any better either. In fact, it makes me sick to my stomach thinking of how I carried a pregnancy to term and am currently nursing a baby while taking a foreign substance. I never even take Midol or Tylenol – yet here I am using synthetic hormones!

    I refuse to believe that its impossible to wean off of this drug once you’ve started it. Especially since its such a low dose…can you direct me to any sort of guidance in this manner? Naturally I’m afraid of the consequences of stopping the drug, but I wonder if giving up gluten and continuing my regimen of quality nutrients and fats like coconut oil, avocado, etc would take care of the issue?

    • I weaned myself off by gradually reducing the dose but I wouldn’t do so again without the consent of my physician. Of course you would try other physicians to see what they say. Now I am still dealing w/ thyroid issues but I have not been prescribed the hormones. Hoping to continue getting better.

  15. Regardless of your disclaimer not to have medical experience you are teaching and explaining about medical testing and disease which is surfing a fine line. Even if this is correct you certainly shouldn’t be the one to be disseminating it.

    • Hi there. My disclaimer is pretty standard. Could you please tell me why you are concerned? I will mention this to the author of the post as well. Thanks!