Blood Tests and Lab Resources

Looking at a blood test and trying to decipher it? Wondering which test to order for a patient? Just had a test done yourself and wondering what it was for? There are two great resources for this- the Royal College of Pathology Australia’s free online manual, and Lab Tests Online.

The RCPA manual is an easy way to look up an individual test and check reference range and indications. The reference ranges are not absolute- as each lab has a slightly different meld of testing, they will give reference ranges with the results. It’s great for an overview though if a patient comes in without their paperwork and says, ‘the doctor said my TSH was X’.

Lab Tests Online doesn’t give reference ranges for the above reason, but it gives a great explanation of how they are developed and the limitations they have. It breaks down each test, telling you (or the patient) exactly why a test would be ordered and what an abnormal result might indicate. It’s designed for the general public, so language is simple and the format is easy to understand.

Both sites allow you to search by test or by condition- I’ve found the lab tests site to be more useful in most cases, but the RCPA has some great decision making tools (just browse through until you find what you’re after).

They both make a great reference for assignments and I’ve used them in the shop a few times, to help explain someone to a customer. Bookmark them, they will be invaluable!

Thyroid Thursday

Ok, it’s not Thursday. Sounded good though, didn’t it!

So. Your thyroid is a little gland in your throat. Bit of a weird spot to plonk something that controls everything we care about- energy, weight, libido and a ton of other stuff.

Most people know a little about it. If it doesn’t work, you feel sleepy and put on weight. If it’s supercharged, you eat like a racehorse and don’t put on an ounce (sounds great till you factor in permanent hot flushes, tremors, crankiness, anxiety, even vomiting and paralysis.). If you are exhibiting symptoms of a thyroid malfunction, your doc will order 3 blood tests: TSH, T3 and T4.

TSH is the hormone that kicks your thyroid into gear, the T3 and T4 are the hormones it then produces. High TSH and low T3/4 signifies hypothyroidism (hypo=low and slow), the reverse is hyperthyroidism (hyper=fast and crazy, like your 2 year old on a sugar high).

Treatments your doctor may recommend include surgery or drugs, in mild cases your naturopath may be able to prescribe herbs and supplements to balance out your thyroid. Make sure you keep an eye on it, as a funky thyroid might be giving you a secret message that something else in your body is dinky as well.

Then, there are Thyroid Antibodies, a test that’ll tell you if anything is trying to eat your thyroid. Many Naturopaths will tell you that you NEED to have this tested, even if the other 3 are fine. Many doctors will REFUSE to test it (unless other tests indicate it needs to be done). What’s the go? Is it an expensive and inaccurate test that rarely throws up the results the┬áNaturopaths┬áneed? Are doctors just too reliant on the standard tests and failing to see mild variations can still cause big problems? I wish I knew- if I get an answer I’ll tell you!

I can tell you that iodine is essential for T4 production as T4 has four iodine molecules attached (hence the name). Selenium is needed to cleave one off, giving you T3. Vitamin D has also been shown to be vital for healthy thyroid function.

I get my iodine from seaweed- I throw a big pinch into the family meal, it goes well in most pasta dishes and disintegrates in a slow cooked casserole. Brazil’s nuts are super high in selenium and it also comes from fish, fowl, beef or sunflower seeds, cottage cheese and rice (concentration in the order listed, with rice the lowest). Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin, 10-15 minutes, once or twice a day.