There aren’t a lot of functional medicine doctors (which aim to look for root causes instead of treating symptoms) in my community, and the ones that are here are often difficult to get an appointment with. That’s why when I started having some weird symptoms (which turned out to be due to Lyme disease), I had to be creative about getting access to doctors and lab tests.
Two resources that I have grown to love are SteadyMD, which allows me unlimited access to my functional medicine M.D. via calls, texts and video chat, and EverlyWell, which offers lab tests that can be run at home without doctors orders.
Before I found SteadyMD, I drove 16+ hours (round trip) to see my previous doctor for initial testing. It showed that my thyroid was a little low among other things, so I tracked my progress via independent testing while I looked for a local provider to follow-up with.
Active infections like Lyme can stress the thyroid, so it’s not surprising that mine was struggling. (1) However, even when other things aren’t going on, low thyroid function is super common. According to The American Thyroid Association, one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in her lifetime, but about 60% of those affected will never know. (2) The numbers for men are better, but not by much.
4 Reasons I Use Home Lab Tests
For those struggling with feelings of exhaustion, brain fog, moodiness or weight gain, the identification of a thyroid issue (if present) is obviously very helpful in getting the most out of life. Thyroid testing at home can be a convenient starting point for getting personalized information and education about hormones, omega 3 status, and more.
However, if a tests shows a problem, it’s important to work with a doctor you trust to correctly interpret the test, make a diagnosis, and make treatment/lifestyle recommendations.
In other words, it doesn’t replace the role of a physician, but I’ve found it helpful in several ways:
1. Checking progress between appointments
Before I found SteadyMD, I drove 16+ hours (round trip) to see my previous doctor for initial testing. It showed that my thyroid was a little low among other things, so I tracked my progress via independent testing while I looked for a local provider to follow-up with. In other words, it was very helpful while I was between doctors, and I still order tests to keep track of my progress.
Instead of making two doctor’s appointments to request a lab and then go over the results, I can make just one appointment and bring in the results to discuss. Also, if you’ve ever had labs drawn and then gotten a huge bill later on, you understand the value of knowing the price upfront.
EverlyWell’s prices are usually comparable to the out-of-pocket cost of the same test done through insurance. Some tests (particularly the Thyroid Test and Cholesterol & Lipids Test) might actually be partially covered by insurance, but you’ll need to check with your insurance company to know for sure. It can also often be paid for using a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Flexible Spending Account (FSA).
It doesn’t get any more convenient than getting to skip the waiting room and do the test at home.
4. Quick Results
There’s no need to wait for a follow-up appointment to get your results, they’ll be securely emailed to you as soon as they’re ready.
In this post, I’ll share some popular methods used for checking thyroid health at home, plus what experts say about them.
As always, this article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition. Although home lab tests can provide personalized information and education, it’s essential to work with a qualified, knowledgeable practitioner regarding any questions or concerns you have about your health. Please see my full disclaimer here.
What is the thyroid gland and what does it do?
Located in front of the windpipe, this butterfly-shaped organ releases two hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). T3 and T4 interact with almost every cell in our bodies, helping to regulate our metabolism, breathing, heart rate, menstrual cycles, body temperature, blood pressure, and even our mood.
One aspect of thyroid health that many people pay attention to is its impact on metabolism. According to EverlyWell, “Thyroid hormone stimulates cells to create energy, including heat.” When the thyroid is underproducing, it lowers overall cellular energy, leading to fatigue, feeling cold, and sometimes weight gain among other symptoms.
When the thyroid is overproducing, it can increase metabolism, causing unintended weight loss, rapid heart rate, anxiety and other issues.
What are some symptoms of hypothyroidism? (Underactive thyroid)
- Weight gain
- Muscle/joint weakness, aches, or tenderness
- Anxiety, depression or mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating or impaired memory function
- Feeling cold
- High cholesterol
- Hair loss
- Dry skin
- Irregular or heavy periods (3)
What are some symptoms of hyperthyroidism? (Overactive thyroid)
- Appetite change (decrease or increase)
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Frequent bowel movement—perhaps diarrhea
- Rapid heartbeat
- Heat intolerance
- Increased sweating
- Anxiousness, nervousness or irritability
- Light menstrual periods—perhaps even missed periods
- Muscle weakness
- Fertility problems
- Shortness of breath
- Unexpected or unusual weight loss
- Thinning hair
- Itching and hives
- Shaking or trembling
- Possible increase in blood sugar (4)
Challenges With Thyroid Testing
I’ve already mentioned triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), but in order to understand testing there’s one more hormone to be aware of – Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
TSH is released by the pituitary gland, not the thyroid, so why is it important? Because when things are working properly, the pituitary calculates how much T4 (the primary thyroid hormone) is in the body and then sends a signal (thyroid stimulating hormone) to make more as needed. Some doctors just look at TSH to evaluate how the thyroid is doing, but according to some experts there’s a problem with that approach.
Eren Berber, M.D., writes:
It’s important to understand that just because your TSH test comes back normal, it does not rule out the possibility of you being hypothyroid. If your symptoms still point to a hypothyroid diagnosis, your doctor may measure the level of free T4 (the portion of total T4 thyroid hormone that is available to your tissues) in your bloodstream.
Many people who are hypothyroid actually have high levels of TSH and low levels of T4—your doctor may refer to this as “primary hypothyroidism.” This occurs because the pituitary gland has recognized that the thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones. As a result, the pituitary releases more TSH in an effort to stimulate the thyroid into producing hormone. But if the thyroid isn’t working properly, it won’t react to the signals from the pituitary. ” (5)
In other words, if your TSH levels are good but you still have symptoms of low thyroid function, it may be because the pituitary is sending the right message but the thyroid is not responding properly. That’s why many doctors insist on measuring free T3 and T4 in addition to TSH.
Why I like EverlyWell’s Thyroid Test Kit
- It measures TSH, free T3, free T4, which gives a fuller picture than TSH alone.
- It also measures thyroid peroxidase antibodies. TPO’s are often elevated with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is the most common type of hypothyroidism in the United States.
- Each test is processed in a CLIA-certified lab reviewed by a board-certified physician
Also, as I mentioned above, it also has some advantages in terms of cost, convenience, and quick turnaround time for results.
How To Order An EverlyWell Test Kit
- Order the kit here
- When the kit arrives, register the barcode on the box at EverlyWell.com
- Place a few drops of blood on your test card using the tools and instructions in the kit (It’s not that bad, promise)
- Return the kit using the prepaid shipping label
- Watch your email for your results
- Follow up with your healthcare provider with any questions you have or to go over your results in general
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most common questions I’ve received over the years. If there’s a question that you think should be included, please let me know in the comments!
Is Checking Thyroid Function With A Thermometer Accurate?
Sometimes called the “thermostat” of the body, the thyroid plays a role in keeping us warm. Historically, doctors have used basal body temperature (taken when we first wake up) to track how well our “thermostat” is working.
So, is this method accurate? According to naturopathic endocrinologist Dr. Alan Christianson, author of The Adrenal Reset Diet, the short answer is no. Here are the two main reasons:
- Other factors affect our body temperature – Hormones such as leptin, the time of year, circadian rhythm, and diet are a few examples
- Although 98.6F is often touted as the “ideal” number, it’s actually an average based on readings from a large group of people – In other words, some healthy people in the group ran cooler than 98.6, while others ran hotter. What’s optimal for each of us will be slightly different.
Here’s the long answer in case you’re interested:
That said, for years I’ve take my temperature for fertility tracking purposes. When I first started my waking temperature was really low and I had symptoms associated with low thyroid function such as feeling cold and tired most of the time. As I began to change my lifestyle and eat better I felt my energy return and, interestingly, my average body temperature rose, too.
My takeaway is that it’s probably not all that helpful to compare yourself with an average, but tracking how your normal changes over time can give you (and your care provider) insights into upward or downward trends in thyroid health.
Are there any other techniques for checking thyroid health at home?
Yes. In the video below, Dr. Meena Murthy of St. Peter’s Hospital explains how to visually check the thyroid at home.
Again, only a doctor can diagnose a disease or condition. It’s essential to work with a qualified, knowledgeable practitioner regarding any questions or concerns you have about your health.
1. Paparone, PW (1995) Hypothyroidism with concurrent Lyme disease.
2. American Thyroid Association. General Information.
3. Medical News Today. 12 Signs and Symptoms of Thyroid Disease.
4. EndocrineWeb. Hyperthyroidism Symptoms.
5. EndocrineWeb. Hypothyroidism Diagnosis.
Read My Comment Policy
Áine Blanchard Quimby
Interesting… my body temp has consistently been around 96 degrees for years. When I get sick it actually drops even lower.
Me too. If my temperature drops below 99.7ish its my equivalent of running a fever. I feel like crap.
I was born without a thyroid gland
Do you know if EverlyWell will also run a Reverse T3? (I have to request Free and Reverse T3 at each appt and it can get tiring fighting with the Dr for even the Free T3.) Thanks!
My thyroid has been swollen for about 2 years. Not majorly, just enough that it’s been noticed by three different doctors during routine exams, yet the blood tests always come back fine, I’m going to have to try this.
Have them check for Hashimotos,that’s how I was diagnosed.I get neck pain so that was my complaint and they felt it and did ultra sound which showed it being enlarged.I have to get a scan yearly for it,plus I have nodules.My other numbers are always ok.One Doc told me 200 mcg Selenium,which if I stop taking the pain comes right back in my neck.
Hi, can I ask what type of neck pain you get? Do you get like a burning sensation on one side?
Have any of the doctors ordered an ultrasound of your thyroid?
Also, the little half moons on your finger nails are indicators of good thyroid function. If you’ve got them, you’re on the right track. I find them constantly reassuring after my years on thyroid meds.
I have never had half moons on my fingers. Is that relevant?
Not since puberty.
I only have half moons on my thumbs.
Check iodine levels. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/29/iodine-deficiency-risk.aspx
Michelle Leanne Flores
My temp is usually 97.1. Taking a look at the quiz and I have a few of those symptoms(6to be exact) and no doctor has ever said anything about my temperature being so low. So I guess I’m good to go!
That is about where my temp stayed also as a norm. My Dr’s never said anything to me as well. Then I developed a lump in my neck, my TSH came back normal, however it turned out I had already developed cancer. They removed my thyroid, then my daughter was tested for Graves’ disease and was positive for Hashimotos, they said I was probably the carrier for Graves they tested me and I had the Hashimotos genes but they couldn’t test me for Graves because they had already removed my thyroid gland. So, my advice to you is if thyroid problems run in your family, run the Graves test, even if your TSH comes back normal. And watch for lumps in your thyroid, the earlier you catch it the better your chances are.
Hello Heather. Thank you for the post. My normal basal temperature is between 36.2 and 36.5 so I guess I have hypothyroidism. And I have also salt cravings… Thanks for the link of The Thyroid Session, I have just signed in!
Iodine, iodine, iodine. Mercola is waaaaay off on his levels. Too little. Research folks.
Look into ocean greens 7…ocean sea vegetables…just heard a speaker on it and spoke extensively on iodine and breast cancer and weight loss and thyroid issues. It comes jn a dropper bottle and he said put 2 drops on nipple then rest of full dropper in Mouth (1 oz total) and repeat for other nipple. Do nipples for 3 months 2x/day and after that just take orally. His name was Bela (can’t remember lat name….based out of southern california…but sea vegetables are harvested off newfounland and iceland coasts). I am starting asap and hope to ward off breast cancer and improve energy and weigt loss.
Im allergic to iodine….now what?
Both my husband and I had our thyroids removed in 2010 (12 days apart). Neither of us had any symptoms and our thyroid numbers (TSH, etc.) was normal for both of us.
He has been dealing with papillary thyroid cancer ever since then. I welcome the at home test option but wonder about people that no longer have a thyroid and must take replacement meds.
Thanks for the post!
I’m not aware of one, but I do know that hyperthyroidism is going to be covered during The Thyroid Sessions.
Hi Beth, I don’t think I’ve ever seen these in a drug store. They’re usually used to track fertility and therefore are much more precise and durable than plain digital thermometers.
Oh my gosh! I totally have a swollen thyroid.
Amanda @ Mommypotamus Support
Becky, No need to let the thermometer warm up that much when you’re taking an oral temp. Heather said she just rubs hers in her hands for a few seconds when it’s cold to warm it up a bit. For temps taken under the armpit, though, it is beneficial to let it warm up. This method was developed using underarm temps (which are slightly different) so that is what we want to use.
Thanks for your comment, Cat! From what I understand, hypothyroid individuals tend to have low waking temps, but of course there are always exceptions. To some degree, taking temps over the course of three days could be helpful for identifying “one off” high waking temps. Of course, this is just one of many symptoms associated with hypothyroidism, so if I didn’t have it but had others I would still look into it. So glad you stopped by!
Hi Amy May,
I have been doing research on Iodine but have problems finding the dosages cause most give too low dosages. I know that Iodine in not only exellent for the thyroid but is needed in a lot more places in the body. Can you give me an indication of how much Iodine is needed ?
Hi Michelle, thanks for your comment! I’ve been doing NFP for about 10 years now, and I definitely agree with you on the alcohol/sleep thing. Based on what I read, the temp taken right after the first day of one’s period is considered the baseline for this test. I agree that it is not common, but that may be more of an indication of how many women struggle with thyroid issues than anything else. Again, thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I’m going to update the post to reflect some of the nuances you mentioned.
Thanks Heather! Glad to hear you practice NFP (I suspected as much). It took me so long to make the leap to FAM/NFP and I’m sooo glad I did. I learned so much about my body. I had crazy low temps for awhile after quitting the pill and read in TCOYF (Taking Charge of Your Fertility) that low waking temps could indicate a thyroid problem, but those were in a different range than you indicate. Because my temps were low for awhile and because of posts on the web just like this one, I thought I might have a thyroid problem, but I didn’t. For me it was a mix not getting enough rest, hormonal disturbance from having just stopped the pill, and low calorie consumption. The funny thing is I realized after awhile that I had a weak luteal phase (from other symptoms) and when I treated that, my temps finally went up to normal (or what I and TCOYF consider normal range). But hormones are a complex interplay aren’t they? I used to get crazy salt cravings when on the pill and they’ve totally stopped since quitting and being off for nearly a year. If I can add anything to this discussion, it’s that the pill is terrible for you (coming from someone who was on it 13 years). It wrecks your body! So if you think you have an undiagnosed thyroid problem (not you Heather, the proverbial “you”) but you are taking birth control — quit that first, wait 6 months to a year and then decide. I thought I had so many health problems and felt like I was on a downward spiral of health at only 31 – turns out I had just one health problem — the pill. 🙂
Glad you made the leap, Michelle, and thank you for sharing your experience 🙂
I also chart my temp, but even after I ovulate the highest my temp is is around 97.6. But that is the highest highest. Not common even after ovulation. Most days it is around 95.5. I definitely agree that more than three days are necessary, because sometimes there is a random bizarre temperature that is not indicative of an overall pattern.
Please be careful. Iodine is not always the right coarse of action especially in Hashimotos (autoimmune thyroid) patients. Looking forward to the iodine talk in the Thyroid Sessions!
I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism about 12 years ago and have been on Levothyroxine ever since however I have continued to have many syptoms even though for ten of the aforementioned years I have been on the same dose. I have my blood tested regularly but upon taking your quiz I scored a 526. Could this be due to the wrong TSH check or other health issues steming from my slow thyroid. I am sick and tired of shoveling money hand over fist to doctor who seem to be annoyed by my concerns and I generaly get the same cookie cutter answers. Should I request another more in depth blood test or is a high result such as my own even on meds par for the course??
I have been told by doctors in the past that my thyroid in my neck is swollen and its swollen straight across my neck. I have asked my doctors that I had years ago to do the test and I had to keep asking them for the results and finally they said it was fine there were no problems but they said it like they just wanted me to shut up. I have looked at the symptoms and that explains a lot. How can I get a doctor to listen to me when I know something is wrong ??? Also is there a natural and easy way I can just fix this at home since I don’t have good luck with doctors??? Thank you
Great post-another thing to watch & report with other symptoms! Thyroid issues are so common but commonly not diagnosed-we need to advocate for ourselves!
I’ve had a problem with my thyroid for a long time and I just now figured out that that was why for the past few years I’ve felt so “blah.” I just thought I was going crazy. I’ve been treating myself naturally and I have found out that iodine is a HUGE part in healing the thyroid – we don’t get this trace mineral from our food anymore. There are very interesting videos on youtube about it. I’ve started taking iodine drops and added b12 and D to my daily regimen and I’m feeling better…
You can get the fertility thermometers at any Walmart or drug store. Price will probably be $15 or less depending on the brand name!! They’ve right by the pregnancy tests!! No biggie!! 🙂
Basal thermometers look the same as digital ones and are highly accurate. I’ve used one for many years to track my fertility cycles. 🙂
I stand corrected, Heather! To me, it looked like one of those new-fangled digital thermometers that I don’t like, as I’ve wasted money on them and they don’t register my temp! I was taught to do basal temp testing on an old fashioned thermometer & didn’t realize there was a difference in different new ones! I’m guessing I’d find one of those online, eh, as my local drug stores are not great. Thanks for clearing that up for me. BTW, this morning I enjoyed reading your article on 15 things to do for my adrenal issues. THANKS AGAIN.
Where is quiz
If your trying to boost fertility look up The Gluten Doctor.
He has worked with many women that were not able to get pregnant or had many miscarriages to help them change their diet and have healthy babies.
Alice Santiago a
I have been diagnosed in 2005 with Hyperthyroidism. Had radiation iodine and now have hypothyroidism. I have since 2005 have gained over 35 pounds. Had my blood work done two weeks ago and tsh is at .28 which is considered hyperthyroidism. My doctors increases and decreases my dosage to no avail can never be regulated. What do you suggest. I workout and all the right foods. I stay away from carbs and fatty foods. Still could only lose 1 pound and gain one pound. 8ve learned to live with the weight.
I know I have thyroid problems ,I took one medication and I had a hard time breading
and I felt like my heart wanted to come out
Inow I’m not taking nothing but if there is a way naturally to make me better I would like to know
Weight gain is hypo.
You can find it here: http://www.holistic-hypothyroidism-solutions.com/support-files/quiz-hypothyroidism.pdf
I have been diagnosed with hypotyroidism. I am struggling a lot with my weight. I have been a size 30 and now I am gaining weight even if I am dieting, drinking my meds… nothing. My moods al all over the place. Please help me…
hi, i have read that coconut oil helps regulating thyroid function, thus help in weight loss. what do you say about the thyroid regulating effect and weight loss assistance of coconut oil.
I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism December last year and been on carbimazole tablets. I went to seek a 2nd opinion where the endo told me that I would need a scan because through physical exam he could not feel my thryroid so he says it could be anywhere in my body. Therefore if it is not at the base of my neck it has to be removed. Can the thyroid be found any where else in the body?
I just started working with a functional RN. Unfortunately her office is really far away so having access to home tests will be very helpful. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for a relevant and well-researched article. This came at the perfect time. I am so grateful for your the time and thought that goes into sharing this important information!