Written by Dr Kelsey Duncan ND.
Feeling tired? 4 lab tests to ask your doctor for
Are you one of those women who needs a cup of coffee in the afternoon to keep going? Are you barely able to drag yourself out of bed at all? Maybe you fall asleep in front of the tv shortly after dinner, barely even making it to bed in the first place?
- Need coffee to get through the day
- Find yourself craving a nap in the afternoon
- Have the cancel plans on the weekend because you’re just too tired
- Crave sugar or carbs
And if you’ve felt like this for YEARS – you need to keep reading.
I had a patient, Jane, who had come to me after 15+ years of feeling tired. Not just the level of tired where she needed to be in bed by 9PM and maybe yawned a little bit more, but her lack of energy was dramatically impacting her life.
Over the 15+ years she slowly cut back her work hours to the point of when I saw her she was only working 1 day per week and even that was hard on her body.
She was struggling to make enough money.
She was struggling finding a partner because the thought of dating was too exhausting.
She was struggling maintaining her friendships.
She was just struggling. Period.
The only way she even got through a day was if she drank 8-10 cups of coffee and had a nap in the afternoon.
Over the years she had begged her doctor to run tests, that there must be something wrong. And he did, but he always came back and said the same thing:
“Everything is normal”.
Finally, fast forward to 2018, she found herself in my office. We went through her entire health history, I reviewed her old lab work, and we decided that absolutely something was going on with her thyroid.
Her doctor had never checked her actual thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. He had checked her TSH, which wasn’t flagged as elevated, but it was only 0.2 points off being flagged as high.
She had every symptom, she had bloodwork SHOWING something wasn’t quite right, and still she was turned away from treatment year after year.
So we ran a full thyroid panel and low and behold, she had hypothyroidism.
Her TSH was now 10.8 – which is 5.8 points HIGHER than the normal range. Her T3 was 3.1, which should be around 5, and her T4 was 9, which should be around 14.
She has been suffering for years with a condition that is so easily treated, because her family doctor wouldn’t run the testing she needed.
If you feel like Jane, and you’re ready for answers, here are our top 4 lab tests to get your doctor to run.
This was Jane’s main issue when it came to being tired. Often times when your doctor is checking your thyroid, they’re only looking at 1 of the 4 thyroid tests. The truth is – you need to see all 4 to really know if your thyroid is functioning well. To get the whole picture, we want to see:
- Free T3
- Free T4
When it comes to most lab tests, the reference range doesn’t mean a whole lot. We need to make sure you’re levels are optimal.
B12 is a vitamin we mostly get from red meat, so really common for vegan/vegetarians or people who don’t eat a lot of red meat, to be deficient. When our B12 is low we feel tired, weak, and brain fogged. Depending on how low your levels are, you may require injections or you may just take a sublingual tablet, your doctor will be able to guide you to the best option for you.
Typically when you tell your doc you’re tired, they’ll check to make sure you aren’t anemic. This is one of the most common causes of tiredness in women. Every time you have your period, you’re losing iron. If we aren’t building our iron back up through diet, or if our we have any digestion problems, our iron can just keep going down and down until we feel so tired we can barely move.
This is another test where the reference range means very little. Your ferritin, or stored iron, levels will not be flagged until you are lower than a 5.
Optimal level is 50+.
If you’re not receiving treatment until you are below 5, you will be battling your iron for years.
Lastly, our stress hormone. Something that very rarely gets looked at.
If you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, or experience a huge afternoon crash, you need to check your cortisol. Low cortisol levels don’t only cause you to be tired, but you may have brain fog, lack of motivation and desire, depression, catch frequent colds and flus, and sugar and carb cravings.
I like to check cortisol at 4 points over 24 hours to get an idea of your natural rhythm. Your cortisol should natural increase and decrease over the course of the day and if you’re just sitting with a flat line, your mood and energy will suffer.
Some things we didn’t even talk about when it comes to feeling tired are sleep and diet – both of which are obviously important.
Are you ready to get some answers? Schedule a free 15-minute Insight Session with one of our Cared For Wellness Practitioners today.