Next to “I just got diagnosed with thyroid disease and I don’t want to go on medication, what should I do??” I am most often asked “How do I find a doctor to work with?!?”
We live in an era where more information than ever is available at our fingertips. So we naturally assume our healthcare providers are consuming this information too. Unfortunately, most practitioners are so swamped with work and simply keeping up with their workload and life that they don’t have time to take in this information. Not to mention the fact that Western medicine trains doctors to not question things and that natural health and healing doesn’t work.
Thyroid patients are often left with an MD. The MD will not know the proper labs to order or even how to interpret them. My MD in Colorado was awesome for an MD. I would go in there with my list of labs and she’d run them for me but told me straight up that she had no idea what they meant or how to interpret them and she’d never been trained to test for anything but TSH (which is the least accurate thyroid lab). Because of my footwork she dove in a little bit more into learning about thyroid health but truly didn’t have the time to have the scope of knowledge about every disease that people suffering from disease hope their practitioner will have.
(Because I’m asked this all the time- my primary practitioner is a Classical Homeopath who does constitutional care. I also work with an ND but she’s unlike most NDs out there and is also a classical homeopath who focuses mainly on homeopathy, herbs and craniosacral therapy…. I’ll share more in a future blog)
Deciding who to work with for properly managing thyroid care can feel difficult and even a bit frustrating. Especially for those who are new to the natural health world. I hope these tips will help you as you decide what type of practitioner to work with.
What to ask yourself and research before selecting a practitioner
- Ask yourself- Do I want to heal my thyroid permanently and naturally balance the hormone levels or do I want to use medication to balance hormones?
- Remember- medication absolutely works and even many of the most holistically minded people choose medication. If you go the medication route, you’ll most likely be on medication the rest of your life. Sometimes a natural desiccated thyroid (which some practitioners are knowledgeable enough to prescribe) will be used short-term as a way to “remind” the thyroid what it should be doing.
- Research- The different medication options, fillers, side effects, manufacturing companies, insurance coverage, and cost
- Ask yourself- Do I want to work with someone who is more like a doctor or an alternative care provider?
- Remember- In most cases, an MD is going to have very little training on thyroid disease. They *can* manage it but often don’t manage it well. I personally never suggest an endocrinologist even though many MDs will send thyroid patients to one. I’ve seen them do more harm than good in most cases. A good alternative to an MD is a functional medicine doctor or a naturopath.
- Research- The type of training various providers have. Look into: endocrinologist, functional medicine doctor, naturopath, classical homeopath, Ayurveda healer, osteopath, chiropractor, and herbalist. Some are MDs on top of additional training, others are trained in alternative medicine only. Remember- most practitioners aren’t highly trained in thyroid dis-ease so you’ll need to keep doing some legwork.
- Ask yourself- Do you want to heal the root cause of the thyroid disease?
- Remember- There can be dozens of root causes. Any Western-medicine focused practitioners will not be trained to identify or treat root causes.
- Research- What you think some of your root causes may be and some of the healing options for them.
- Ask yourself- Am I willing to put in time and money?
- Remember- It took a long time, often many many years for your body to develop this dis-ease. It will take time to heal. Most alternative care providers say it takes 1-2 months for every year of damage. For those of us who had thyroid damage in utero, it’s going to be a long healing road. It will also take some money to heal. This will not be for life, just a few years. But you have to commit to it. If that’s not a commitment you can make, then a standard Western medicine doctor and medication may be best.
- Research- What types of alternative care providers your insurance covers. How you can adjust your budget to cover any costs not covered by insurance. (Note- this varies by state & insurance provider. But in some cases, if you’re working with a supportive practitioner who IS covered by insurance they can write you a “prescription” for some of the other care that’s not covered. Insurance may cover this or you can write it off on taxes)
- Ask yourself- Is my family supportive?
- Remember- If you choose to heal your thyroid it’s going to likely involve dietary and lifestyle changes. A supportive family will be helpful but not 100% necessary.
- Research- Ways to discuss alternative medicine or medication with family members.
What to ask prospective practitioners
Now that you’ve researched and narrowed down practitioners, it’s time to interview some prospects. Most practitioners should allow a free 15-30 minute consult or answer a few emails. Don’t just settle for the first person you talk to because they “seem nice” or you feel obligated to work with them after meeting with them. I personally worked with six different practitioners and interviewed over a dozen before finally settling on the practitioners I work with currently.
A few things to ask practitioners:
- What labs do you routinely run for thyroid patients? (if they only test TSH, in my opinion they’re automatically off the list!)
- Do you routinely test for autoimmune thyroid disease?
- Do you know about AIP (the autoimmune protocol)?
- What are your thoughts on co-infections and underlying root causes?
- Are you comfortable treating gut imbalance and providing dietary suggestions?
- How do you feel about thyroid patients not using any medication at all?
- What are your thoughts on prescribing desiccated thyroid?
- Are you able to advise on helpful herbs?
- Is your focus on managing symptoms or healing the root cause?
- Do you do any body work for patients? Or do you recommend body work?
- What type of ongoing training are you involved in for thyroid patients?
- What is your success rate with thyroid patients?
It’s up to you to do the research to understand what all these questions mean. You’ll find information on most of them as this series progresses. It’s also up to you to decide what matters most to you. It’s likely your opinions and priorities will change overtime as you gain more experience and knowledge. These are just a nice starting point.