If you’ve been struggling with this diagnosis for any time at all, you’ve probably figured out that most doctors out there are not very well informed when it comes to this condition. I have realized through the years that most doctors respond according to the way they were trained and they tend not to question that process, even when confronted by patients with failing health. A lot of them simply do not have the time to do outside research (especially primary care doctors), but many of them just cannot find it in themselves to be flexible enough to go outside their traditional medical training.
A prime example of this problem lies in the choice of thyroid medication usually prescribed for Hashimoto’s. If you go to a traditional endocrinologist or even your primary care doctor, they will, more than likely, put you on Synthroid or Levothyroxin, even though there are thousands of patient reports stating that Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT) works better for many, many people.
Because big pharma has such an enormous influence on what doctors ultimately decide to prescribe for many conditions, treatments such as NDT, which proved its efficacy long ago in the latter part of the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries, are considered “antiquated” and/or “bizarre”.
If you’d like to read an interesting history of NDT, click here.
Don’t get me wrong – there are people out there who do just fine on these medications, but most of them are dealing with simple hypothyroidism, not Hashimoto’s. If you would like to know why Synthroid and Levothyroxin generally do not work well for Hashi’s, click here.
Whatever happened to “Do No Harm”??
I don’t believe that doctors set out to harm their patients. But I do believe the medical community, as a whole, exerts a ton of pressure on conventional doctors to stick to traditional approaches to treatment, regardless of outcome. It’s difficult for me to understand how they can continue to do this, when it’s pretty obvious that their patients are not getting better. This approach harms everyone – the patient gets sicker and angrier at a system that seems to have no interest in learning new approaches that might help, and the doctor gets angry at patients who come to appointments and question them about everything. But, I will say this:
It is your right to question your treatment. You are paying for it.
Ultimately, with today’s insurance restrictions requiring one to stay inside provider networks, the best I have been able to do for myself is to find a primary care doctor who is willing to support the work of my functional medicine doctor, for whom I have to pay out of pocket. I’m fortunate enough to be able to do that. A lot of people are not. However, there does seem to be a small trend toward more integrative and functional medicine doctors taking insurance.
Where to start when looking for a thyroid/Hashi’s doctor?
Mary Shomon has a page on her site where you can look for thyroid doctors that have been recommended by thyroid patients. You can find that here. Keep in mind that not all thyroid doctors are experienced or knowledgeable about Hashimoto’s. There’s a lot of difference between hypo/hyper-thyroid conditions and an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland.
The first rule of finding a supportive thyroid doctor: don’t give up. An individual looking for a new doctor has to approach this problem as an employer.
You are literally looking for the right person to “hire” for your care.
As I said before, you are paying for this care, and you have a right to determine whether or not the doctor is meeting your standards.
When I tell people this, I usually get very strange looks. But, it’s true. We are consumers and we are paying for a service. For too long, doctors have treated themselves as experts who cannot be questioned by “uninformed” patients. Those years are long gone with the advent of the internet because we ALL have access to a lot of information now, good and bad.
It will be up to you to do proper research and educate yourself about this condition so that you understand what kind of care you need. This can be hard, because a lot of us with Hashi’s just don’t feel up to doing much of anything a lot of the time. If you’re currently dealing with a lot of fatigue, you will have to decide how long you can stand to do this kind of research every day. But you will need to do it if you have any hope of finding a practitioner who can help you to heal.
I have personally found that the doctors who are best equipped to deal with Hashi’s are usually doctors of integrative medicine or functional medicine. These are practitioners who are willing to look outside traditional medical treatments and add alternative treatments to their practices because they feel that is the only way they can truly help their patients. The doctor I’m seeing now told me that the reason he went into functional medicine was because he was tired of feeling totally powerless in the face of patients who were becoming sicker every day.
What is the difference between integrative and functional medicine, you ask?
As taken from The Institute for Functional Medicine’s website:
Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.
The Functional Medicine model considers the diagnosis, of course, but also seeks to answer the question, “Why does this person have this illness?” The answer to this question is revealed by discovering the antecedents, triggers, and mediators that underlie symptoms, signs, illness behaviors, and demonstrable pathology.
You can search for an integrative medicine practitioner here.
Dr. Kharrazian, who is one of the foremost practitioners specializing in Hashimoto’s, also has links on his site to assist in finding a practitioner here.
Alternatively, you can just do a search for “functional medicine” or “integrative medicine” plus the name of the city/town where you live and see what comes up.
It can be really easy to lose hope in this quest for a good doctor, especially if you’re not located in a large metropolitan area. But, you will find someone eventually, even if you end up doing treatment long distance over the internet. There are several good practitioners out there offering long distance consultations and treatment programs and a lot of people are doing this now because it’s the only way they can access care from people who know about this condition. Here is a short list of people I have run across who are offering long distance consults:
Marc Ryan, L.Ac. – Marc is a licensed acupuncturist and has Hashi’s himself. He has an enormously informational site at Hashimotoshealing.com.
Eric Osansky, D.C. – Eric is a chiropractic physician who specializes in natural treatments for endocrine problems. You can find him at Naturalendocrinesolutions.com.
Dr. Isabella Wentz – Dr. Wentz is a pharmacist with Hashi’s. Her site has a ton of useful information at Thyroidpharmacist.com.
Dr. Sarah Ballantyne has assembled a stellar group of people with whom you can make appointments and get guidance. You can find them here.
Amy Myers, MD – Amy practices functional medicine and has several online programs that you can choose from here.
This list is by no means exhaustive. If you have had a good experience with an online practitioner whom I haven’t mentioned, I would love to hear from you!
Hang in there, keep looking and don’t settle until you find someone who will work with you as a team and listen to you and your symptoms.
My best hopes for you all,
Vanessa Gunter, D.M.A., M.A.