Hypothyroidism and thyroid disorders affect millions in the US alone, with an estimated 27 million undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Women suffer from thyroid problems more than men, due to their fragile hormonal systems and stress. Most patients with health insurance visit their doctor, who is only educated to treat hypothyroidism according to the protocols of standard medicine.
As a patient, you may never be informed that you have other options available to you. This article will give you the knowledge to make more informed decisions on your treatment options. To explain this completely, you need to understand how standard medicine usually treats hypothyroidism. Then holistic therapies will be discussed. I have studied this subject for years because our whole family has suffered from thyroid imbalance.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism means your thyroid is not producing enough thyroid hormone to work properly. The thyroid hormone affects every cell in your body including temperature, metabolic rate, immune function, hormone function, and thousands of body processes. It is the most important gland in the endocrine system. It needs to be working so your whole endocrine system works effectively.
Standard medicine treatment:
Your doctor will take lab tests including a TSH test. The TSH levels may be the main test used to monitor your circulating T4 levels. TSH is sensitive to circulation T4 thyroid hormone levels. When T4 levels decrease, the TSH will increase in an attempt to stimulate your thyroid gland. When the T4 levels increase again, the TSH levels decrease.
If the lab tests come back normal, low normal, or even sub-normal, your doctor will say nothing is wrong, and your symptoms are due to some other cause, such as depression. If the tests clearly show you have deficient thyroid hormone, according to the test standards, you will be treated with synthetic thyroid replacement therapy, usually Synthroid, Levothroid, or Unithroid.
The flaw in standard medicine thyroid tests:
The thyroid produces several important hormones with the T4 and T3 being the more important ones. The thyroid hormone T4 is converted in your endocrine function to the more active thyroid hormone, T3. There is no test currently available to test how well your body is converting T4 into the more proficient T3 hormone.
There is no test to show if your billions of cells are using the thyroid hormone correctly. It is like putting gas in a car. Just because you have gas in your car, does not mean that other engine parts are using the circulating gasoline correctly. So having thyroid in your bloodstream does not mean your cells are using the thyroid hormone as intended. So the test can come back as low normal or on the edge of the test criteria and be considered normal.
There are thousands of women who go untreated because these tests are used as the sole basis for diagnosis. When my mother was in her 50’s she began to gain weight. She had always been less than 100 pounds. When the doctor finally agreed to test her, he found her thyroid to be on the edge of normal according to the tests.
After pressure, he finally agreed to try her on a trial regimen of thyroid treatment. She lost weight soon after, and never had a problem with weight gain. It took her to be proactive with that doctor to get diagnosed properly. His first response was you are just overeating. He did not believe her when she said she did not overeat.
I had horrible periods and I was also found to be hypothyroid. Being put on a thyroid treatment plan greatly improved the pain during those periods. I write this article from a viewpoint of a family who has gone through the system and fought the bias from doctors.
How does a holistic physician treat thyroid disorders?
He still requests lab tests but also uses an extensive family and personal health history with questions aimed to expose possible thyroid problems to support his treatment plan. Even if your tests are low normal, he may give you several months of thyroid treatment anyway to see if your symptoms improve.
He will also use a basal temperature test to give him input for his treatment regimen. Holistic doctors examine the whole thyroid hormone pathway to determine if it is operating effectively.
He will closely look at factors in your lifestyle, such as birth control pills that may be causing a problem in your body being able to convert T4 into T3. There are a number of common factors inhibiting your endocrine system from using thyroid hormones effectively.
He does not stop at test results for his final diagnosis and treatment for your health problems.
If your holistic doctor feels you do have a thyroid deficiency, he will probably treat you with a different thyroid product. He will most likely give you a prescription for desiccated glandular thyroid. There are various brands available including Armour Thyroid, Nature-Thyroid, or Westhyroid.
These thyroid products are natural, taken from the porcine pig. They contain the complete thyroid glandular tissue to help feed and repair the compromised thyroid gland. It is a whole product versus a synthetic drug that is not complete.
Levothyroxine only contains T4.
Desiccated thyroid contains T4, T3, T2, T1, Calcitonin, selenium, and other natural thyroid support micro-nutrients.
You will be encouraged to adopt a lifestyle that rebuilds your body’s ability to convert the T4 into the T3 hormone. Holistic doctors want to restore your thyroid gland so it will work correctly on its own.
He will seek first to help the gland work as intended rather than just substitute the hormones it is not producing because it is not working properly. He will then monitor you for months to see how the treatment is working to see if your symptoms improve. Thyroid treatment takes time to work. You need to give it several months in some cases to see improvement.
Hypothyroidism can be treated by a holistic physician very effectively in most cases. You should have a choice on how your condition is treated. If you want to be treated holistically, change doctors or be proactive with your physician now and demand the treatment you prefer, if possible.
Overcoming Thyroid Disorders, 2nd Edition, Dr. David Brownstein, M.D., Medical Alternatives Press,
Revised edition 2008, pages 54-60.
Broda O.Barnes, M.D. Research Foundation, P.O. Box 98, Trumbull, Ct, 06611, www.brodabarnes.org.
American College for the Advancement in Medicine, 23121 Verdugo Dr., Ste. 204, Laguna Hills, Ca 92653, 800-532-3688, www.acam.org