I enjoy being part of a Google+ Community called Hypothyroidism Help created by naturopathic physician Dr. Forrest Beck. Dr. Beck wrote a thought-provoking guest post for Hypothyroid Mom on how to find a thyroid sympathetic doctor (from a doctor’s perspective).
Written by Dr. Forrest Beck, ND
When it comes to what those in thyroid communities are so desperately seeking, I haven’t seen anything that’s even a close second to a sympathetic doctor. Information is imperative, but seeking out a doctor with a malleable ear for all things thyroid is the crème de la crème. Ordering the correct tests becomes a breeze, natural desiccated thyroid doesn’t sound alarm bells at the ATF, and most importantly he or she listens. Yet, the simple fact remains there are countless scores of individuals suffering who will never have access to a worthy doctor. And frankly I think that it is a completely *^%# prospect. Before you give up, however, take note of the shifting landscape.
It is my firm belief that the future of medicine is one where the doctor is peripheral rather than central. Yes, for now doctors are still gatekeepers to the medicine cabinet, but other things are changing which is a positive trend. One only sees the apps and technology being developed to integrate with your Smartphone, the ability to self-order labs, online forums, and “internet doctors” to get a sense of this direction. Most of these simply didn’t exist ten years ago. Many more consumers want the option to direct their medical care, particularly since a ten to fifteen minute visit has become standard.
But many of you would gladly replace your doctors with a robot if that heartless heap of metal spat out Armour, T3, Levoxyl, or some souped-up combination. Until that day arrives, you’ll unfortunately have to settle for seducing your current doctor by a display that minimizes their effort. It sucks, I know.
Especially when you start your day feeling tired, even when you had a full night’s sleep. You delay showers and shampooing to avoid handfuls of hair left clinging to the drain. You muster every ounce of energy to prepare meals for yourself and your family, slog your way through work, and feel like the walking dead by the time you reach home at night. You even have figured out how much more rest you need than your friends, ways to avoid and minimize certain stresses, and a supplement or two that many of your fellow thyroid brethren benefit from.
However, at the end of the day there is absolutely nothing in the tank. Feeling romantic? Nein! You need thyroid hormone, but you could get just about anything more easily – guns, cannabis, LSD, ecstasy, alcohol, Oxycontin, your boss’s social security number, Percocet, explosives; you get the idea. Yet, thyroid hormone is more rare and sacred than the proverbial hen’s tooth. It isn’t right. It isn’t ethical. And if you wait for the FDA or medical associations to change this practice you stand a good chance of being dead first.
Think I’m exaggerating? Just extrapolate the tens of millions of individuals diagnosed with hypothyroidism of some sort and those that aren’t. A fair number of the former (~8 million) I guarantee are receiving suboptimal care and the latter of course aren’t receiving any. So, what do they do? Usually play medical hopscotch, leaping from one specialist to the next. Medications are tried, conditions advance, and side effects show up out of the not so blue. Only this game is a lot more difficult than hopping on one foot from 7 to 8. It’s like doing it blindfolded and not even knowing the general direction of the chalk lines. Might as well walk into random doctors’ offices and play pin the tail on the diagnosis.
But, what do you do? How do you help yourself a lot while making it easier on your stressed and burned out doctor. You have to ask yourself two main questions. Have I optimized my own lifestyle enough based on my readings and research? If I have done this and still don’t feel like myself, where and how can I get help? The truth is you can do a lot on your own, that way if you do require medication it may work more effectively and be prescribed in lower doses as a result.
So I propose a little guided self-experimentation. Guided because there are many, many people now who have established blogs, written books, conducted medical interviews, uploaded research papers and study summaries, and even YouTube videos done by doctors and pharmacists going over hormone chemistry, dosing, nutrition, and the list goes on. Beginning with a food diary and when your symptoms occur, basal body temperature readings, and energy levels, is a great place to start.
The most successful patients I have seen, tracked results, both positive and negative. Whether this means a pen and paper, your phone, or an Excel spreadsheet is up to you. This practice keeps you honest and more importantly provides vital feedback to know if changing tactics is necessary. As doctors we write down notes for a reason, and if you get in this habit you’ll start to see pictures emerge. And almost without fail, the better you know yourself, the better you’ll be able to help your doctor know you.
I believe more than one of you has noted (wink, wink), that you feel like you know more about the thyroid, general hormones, and thyroid medications than your doctor does. Well, that’s because MANY OF YOU DO!!!
However, your doctor is holding the key to the proverbial treasure chest. He or she is all too happy to whip out a pen and scribble a prescription for your neighbor that wants to chase tale at night, lower their cholesterol, and not experience heartburn after downing McDonald’s and a six-pack while watching baseball in his recliner. And in my opinion, these drugs are far more likely to do harm than thyroid hormone. Hell, I bet a ten year old could go in to a grocery store and buy a bottle of Tylenol for mommy, which killed 321 people in the US alone in 2010. But beg, plead, prostrate yourself in front of your doctor and you’ll receive a shoulder shrug and a sorry.
But I digress. All of this is phase one. Phase two requires you obtaining medication since lifestyle optimization alone is insufficient. The more comprehensive you have been in phase one though, the better the results with your doctor.
How do you find a thyrosympathetic doctor?
Well, obviously start locally and see what the response is. Use thyroid-friendly directories that pepper the internet. Hypothyroid Mom has a list of resources to help locate great thyroid doctors.
Ask friends, neighbors, your local pharmacist or better yet, a compounding pharmacist. Then ask pointed questions. Who is prescribing T3, Armour, Naturethroid, compounded hormones, etc., in your area? Do they write a lot of prescriptions for these things or is it once every two years. More and more pharmacists are beginning to take on traditional roles of doctors by ordering tests and reviewing them with patients.
Once you exhaust local resources, you absolutely have to start thinking outside the box. Traveling becomes nearly mandatory in some form because of the draconian laws still on the books saying that a doctor can’t treat you from a distance without seeing you first in person. I’ve written about telemedicine before and I am confident this will change, but it’s going to take time you don’t have.
Normally people think of medical tourism for big things like hip replacements and cosmetic procedures, but it’s worthwhile to plan a vacation to a place you know you will be able to be seen and treated in a comprehensive way for your thyroid condition. Self-order labs locally to save time and money, forward results to the doctor abroad and that way you will just need a visit and prescription. Sound dreadful to go on “vacation” for some silly thyroid hormone? It can be the difference between surviving and thriving. And yes, I know many people simply won’t have money to do this. But if it means your health you can beg, borrow, and … to save enough for a trip. If this does work, be sure to find out ahead of time if the doctor requires seeing you in person every year or is content with Skype sessions to keep up your prescriptions.
Believe me, I wish the environment weren’t like this. Why on earth it is easier to get plastered and hop in a car, but so challenging to get pig thyroid I’ll never know. On a related but lighter note, anyone want to start raising organically grown pigs?
All this talking in the end is only that. Action is your best friend. Cast aside guilt, shame, embarrassment, and fear. Ask not what you have done for your doctor, but what your doctor has done for you. My guess is she’s towed the party line. So, tell her what you are doing, don’t tell her, I don’t really care. The reason I don’t care is I’ve seen it go one of three ways: doctor abandons patient, doctor is impartial but tolerates these adult acts of medical infidelity, or lastly doctor may realize the length you are willing to go to and decide to lift a pen in fear of losing business.
I encourage you to think of the worst that could happen and no I’m not talking about losing your doctor, rather your threads of health. Write that in one column. In the next, write everything you could do to minimize this from happening by taking appropriate action. And in the last column, write how you may feel if you get what you want.
Oh, I almost forgot the movie. This article was inspired by a movie based on a true story in Holland entitled Lucia de Berk. She was a pediatric nurse accused of murdering a number of infants; an accusation more emotionally charged than almost any other. Yet, from the beginning it was a witch-hunt. Doctors, co-workers, lawyers, and judges all saw what they wanted to see despite evidence to the contrary. And for this ineptitude, Lucia ended up spending more than six years in prison before finally being acquitted of all charges.
I hope you can appreciate the parallels. When making that first appointment at a new doctor’s office, the staff, nurses, and doctor may already be painting a picture in their mind of you. Complaining of being tired all the time? You’re depressed. Low sex drive and prone to emotional fluctuations? You’re depressed. Difficulty losing weight despite eating like a bird? You’re lazy, a liar, and in denial of being depressed.
I want more for you. Do what it takes to get the help you need whether your doctor is on board or not. And in the words of Stuart Smalley, remember to tell yourself this:
“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
What do you think? Are you willing to do something about your current predicament? What other ideas and experiences do you have to share? Who else already travels for care?
About Dr. Forrest Beck, ND
Dr. Forrest Beck is a naturopathic physician, author, natural health expert, and currently the Health Team Leader for AlMansoori Specialized Engineering in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. If he isn’t inspiring others to take control of their healthcare through his online communities including Hypothyroidism Help on Google+, he is doing so in person via speaking engagements and consulting. His book, Cultivating The Fine Art of SELFISHNESS, is a practical guide re-orienting individuals towards self-care, before caring for everyone else. Learn more at www.drforrestbeck.com.