Many hypothyroid patients struggle to find good thyroid treatment with the right practitioner or doctor. I frequently hear from frustrated patients who have been to multiple doctors in the search for effective treatment of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. For some reason, it is very difficult to find good treatment!
There are a lot of different types of doctors and practitioners out there who focus on hypothyroidism and thyroid disease. So how do you know which one is best for your thyroid treatment?
When looking at practitioners be sure to research and choose wisely. I’ll be expressing some opinions about the different practitioners here based on feedback from the thousands of thyroid patients I have treated over the years.
Endocrinologists are the first to come to mind, since their focus is on hormones, but many patients tell me they experience them to be stuck in old models of treatment and that they do not acknowledge the importance of autoimmune thyroid disease diagnosis and treatment. Of course, that is a broad generalization and I do recognize that some endocrinologists treat the autoimmune component of thyroid disease, but by far most do not consider it important or even treatable. This is important to know because if you want to heal from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and feel your best, you need to find a practitioner who will diagnose and treat the autoimmune component of your thyroid disease, not just the hypothyroidism part. Also, they tend to focus their practices more heavily on diabetes management. If you have thyroid disease that requires fine needle aspiration of a suspicious looking nodule to rule out thyroid cancer, by all means, an endocrinologist should be your first stop. But I’m referring to treating long term hypothyroidism related to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and the autoimmune component of the disease so that you can feel your absolute best through the years of ongoing treatment. For that type of care, endocrinologists are not high on the list when it comes to patient satisfaction.
Endocrinologists typically prefer to treat with synthetic T4 only medications like Synthroid or levothyroxine and many are not open to prescribing Natural Dessicated Thyroid. While some patients can do just fine on T4 only synthetic thyroid replacement, many do not feel as well on it, and want other options that include T3 optimization. It can be difficult to find an endocrinologist who is open to prescribing T3 or NDT medications such as Naturethroid, WP Thyroid or Armour.
Chiropractors are another practitioner some patients choose. They tend to come from a place of thinking thyroid replacement is not necessary and healing can happen from regular chiropractic adjustments and glandular supplements. Again, this is a generalization and I do realize that each chiropractor may approach things differently, but the purpose of this blog is to give people a general idea of what to expect from the typical approaches of different practitioners. Many patients try a chiropractic approach when they want to avoid thyroid replacement medications. Success is limited in my experience and from hearing from many patients over the years. Chiropractors are limited also in that they cannot order bloodwork or prescribe certain medications.
Naturopathic physicians tend to treat a lot of thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, and many are open to addressing the autoimmune component of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. While each naturopathic doctor is unique in their approach to practice, you can pretty easily find practitioners who focus on thyroid treatment and who are open to prescribing Natural Dessicated Thyroid and treating the whole person. If considering going to a naturopathic physician, ask them if thyroid treatment is a focus of their practice and if they have had success with helping hypothyroid patients over the years. The more experience they have in this area the better. If they are a general practitioner and don’t treat it very often, that could be a limitation.
Functional Medicine practitioners are doctors or nurse practitioners who believe in treating the cause of disease and treating the whole person. It is a very similar philosophy of treatment to naturopathic medicine. These types of practitioners are generally going to be more open to treating autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and looking for the root cause. Functional medicine practitioners also usually work outside of the limited insurance based medical model and spend more time with patients. From what patients have told me their main limitation can be cost, in that it can be cost prohibitive for some to afford.
Here is a list of questions I’d suggest asking when you are considering a new practitioner:
- Do you prescribe Natural Dessicated Thyroid as well as synthetic T4 medications?
- Do you test for TSH, T4 Free, T3 Free, antibodies and other hormones such as cortisol and sex hormones? (there are many other important tests but these are the basics)
- Do you test for and treat the autoimmune component of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?
- Do you believe in optimizing thyroid levels to help patients feel better versus just getting levels into the normal ranges on bloodwork?
Don’t be afraid to interview potential new practitioners. Many times if they don’t have time to chat briefly with you by phone, their office staff will be able to easily answer the questions posted above. You can also email those questions and ask for the practitioner to briefly answer and many will. I’ve only received a few of these types of inquiries and I’m happy to answer them when people ask, it tells me they are savvy and have researched the options!
I hope these suggestions have been helpful! You deserve to feel better and don’t be afraid to shop around for the right practitioner/doctor to help you with your hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. You CAN feel better! The first step is finding the right practitioner.