Thyroid issues are prevalent these days. In fact, they probably always have been but with more and more people getting tested the number of people diagnosed with hypothyroid has skyrocketed.
In clinic, we see people all the time who are on thyroid medication — usually levoxyl/synthroid and sometimes armour thyroid. The usual story I hear is of an elevated TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) detected on a routine blood test, followed by a prescription for medication.
TSH is an indirect measure of thyroid function. It tells a doctor reading the test how hard your pituitary gland — the part of your brain that tells most other endocrine glands how much hormone to secrete — is working to stimulate your thyroid. A high TSH is thought to mean that your pituitary having to talk very loudly or even scream at your thyroid to get it working. A low TSH, on the other hand, is interpreted as your pituitary only having to whisper to get your thyroid going.
Here’s the problem, though. Oftentimes doctors will prescribe medication based on TSH alone. They may ask about possible symptoms to confirm there may be an actual thyroid issue — like recent weight gain, tiredness, difficulty waking up in the morning… And, let’s be real — WHO DOESN’T HAVE AT LEAST ONE OR ALL OF THOSE?
So, you start taking thyroid medicine and, well… You don’t feel any better. You really don’t feel that much difference. Yet, your TSH comes down (which is what the doctor wants to see), so you are told you have to stay on it and will need to come in for regular checkups to monitor it.
This is the story I hear quite often from people who have landed in my acupuncture and natural medicine clinic where we specialize in helping people with hormonal imbalances. They’ve come to myself or my associate because they’re still not losing weight, or they’re still feeling tired a lot, or they’re just not feeling well.
They know something is “off”, but the doctor is telling them the TSH is normal and other bloodwork looks OK.
It’s what I call “treating a piece of paper instead of treating a person”. In other words, the doctor — and this even happens with many so-called “wellness” doctors — get so focused on the numbers on tests and getting those to be normal that they forget to ask their patient the simple question, “How are you feeling?”
Sadly, the process of simple face-to-face, heart-centered listening is becoming a lost art in medicine. You will rarely find a doctor who is willing to take the time to listen to your story, ask probing questions to look for a root cause. Most medical professionals today will — at the first opportunity — look to end the conversation and order the lab tests that will let them get back to crunching numbers on lab tests.
TIME FOR A VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT STOP ANY PRESCRIBED MEDICATIONS, ESPECIALLY HORMONES, WITHOUT MEDICAL SUPERVISION OR WITHOUT CONSULTING THE PRESCRIBING PHYSICIAN. STOPPING HORMONES ABRUPTLY CAN CAUSE SERIOUS, EVEN FATAL, EFFECTS. EVERY SITUATION IS UNIQUE, THIS CASE INCLUDED, AND IT IS VERY IMPORTANT YOU NOT GENERALIZE THESE RESULTS TO YOURSELF. TO FIND OUT IF THE UNIQUE METHODS OF TREATMENT OUTLINED IN THIS CASE HISTORY MIGHT BE A GOOD FIT FOR YOU, YOU MAY SCHEDULE A FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION.
When Janice — a 55-year old active, doting mother of three (and newly minted grandmother of twins, but we’ll get to that later) — first came into my office, she was going through a rough time. Continually contracting colds, feeling tired and sick all the time, losing her hair… And frustrated that she wasn’t feeling better OR losing any weight after getting a diagnosis of hypothyroid and being placed on thyroid medication.
“My numbers are OK now,” she said, “but I just don’t feel well. I’m still gaining weight and I’m constantly tired. I’ve had a cold every month for the past four months. And, I’m worried if my hair loss doesn’t slow down, I’m going to be bald within a year or two.”
She’d returned to her MD, who said her numbers (TSH and thyroid hormones) were in range. Janice was already taking progesterone supplementation by then as well, so the doctor offered her testosterone replacement as an add-on. At this point, Janice was reluctant. She’d read about some side effects of testosterone replacement and started wondering if there would be more hormones offered later if that didn’t work…
Back up a few months. Janice’s daughter had come to see me for help with fertility and was getting really good results. Her cycles had regulated and become less painful, her energy was dramatically improved, and she’d noticed — as she put it — “I just FEEL SO MUCH BETTER.” I always tell my patients this is my gold standard for measuring progress.
Janice’s daughter has since given birth to healthy twin girls. That’s another story I may cover later. I want to focus on her mom for now and the continued progress I’m seeing. But first…
Treating People Vs. Treating Pieces of Paper
I’m happy to look at tests and use them as an adjunct to my organic process of face-to-face, conversational diagnosis. But, I don’t use them much to gauge progress.
All I need to hear is:
- “I feel better”, or
- “I’m sleeping so much better”, or
- “My energy has improved so much”, or
- “I’m a lot calmer”, or
- “My allergies are calming down”, or
- “I didn’t get sick this month”, or
- … anything that indicates what I call “increased expression of healing intelligence”.
You see, when your body is functioning at a higher level, you FEEL it. You are less sluggish, more focused, your appetite and mood better regulated, sleep improved, digestion more regular… In other words:
WHEN YOU FEEL BETTER YOU ARE BETTER.
OK, so back to Janice. Once she started working with me, there was an IMMEDIATE — and I mean IMMEDIATE — change in her energy levels. The very next time she came to see me just a week later, she was glowing and so excited to tell me what a difference she felt.
“The very next day after I saw you, there was a dramatic improvement in my energy. And it’s continued to get better. I haven’t had this much energy in years!”, she said.
That, right there, was so gratifying for me to hear. Especially because all we’d done is one acupuncture session and started her on a few herbal and nutritional supplements.
People who tell you natural medicine is slow… I want to say one thing here and I’m not going to be super-polite about it. Those people simply don’t know how to use natural medicine properly.
Natural medicine can be insanely quick when you get the right combinations of things. WHY?
Because natural medicine enhances and guides the most powerful healing instrument the world has ever known. YOU.
Your body is PRIMED TO HEAL. It is always SEEKING WHOLENESS. And, guess what? When you give it the support it needs, it gets to work in a NANOSECOND. And, it is incredibly efficient and accurate once it is able to get itself on the right track.
The House That Builds and Re-Builds Itself
If you were building a house, and you didn’t have enough lumber or building materials, I don’t care how skilled your workers are, nothing’s going to get done.
Or, if you were building a house and all the lumber and materials were on site but the workers were too tired or couldn’t get there on time because of traffic, you STILL don’t have a house. It’s still impossible to begin construction.
Or, if you had all the lumber and materials, the best and most energized workers, but there was confusion on the schedule or the blueprint, you’ve still got problems.
When the materials are present, the workers are energized, and the blueprint clearly communicated, you end up with a beautiful, complete, and high-quality home.
Healing is a process of regeneration, of re-construction, of renewal. So, we need the materials, we need the cellular energy and capacity, and most importantly we need the signals that convey a clear blueprint and schedule.
And, this is exactly what happens when you 1) give your body what it needs and 2) stop doing things that get in the way of clear signals between different body systems and 3) support cellular energy and resilience with your diet, lifestyle, and habits.
So, anyway, back to Janice… In Janice’s case, despite how depleted she was — how sick she was — as soon as we gave her body the resources, the space, and the energy, it showed up with the fullness of its innate healing power and — almost instantly — she felt better.
But, that’s not where this story ends. Just last week I saw her for a routine follow-up visit, where we check on her continued progress and ensure we don’t need to make any adjustments. Again, she didn’t disappoint.
“Whatever we’re doing, it’s really working… My hair is growing back. And, I stopped my thyroid medication months ago.”
Now, here’s the thing. I didn’t know she’d stopped taking her thyroid medication until that moment. One thing I never do is tell people to stop medications. I’m not against medications at all. In fact, I work with a lot of people who are taking medications but still not feeling well. At our clinic, we focus on getting them as well as possible and many of them then choose to reduce their medications on their own.
There is no greater incentive to want to feel better than… feeling better.
So, Janice intuitively sensed her thyroid medication wasn’t doing anything to help. She had consulted with her doctor and stopped taking it a couple of months after she started feeling the dramatic changes that just a few supplements, herbs, and once-weekly acupuncture had yielded.
And, now her hair is growing back. It’s something to see, I tell you. A 55 year-old woman — who was told “this was as good as it gets and the only thing that will help is more hormones” — that is now full of energy, barely ever getting sick, and growing new hair.
Miraculous? Nope. And I’m not trying to say it is.
You might think I’m trying to push this off as a miracle story or something. Far from it. THIS IS WHAT BODIES DO — THEY HEAL.
And, YOURS CAN, TOO.
I tell this story to give you hope, to inspire you, and to remind you what is possible when you discover, then provide, the things your body needs to support its innate healing process.
Never accept “this is as good as it gets”. Never stop looking for ways to amplify the healer within. Don’t let anyone — myself included — tell you “it’s too late” or “you’re not going to heal”.
My next story is coming soon and outlines a case of lifelong IBS and polyposis (recurrent polyps in the colon) that cleared up in a similar fashion – and with similar speed – to Janice’s situation. This was after years of being under the care of some of the best gastroenterologists and having multiple surgeries. I can’t wait to share that one with you.