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The Frustrating Reality for Many with Hypothyroidism
We can't all get access to natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) or supplemental T3, but every patient has a right to a treatment that fits the problem. So, why is it so hard to get the medication and dosage we need in order to thrive?
And why is it so hard to convince some doctors (including endocrinologists) that having a "normal" TSH value isn't enough.
What can we do?
When we try to persuade our health care providers that we need a higher dosage of thyroid medication - or that we'd like to try an alternative thyroid replacement like natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) - and we're met with resistance, there's more than one way to move forward:
1. Find another doctor
This can be an exhausting and frustrating process. You may need to Interview one doctor or physician's assistant after another until you find one who will listen and work with you.
For example, when you say you need your TSH value to be at the LOW end of what's considered normal in order for you to feel human and fully functional, that should persuade your health care provider to at least try a higher dosage -- even if it means you'll have to go in for more frequent testing to make sure your TSH value doesn't go way below the "normal range."
I go to a Physician's Assistant (PA) who listens and is working with me on my dosage. Our clinic won't allow her to prescribe NDT or even a supplemental dose of T3, because they're afraid I'll spiral into hyperthyroidism and have a heart attack -- which, in their eyes, could result in a malpractice suit against them.
I don't blame my PA for this, but I am a little irritated with our clinic for not even allowing me to try something other than the standard levothyroxine treatment.
I've read from so many people with hypothyroidism who feel much better on NDT than they ever did on Synthroid or its generic substitutes. I've taken Synthroid or generic Levothyroxine since I was five years old, so I've never known what it feels like to use anything else.
But while I am curious about NDT and I do wonder whether a supplemental dose of T3 would help, I refuse to believe that my health and well-being are limited by what our clinic considers "good enough" for me.
And this brings me to recourse #2:
2. Supplement thyroid medication with an OTC thyroid-support solution
This is the path I've chosen, because we can't afford to go out-of-network and pay for visits to a functional doctor or naturopathic practitioner -- nor can we afford prescriptions our insurance policy won't cover (unless they're dirt cheap).
It's not ideal, I know. I can't tell you how many times I've been told I should go to someone in Functional Medicine, who will be more likely to let me try a natural thyroid replacement. But that solution is beyond our budget, right now. And I know I'm not alone.
So, do we just accept that we'll feel like crap 24-7? Hell, no!
There are things we can do to help ourselves feel better -- things that help our thyroids produce more hormone and that help our bodies make better use of the thyroid hormone we have, whether it's natural or synthetic.
And we don't need a doctor's permission to try them.
We do need to do our research, though, and to use common sense when it comes to taking something that can have a dramatic effect on our hormone balance.
If it messes with your hormones, it'll mess with your neurotransmitters -- and depending on what your particular body needs, one supplement might do you a world of good but might have little or no noticeable effect on someone else -- and vice-versa.
I wrote a blog post months ago about my experience with a supplement that contained "adaptogenic herbs." I should have done more research into those particular herbs, but even if I had, there's no guarantee I could have accurately predicted what that supplement would do to me.
In a nutshell, tread carefully with adaptogenic herbs. They might sound woo-woo or snake-oil, but they do have an effect on your hormone balance, and sometimes that effect isn't a good one. I haven't given up on them as a whole, but I'm more careful with them, now.
[*Update: I've edited this next bit to reflect what I've learned since first publishing this post.]
I've found one supplement, so far, that has consistently helped me feel more energetic and alert:
- Adrenal Reset -- Daily Reset Pack by Dr. Alan Christianson
With the Daily Reset Packs, I only took one a day for over a week before I checked the box and realized I was supposed to take two packets a day (hence the 60 packets for a one-month supply). I actually found that one packet a day made a tremendous difference for me, so -- in the interest of saving money -- I continued with the one packet a day.
I've found it to be enough to help me feel much more functional than I felt without it.
I recently tried a much less expensive thyroid support supplement -- Vitamin Shoppe's "Thyroid Complex" -- but found after a couple weeks that my energy levels were actually decreasing. There are other factors that might be more responsible for this, and I've recently had a whole new set of blood tests run (thyroid panel, metabolic panel, Vitamin D, Lyme disease, etc.) to see what those other causes might be -- other than having a job that uses up most of my physical and social energy for the day.
I'm back on the Daily Reset Pack right now (still only one pack per day) -- which, frankly, has a whole lot more in it that boosts thyroid function and helps with all-over health.
Honestly, I'd love to say I feel 100% right now, but my energy levels are still low, and I'm still trying to find out why. I'm hoping it won't require another appointment with the endocrinologist (who, honestly, wasn't much help).
Is it any wonder I'm a huge fan of D.I.Y.?
Strength Training for Hormone Balance
Another thing we can do to help improve our hormone balance is to get some strength training in every week. You don't have to sweat for half an hour or more each week (though, if you can and want to, go for it).
I do most of my weight-training at home, mostly because I hate crowded places, and I don't like working out in front of other people. But there are times when I need a gym to do certain strength training moves that I can't do at home with my limited (space-saving) strength training equipment.
This is a subject I write about more in depth in another post -- Strength Training for Hormone Balance (I'll link to it when it's published).
For now, I can share some of the books I've read that have helped me design a strength training routine that builds lean muscle without wiping me out for the day. Some of the prices on the Amazon ads below are for the paperback versions. I saved some money by buying the Kindle books instead.
What we eat -- and don't eat -- obviously affects our hormone balance, too. I know many with thyroid issues swear by a gluten-free diet. but while I don't eat much bread, I haven't completely banned gluten from my diet.
No, really. I want to know. Share any recipes in the comments below! 🙂
I touched on this in my book, The Hypothyroid Writer. While I try to keep sugary snacks and other treats to a minimum, I haven't given up sugar or gluten completely, and I don't know that I ever will. But someone might convince me to (I'm not ruling it out).
If giving up gluten has changed your life or that of someone close to you, please share in a comment. I'm not writing about hypothyroidism with a fixed bias against those on either side of the gluten issue.
But I've never assumed that anyone with thyroid issues who still eats gluten is either uninformed or has a death wish. Neither is true of me, and I know I'm not alone in this. This is not the place to ram anyone's beliefs about gluten down other reader's throats.
Have you found a way to boost your energy levels that I haven't mentioned here? If so, I'd love it if you'd share it in the comments below!
Or you can tell me something about your own experiences with thyroid supplements and what has and hasn't helped you.
Thank you for reading this, and I look forward to reading something from you, too!