Amongst those suffering from thyroid and autoimmune disease, stories abound about the difficulties of finding knowledgeable and caring doctors and practitioners to help manage the disease. Many doctors will admit that thyroid and autoimmune education is sorely lacking in medical school, leaving doctors ill-equipped to prevent, diagnose and treat thyroid and autoimmune disorders. This makes finding a doctor challenging at best and usually downright frustrating for those suffering. Here are some tips so you can find the right doc without having to kiss too many frogs.
A doctor who practices functional medicine uses a holistic approach where they address the underlying causes of disease instead of treating each symptom individually. Functional doctors look at the whole picture. This is particularly important for thyroid and autoimmune sufferers and thyroid disease involves several systems being out of balance at once - usually the thyroid, adrenals and gut but there can be more.
Functional medical doctors tend to have more and varied education and work with the patient in partnership so they can heal. An appointment with a functional practitioner is rarely rushed and often at least an hour long so they can spend time listening to their patient’s stories, symptoms and questions. Functional doctors focus on the uniqueness of the individual, often creating customized plans for healing. With thyroid and autoimmune disease, this is the best approach if you’re looking for medical support.
A common challenge for thyroid and autoimmune sufferers is misdiagnosis or not even being diagnosed at all. If your doctor is only willing to give you the standard thyroid tests and only treatment option is medication, he/she probably doesn’t have a lot of experience with reversing thyroid disease.
Ask your doctor the following questions, “How do you evaluate thyroid disease?” If they say they look to see if TSH levels are outside of the normal range, it’s time to find a doctor who understands thyroid health. Other questions to ask, “Can thyroid disease be reversed?” “How do you treat thyroid dysfunction?” “Do you regularly test for thyroid antibodies If his/her answer is “no,” reversing thyroid disease or testing for antibodies, that’s a clear sign you need to find a functional doctor who understands the thyroid and all the systems involved in healing.
Does your doctor listen when you discuss your symptoms, ask about alternatives for healing, or want your medication changed? Does he/she honor the request if you ask for a certain blood test or exam to be run? Does the doctor give thoughtful responses to your questions or is your doctor constantly interrupting you? If your doctor is more interested in the sound of his/her voice and less interested in relieving your symptoms and helping you heal, it’s time to look elsewhere. Instead, find a doctor whose core value is to listen. You will often be able to tell by reading his/her website or descriptions of his/her medical practice.
Sadly, many medical schools don’t require med students to take a nutrition course, thus most doctors are not well-versed in dietary theories that support healing. In addition to proper nutrition, thyroid and autoimmune sufferers can benefit from a variety of complementary therapies such as acupuncture, Reiki, health coaching, cranio-sacral work and massage therapy.
It’s important that your doctor is willing to work with a health coach, nutritionist, acupuncturist, etc. to get you the best care possible. No doctor knows everything and each of us deserves and need a healing team to help us with all aspects of our health. A doctor shouldn’t feel threatened by working with other supportive health practitioners. If your doctor gives you push back if you suggest working as a team with other specialists and practitioners, it’s time to find a better partner for your health care.
Does the doctor explain his/her reasoning for a particular test or protocol? Is he/she open about recommendations, your healing plan or side effects of thyroid and other medications? Are you able to easily get copies of your test results and doctor’s notes when you request them? A doctor should be open and thorough about recommendations, protocols and test results with you. You should have easy access to your records without having to jump through hoops.
A good doctor is available for quick follow-up questions about thyroid medications, side effects and other concerns via email, phone, Skype or text message. It’s common for a question to pop up regarding your thyroid treatment after you’ve already had your appointment. If you can’t connect to your doctor directly or through his staff between visits, there’s a problem. Fortunately, a growing number of physicians are making themselves available to their patients. Get your doctor’s cell phone number and email address for emergencies. You may only use it one time, but it could save you a trip to the hospital.
Do you find yourself routinely waiting an hour to see your physician then once you’re in front of him/her, you feel like you’re being rushed through the visit? Is your appointment frequently being rescheduled? If your doctor doesn’t respect that your time is valuable too, there’s a problem. He/she should be focused on answering your questions or addressing your concerns and not rushing you through the experience.
The office staff is the link between you and the doctor. If they are rude, rushed, neglect to give your doctor a message from you or blow you off, you may want to consider looking elsewhere. Sometimes it happens that the doctor is wonderful but his/her staff is lackluster. If the office staff is unprofessional and impeding your care, bring it up with your doctor. If it continues, you may want to shop around. A caring doctor will make sure his/her staff is trained to reflect his/her values.
The doctor who finally gave me a diagnosis is wonderful. But, when I asked him how my diet should be structured to help heal my thyroid, he couldn’t offer me much. After all, most doctors will admit that they didn’t learn much about nutrition during medical school. Since my doc is competent in other areas and takes the time to listen to my needs, I stuck with him.
However, if you feel uncomfortable or don’t trust that your doctor knows what he/she is doing, it’s time to find someone else. You need to feel confident and trust that your doctor knows how to help you reverse thyroid or autoimmune disease. If you don’t, it’s time to move on. Even if they are the sweetest person in the world, you must move on. Don’t settle for a doctor who doesn’t know how to help you heal or relieve your symptoms.
If your doctor makes you feel small, stupid or sad or is a jerk to you in any way, it is definitely time to part ways. If they disregard your requests or trivialize your symptoms, you need to steer clear. Don’t settle for a bad doctor. You deserve the best!
Although finding the right doctor to support you with thyroid and autoimmune might feel like a daunting task, it’s worth doing your due diligence to find the right fit. Having a compassionate, caring and knowledgeable doctor can be the difference between suffering and true healing. Take your time and don’t settle for less than the best when it comes to your health.
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