A guest post written by thyroid patient and advocate, Rachel Hill.
When it comes to having hypothyroidism, there are both some important do’s and don’ts for achieving wellness and reaching a point of being in good health with it.
Whereas some thyroid patients do just fine on the standard T4-only thyroid medication and seem to require no further interventions or adjustments, many also do not do as well, and for these patients, learning what the key things they should and shouldn’t be doing is crucial to their recovery back to a good quality of life.
Don’t: Settle for Inadequate Treatment
Do: Consider Other Options if The First One Doesn’t Work
When it comes to having hypothyroidism, the way in which patients are often treated for it is less than ideal. If you’re on T4-only medication such as Synthroid or Levothyroxine and still feel unwell, then it’s well worth knowing that it isn’t in your head. In fact, thousands of people worldwide still have hypothyroidism symptoms on these standard medications. That’s why we’re reading and writing these very articles!
The main reason why so many don’t respond well to T4-only preparations is due to a conversion issue.
The thyroid gland produces five hormones, T1, T2, T3, T4 and Calcitonin. T4-only medications Synthroid and Levothyroxine (among other names) contain just T4. But as this is the storage thyroid hormone, it needs converting in to T3 to be of any real use. The people who struggle to adequately convert that T4 to the active T3 tend to do better on another medication that includes T3 as well as T4.
Therefore, if you’re still feeling unwell on T4-only medication, please explore T3 containing medication such as synthetic T3 and Natural Desiccated Thyroid. Changing to these medications are often the intervention that shows the biggest improvements to combating symptoms.
Don’t: Ignore Your Thyroid Tests
Do: Pay Attention To Them
I always preach that thyroid patients embrace becoming their own advocate and this includes paying attention to your test results.
First of all, ensuring that you are having a full thyroid panel tested – get a FREE sample lab slip here – and not just TSH alone (which is inaccurate without the other components of a thyroid panel), is a big step. Many people stay undertreated due to the full tests not being ran and thus providing a less than accurate picture of what’s going on.
You should also always be obtaining a print out of your test results too. Keep a record of your medical history and notes at home so you can refer back to them whenever you need, so that you can see the full picture of your thyroid health and refer back to them at any time.
This doesn’t just go for thyroid tests either, but vitamin tests, adrenal stress tests, examinations and any others are good to keep a record of when exploring and maintaining your overall health. Many thyroid patients benefit from being more involved in their healthcare and treatment and this involves knowing what is being tested but also understanding what your test results mean. Being able to see where they fall and understanding what that means can help you understand if you’re being optimally treated. For example, aiming for optimal levels as opposed to just being ‘in range’ can make a huge difference.
Don’t: Think It’s Just Your Thyroid
Do: Explore The Other Pieces of The Puzzle
Where a lot of thyroid patients and doctors go wrong is by assuming that the only thing they need to address is the thyroid gland. In fact, the contrary is true. I always describe treating hypothyroidism as like piecing a jigsaw puzzle back together. There’s often many individual pieces and putting each one back in place gets you further to completing the journey.
As well as addressing low thyroid hormone levels, attention should also be paid to other factors that often coexist and contribute to the poor health of those with hypothyroidism. Other aspects of your health to consider when getting your life back on track with thyroid disease include: adrenal fatigue/dysfunction (learn more about the connection between adrenals and thyroid here), sex hormone imbalances, gut health, diet and food sensitivities, stress management, sleep routines, exercise and more.
Don’t: Stay With The Wrong Doctor
Do: Find One Who Will Drive Your Health Forward
If your doctor is dismissive, lacks understanding or sensitivity to what you’re saying, then they won’t be beneficial to you getting on top of your thyroid health. I’ve heard from countless thyroid patients who have been told that their symptoms are “all in their heads”, that they’re hypochondriacs or attention seekers. Doctors who also dismiss your requests to explore other treatment options if one medication isn’t working well, should also be avoided as they’re not helping you to get better, but instead hindering your recovery.
Many thyroid patients find the best success with functional and holistic doctors due to a wider range of medications being more readily available and doctors being more knowledgeable in how to use them effectively, but also for treating the patient as a whole, rather than lots of separate systems.
Doctors who give you ‘band-aid’ medications, for example thyroid medication for your hypothyroidism, pain medication for muscle aches as a result of the hypothyroidism, antidepressants for the low mood as a result of the hypothyroidism… are also stopping you from addressing your health properly.
Instead of covering up each symptom of hypothyroidism with a different medication, a doctor should be aiming to address the root cause of these symptoms adequately in the first place, so that growing list of prescriptions isn’t needed.
Don’t: Lose Hope
Do: Remember That You Can Be Well Again
Perhaps the most important ‘Don’t’ is to never lose hope of returning back to good health with hypothyroidism. Whilst it’s true that it can take a while to get there, with the need to address the whole endocrine system and then often gut health and other areas as well, please remember that it is possible and worth it in the end.
I have lost hope a few times on my thyroid journey and presumed myself doomed to a life of worsening health, struggles to remain in work and horrendous mental health. But as I started to embrace being my own thyroid advocate and implementing many of the things I mention in this article, I realized that having a good quality of life where my thyroid condition wasn’t a constant thought, wasn’t out of reach. I just needed to remain hopeful, become an active participant in my own healthcare and educate myself.
Get reading articles, blogs, books, listening to podcasts, watching documentaries and speaking to other thyroid patients. Support groups can also provide you with a lot of information as they are known for patients empowering other patients, giving out useful sources of information and helping you realize that you’re not alone in this battle.
Rachel Hill, Thyroid Patient and Advocate
Thyroid Patient Advocate
Rachel Hill, a thyroid patient advocate and expert, is a highly ranked writer who created the award-winning advocacy and website The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Diagnosed with Hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, CFS and Anxiety Disorder, she covers all aspects of what it’s like to have these conditions, is passionate about helping those with hypothyroidism and giving them a voice, and is well recognized as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community. Rachel’s work can also be found on her twitter, facebook, instagram and website.