What Flute Are You Following?

You know the story of the Pied Piper, right? It struck me in talking to my friend this week that many of us follow our doctor’s advice like they are Pied Pipers. They say something, we follow it like some magical flute leading us along a wrong way path, often because we are given no choice in the matter.

I have talked to far too many people who, when they question a doctor’s diagnosis or ask about something their doctor said (or didn’t say), are put on the spot with some inane question like “I suppose you read that online” accompanied by a look that puts you in your place. For those folks, I thought I would share my friend’s recent experience. As usual I will most likely make a short story long but bear with me.

My friend, who shall remain nameless for privacy sake, receives medical care from, in my words, a functional medicine physician (or integrative is another term for the same type of medical practice) for Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia. Functional medicine physicians as defined by me are MDs who ask more questions, incorporate all walks of medicine in their practice and generally think outside the box. I think they are far superior to the poor overworked GP who has been told by their practice managers that they have no more than 15 minutes per patient and sometimes, it has been noted, never take their hand off the doorknob. This is an important detail because she is being treated, let’s just say for the ease of it, in a rather elite fashion.

My friend and I have weekly discussions about health because we are both avid researchers and honestly, we are willing to experiment with alternative medical treatments. For example, I met my friend when I owned a FIR sauna business. She came in for FIR sauna treatments to help diminish her fibromyalgia pain. She was experimenting to see if the sauna would really help (To her doctor’s credit she had suggested the FIR sauna).

To exemplify my willingness to try alternative medical care, two years ago I bought a Mercola Sunsplash Renew because Joe Mercola claimed it could maintain healthy D levels with no supplementation. I felt having good D levels was of primary importance to the healthy functioning of a human body. I think this is another important detail because both my friend and I try to think outside the proverbial “box”.

We also try various treatment plans our doctors suggest and we try out things we have researched and then we spend time testing these things and discussing them. We have often discussed thyroid disease as that is my primary interest and my friend would tell me about symptoms she thought were typical of hypothyroidism. Practitioners like Dr. John Lowe feel that there is a connection between Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism, so I asked her long ago in one discussion if she had ever had a complete thyroid panel. In my opinion, everyone who has some symptoms should have a complete thyroid panel and if your doctor won’t test it then do it yourself.

At the time she told me “No, my doctor has only run a TSH. She always says I am fine.” Really? REALLY? My friend is cold all the time, she suffers from constipation, she can’t sleep, she has unremitting pain and rather more subjectively she feels her hair is falling out. What more do you need before you as a doctor run a complete thyroid panel?

On and on these discussions went and this year when she saw her integrative medical doctor for her yearly appointment my friend requested a complete thyroid panel be done. I will list below the thyroid tests plus the other tests that Janie Bowthorpe recommends to diagnose hypothyroidism properly:

      1-TSH – this lab is only for diagnosis of hypopituitary NOT to diagnose or dose your hypothyroidism
      2-Free T4 and Free T3 (note the word “free”–important since it measures what is unbound and available.)
      3-Reverse T3–to be done at the same time you do the Free T3. Then calculate your ratio with the results.
      4-Thyroid Antibodies (anti-TPO and TgAb. YOU NEED BOTH.)
      5-Ferritin and % Saturation, TIBC and serum iron (all iron related labs)
      6-Adrenal- Cortisol levels (make sure it is done with saliva tests, not the one time blood test your doctor will do.)
      7-B-12 and Folate
      8-RBC Magnesium and Potassium (rather than serum), plus Calcium, Sodium, Glucose (part of Metabolic panel, though you’ll need RBC for above)
      9-Vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D lab test)

My friend had tested many of these things prior to this year’s appointment, so she only requested the thyroid tests and guess what, just guess? She has Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, her FT3 was a little low and her FT4 was a little high and she had a RT3 ratio of 12 and it should be at least 20. She has hypothyroidism and a RT3 issue and no one, not even the best doctor in our area, had ever checked this out and it would have been so simple. If she hadn’t been diligent, irritatingly persistent and had a doctor willing to indulge her requests she would never have known that her thyroid needs attention.

Of course, now the question is where does she go with her new found knowledge. It is a serous question to ponder. She does not want to self treat, so she is researching the “good thyroid” docs in our area and finding there aren’t very many, sadly she isn’t sure there are any, and this is the “progressive” state of Minnesota. She could go to her integrative medicine doctor but she was already told by that doctor that she knew nothing of reading a thyroid panel like the one my friend requested. I would suggest my functional medicine guy but he totally overlooked my RT3 ratio and when my TSH was suppressed by Armour he immediately lowered my dose which was unnecessary (when on NDT your TSH should be suppressed) , so I hardly want to refer someone to him.

It is a conundrum we all will face eventually. The best thing for all of us would be a revamping of our medical education and elimination of insurance driven medical practices but neither of those will ever happen (I feel government control is no better than insurance companies). We can take things in to our own hands as much as possible as Joe Mercola advocates with his “take control of your health”. Dr. Teitelbaum at End Fatigue had an interesting article on what to do if given a “serious diagnosis” but knowing the right thing for you when things go wrong is difficult at best.

There are many things that can go wrong with the human body. In this case, I think it comes down to the “thyroid madness” that Janie Bowthorpe refers to on her site and in her book “Stop the Thyroid Madness”. No one, not even elite doctors take the issue seriously and we patients have to stop following like lemmings and think for ourselves, do our research and be our own best advocate. If my friend weren’t her own best advocate she would still be in the dark about a treatable condition. I see this as a serious dereliction of duty on the part of medical doctors who have promised to “do no harm”. It is happening too often to too many people out there with hypothyroid symptoms. They are quite literally being led astray by a magical flute played by a medical school graduate referred to respectfully as Doctor. Never mind the last name is Pied Piper.

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