The way I see it, there are four ways you can approach a health diagnosis:
- The conventional medical approach: You see an M.D. that is trained and credentialed by a traditional medical board. The most common recommendations involve surgery and medications. The approach follows the common information you would see on websites like Mayo Clinic, WebMD, etc.
- The integrative/functional medicine approach: This is when you would see a practitioner who has training in both traditional medicine and natural medicine. The practitioner pulls interventions from both worlds depending on the needs of the patient. While the approach may involve surgery and medications when appropriate, the main focus is on nutrition, lifestyle and identifying and eradicating triggers.
- The alternative medicine approach. This approach rejects medications and surgery entirely and states that the body can heal itself and that medications and surgery can interfere with the healing process. Recommendations are based on lifestyle entirely, and surgery and medications are not recommended.
- Wait and watch, ignoring the health condition, paralysis by analysis: This last approach is sometimes taken by people who are not ready to take action, in denial, overwhelmed or confused. While it may be a natural response for some people in the early stages of diagnosis, I don’t recommend lingering in this stage for too long, especially when one has a progressive condition like autoimmune disease or cancer.
When I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and subclinical hypothyroidism, I sought the advice of a highly regarded endocrinologist. He was one of the most caring human beings I’ve ever met and spent over an hour with me to go over any questions I had.
While I was impressed with his bedside manner and his knowledge about the thyroid, I was disappointed with his opinion on lifestyle changes. This endocrinologist was very much against alternative and complementary therapies and told me that my nutrition didn’t matter, acupuncture wouldn’t help, and that the best thing I could do for myself was to take medications.
The rebel in me at first decided that I would overcome Hashimoto’s with alternative therapies and I decided to embark on a journey with acupuncture, forgoing medications. While the acupuncture helped, and my condition didn’t decline, I still found myself with a lot of symptoms.
After a trip to New York where I suffered a few panic attacks, emotional instability, and uncontrollable shivering spells, I decided to stop torturing myself and to do something that I knew would help… to take thyroid medications.
But I didn’t see taking medications as giving up (neither should you). I saw medications as a way to help me live my best life, while I figured out what else was happening inside my body.
The medications improved my brain fog, energy, emotions and cold intolerance, however not fully… and I still had inflammation, joint pain, headaches, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, carpal tunnel, and many other annoying symptoms.
And I decided to take on a complementary approach. I would take the conventional doctors’ advice while continuing to search for answers on my own.
In retrospect, I do think that I should have started taking thyroid medications sooner. After all, thyroid medications can slow down the progression of Hashimoto’s, made me feel better, and are the same hormones my body makes. Over the years, I have been able to reduce my dose of medications, as the inflammation in my body has decreased.
Did the medications “interfere” with my healing by suppressing my production of thyroid hormones? Some proponents of alternative medicine may say so; I say that I feel better than I did in my twenties and am really happy with my hair, body, energy levels and brain function. I am also happy that I treated myself with kindness, rather than expecting myself to figure everything out while I suffered needlessly. After all, my Hashimoto’s didn’t develop overnight, and I wasn’t going to be able to heal it overnight either. On average, it takes one month of healing for every year you have had the condition. I likely had Hashimoto’s for 23-24 years when I was finally diagnosed! Lifestyle changes take time to work, while thyroid medications can provide your body with the hormones it has been missing right away!
Personally, for me, the integrative/functional medicine approach worked best, combining traditional medicine with lifestyle. But I don’t believe there is one right approach for every person, with every condition. We are all unique individuals and the decision on which approach to take ultimately lies with you.
The most important thing you can do, before you decide on an approach is to educate yourself properly. When I first embarked on “alternative healing” for Hashimoto’s, I wasn’t properly educated, and so I only tried acupuncture while still eating the Standard American Diet. I could have had far better results had I combined acupuncture with nutrition and T4/T3 medications!
I wasn’t educated properly because there were hardly any resources about Hashimoto’s back in 2009. This is why I decided to write the patient guide Hashimoto’s the Root Cause to help people educate themselves about overcoming Hashimoto’s, based on my research and the failures and successes I had!
I shared the approach I took to my Hashimoto’s with you… I’ve been there and done it and can tell you that I’ve had amazing outcomes with the functional medicine approach. But thyroid cancer was not a part of my journey, and it’s a different animal…so I’d like to share a few resources about thyroid cancer, from people who know a lot more about cancer than I do; from their many years of education, patient experience, and personal experience.
Of course, I always think that lifestyle is important, but in many cases, more aggressive measures may be needed.
If you are currently dealing with thyroid cancer, or know someone who is, I wanted to offer two potential perspectives for you…
- Dr. Steven Eisenberg, MD is an integrative oncologist who has worked with numerous patients with thyroid cancer. We address the conventional (medications/surgery) and complementary approach (mediations/surgery + lifestyle).
- Chris Wark is a cancer survivor and natural cancer advocate who recommends alternative therapies for cancer (not taking medications or doing surgery, only lifestyle).
Of course, every person’s journey is different, and I haven’t been there personally, so I suggest that if you or a person you love is dealing with this diagnosis, you do your research, follow your instincts and work with a doctor you trust.
The conventional and complementary approach
The conventional and complementary approach to thyroid cancer with Dr. Steven Eisenberg. Dr. Steven is a compassionate oncologist with an appreciation for lifestyle. Dr. Steven has worked with numerous cancer patients with a patient-centered approach!
The complementary and alternative approach
The complementary and alternative approach with cancer survivor/patient advocate, Chris Wark. Chris used a complementary approach to overcoming his cancer, utilizing surgery (but not chemo), and focusing on intense lifestyle changes.
The alternative approach to thyroid cancer…
Chris has been collecting success stories from his readers and wanted me to share three success stories of alternative therapies that helped his readers recover from thyroid cancer.