Many thyroid patients simply don't feel well. Despite being diagnosed and treated, you still feel tired, or depressed, or anxious, or have weight and sleep problems, hair loss, and other symptoms and challenges that affect your quality of life on a daily basis.
As a thyroid patient, the first people you blame may be your doctors and health care practitioners.
But in the end, that may not be helping you truly move forward, and figure out how to feel well. Yes, it's easy to blame the medical world, but when it comes to your health, in the end, you bear responsibility. As the old saying goes, "the buck stops here."
Before you get too up in arms, let's take a look at the five reasons why your poor thyroid health could be your own fault!
1. You Believe Everything Doctors Tell You
One of the biggest mistakes thyroid patients make that make it impossible for them to feel well is to believe everything the doctor says. Yes, doctors go to medical school, but that does not make them incapable of errors, or knowledgeable about everything, or up to date on the latest information. We have doctors out there assuring thyroid patients that natural thyroid is going off the market, that levothyroxine is the only thyroid drug, that you won't gain weight after treatment for hyperthyroidism, or that radioactive iodine (RAI) is the only treatment for hyperthyroidism.
Of course, none of these things arefactual -- and believing them could make it hard -- or impossible -- for you to get decent thyroid care.
So what is the solution? The key is becoming a knowledgeable and empowered patient. One essential way to get started is to read up on the latest thyroid news -- subscribing to my weekly free About.com Thyroid Newsletter can help.
You can also learn a great deal about how to be an empowered patient from other thyroid patients. Patients who have been through the trenches often have the best advice and suggestions.
And don't forget to do you homework. Read, read, read! (I have thousands of articles here at the Thyroid site at About.com to help you understand all facets of thyroid diagnosis and treatment, as well as numerous books about thyroid health that can help.)
2. You Don't Take Your Thyroid Medicine Regularly, or At All
I can't tell you how many times people tell me that they don't feel well, or they're miserable, they feel like giving up, and so on -- and then casually mention that, oh, by the way, "I'm terrible about taking my medication every day." Or, "It wasn't helping, so I stopped taking my medication a few months ago."
Seriously! If you are going to go through the whole process of getting diagnosed and treated, and a doctor prescribes thyroid medication for you, and then you don't take it, then you have yourself to blame if you don't feel well!
There are a variety of reasons that people decide not to take their thyroid medication, and it's worth at least considering the implications to your health and well-being, and the reasons why it makes sense to take your medication.
You may also be trying to take your medication, but having a hard time remembering. Here are 10 Creative Ways to Remember to Take Your Thyroid Pill. Also, more than 300 thyroid patients have shared their suggestions on how to remember to take your thyroid pills.
2. You Are Taking Advice From the Wrong People
If you're a thyroid patient, there's a steady stream of people who want to offer you advice, or sell you something. The $10,000+ cash-up-front "heal your thyroid" programs that don't involve MDs or medications, the clerks at health food stores pushing iodine supplements, fellow thyroid patients at forums, Facebook pages and Twitter, the thyroid "cure-all" supplements, the amazing diets solutions/secret cures/previously unknown miracle protocols that will solve your thyroid problems, all presented in $19.95 downloadable ebooks, the self-proclaimed thyroid experts, not to mention a growing list of web sites, blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds from usually well-meaning but often misinformed people who believe they and only they have a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter answer to your thyroid challenges.
While input, advice, and information can be helpful, remember that everything you read on the Internet is not coming from someone knowledgeable, and the advice you get may not be safe, effective, or appropriate for you. The most important partner in this journey to wellness is a good doctor who can help you vet the advice, information and ideas you get online, and make sure that they make sense, and will help -- and not hurt -- you...and your wallet.
4. You Eat the Wrong Things
I hear from thyroid patients who can't understand why they are feeling worse, even after being diagnosed. When I ask what their diet is like, I sometimes hear that the person is doing a "totally healthy raw juice" diet -- consisting mainly of spinach, kale, and other green vegetables. Sounds great, except these vegetables, when eaten raw, are all "goitrogens" -- foods that can slow down the thyroid, make the thyroid enlarge, and promote formation of a goiter.
Or sometimes people will share that they are on a "health kick" and having a lot of soy milk, edamame, tofu, soy burgers, soy shakes, and soy bars. Or they've started on a diet program where the meal replacement shakes/bars/snacks use soy as their protein source. Again, sounds great, except that soy, a goitrogen, also can block the body's ability to absorb thyroid hormone.
Then there are the thyroid patients who have tests (like the anti-gliadin antibodies test, or allergy testing -- that shows a sensitivity to gluten or wheat products. And yet, I hear them say, "I just can't give up bread (or pasta)!" So they continue to eat gluten and wheat, which cause inflammation, and can worsen autoimmune thyroid problems and symptoms.
5. You Have the Wrong Doctor
Ok, so this one kind of goes back to the beginning -- because if you don't have a good doctor, it's going to be almost impossible for you to actually feel well. And the signs that you have the wrong doctor for your thyroid care are often pretty obvious and hard to ignore. So why do I hear thyroid patients say that they're afraid to find a new doctor because "I don't want to insult the current doctor" or "he might get mad at me?" I've heard thyroid patients say that, because their current doctor is no help, "I've given up on finding a decent doctor." I've heard people say that they refuse to pay out of pocket to see a recommended doctor, even when they can afford it, because "I've already paid into my health insurance and it's not fair for me to have to pay a dollar more."
The bottom line? If you need a new thyroid doctor, you need a new thyroid doctor... and you can't worry about the current doctor's fragile feelings. If you are not getting the treatment you need, politely move to a new and better doctor. And recognize that doctors who are part of HMOs and insurance programs are also obligated to follow approved guidelines and protocols set by the HMOs and insurers -- and those guidelines and protocols typically don't include the full range of tests and treatment options you may want to access. You can sometimes work within the system to get a doctor to broaden his/her scope a bit, but if you can afford it, the fastest and most effective approach is often to pay out of pocket for a once or twice-a-year visit to an open-minded expert in thyroid and hormone balance.