If your Hashimoto’s diagnosis was anything like mine, it might have gone something like this: “We got your blood tests back. You’ve got Hashimoto’s disease. Your thyroid function will gradually deteriorate, and you’ll be on thyroxine for life”.
Cue full-blown panic! Hashimoto’s thyroiditis? Autoimmune disease? Lifelong thyroid hormone replacement? These are pretty big terms to be confronted with, and sadly, many patients have little understanding of what the thyroid actually does, let alone what it means to have Hashimoto’s disease. This is a pretty huge topic in and of itself, so stay tuned for future blog posts on the topic, where I’ll cover what the thyroid does, what Hashimoto’s disease actually is, how we manage it naturopathically and more. For now though, this blog post is more of an SOS post for individuals recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease and stuck in that awful no-man’s land feeling of what now?!
First of all, don’t panic!
We are so fortunate to have both modern medicine and traditional naturopathic medicine that can help you manage your condition. Speaking from personal experience, a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s disease might feel like the end of the world, but trust me when I say it is not synonymous with a life sentence of weight gain, lethargy, dry skin, hair loss and constipation. Between conventional and naturopathic approaches, we have a huge arsenal of tools we can use to support your thyroid function, reduce antibody titres, alleviate your symptoms and ensure you continue to feel vibrant and vital long-term. This is why my second recommendations are to get yourself a great naturopath and wonderful endocrinologist!
When working with a naturopath to manage or even reverse your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, it is so important to choose a university-qualified naturopath who specialises in thyroid diseases and ideally, has done further education and research in this area. The thyroid is a complex organ that affects every system in your body, and so it is so important to work with someone who understands the many roles of the thyroid, the pathophysiology of Hashimoto’s disease and the many predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating factors that underly autoimmune thyroid disease. Before choosing a naturopath, do your research, ask for recommendations and find someone in your area who is truly qualified to take your health into their hands. This might not be the naturopath with the shiniest Instagram or biggest social media following, but is someone who lives and breathes their specialty. If you’re looking for a naturopath in Perth who specialises in thyroid disorders, feel free to get in touch!
Secondly, find yourself a great endocrinologist! If working with a naturopath, it’s best to find an endocrinologist who is interested in and open to naturopathic medicine, to ensure a truly collaborative and effective partnership. There are many wonderful endocrinologists who promote a holistic and integrative approach to managing thyroid disorders, so do your research first!
Next, educate yourself!
Once you’ve got your healthcare team on side, it’s time to educate yourself and take ownership of your health. Read about the thyroid and understand what Hashimoto’s disease is, but make sure you get your information from reputable sources, such as textbooks, medical journals and health professionals. This is not the time to rely solely on your favourite Youtuber or social media influencer for their ‘Hashimoto’s Story’. Ask your naturopath or endocrinologist to explain the condition, it’s treatment and their treatment goals and expectations to you. Ask questions, be informed and be proactive!
Lastly, know your numbers.
A large part of managing Hashimoto’s disease is playing a numbers game - understanding what those numbers on your blood tests mean and learning how to influence them to your benefit. It’s so important to understand what it means if your TSH is too high or too low, so you can adjust your treatment accordingly. We use numbers to monitor your progress and track how your thyroid function is changing overtime. We also use numbers to monitor the degree of autoimmunity and the severity of the condition. Monitoring the thyroid regularly allows us to track changes over time, evaluate the success of our therapeutic interventions and alter our treatment approaches accordingly. An Excel spreadsheet can be a fantastic way to keep track of your results, and monitor these changes. I would recommend you organise it by date the bloods were taken, along with the following results:
Current medications (if taking thyroxine, compound thyroid extract or other supplements)
Note: In some cases, we also monitor reverse T3
To feel empowered and in charge of your health, it is so important to learn to understand these numbers, and understand what might be affecting them. A great naturopath, general practitioner or endocrinologist are your first port of call, so come to your appointment bearing questions, take notes if need be, and use this as an opportunity to become more informed and inspired about your health!
Stay tuned for my upcoming blog posts in which I’ll explain what the thyroid is, what it does, what these numbers mean and some of the ways we might approach Hashimoto’s disease naturopathically. If you haven’t done so already, remember to subscribe so you can receive these updates via email!