In my last series I explored various reasons for hypo (sluggish) thyroid. My closing paragraph which did not get printed, pointed out that a proper conclusive diagnosis and treatment plan requires much investigation, exploration and definitely having an open mind to the whole (holistic) health system. Mainstream medicine, internal medicine and endocrinologists, adhere to the system of bringing TSH within normal limits on a blood lab test. As I demonstrated, there is so much more to consider. One of my colleagues is a M.D. who practiced oncology/hematology for over 10 years. After being majorly disconcerted with conventional medicine this doctor took a leave and studied “functional medicine” for two years. Now after practicing for a while there is a 4 month waiting list to see her as a new patient!
Cookie- cutter, doc-by-number, in-the –box medicine is your average medical care personnel. A patient of mine went to her endocrinologist in Florida last week. Though she is taking synthroid (T4) for a while, she still feels tired and lousy. She asked her doc for Armour thyroid on my suggestion. Armour is desiccated thyroid with a balanced combination of T3 and T4 as well as other T’s and other co-factors. . Studies show as reported in The European Journal of Endocrinology that patients do much better on Armour than on Synthroid. Empirically any integrative doctor who switches their patients from synthroid to T3-T4 knows clearly that synthroid was not working effectively and that the desiccated thyroid has far better results. Yet, my patient’s Florida doc replied with the “cookie-cutter” reply- that the exact amount of T4 is unknown because it is a natural VS. synthetic product. What nonsense!! Why not consider what is best for the patient, and what gets better results! Fortunately, the doc acquiesced to prescribing Cytomel (T3) along with the synthroid, which is a favorable compromise.
There are numerous examples of medical screenings, tests and treatments that were highly touted and then were discovered to have been not effective or even worse – dangerous. Recently there arose such a situation regarding prostate health in men. In 2012 the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) published an official recommendation discouraging physicians from using PSA screening, citing concerns about overtreatment and harmful side effects. There is much written on the overly aggressive treatment of prostate cancer, which is often a very slow growing cancer. The purpose of this article is not to delve deeply into this disease, but to point out that what was regarded as “the gold standard “of screening and testing is now questionable. This scenario plays out consistently in modern medicine.
Alternatively, “functional medicine” doctors rely on a very comprehensive case history and examination. Treatment is based on listening and understanding the patient’s life style and habits. Often specific genetic tests are ordered. Urine, blood and saliva are tested for “out-of-the-box” things such as heavy-metal toxicity. Measuring mold sensitivity, yeast/fungal infections, gluten sensitivity or full-blown celiac is necessary. Food allergies and sensitivities reveal a host of reasons for many diseases and syndromes. Acknowledging the affect of chronic stress and emotional weaknesses is a must in treating patients. An example of “functional medicine “ diagnosis on a simple level is reading a blood lab result for vitamin D levels. D3 levels are given at 30-100 as normal range. Many of my patients have low levels, such as 33, but were told by their mainstream doc that there D3 levels were normal. Functional medicine goes outside the box, considering what is best for the overall health of the patient, not just looking at the “numbers”. 33 might be within “normal” range but is far from optimal health!
As a functional medicine doctor, I have been practicing “functional medicine” for over 30 years. From asthma to herpes, from eczema to chronic fatigue, from migraines to sciatica, I have been able to help patients through a holistic approach.