As a clinical pharmacist, I’m well versed in using medications to treat health conditions. I can tell you first hand that medications can save lives, and can help us feel better in a short period of time. Appropriate medication management is one of the key recommendations I make to people who have been diagnosed with thyroid disorders like hypothyroidism and/or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Yet if you have thyroid disease, I encourage you to look not just within, but also beyond the pillbox for solutions.
I wasn’t always a proponent of complementary medicine. I used to think that medications were the primary solution for most health problems. It wasn’t until my own diagnosis with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism when I realized the real value of lifestyle changes and complementary medicine.
I received my diagnosis after a decade of seemingly disconnected symptoms including debilitating fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, acid reflux, brain fog, hair loss, and carpal tunnel.
Initially, I was really excited to take thyroid medications to receive an external source of the hormones my body was no longer to produce internally. I thought that having enough thyroid hormone would give me my life back. The external medications did help. I felt warmer and less anxious, and I went from sleeping for 12 hours each night to only 11. This was a big move in the right direction for me, but I continued to struggle with my remaining symptoms. Despite being on thyroid hormone medications, I was still sick.
This is because most thyroid conditions are more than just a lack of thyroid hormone in the body. As many as 97 percent of thyroid conditions are a result of an immune system attack on the thyroid gland known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Inflammation is a key component of every autoimmune condition, and taking thyroid hormones will not stop the attack on the thyroid gland. Furthermore, taking thyroid hormones, while helpful, will not resolve the symptoms brought on by thyroid disease for most people.
While doctors often recommend lifestyle interventions like diet and exercise for various health conditions like hypertension and diabetes, they do not offer clearly defined lifestyle interventions for other autoimmune and thyroid conditions.
When I found that medications did not solve my conditions, I decided to set out on my own journey to find out if there was anything else I could do to make myself feel better.
I found that lifestyle changes can reduce and even eliminate many of the symptoms that I once attributed to my thyroid condition. Furthermore, in some cases, lifestyle changes can slow down the progression, halt and even reverse thyroid disease. Additionally, I’ve found that in some cases, we can utilize a root cause approach to identify and remove the triggers that cause the body to attack the thyroid gland in the first place.
In addition to optimizing thyroid hormones, I also recommend optimizing your nutrition, resolving digestive issues, utilizing targeted supplements to restore nutrient deficiencies, balancing the stress response, supporting your detox capabilities, and addressing any hidden, low-grade infections.
I consider all of these therapies as a “complementary” approach to thyroid disease. A complementary approach utilizes holistic, lifestyle and integrative modalities to complement the benefits of using medications. Using this holistic, whole person approach will help you shed your symptoms so that you can feel energetic, fit, happy, calm and beautiful once more. Most importantly, this approach can make you feel like yourself again.
Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP is a thyroid specialist and licensed pharmacist who has dedicated her career to addressing the root causes of autoimmune thyroid disease after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2009. She is author Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause and Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back.