- Patricia Pearce, ND
The Hypothyroid Sufferer's Paradox: Terrible Symptoms & Normal Lab Results
Here is a scenario I encounter in my office practically on a weekly basis.
Me: "Will you please describe your symptoms?"
Client: "Well, for the past 2 years I can barely get through the day without a nap and several pots of coffee, my memory is terrible, I have bad anxiety, I'm constipated, and I feel like my hair is falling out! No one can figure out what is wrong with me."
Me: "That is so frustrating! Has your doctor run any thyroid tests?"
Client (Option 1): "No, my doctor has never brought up thyroid as a possible explanation, but I've done a lot of reading online and I feel like I might be hypothyroid!"
Client (Option 2): "Yes, he did! He ran TSH and T4 about 6 months ago and said both values were normal and I didn't need any medication."
These scenarios make it sound like I'm exaggerating. I'm not. I have clients come into my office every day and tell me that I am "their last resort." They have a long list of seemingly unrelated symptoms and problems, none of which have been accurately identified or treated by conventional medicine, partially because the person's lab tests are often normal. I consider this phenomenon to be a paradox in traditional medicine: despite feeling truly awful for months or even years, these individuals have yet to get answers to their questions, solutions to their problems, or even so much as a diagnosis to describe what is happening to their bodies.
Maybe this even sounds familiar to you, reader.
If it does, at this point you are probably wondering how such a strange paradox could exist. After all, isn't the entire purpose of the medical profession to "fix" symptoms? In our society, we tend to oversimplify doctor's appointments. Remember when you were a kid? Doctor's appointments went something like this:
Doctor: "What brings you in today, Sally?"
Sally: "I have a sore throat and a fever."
Doctor: "No problem, we will get you all fixed up! Take these pills for the next 7 days and you'll be right as rain."
(And he was right! You felt better in a matter of days.)
The agreement in our society between doctor and patient tends to follow this view that many of us developed in childhood: "I go to the doctor with a set of symptoms, she figures out what is wrong with me, she gives me a pill for it, and I am cured." Right?
If you are one of several million individuals that suffers from thyroid-related symptoms, you already know this model has failed you. You KNOW you have symptoms, you're TELLING your doctor you have symptoms, but since your lab tests are normal, there is nothing he can do. How can he medicate you for a condition that diagnostics show isn't there?
Helping people who are trapped in the paradox is, quite literally, my life's work. I became a Naturopathic doctor to offer solutions and hope to those who feel sick, lost, and misguided. I don't prescribe medications based on diagnostic tests. I seek to counsel and aid people to greatly reduce and hopefully overcome their symptoms of hypothyroidism naturally through lifestyle interventions like diet and high quality supplementation. In the above scenario, medication is a convenient, useful, and very effective answer to a short-term problem. I would argue that when it comes to chronic problems like hypothyroidism, the "1 pill=1 cure" model rarely yields the desired results.
Guess what? Paradoxes don't actually exist, they are just an easy way for us to describe two contradictory conditions that we don't have a good explanation for. But there IS a valid way to unravel the paradox, and that comes with realizing that health is NOT as simple as "normal versus disease." Just because your lab tests say your thyroid function is normal doesn't mean there is nothing that can be done for your symptoms. Health is a spectrum, and people are free to move within that spectrum based on the lifestyle decisions they make. A good Naturopathic doctor will help guide you to make the best possible choices so you can live a life of vitality and strength.