Millions of people have thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, and while most of these people won’t consider natural treatment methods, more and more people are choosing a natural treatment approach. But sometimes it can be confusing to know what type of healthcare professional you should see for your condition. And so the goal of this post is to discuss the different types of healthcare professionals so that you can be better informed when choosing one to help restore your health.
Before I discuss the different types of natural healthcare professionals I want to mention a few things. First of all, you ideally want to work with someone who has a lot of experience with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions. This is especially true if you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, but it’s also a good idea for those with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Although some “general” practitioners can help people with these conditions, autoimmune thyroid conditions can be very complex at times. It can even be challenging for someone like myself who focuses on these conditions, let alone a healthcare professional who sees someone with an autoimmune thyroid condition every now and then.
How Can You Find A Natural Healthcare Practitioner Who Focuses On Thyroid Health?
But how can you know for certain if someone is an expert in thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions? Well, there are a few different ways to find out. One way is to simply call the office and ask the staff person to name the top three conditions the doctor focuses on. If one of these conditions isn’t thyroid or autoimmune thyroid conditions then I would call another office. Another option is to do a Google search for the doctor’s name and check out his or her website to see if they really do focus on thyroid conditions. Keep in mind that just because they have a website which focuses on thyroid health doesn’t mean their entire practice focuses on this condition, as some healthcare professionals will have multiple websites, each focusing on a different condition.
So for example, if you visit Google and type in “Eric Osansky” or “Dr. Eric Osansky”, pretty much everything will relate to thyroid health, as on the top of the page the website www.naturalendocrinesolutions.com will be listed, my book on hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease should be there, etc. And if you call my office and ask either of my assistants Cindy or Kate which condition I focus on they will say thyroid conditions.
Also, if you have hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease it will be more challenging to find a natural healthcare professional who has a lot of experience working with hyperthyroid conditions. It is far more common to find someone who has experience working with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. And the reason for this is because many natural healthcare professionals are uncomfortable working with people who have hyperthyroid conditions due to the high pulse rate and heart palpitations most people with hyperthyroidism experience.
With that being said I’d like to go ahead and discuss some of the more common natural healthcare professionals to choose from:
Medical doctor who practices functional medicine. The main advantage of working with a medical doctor who practices functional medicine is that they are able to prescribe medication. So for example, if someone with hypothyroidism prefers to take natural thyroid hormone medication and their endocrinologist is unwilling to prescribe this, many medical doctors who practice functional medicine are willing to write a prescription for Armour or Nature-Throid. With regards to hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease, even though a medical doctor who practices functional medicine can prescribe antithyroid medication and/or beta blockers if necessary, many will feel uncomfortable working with hyperthyroid cases and will insist on the person working with an endocrinologist.
Another advantage of working with a medical doctor who practices functional medicine is that they are usually more open to doing things to address the cause of the condition. Whereas most medical doctors won’t even want to talk about nutrition, a medical doctor who practices functional medicine will usually encourage you to eat well, will give dietary suggestions and supplement recommendations, and will give other lifestyle recommendations to help improve your health. Yet if they feel that medication is necessary they have the ability to prescribe what you need. For example, if someone has a severe Candida infection they can prescribe an antifungal medication such as Nystatin, and at the same time give dietary recommendations and other advice to help address the cause of the problem.
However, there are a few potential downsides of working with a medical doctor who practices functional medicine. First of all, just because they claim to practice functional medicine doesn’t mean they truly do so. For example, a doctor might have attended a few functional medicine conferences and as a result labels themselves as a functional medicine practitioner, even though they don’t have much experience practicing functional medicine. Finding a medical doctor who has gone through a functional medicine certification program will make it more likely that he or she is truly a “functional medicine practitioner”. However, even this doesn’t guarantee that the doctor will be competent in functional medicine, as while passing a certification exam is great, the real knowledge is gained by applying what they learned in their practice. In fact, while I’m proud of the degrees and certificates I have obtained, the only way someone is going to become truly competent is not by obtaining degrees and certifications, but by applying what they learn in practice.
Another potential downside is that some medical doctors who practice functional medicine rely too much on prescription medication. Remember that many of these medical doctors were practicing conventional medicine for many years before they decided to learn about functional medicine. While it’s fine to prescribe thyroid medication and other types of drugs when necessary, some medical doctors will recommend prescription drugs more frequently than they should. Although one of the main benefits of working with a holistic medical doctor is that they can prescribe medication if needed, you of course want to make sure they try to address the cause of the problem, and not just recommend a different drug for each symptom that you have while making a few natural recommendations.
Naturopath. Out of all of the different types of natural healthcare professionals, naturopaths who have attended an accredited naturopathic college are the most prepared to help people naturally upon graduating from school. Most medical doctors don’t learn about nutrition and functional medicine while in medical school, as they need to learn this information after graduating. Chiropractors do learn some nutrition while in chiropractic school, but in most cases it’s not comparable to the training received by naturopaths. This isn’t meant to be a knock on chiropractors, as most people reading this know that I’m a doctor of chiropractic, and I’ll be talking more about chiropractors next.
But getting back to naturopaths, if you can find one who has a good amount of experience working with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions then this can be a very good option. And for those with hypothyroid conditions, in some states naturopaths are able to prescribe thyroid hormone medication. This of course is great for those who need to take thyroid hormone medication, as if they are able to see a naturopath who can prescribe thyroid hormone medication then they don’t need to see two separate doctors. In fact, if given the choice between seeing a medical doctor who practices functional medicine and a naturopath, both who have been in practice for an equal amount of years, in most cases I would go with the naturopath.
However, this doesn’t mean that all naturopaths are competent with regards to thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, or other types of conditions. For example, a few years before I began focusing on thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions I had hired a recent graduate of an accredited naturopathic college (Bastyr University) to help me with the nutritional aspect of my practice. At the time she was more competent than me with regards to nutrition, but her lack of experience showed. Obviously everyone has to start somewhere, as the only way to get experience is to actually work with patients. And so I’m not suggesting that someone who recently graduated from naturopathic school can’t help a person with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition. All I’m saying is that many times experience does matter.
Chiropractor. As I mentioned earlier, while chiropractors take some nutrition classes in chiropractic school, they don’t graduate with the same amount of knowledge in nutrition and herbal medicine as naturopaths. This isn’t surprising, as a chiropractor’s main focus is to balance the nervous system by correcting vertebral subluxations. However, a lot of chiropractors improve their knowledge of nutrition and functional medicine upon graduating. And so while in most cases they don’t have the same amount of knowledge as a naturopath upon graduating from chiropractic school, they do have more knowledge in nutrition than most medical doctors.
However, many practicing chiropractors will attend nutritional seminars, and they might sell supplements in their practice, but some don’t really have a good understanding of nutrition and functional medicine. Don’t get me wrong, as there are some chiropractors who have a great deal of knowledge and experience in nutrition and functional medicine. But many will learn the information without applying it in practice. In fact, some chiropractors will attend nutritional seminars mainly to fulfill their continuing education requirements, even though they don’t utilize much nutrition in their practice.
In addition, while some chiropractors like myself do have a lot of experience working with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, other chiropractors have “thyroid websites”, but don’t have much experience working with people who have thyroid conditions. In other words, some chiropractors have a main practice website, but then have a separate “thyroid health website” which gives the impression that their practice focuses on thyroid conditions. But if you were to call the phone number listed on their main website and ask the receptionist to list the top three conditions the chiropractor focuses on, there is a very good chance that “thyroid conditions” won’t be one of them. And so you need to be careful, as some people have paid a lot of money for “thyroid programs” by chiropractors who didn’t have much experience working with thyroid conditions.
Once again, there are chiropractors who truly do have a lot of experience working with thyroid conditions. And so I’m not suggesting that every chiropractor with a “thyroid health website” isn’t truly a “thyroid expert”. All I’m saying is that you need to do your research, and while someone who is very knowledgeable about thyroid health might be able to do a good job of screening natural healthcare professionals to determine who truly has experience working with thyroid conditions, many people aren’t able to figure out the difference between an expert and an amateur.
Different type of natural healthcare professional (i.e. acupuncturist, etc.). Other types of natural healthcare professionals can also be competent with regards to thyroid health. For example, some acupuncturists are more knowledgeable than holistic medical doctors and chiropractors with regards to nutrition and functional medicine. And so just because someone isn’t a doctor doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge and experience to help you. The challenge is finding out whether the person is truly competent.
Credentials Are Important, But Experience Is Even More Important
When I first began helping people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions, the only credentials I had was being a doctor of chiropractic. And as I mentioned earlier, just being a chiropractor doesn’t mean that someone is competent in nutrition and functional medicine. At that point most of my knowledge was obtained through my own personal experience with an autoimmune thyroid condition, along with attending nutrition seminars and conferences, but over the years I felt it was important to obtain additional degrees and certificates related to nutrition and functional medicine.
But even though having numerous degrees and certifications looks impressive to some people, it really is the experience that matters the most. While I have learned a great amount of information getting my degrees, certifications, and attending seminars and conferences in nutrition and functional medicine, applying this information over the years is what has made me competent. In other words, while it’s great to learn new information, the information is much more valuable if you apply it in practice.
For example, every now and then a patient will ask me about essential oils, and I admit that this is an area where I’m not competent in. I did attend an essential oils summit recently, but even if I went through an “essential oils” certification program this still wouldn’t make me “competent”, although it probably would greatly increase my knowledge on the topic. But in order to truly become competent I would need to start taking essential oils and recommending them to my patients, and then over a period of months and years I would become more and more competent in this area.
And the same concept is true with regards to nutrition, Chinese herbs, functional medicine, etc. While there are plenty of books, seminars, and even certification programs on these topics, one doesn’t actually become competent until they have applied in practice what they have learned over a period of months and years. So when choosing a natural healthcare professional for your thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, while it’s understandable to choose someone based on their credentials, you ideally want to make sure to choose someone who has a decent amount of experience helping people with these conditions.