A Delicate Balance

By: 
By Matthew Gironta
patient story

”C.K.” 60, has worked as a life insurance and financial planner as well as a naturopathic doctor (ND) for almost 40 years. In her day to day life, she helps lots of agents and clients, but her work as an ND allows her to educate people so that they can make informed decisions regarding their health. C.K. relates that in her state, a naturopathic doctor cannot write prescriptions like a traditional doctor would, but she is able to “coach and educate people…and become a product resource for them,” and then those patients can decide whether or not to explore what she has suggested. She spoke about balancing her health, including naturopathic medicine and traditional medicine, “When you help somebody get better it’s just a wonderful thing, it makes their quality of life that much better.”

However, in 2016, C.K. began to exhibit some troubling symptoms of her own despite taking supplements to improve her health. When she would take a walk her “heart rate went up and my feet swelled,” she was losing her hair and lost 20 lbs. without trying. Based on her symptoms and a negative cardiac work up, her doctor diagnosed her with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and prescribed Armour thyroid. Unfortunately, she felt worse after starting the new medication - she could not get out of bed in the morning and would sit there and want to cry. She interpreted this as depression related to having to take medication, as she preferred not to take prescriptions per se, and returned to the physician three months later for reevaluation. Her doctor took her off the medication and her depression got better, “I felt like a normal human being the following day.”

"Through the two years of doctors and testing, C.K. kept her upbeat spirit and attitude. Even before the diagnosis she was very health conscious, recommending food journaling, avoidance of over-processed foods and paying attention to symptoms. Her advice is that since herbs are food and medicine, be “aware of what you are taking and how you are using it.”"

She subsequently sought out a holistic doctor and a functional medicine specialist, who both continued to tell her she had Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and treated her with low dose naltrexone, other supplements (many that contained iodine) and an elimination diet. None of these measures improved her symptoms. It was at this time she related, “I was misdiagnosed for two years with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.” Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disease in which our own antibodies attack the thyroid, potentially causing it to become enlarged and malfunction. This can be diagnosed by a physician by testing for antibodies (such as thyroid peroxidase) in the blood stream. As the antibodies typically do not cause symptoms and not all patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis have abnormal thyroid function, thyroid medication should only be prescribed if the thyroid function tests, like thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4), are abnormal. Armour thyroid was not the correct treatment for her symptoms.

When the situation did not improve, C.K. went to see an endocrinologist, who discovered that she did not have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Instead, she had an overactive thyroid related to her iodine and other supplements. The endocrinologist recommended that she stop the iodine supplements because that was furthering the overproduction of thyroid hormone. She was placed on a low iodine diet, and advised on appropriate amounts of cofactors such as manganese and selenium. After this change, her thyroid tests improved and she felt significantly better.

Through the two years of doctors and testing, C.K. kept her upbeat spirit and attitude. Even before the diagnosis she was very health conscious, recommending food journaling, avoidance of over-processed foods and paying attention to symptoms. Her advice is that since herbs are food and medicine, be “aware of what you are taking and how you are using it.”

Overall, she says the most important thing for a patient to do is to work with someone “who is open to you and to ask questions. If you don’t give feedback to the person that’s trying to help you, they can’t modify what they are doing.” She credits her persistence with obtaining the correct diagnosis and treatment. Working with her endocrinologist, she is now on the right balance of supplements and is taking in an appropriate amount of iodine in her diet.