Here’s the deal–there are a few “outside the box” thinkers also called ”functional” or integrative endocrinologists who are breaking the mold—offering their patients some hormone treatments, dietary medicine, vitamins, and herbs that can vastly improve the quality of life for some children with hypothyroidism. These doctors are holistic. They don’t just go by growth charts and the standard blood tests, they listen, they consider symptoms, some of them use more advanced testing (finger pricks and cortisol saliva testing), some of them examine diet, vitamins, and each of them looks at your child as a whole being.
There’s a big debate in the world of endocrinology and a massive divide between Eastern and Western medicine overall—which through a folly of pride, rote training, conventional wisdom, plus the monopoly of big money, which dominates the medical mainstream—which has kept Western Medicine from recognizing that Eastern medicine may have something to offer. This is a mistake which cheats parents of receiving all the information they can as early as possible in their child’s journey.
Rather than just sitting down at the same table and saying, “Hey let’s learn from one another—tragically Western medicine does not currently acknowledge the scientifically-proven benefits of Eastern medicine at all—instead they tend to scoff at it, or dismiss it entirely. This is a mistake, which keeps useful information out of the hands of parents.
It took me standing at the Whole Foods Vitamin aisle to realize that there was an entire shelf of vitamins and herbs dedicated to the thyroid. When I asked my son’s traditional (very highly esteemed) endocrinologist if there were certain vitamins my son should be getting, he said “No. He’s fine! Look at his growth chart.”
This patronizing and dismissive answer cost me my child’s health and quality of life for over a decade. The good news is, that now, under the care of a functional pediatrician, also called an integrative pediatrician (a doctor trained in both Western and Eastern medicine), we have found a healing path that uses the best of both worlds.
Diet, vitamins, and herbs can make an enormous difference in your child’s health, working with a functional endocrinologist (or a traditional endocrinologist willing to partner with a functional doctor) can help you figure out which ones are best for your child.
Western medicine is really useful if you break a leg or an arm or if you need an organ transplant. Yet, when it comes to endocrinology, there is a small but brave group of underground endocrinologists and integrative doctors working outside of the medical mainstream (in the US).
If your kid is being treated on a Synthroid or Levoxyl only treatment, then chances are you’re with a traditional/Western endocinologist who doesn’t believe in what these other guys/gals are doing. Yet the fact is that hundreds of thousands of thyroid patients, parents and children can testify and show lab work verifying how they’ve benefited from these new treatments. What you choose to do to support your child is up to you. But at the very least, you ought to be armed with all the facts.
Functional Endocrinologists/Doctors Consider T3
Some children (and adults) with hypothyroidism do not respond well to the two traditional meds/hormones (Synthroid and Levoxyl) offered by Western trained endos, some functional endocrinologists are finding that a blend of T3 and T4 hormone treatment works better—more accurately mimicking what we all need in order to have energy, grow properly, think straight, and feel balanced emotionally.
Some kids may do well on T4 only treatment, their body may have the capacity to convert T4 to T3 and therefore they can benefit from T4 only treatment. That’s not the case for every child.
If you child appears to be suffering and not thriving on a T4 only treatment, it is possible he/she may not be able to convert the T4 to T3. These children can sometimes benefit from added T3 either in the synthetic form (Leothyronine) or the natural animal form which is a blend of T3 and T4, sold in health food stores. Each brand has a different reputation in terms of quality. Ultimately, if you go this route, you should talk with your child’s functional endocrinologist if you decide to try this route and ask them which brand he/she trusts most.
If you keep on searching you’ll also encounter your pit crew–the team of amazing doctors who will hold your hand and listen and guide you and be willing to think outside the box to guide your child toward living her/his best life.
This is a short list of what an functional endocrinologist can do. I hope this shared knowledge may support you in your own journey. I’m honored to be a part of that. Thank you for visiting!
How do you find a functional endocrinologist in your area? Start by googling “functional endocrinology” plus your city or town. If you don’t have one nearby, some may be willing to work long distance.
Want to learn more about Functional Endocrinology?
Finding an integrative or functional pediatrician, can also help guide you toward a more holistic endocrine treatment. Integrative pediatricians similarly take a holistic approach using neutraceuticals (vitamins/diet/herbs/homeopathy etc) to treat your child from the inside out, rather than simply throwing antibiotics/chemicals at your kid to quash the problem, thereby causing a host of other problems. That’s the short answer.
Informative Functional Endocrinology Resources:
Dr. Westin Childs has a really excellent website in which he covers T3/t4 basics, conversion issues, testing and explains all the different hormone medications available and the pros/cons of each. This is the kind of info that your average old-school endo will NOT give you.
Insurance and Paying for Integrative Medicine
Unless you are incredibly lucky and land upon a progressive endocrinologist it is very likely that any integrative doctor or naturopath or functional medicine doctor you find will not take insurance. This is a serious shame–and as you know, it’s the result of our very dysfunctional American health insurance system. But don’t despair!
One solution is to use an endocrinologist who is in your network, ideally someone open to considering and hearing your concerns, and possibly, if you’re interested in using Tirosint, Cytomil, Naturethroid or Armour, someone willing to partner with an integrative doctor. You can then pay out of pocket for the integrative doctor, on a consulting basis, and still use the endocrinologist or your in network provider to save money.
Another option is to explain to the integrative doctor, your financial situation, and see if they’re willing to accept a lower fee. Some insurance companies will partner with an out of network doctor if you write a letter or make an appeal explaining your child’s unique situation. This is not easy, but if you’re persistent and you or your partner (if you have one) are willing to advocate for your child’s needs, it is sometimes possible.
I wish I had better answers, but my mission here is to provide you with the information, which will then arm you with knowledge that is yours to use as you see fit.
Have you found a progressive pediatric endocrinologist or a great pediatric functional endocrinologist that you would recommend to others? Please share the information here, so we can begin to compile a list of such thyroid specialists for any parents seeking help!