July 12, 2023

As I was preparing for our hormone deep dive class on thyroid hormones earlier this week, I was poking around a bit to see what other practitioners had to say on the topic.

There's a certain subgroup of folks who publish videos and articles and posts about these topics with such confidence. They're so sure. Here's what's happening, and here's what you do about it.

It's easy to believe them.

In some ways, I wish I could.

But, I've been in practice for more than 15 years. I've studied a lot of physiology, and therefore, I know that a) in most cases we don't really know how the body works or how our herbs/foods are working in the body (or we only know part of the story), and b) even when some interventions work for most people, they don't work for all people.

It's complicated.

As an example, here's a graphic from a paper I was reviewing for the thyroid lecture

Thyroid Lecture Graph

Figure 4 from Nordio & Basciani, 2017

In this case, they're demonstrating how TSH levels changed after 6 months of taking a combination of myo-inositol & selenium in people who have subclinical hypothyroidism (and one person with hyperthyroidism 😂). Each line represents one participant in the trial (which, as a side note, did not have a control arm.)

It doesn't really matter what the intervention is, though. You'll see similar graphs for all kinds of things - Rx meds, herbs, supplements, etc. - that demonstrate the same pattern. They key point is that while most people had a decrease in TSH levels, and while averaging all these numbers showed a significant decrease in TSH over 6 months, there are some individuals who responded in the opposite way. A handful of folks - other than the hyperthyroid person at the very bottom - experienced no change or an increase in TSH.

Recommendations don't always work. People's bodies respond in weird & unexpected ways. Outside factors come into play. Folks are misdiagnosed. Labs are inaccurate. Some herbs suit some people and not others.

Which brings me to my main point: there's one philosophy that rests on you as a practitioner being someone who knows what to do. Having the answers.

There's another one that involves you being someone who knows what questions to ask and listening for the answers.

It's easy to get swept up in the first option if you don't consciously choose the second 💚

Take care,

Camille

About Camille Freeman, DCN, RH (she/her)

Hi there! I'm a clinical herbalist and nutritionist specializing in fertility and menstrual health. I run the Monday Mentoring community of practice and also offer continuing education programs for practicing herbalists and nutritionists (Check out this year's Deep Dive!). I'm also a former professor with the Maryland University of Integrative Health, where I taught physiology, pathophysiology, and mindful eating for 17 years. 

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