8 Things Every Hormone Doctor Wants You To Know | Prevention

Posted: January 28, 2020 at 6:57 am

Ah, hormones. Such an easy scapegoat. And for good reason: They can be responsible for everything from mysterious weight gain to hair loss to crazy hunger. When things get a little out of control in that department, an endocrinologist might be able to help you. (In as little as 30 days, you can be a whole lot slimmer, way more energetic, and so much healthier just by following the simple, groundbreaking plan in The Thyroid Cure!)

But before you make an appointment, read on to find out what they think you should know.Simply put, "we're hormone doctors," says Marilyn Tan, MD, an endocrinologist at Stanford Health Care. "The three most common diagnoses we make are thyroid problems, diabetes, and osteoporosis," she says. Other common conditions they treat: menopause, hypertension, and infertility. And while endocrinology might be a specialty in itself, these docs sub-specialize. Some may focus on weight loss, others on thyroid abnormalities, some on diabetes or reproductive health. That means you should see the one that fits your health issue to get the most targeted treatment.

First of all, you might not even need to see one."For straightforward issues, like basic thyroid problems or diabetes, your primary care physician [PCP] is equipped to handle them in generally healthy people," says Tan. They're the ones who will order lab work to check initial hormone levels, and they're the ones who will treat you first. There's another upside to sticking with a PCP: Unless you live in a bigger city, specialists often require you to travel farther away for an appointment. "It's often not worth the drive when you can get good care from your regular doctor," she says. But if your blood sugar or thyroid levels become difficult to control, your PCP will send you to a specialist.

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Or you might have a one-and-done visit.Endocrinologists like to think of themselves as partners in crime in your care. "Often, we'll schedule one-time visits with a patient to help them learn about their disease, but their PCP will take the reins in managing it," says Tan. "Our visit becomes more focused on education rather than treatment." And that can be just as critical in getting well. Research shows that in diseases like diabetes, educational programs can help patients gain better blood sugar control, as well as lose weight and improve cholesterol levels.

They might be able to guess what's up just by looking at you...As many as 15 million people suffer from undiagnosed thyroid conditions. The thyroidthe butterfly-shaped gland on your necksecretes hormones that are involved in metabolism, body temperature regulation, and the functioning of your organs. Usually lab workups will confirm a diagnosis, but an endocrinologist might first spot uncontrolled, progressed conditions, says Tan. For example, in hypothyroid (a sluggish thyroid), you might look fatigued and your face may be swollen. In hyperthyroid (an overactive thyroid), severe disease may show up as bulging eyes and unexplained weight loss.

MORE:16 Signs Your Thyroid Is Out Of Whack

...or by touching you.

They want to hear about your hot flashes.

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If you're menopausal and having hot flashes, hormone treatmentsandother natural options are ways that your endocrinologist may help mitigate symptoms.

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And they think a lot about your bones.

They'll want to talk to you about vitamin Dbut probably not test you for it.It might be called a vitamin, but vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone, says Liu, which is why endocrinologists are so concerned with your levels. Andas you well know by nowthere's been a lot of chatter surrounding D because it boasts a never-ending list of potential health perks. Some experts advocate for routine screening of D levels, but Liu does not. "The tests are expensive," he says, and largely unnecessary; doctors can often guess if you're running low. If you live in northern latitudes, chances are you have a vitamin D deficiency, even if you're drinking milk, Liu says. On the other hand, if you live in, say, Florida, where you get a lot of sun, you probably have normal levels. Bottom line: If you live in a northern climate, you might want to pop a supplement. Experts can't agree on the exact amount, but the National Institutes of Health recommends getting 600 IU per day.

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There are some things they can't fix.Another reason to keep your PCP in the loop: They take a bigger-picture look at your health, so they can spot other causes of problems, whereas a specialist like an endocrinologist is more laser-focused on your hormones, says Ranit Mishori, MD, a professor of family medicine at Georgetown University. After all, exhaustion and stress can cause similar symptoms as a thyroid condition. "I have patients in their 40s who are desperate for me to say their weight gain, mild depression, and fatigue is a thyroid condition that I can fix with a tiny pill," she says. "But oftentimes it's the crazy lifestyle and stress," says Mishori. An endocrinologist knows a lot about your health, but sometimes what you need is a little self careexercise, a healthy diet, and taking time to recharge from the madness can go a long way.

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8 Things Every Hormone Doctor Wants You To Know | Prevention

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