Heretic Health Advocates
Specializing in psychopharmaceuticals, hypothyroidism, and more.
Update: April 2015. Heretic Health Advocates is the new incarnation of the former “Betsy’s Unlicensed Medical Practice.” In the many years that I have informally provided health information, I became more and more interested not only in helping people get better medical care, but in helping transform our whole approach to health by helping people transform their own health. In 2014, after studying at the Mayo Clinic (yes, polar vortex in Minnesota!), I became a Mayo Clinic Certified Wellness Coach. Please come see what Heretic Health Advocates is all about by visiting our new WEBSITE – and meet the adorable Nurse Miep. You will also find the latest links and information on the subjects below.
My background comes from studies on myself, extensive internet research, an obsession with brain science, books, conferences, common sense, and ego.
I am not opposed to better living through chemistry (I’m often a fan actually). However, when the makers of SSRIs and other anti-depressants/anxiolytics claimed that their products were not addictive, they were less than truthful (also called lying). After many years of users suffering from serious withdrawals, the drug companies have admitted to what they call “discontinuation syndrome.” This will feel and look a whole lot like withdrawal. Since many doctors are educated about medications by the drug companies, they may not be aware of how slowly one has to come off of those drugs. The answer is very. You will find lots of information by actual users of the drugs on user websites about side effects and withdrawals. (For example, Effexor and Paxil are among the most difficult to get off of.) In some cases you can even find tapering schedules. These schedules are something I have done for some clients.
While I think that life is enough to make one depressed, and usually changes can be made to improve it, I also think that anti-depressants can be helpful. But finding the right one can be challenging. Most doctors will try one after another until something works. It is mysterious to them as well. If a drug does not work for you though, you can’t just stop taking it without consequences, especially if you’ve been on it for any length of time. I was taking one (rhymes with Cymbalta) that worked well as an anti-depressant, but shut down my digestive system. I needed to get off of it to save my life, but still had to taper off slowly. Almost all drugs–if you listen to the very fast talk at the end of the commercials–have the same side effects: headache, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, seizure, death, etc. How severe and common is harder to determine. Best to find out from other users. Chances are lots of your friends have knowledge, but if not, there are millions of users talking about it on the web. Each of course is crazy, otherwise they wouldn’t be on psycho-pharmaceuticals. But as a group, I think they have a lot to say that is very useful and reliable. One user site is Ask A Patient.com. Another favorite site is CrazyMeds. It is also useful to keep a symptom chart for yourself – especially if you are taking more than one substance. This is useful to you and your doctor(s). Here is one set of guidelines by Dr. Healy on getting off SSRIs.
I do not always help people get off of drugs. I often suggest they take them. Often I have a client say they want to get off of their meds and I ask why? And they say “I don’t like the idea of taking pills.” I say, “That’s a stupid reason–you’re not English.” Sometimes, if they’re English, I say, “You’re English, of course you think that. Now take the pill, you lunatic.”
Given the state of our medical system, it is crucial that each of us becomes our own medical coordinator. You will have more information about you than anyone you see. You will want to do your research and then take your information to your doctor (or a new doctor if your old one isn’t right for you.) Meds can be dangerous and they’re illegal to get except from a doctor.
I’ve recently read Robert Whitaker’s Anatomy of an Epidemic, and find it an important contribution to the field. If you have not yet started on meds, read this book first. (and if you have, you might want to read it too). And avoid benzodiazepines (e.g. xanax) and anti-psychotics (e.g. zyprexa). They’ll make you crazy.
If your eyes are bugging out and you’re hyper, you might have hyperthyroidism. My grandmother had Graves disease (hyperthyroid), but mostly my expertise is in hypothyroidism (or underactive thyroid). If you have been diagnosed as hypothyroid, you may not know that 90% of hypothyroid cases are autoimmune. It is a very simple bloodtest to see if you have thyroid antibodies. If your doctor has not already ordered it ask for it. Insist on it, because even though they are likely to say the treatment is the same, you can do additional things to calm down your immune system and save yourself a lot of distress. Number one thing to do is to stop eating gluten. That doesn’t mean cut back, it means zero tolerance. It is poison to us Hashimoto’s folks (Hashimotos is the name of the autoimmune thyroid disease). I went Gluten free in 2010 and feel MUCH better. It’s made an enormous difference. And as long as you stay away from gluten free gluten subsitutes, and eat things that are delicious and never had any gluten to begin with, you’ll do great and can still be a foodie.
My favorite book on Hashimoto’s and how to deal with the underlying autoimmune disorder is: Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symtpoms? When My Lab Tests are Normal, by Datis Kharrazian.
Even if you haven’t been diagnosed as hypothyroid, a blood test can find the anti-bodies. In some cases doctors can diagnose Hashimoto’s but say that your thyroid is fine. Instead they’ll say your depressed and put you on anti-depressants (see above). Turns out depression is a major symptom of hypothyroidism. It is also possible to have hypothyroidism without have Hashimoto’s. It’s not rocket science, but it is a bit complicated. If you think you might have this problem (common symptoms are exhaustion, unsheddable weight gain, depression, fluid in your legs, just feeling awful), you might want to check it out. Be aware that there’s a controversy going on now because many sufferers have been under-treated, or treated with medications they feel do not work. There’s something of a patient revolution going on now. There are great resources available, though, and you may learn that you’re not insane, just hypo.
Below you will find links to a few websites to begin your search, but first an important note on test results. This applies to much more than thyroid, but the hypothyroid case is instructive: when your doctor tells you you are “normal,” that may be reassuring, but it is not very useful information. Normal ranges vary depending on what lab is doing your test. It is extremely important that you get your actual test results and track the numbers. In the case of thyroid, for example, most labs are still using old guidelines that suggest that a TSH up to 4.5 or 5.0 is normal. But in 2003, the AACE came out with new guidelines suggesting that anything over 3.0 should be considered hypothyroid, especially if symptoms are also present. You will need to get your numbers and take these new guidelines to your doctor. They are going by what the lab says, and you will end up having a lot of unnecessary tests and psych referrals because your test came back “normal”.
One of the best sites that has tons of materials:
There are many good books on the subject.
The editor of the above site has written the following one:
Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You… That You Need to Know(Revised Edition) by Mary J. Shomon
Re: Shortages of Amour and other natural thyroid medications – here is a source where you can get it:
Armour Thyroid, the brand name of Thyroid USP (porcine) had been reformulated several months ago to change one of the inactive filler ingredients. The FDA has taken issue with this, as this is a “different” preparation than before. Although the active ingredients did not change, the FDA is considering that the change may create a “new drug” according to their rules. So the drug is in very short supply, and it is unclear when this issue will be resolved. It may be a matter of weeks, or may take years, depending on the process between the drug company and the FDA. In the meantime, when a legit, safe drug has supply issues, compounding pharmacies are legally allowed to make the drug in the interim, so that patients do not go without. My Compounding Pharmacy (Wellness Compounding Pharmacy) is offering Thyroid USP (porcine) capsules in all strengths during this interim. You can reach our staff at 541-774-3939, or you can have your doctor phone us for more information. (This is from Dr. A. Meeker, a compounding pharmacist. I’ve known her for many years and think she is amazing. I’ve even toured her facilities. She is very knowledgeable about thyroid issues. The pharmacy is in Oregon and they do ship to other states.)
A website edited by another hypothyroid patient that covers much of the controversy:
An often funny blog on the subject featuring letters from thyroid sufferers to their thyroid (and a whole lot more):
Dear Thyroid While perusing this site and its links, I learned that communion wafers are on the do not eat list on the gluten free (aka GF) diet for autoimmune diseases. So those with celiac disease must be God—that’s why they can’t eat him—because he is them and thus the autoimmune kicks in. Only those to whom God is a foreign body can eat him. I could eat the wafers, though I prefer the ‘nilla kind, but as an atheist and a vegetarian I find the eating of flesh gross.
Soon I will have more resources specifically about Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease. It is crucial to deal with that disease/process as well as filling in for diminished thyroid function. See the links to Dr. Datis K in the second paragraph in this section.