Is It Time to Divorce Your Doctor?

Lab tests are amazing. They give us a peek into the body, confirming our suspicions, or pointing us in an entirely different direction when we're trying to understand what our bodies are telling us.

But like all "data," it's typically meaningless without interpretation. When I ask my clients about the results of their latest lab tests, for example, not a day goes by that I don't hear "My doctor says everything is normal."

I can't tell you how frustrated I get when I see the actual numbers. While your lab test numbers might technically be within the normal range, they might be BARELY within normal. Or, as in the case of thyroid lab tests, combinations of higher and lower numbers on different tests can be meaningful. I'm so passionate about this issue – getting your doctor on board, and taking a CLOSE look not just at individual lab tests, but how those tests relate to each other.

I have an important article on this topic that everyone should read on understanding thyroid lab tests.

But the second part of collaborative care is working in partnership your doctor. YOU – not your doctor – are the best specialist when it comes to your body. No one will know it better than you! But talking to your doctor openly and candidly can be challenging. Most of us grew up thinking that doctors knew everything and you shouldn't ask any questions.

If you find it hard to talk to your doctor, or know what to say, here are some tips for making that relationship a true partnership.

  1. Write it down. As with any important meeting, make an agenda for your appointment. For website Members, check out my sample letters and the Request for Care template (in the Member Tools section) that help put into words what you want to discuss with your doctor. Many doctors actually call me when a patient brings in these forms because they are so helpful in facilitating the communication process.
  2. Believe that your symptoms are important. You know your body better than anyone, and you know when something is wrong. If you can't lose weight, there is a reason. If your energy is low, there is a reason. These feelings are symptoms. They are yours. They are important.
  3. Follow up. "Everything is normal" doesn't tell you much. Always make an appointment to discuss results with your doctor in person, and don't be rushed. Ask what words mean, ask what numbers mean, and how they apply to you personally.
  4. Know when to move on. If you aren't getting a respectful collaboration from your physician, then it's time to look for a new one. When a relationship isn't working, it can be better to move on and find a medical professional that's open to partnering with you. Breaking up is hard, but it's your health and happiness that's most important.

The Member Tools section includes helpful worksheets and additional guidance on talking to your doctor. Not a member? Become a member for just $12.99 per month to get exclusive tools, recipes, downloadable meal maps, food lists and more, plus 10% off any order in my store.