The Dos and Don’ts of Finding a Hormone Doctor

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The Dos and Don’ts of Finding a Hormone Doctor

Your Guide for Finding a Hormone Doctor That Best Fits Your Needs

Key Takeaways

  • Endocrinologists, gynecologists, primary care physicians, and integrative health practitioners can specialize in treating hormones.
  • It may be beneficial to have both a conventional and alternative medicine practitioner that specialize in endocrinology (the study of hormones).
  • Hormone doctors work with balancing a variety of hormones, including sex hormones, cortisol, and thyroid hormones.
  • A doctor who isn’t willing to listen to your input is just one of our 10 red flags to watch out for.
  • Knowing your current symptoms and diagnoses, what medications you’re taking, and what questions to ask can help prepare you for your first visit with a hormone doctor.

If you suspect that you have a hormonal imbalance or disorder, it may be confusing where to turn to for help. The answer to “what is a hormone doctor?” isn’t so simple, as there are many different types of practitioners that treat a wide array of hormonal conditions. Endocrinologists, gynecologists, urologists, and integrative medicine practitioners can all specialize in treating hormonal conditions.

Some of the most common conditions that they see include diabetes, thyroid disease, and women’s health conditions — like PCOS, endometriosis, and menopause. Determining the right provider for you will depend on your gender, specific diagnoses, and the symptoms you’re currently experiencing. 

Regardless of your individual condition, it’s often beneficial to have both a conventional and integrative practitioner on board. This will help open up your treatment options and ensure that you’re receiving the best care possible.

While not every doctor will be the right fit for you, finding the right hormone doctor doesn’t have to be difficult. Knowing what types of practitioners treat hormones, some red flags to look out for, and what questions to ask can all help direct your decision. This article will guide you through the “do’s and don’ts” when searching for a hormone doctor, and will help prepare you for your first visit. 

Do: Look Into the Different Types of Hormone Doctors

A “hormone doctor” is a general term that encompasses the different types of healthcare providers who specialize in treating hormonal (endocrine) imbalances. Below, we break down the differences between these practitioners and the conditions they most commonly treat. 

Conventional Practitioners

These providers typically use conventional methods, like pharmaceuticals, synthetic hormones (birth control), and surgery to treat hormonal conditions. Your specific hormone imbalance will help determine which type of provider would best suit your needs, but the following specialists often have overlap in the conditions that they treat. 

  • Endocrinologist: Diabetes, thyroid conditions (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease), cortisol disorders (Cushing’s syndrome and Addison’s disease), pituitary disorders, and osteoporosis
  • Gynecologist: Women’s health conditions, like menorrhagia (heavy menses), oligomenorrhea (irregular menses), dysmenorrhea (painful menses), postmenopausal and menopausal symptoms, endometriosis, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Reproductive endocrinologist: Infertility and conditions that affect fertility, including PCOS and amenorrhea (absent menses)
  • Urologist: Male infertility, erectile dysfunction, and low testosterone levels in men

Depending on the complexity of your condition, you may be managed by your primary care/family medicine/general practitioner instead, or in combination with one of the above specialists. Nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs) can treat hormonal disorders as well, but typically do so under the guidance of a physician. 

Integrative Practitioners

These providers focus on identifying the root cause of disease and help kick-start the healing process by addressing factors like lifestyle, exercise, and diet. They often prescribe natural supplements and, depending on the type of doctor and your state’s local laws, they can prescribe pharmaceuticals and bioidentical hormones.

While these physicians may focus on certain specialties and medical conditions, many are well-qualified to treat a variety of hormonal disorders. This category of providers includes:

  • Functional medicine practitioners
  • Naturopathic medical doctors (NMD/NDs)
  • Holistic or integrative MD/DOs. 

Alternative medical practitioners may be better equipped to treat functional hormonal imbalances, such as estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency, as these aren’t broadly recognized yet by conventional practitioners.

They also tend to be more knowledgeable in the different methods of testing your hormone levels and cycle mapping. This may be helpful for menstruating women who are experiencing symptoms of a hormonal imbalance and want to assess their female hormones.

Do: Consider Having Both a Conventional and Integrative Hormone Doctor

Because of the different tools that the above providers have in their toolkits, you’ll likely benefit from having both a conventional and integrative practitioner in your corner. This will allow you to have access to a wider repertoire of treatments, and you can experience the best of both worlds.

For example, women with PCOS may benefit from having a conventional practitioner (likely a gynecologist) who can prescribe medications like birth control, hormone modifiers, and anti-inflammatories, and help with symptom management. Meanwhile, an integrative provider can look into diet, stress, poor gut health, and other factors that are known to contribute to an underlying hormonal imbalance [1, 2, 3].

Keep in mind, this is just an example, and not all women with PCOS will require all of the above interventions.

In the clinic, I often see that hormonal imbalances can be resolved through healing the gut, lifestyle changes, and other holistic treatments. However, in some cases, prescription medications may be necessary for the treatment of hormonal disorders. Using natural therapies together with pharmaceuticals can help reduce the number of medications you need to take, the strength of medications needed, and any unwanted side effects.

As you can see, blending conventional and complementary medicine can offer you more treatment options and a higher quality of care. In our next section, we’ll discuss what to look out for when choosing your hormone doctor.

Don’t: Ignore Red Flags

It’s important to look for a doctor who’s willing to work with you in your care, and is sympathetic to your needs. The following are some common “red flags” to look out for when searching for a hormone doctor:

  1. They’re reluctant to manage your care with other types of healthcare providers.
  2. They have a “one-size-fits-all” mentality and don’t see you as an individual person with unique needs.
  3. They engage in fear-based patient care by making your condition sound worse than it really is, or claiming it to be “untreatable.”
  4. They won’t listen to your input or let you participate in your care or treatments.
  5. They refuse to work with either conventional or alternative treatment options.
  6. They try to pressure you into using a treatment that you aren’t comfortable with.
  7. They’re unwilling to try natural therapies and lifestyle changes prior to starting you on prescription medications such as birth control or hormone replacement therapy.
  8. They’re overly focused on treating your lab results and not your symptoms.
  9. They’re hesitant to adjust your treatment plan over time, even when the first-line therapy fails.
  10. They prescribe extreme, overly strict, or highly expensive treatment plans.

When choosing any kind of healthcare provider, it’s important to trust your judgment. If your gut is telling you that your current doctor is not the right fit for you, it’s time to move on and find a new provider.

Do: Prepare for Your First Visit 

It’s helpful to be ready for your first visit with your new hormone doctor, as it can ensure your visit runs smoothly and lessen any anxiety you may have. You can expect your provider to do a comprehensive medical intake, and having the right information with you can make this process easier. Below are some tips to help you better prepare for your first visit.

Write Down Your Symptoms and Diagnoses

It can be easy to forget your symptoms and medical history during your visit — especially when working with a provider for the first time. To avoid missing any important information, be sure to write down a list of your symptoms and diagnoses prior to your visit.

Below are some common symptoms of a hormone imbalance that are important for your doctor to be aware of:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats [4]
  • Osteoporosis or bone loss [5]
  • Vaginal dryness and low sex drive [4]
  • Hair loss, dry nails, or dry skin [6]
  • Excessive or abnormal growth of body hair (hirsutism) [7]
  • Weight gain or weight loss [6, 7, 8, 9]
  • Mood swings, anxiety, and low mood [10]
  • Irregular, heavy, or painful periods [11, 12, 13]
  • Breast tenderness, bloating, and cramping [10]
  • History of blood clots
  • Insomnia and fatigue [6, 10]

It’s important to keep a record of your current and past medical conditions, hospitalizations, and surgeries. If you’re seeking care for a women’s health disorder and are having menstrual cycles, using a period tracker will help streamline your visit as well.

Bring Your Supplements and Medications

Having a list of supplements and medications on hand, or bringing them to your visit, will help your doctor know what treatments you’re currently taking. Knowing the length of time that you have taken them, the dose, and frequency is important information for your hormone doctor.

Knowing the prior medications that you’ve tried is also beneficial — especially if you’ve been on birth control or hormone replacement therapy in the past. This includes any oral medications, injections, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and/or creams containing synthetic or bioidentical hormones.

Additionally, write down your drug allergies and any side effects that you experienced from past or current medications and supplements.

Know Your Family History

Many endocrine disorders have a genetic component and tend to run in families. Be ready with a list of family members (including your grandparents) and their medical diagnoses. Common conditions that your doctor will want to know about include:

  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Breast cancer and other hormone-responsive cancers (like uterine cancer)
  • Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Endocrine and reproductive disorders
  • Mental health disorders

Have a List of Questions Ready

It’s good to be armed with questions when seeing a new provider, so you can feel like an active participant in your health. The following are some general inquiries that can help determine if your doctor is the best fit for you.

  1. What can I expect at my first and follow-up appointments?
  2. What conditions do you specialize in treating and do you have experience with mine?
  3. What kind of therapies do you use in your practice and which ones do you typically try first?
  4. Are you willing to work with my other providers and treatments?
  5. When should I expect to see improvement in my symptoms, and what is the backup plan if I don’t?
  6. If I have any questions or concerns, how should I communicate with you and how soon can I expect a response?

These questions are not specific to hormone doctors, and can be helpful when choosing any kind of healthcare provider. If your doctor is unwilling or reluctant to discuss any of your questions or concerns, it’s probably time to find a new one. 

Finding a Hormone Doctor Doesn’t Need to Be Complicated

Finding the right doctor and receiving the correct hormone treatment can vastly improve your quality of life and overall well-being. The information included in this article can be used to help guide your decision, and take some of the guesswork out of finding a new hormone doctor.

Blending complementary and conventional therapies gives you access to a wider array of treatment options, so feel free to shop around for multiple providers. Additionally, keep an eye out for any red flags that we discussed, and always trust your judgment when looking for any kind of healthcare practitioner.

If you’re currently looking for a hormone doctor, our functional medicine providers have experience in treating many different types of hormone disorders and imbalances. Reach out to our clinic at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine to schedule an appointment and begin your healing journey today.

The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, please click here. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.

➕ References
  1. Lindheim L, Bashir M, Münzker J, Trummer C, Zachhuber V, Leber B, et al. Alterations in Gut Microbiome Composition and Barrier Function Are Associated with Reproductive and Metabolic Defects in Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A Pilot Study. PLoS ONE. 2017 Jan 3;12(1):e0168390. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0168390. PMID: 28045919. PMCID: PMC5207627.
  2. Tay CT, Moran LJ, Wijeyaratne CN, Redman LM, Norman RJ, Teede HJ, et al. Integrated model of care for polycystic ovary syndrome. Semin Reprod Med. 2018 Jan;36(1):86–94. DOI: 10.1055/s-0038-1667310. PMID: 30189456.
  3. Lim SS, Hutchison SK, Van Ryswyk E, Norman RJ, Teede HJ, Moran LJ. Lifestyle changes in women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2019 Mar 28;3:CD007506. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007506.pub4. PMID: 30921477. PMCID: PMC6438659.
  4. Perimenopause | Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/perimenopause
  5. Petkus DL, Murray-Kolb LE, De Souza MJ. The unexplored crossroads of the female athlete triad and iron deficiency: A narrative review. Sports Med. 2017 Sep;47(9):1721–37. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-017-0706-2. PMID: 28290159.
  6. Chaker L, Bianco AC, Jonklaas J, Peeters RP. Hypothyroidism. Lancet. 2017 Sep 23;390(10101):1550–62. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30703-1. PMID: 28336049. PMCID: PMC6619426.
  7. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) | Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. Available from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos
  8. Carlé A, Pedersen IB, Knudsen N, Perrild H, Ovesen L, Andersen S, et al. Hypothyroid Symptoms Fail to Predict Thyroid Insufficiency in Old People: A Population-Based Case-Control Study. Am J Med. 2016 Oct;129(10):1082–92. DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2016.06.013. PMID: 27393881.
  9. Mathew P, Rawla P. Hyperthyroidism. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. PMID: 30725738.
  10. Gudipally PR, Sharma GK. Premenstrual Syndrome. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. PMID: 32809533.
  11. Ju H, Jones M, Mishra G. The prevalence and risk factors of dysmenorrhea. Epidemiol Rev. 2014;36:104–13. DOI: 10.1093/epirev/mxt009. PMID: 24284871.
  12. Riaz Y, Parekh U. Oligomenorrhea. In: StatPearls. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022. PMID: 32809410.
  13. Davies J, Kadir RA. Heavy menstrual bleeding: An update on management. Thromb Res. 2017 Mar;151 Suppl 1:S70–7. DOI: 10.1016/S0049-3848(17)30072-5. PMID: 28262240.

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