Ever felt tired just because? Or maybe you’ve noticed your mind drifting off more than normal? Or your friends are more prone to confessing their deepest secrets to you because well, you have no memory? Are you moody and not just during your menstrual cycle? Maybe your blood flow is heavier than before and your abdominal bloat feels worse than previous months? Stubborn fat that won’t reduce no matter how much you workout? Perhaps your body has a tough time regulating your Basal Body Temperature? Well, sorry to say, but you might have a thyroid condition, more specifically, Hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland produces hormones, which is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. It’s a very small butterfly-shaped gland in the middle of the lower part of the neck, which secretes hormones that directly affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. When the thyroid gland becomes sluggish and stops producing hormones, the process is known as Hypothyroidism. There are many symptoms associated with the disease, including weight gain, memory loss, depression, and fatigue. According to the American Thyroid Association, “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.” The numbers might seem small or irrelevant to some, but just think that you too, could be one of these sufferers. Patients with undiagnosed thyroid disease are at risk of developing “Cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.” It’s estimated that roughly 20 million Americans are currently battling some form of the disease, with women being “Five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, [that’s one in eight women and] up to 60 percent [of them] are unaware of their condition.” Some people unknowingly suffer for many years prior to a diagnosis and that’s usually because it only shows up when a patient’s thyroid hormone level is at its lowest, and just having symptoms alone isn’t enough for most doctors to make a proper diagnosis. In fact, a lot of doctors misdiagnose patients due to the fact that your thyroid level could inaccurately place you in the normal range. On the flip side, another type of thyroid disease is known as Hyperthyroidism, which happens when the thyroid produces more than enough hormones, leading to weight loss, anxiety and a host of other conditions.
There are several known causes of thyroid disease, however certain foods and lifestyle choices can also influence the thyroid by either elevating or decreasing hormone levels. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Hypothyroidism [can be caused by] Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, congenital hypothyroidism, or hypothyroidism that is present at birth, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid, radiation treatment of the thyroid [and] some medicines.” Having a pituitary disease can also affect the thyroid, as well as the amount of iodine in one’s body. While there are several causes, there isn’t much you can do to fight the disease. Doctors may prescribe a synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, which some people end up needing for the rest of their lives and you can also watch out for, and stay away from foods that irritate the thyroid. Because the thyroid depends on iodine for optimal health, foods like kelp and seaweed are highly recommended, and in addition, foods rich in selenium like eggs, salmon, Brazil nuts, mushrooms, and turkey are also helpful when battling hypothyroidism. Always remember to consult with your medical provider before starting a new regimen and keep in mind that there are also side effects from having too much of a good thing, so always check with your doctor.
In the case of Terry Doria, of Queens, NY, thyroid symptoms didn’t start showing up until about two months prior to her diagnosis, at age 24. Although she was slightly overweight, Terry was still a fit and active young woman, whose hypothyroidism was caused by the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease, which causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. I’ve had a chance to speak with Terry about her condition and here’s an excerpt from our conversation.
When I asked about the symptoms she experienced, Terry said, “I was diagnosed 26 years ago [and it happened] because I wasn’t sleeping, it had been several weeks and I felt off. My original General Practitioner wanted me to go to a sleep clinic as opposed to taking my blood. About a month and a half to two months later, my OB/GYN introduced me to a new General Practitioner, who I saw a few days later. He took my blood and prescribed me with Ambien to regulate my sleep. I took it twice and was able to start a normal sleep cycle. When the blood work came back, it showed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis-an autoimmune thyroid condition that causes hypothyroidism. My other symptoms included lethargy, brain fog, muscle cramps, and a change in my menstruation.”
I then asked about the medications she uses to manage her condition and whether or not they were helping, and so she said, “The doctor [previously] prescribed synthetic thyroid replacement medicine, [but] I’m currently on natural thyroid hormone replacement medication, [and it’s] something I’ll be on for the rest of my life. There aren’t any side effects with the natural thyroid hormone medication, however, the synthetic forms did not do what it was intended to do. I’m also taking vitamin and mineral supplements as the Hashimoto’s blocks absorption of many.”
I followed up with Terry on how her life has been affected throughout the years with her hypothyroidism diagnosis, and she responded by saying, “My life has been drastically altered. Before the condition, I was fit, a bit overweight, muscular and active, [but] thanks to the many doctors not listening to my symptoms and [then] continually prescribing the synthetic thyroid hormone medication, I am currently overweight, lethargic and pre-diabetic. The natural thyroid hormone medication has helped a lot with the muscle cramps and brain fog.”
As Terry continued to discuss her struggles with getting a proper diagnosis, she mentioned that doctors usually go with the TSH level, which in most cases isn’t a good indicator for determining whether or not someone has hypothyroidism. “It took forever to get a doctor to do my T3 levels and reverse T3.” If you’re like Terry and are going through this process, be sure to educate yourself on the different tests, so you can accurately point your doctor in the right direction to ensure an expedited diagnosis. In the meantime, limit your intake of non-friendly thyroid foods such as gluten, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, sweets and soy products, and your thyroid will thank you.
Because the body needs our thyroid for optimal health, it is even that much more important to do all that we can to protect it. Recently, Shark Tank’s, Daymond John, opened up to ABC’s “Good Morning America” about his stage two thyroid cancer diagnosis in which he revealed, “A nodule about the size of a marble was found on his thyroid in March 2016 during a checkup. Surgeons removed half of his thyroid and had the nodule biopsied, at which point it revealed that he had stage two thyroid cancer.” Thankfully he’s doing better and is now able to share his story in an effort to help others to be more proactive when it comes to his or her health. John knew it would be challenging, but didn’t let it stop him from taking control of his health, “If I would attack it now, then I wouldn’t have let it attack me and I had that removed.” Below, you’ll find some helpful links to additional hypothyroidism facts. Be well and take good care of each other.