According to the American Thyroid Association, one in eight women will reportedly develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime.
The butterfly-shaped gland located under the larynx can wreak havoc if not properly cared for when there is an issue; now more than ever it's imperative that we take steps to look into our overall health. And I don't just mean a visit the doctor when you've fallen ill. A simple physical exam could reveal an enlarged thyroid, and labs drawn can detect out of range TSH levels and potentially save your life.
January is Thyroid Awareness Month, and celebrities like Missy Elliott, Adrienne Houghton, Oprah, Hillary Clinton, and Sofia Vergara have all spoken out about their thyroid diseases, which can cause weight fluctuation and have fatal consequences.
Although thyroid disorders can be deadly if unchecked, with exercise, healthy eating habits, and determination, they can easily be managed. Here's what these celebrities had to say about making peace and overcoming the obstacles associated with their thyroid disorders:
Missy Elliott was diagnosed with Graves' disease after losing an extreme amount of weight in 2008. This caused her to have a hiatus from both the public eye and the music charts. Missy explained to Billboard Magazine how the disease used to affect her everyday life:
"I was [driving and] trying to put my foot on the brake, but my leg was jumping. I couldn't keep the brake down and almost crashed. I couldn't write because my nervous system was so bad – I couldn't even use a pen."
With the support of her family, friends, and healthcare professionals, Missy is able to enjoy life with her condition under control. Though medication plays a huge part of her recovery, exercising, avoiding stress, and eating healthy are all major components of staying healthy with a thyroid-related condition:
"I'm 30 pounds lighter because I've been exercising. My thyroid is functioning, so I haven't had to take medication in about nine months."
You go girl!
Oprah thought she put her weight issues to rest by dropping down to 160 pounds back in 2005, from her heaviest weight of 237 pounds. However, afterwards, her weight started slowly creeping back up, resulting in gaining 40 pounds and feelings of shame. The heart palpitations she experienced when working out led her to the hands of doctors, out of concern for her life. Oprah explained her uphill battle to Oprah Magazine in 2009:
"The thyroid diagnosis felt like some kind of prison sentence. I was so frustrated that I started eating whatever I wanted—and that's never good. My drug of choice is food. I use food for the same reasons an addict uses drugs: to comfort, to soothe, to ease stress."
After getting to the root of her issues with food, Oprah has been able to adopt a routine full of healthy eating and exercise that works for her:
"What I've learned this year is that my weight issue isn't about eating less or working out harder, or even about a malfunctioning thyroid. It's about my life being out of balance, with too much work and not enough play, not enough time to calm down. I let the well run dry."
We can all learn a lesson from Auntie O about the power of resilience because after all, you can't pour from an empty cup.
The onset of symptoms that come with having a thyroid disorder can often be mistaken as putting on a few pounds from the outside looking in.
The Real's Adrienne Houghton revealed that she was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease at only 15 years old. Adrienne shared that her experience with the disease recently led to swelling around her neck and overall weight gain, leading to speculation of her being pregnant. She shared:
"If I'm honest, my weight gain in the last few years has been like a struggle for me where I'm like, I never looked at myself as being overweight. And it was weird to hear so many comments at one point that I was fat, and 'Oh my God, she let herself go!' I was like, 'Whoa.' So that was a little bit weird..."
Despite the criticism she received from the outside world, she understood that there was a change she needed to make internally. Adrienne said that increasing the healthy consumption of food and physical activity can certainly assist with slowing down the symptoms:
"I just did what I had to do to be comfortable in my own skin. And I think that's the most important thing. It wasn't necessarily to please other people. I actually, genuinely, didn't like the way I looked. And every day it's a work in progress. You know, girl get up and do some cardio. More than looking good, it's actually healthy for you to eat healthily and actually get a little workout in. So as I get older, I get that it's going to be harder and harder, but I'm up for the challenge."
With disorders attributed to the malfunctioning of your thyroid, other common symptoms include fatigue, depression, constipation, altered menstrual cycle, hoarse voice, and many others. So it is important not to shrug off symptoms and changes within your body when you notice them.
Instead, seek the input of your doctor when they occur. Not all thyroid disorders have symptoms that are noticeable to the eye like Graves' Disease or Hashimoto's disease and require further testing.
Make sure to read up on more information regarding common thyroid disorders here.
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