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Thyroid Disorders: Fact v. Fiction

Did you know that an estimated 20 million people live with some form of thyroid disease? In fact, one in every eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in their life. But, even though thyroid issues are so common, there is not much research being done to understand them better. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has only spent around $591 million on thyroid disorder research. For perspective, it has spent around 6.1 billion on cancer research. Because there is not a wealth of information on the different kinds of thyroid diseases and their root causes, they often go undiagnosed. Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction are mistakenly chalked up to anxiety, depression, menopause, aging, and weight gain (to name a few). With an estimated 150 million people living with un-diagnosed thyroid disorders and over 300 symptoms of thyroid disorder, the only solution is to self-educate and empower yourself to get answers.

I suffered from a thyroid-related autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s for over 20 years of my life without knowing what it was. After decades of symptoms like anxiety, depression, infertility, constant brain fog and weight gain, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I finally got the right help and put the pieces together enough to determine that I was suffering from a thyroid illness. There are so many misconceptions and myths out there about thyroid disorders, so I am going to get to the bottom of some of them in the hope that it might help you gain more clarity around thyroid diseases in case you might have one.

Fiction #1: Your doctor will be able to recognize your symptoms as a thyroid disorder.

You might think that if you are exhibiting a number of the main indicators of thyroid disease, your doctor will think to test you for it, but that is often not the case. Many doctors do not automatically think of autoimmune diseases like the ones that can occur in the thyroid when they are diagnosing their patients. Instead, they often look at individual symptoms like anxiety or weight gain and treat them on their own. But you know your body better than anyone else, so if you think your issues are a small part of something bigger, like thyroid disorder, do not be afraid to voice your concerns.

Fiction #2: Once you are diagnosed with thyroid disease, it will be simple to treat.

You would think that after such a long and confusing journey just to diagnose a thyroid disorder, things would be simpler when it comes to treating it. But that is, unfortunately, often not the case. The majority (around 90%!) of the people who have hypothyroidism, actually have Hashimoto’s. This means that their bodies are making antibodies that are destroying their thyroid, so it is extremely complicated to treat. Conventional medicine has yet to determine a way to successfully treat any autoimmune diseases and thyroid disorders are no different. Plus, it is really hard to determine the correct dosage of thyroid hormone for people who are lacking or making an excess of it. It is a lot of trial and error, which can be extremely frustrating. Patience is crucial for anyone suffering from a thyroid disorder.

Fiction #3: If you have a thyroid-related autoimmune disease, your body is malfunctioning and attacking itself.

The majority of people believe this to be true for all autoimmune diseases, but it is actually false. Rather, your body is going after viral invaders in different areas of your body. By attacking those pathogens, your immune system might end up functioning in the places that they reside in as well, which leads to symptoms that make it seem like your body is accidentally waging a war on itself. For example,  Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland. If you have the disease, your immune system ends up performing in the thyroid gland to counteract the different pathogens infecting it, which can lead to a whole slew of symptoms. But it is certainly no accident that your immune system is at work in your thyroid.

 Fiction #4: genetics are to blame.  

People often blame genetics for the main cause of various thyroid issues when, in fact, genetics only play a small role. Environmental aspects, such as toxins, diet, stress and emotional trauma, play a huge part in bringing on some thyroid disorders. That is why it is absolutely essential for people to commit to a healthy lifestyle as a means of preventing thyroid problems. And that does not mean just eating lots of vegetables and exercising (though that is definitely a part of it). It also means committing to a daily practice that will help to lower anxieties and riding your household of damaging chemicals and other toxins.

Fiction #5: You are to blame for this illness.

This idea always ruffles my feathers because nobody has a subconscious desire to be sick. You did not bring any thyroid issues upon yourself and you did not manifest this. So, whatever you do, do not blame yourself for your disease. Blaming yourself will only add more stress to your plate, which is certainly not something you need more of, especially when you are sick. Instead, practice loving self-talk and be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend who has come down with an illness. Surely you would not respond to the information that they have a thyroid disease with something along the lines of, “Well if you had not done XYZ, maybe you would be in a different place right now.” Treat yourself the way you treat the people you love, since you should also love yourself.

Fiction #6: Being on medication or treatment means your symptoms are totally under control. 

While medication and/or treatment can help to reduce pain or symptoms and may even help some achieve remission, it is not a cure. Many people may still experience flare-ups of symptoms while on medication or have to go through multiple trial and error processes to find a combination of treatments that works best for them. Like I mentioned before, patience is key when you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder.

Fiction #7: The disease cannot be reversed.

Some people genuinely believe that thyroid problems cannot be cured and that once you are diagnosed with one, you will be forced to live with it for the rest of your life. In reality, with lifestyle and dietary changes, you can naturally heal your body. I highly recommend checking out my new and easy-to-follow 7-Day RESET cleanse if you are interested in practicing eating in a way that can help to reverse thyroid-related autoimmune diseases and other thyroid issues.

Fiction #8: You cannot eat cruciferous veggies.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts and many more. They get a bad rep when it comes to a healthy diet for those with thyroid-related autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s. But, by eliminating cruciferous vegetables from your diet, you are actually stripping yourself of the vital nutrients that they provide. Sure, extreme overconsumption of these types of vegetables can possibly lead to problems, but when normal amounts are consumed, there is really nothing to worry about.

Fiction #9: You cannot eat soy.

This myth is also related specifically to autoimmune diseases of the thyroid (and, actually, all autoimmune diseases in general). Soy is a bit controversial when it comes to autoimmune issues. When you are vegan/vegetarian soy is valuable because it provides an important source of plant-based protein, a slew of vitamins and minerals, and fiber. Just make sure to pick minimally processed (no soy lecithin), non-GMO forms of soy like, tempeh, tofu, miso, and edamame. You do not want to overdo it, so try to stick to no more than 3-5 servings of organic soy a week.

Fiction #10: Removing gluten from your diet will cure a thyroid issue.

Removing or, at least, limiting gluten in the diet is something that I recommend to all of my clients. Getting rid of gluten can have positive effects on many issues. It can help to reduce temporal lobe seizures, psoriasis, seborrhea and other skin conditions, plantar fasciitis (pain and inflammation in the heel), peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nervous system), achalasia (in which food becomes stuck in the esophagus due to failed muscular contraction), asthma, depression (even suicidal thoughts) and more. But a gluten-free diet will not automatically cure someone of a thyroid disorder, even if it does significantly improve inflammation. If you have a thyroid issue, I highly recommend trying a gluten-free diet for a week to see how you feel. There is a good chance it will help improve a number of your symptoms.

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The most important thing I will stress for anyone who thinks there is even a chance that they might have a thyroid issue is to speak up and advocate for yourself. At the end of the day, you can have the best doctor or nutritionist in the world, and you will still know your body better than they do. If symptoms feel as though they may be connected or part of something larger than the diagnosis you were given, push your health care professional to examine more options. It is up to you to take responsibility for your health and wellness and if I could do it for myself, so can you!  The road to thyroid health can be long and windy, but as long as you commit to healing yourself, surround yourself with openminded caretakers and have patience, you can turn your disorder around. Never give up!

Do you think you might have thyroid disorder? Start here to begin figuring it out.

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