Why HYPOTHYROIDISM is a feminist issue
As a women’s health specialist thyroid health is something I have developed an area of expertise and feel passionate about. Current research estimates that 30 million Americans have hypothyroidism, 90% of those patients are women. Some estimate 1 in 8 women will develop hypothyroidism in her lifetime. Hypothyroid can be notoriously under diagnosed because of the range of symptoms that can affect every organ system in the body. Many women often have ongoing symptoms for years before being diagnosed and treated. Furthermore, even when women suspect they may be experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism routine lab testing done for screening quite often can miss the diagnosis, women’s concerns are often dismissed and they continue to suffer. For this reason, I also believe that listening to women and appropriately testing and treating them for hypothyroidism is a feminist issue.
Hypo vs hyper
There are two types of thyroid issues - hypo and hyper - that patients in my practice are often diagnosed with. Most commonly I see female patients with Hashimoto's, an autoimmune thyroid issue. Patients who have the most success dealing with this, treat with a combination of lifestyle intervention and medication.
Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US accounting for 90% of cases. It is caused by an autoimmune disease which creates antibodies which attack the thyroid. Even women who have had the diagnosis of hypothyroid previously may never have been told that the cause of their hypothyroidism is an autoimmune disease. I personally think this is an important diagnosis to make as current research suggests supportive lifestyles as a way to help treat autoimmunity.
What is the Hashimoto's lifestyle? It is highly individual, but here are some lifestyle interventions that have helped my patients who are struggling with general Hashimoto's symptoms like stubborn weight, brain fog, and fatigue.
Diet: Following a plant-based, whole foods diet has helped some of my patients lose stubborn weight and overall increase their sense of wellbeing. There are some documentaries on Netflix that can provide further information and get you thinking about your diet: What the Health and Food Choices are great.
The best diet is the one you don't know you're on, so its all about finding a balance between eating healthy and feeling satiated and full. Do not starve yourself! No one can tolerate that kind of pain over the long term, not to mention that going without food can send your blood sugar crashing. Eat to live, don't live to eat.
Exercise: Everyone knows that exercise is good for you. But what kind of exercise is best? Any kind of exercise that you enjoy is going to be best, because doing something you enjoy is the only thing that’s sustainable long term. Find a fun activity you want to do again and again!
More specifically, the kind of exercise that has shown the most benefit scientifically is strength training. When you build muscle, it ignites the metabolic fire within, helping to burn calories even when you're at rest. Anything that gets your metabolism working is a good thing! Strength building also can help you feel more confident and give you increased stamina for everyday life, helping with fatigue.