Being a woman is certainly not easy. And we are not just talking about the social and cultural struggles women have to face. But biological struggles as well.
When you think of biological struggles, you would first think of the 9 months of pregnancy, labour pain, and of course, menstruation. But you would still be missing out on health issues such as Thyroid that are common in women.
Nearly 1 in 10 women in India have Thyroid. Surprised yet? There are more surprising facts that await. So, read along because we will be telling you more about Thyroid disorder in this blog.
Decoding Thyroid: Your body’s control centre
Before we delve into the intricacies, let’s lay the groundwork. The Thyroid, a small butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, might be discreet in its presence, but its role in regulating various bodily functions is immense. It influences metabolism, energy levels, and even mood. A Thyroid in harmony maintains equilibrium, while a discordant one can trigger a cascade of health issues.
So, what happens when you have a Thyroid disorder
Before you understand what happens in Thyroid disease, it is important that you understand how the Thyroid gland works. Firstly, the Thyroid gland makes 2 hormones, T4 and T3 hormones. These glands are responsible for performing the functions mentioned above, including controlling body temperature, heart rate, and the amount of protein the body makes. But most importantly, they regulate your metabolism.
Sometimes, things can go wrong and the gland isn’t able to produce sufficient hormones, this is called hypoThyroidism. Also, there are times when the gland makes too many hormones, leading to hyperThyroidism.
Now, before proceeding there are two different terms you have to remember – hypoThyroidism and hyperThyroidism.
The silent saboteur: Hypothyroidism
Now, as we have established before, Hypothyroidism is when your body isn’t able to produce enough hormones. Consequently, your metabolism slows down. Here is what it feels like.
Picture this: You’re in a bustling marketplace, yet you’re moving through the crowd like a leisurely stroll in the park. That’s Hypothyroidism for you, a condition where the Thyroid tends to slow down your metabolic rhythm. Suddenly, your days feel like a never-ending snooze fest, and the world seems to be moving fast-forward while you’re stuck in rewind. You’re tired, you feel exhausted. You climb two flights of stairs and you are already exhausted, gasping for breath, while others are moving fast, leaving you behind.
In a nutshell, you feel tired, you gain weight and are unable to bear cold temperatures.
Hyperthyroidism: An energetic overdrive
Now, this is another side of the coin. So, let’s switch the tempo, shall we? You can imagine Hyperthyroidism as coffee. What happens when you drink coffee? You feel energetic. You don’t wish to sit down, you just want to run or walk. Taking a different illustration. Hyperthyroidism is like how you feel when you have your favourite song played on full volume. You feel like getting up and dancing. Your heart races as if it’s in a 100-metre sprint, and you’re producing more sweat than ever. It may be like a dance with excess energy, but it’s not the kind you’d like to partake in.
In medical jargon, Hyperthyroidism is when your Thyroid gland produces excess hormones, leading to hand tremors, weight loss and rapid heartbeats. You may also experience increased anxiety.
Why are Indian women at more risk of developing Thyroid problems?
Now, why are Thyroid problems seemingly making a beeline for the women of our nation? It’s not that the Thyroid has a cultural preference, but rather a blend of genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors. The intricate fluctuation of hormones in women often makes them more susceptible to Thyroid imbalances, and the modern Indian lifestyle, with its share of stress and dietary challenges, only adds more complexity.
Unveiling the veil: Recognising symptoms
Detecting Thyroid issues requires a keen eye for detail. Hair loss, unexplained weight changes, mood swings, these are a few tell-tale signs. It’s imperative to look for these signs and listen to your body before things get worse.
Symptoms of HyperThyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)
- Unexplained Weight Loss: Despite increased appetite and food intake.
- Rapid Heartbeat (Tachycardia): Heart rate may be noticeably faster than usual.
- Anxiety and Irritability: Feeling restless, anxious, or easily agitated.
- Tremors and Shaking: Especially in the hands.
- Increased Sweating: Sweating excessively even in cooler temperatures.
- Heat Sensitivity: Feeling overly warm even in normal temperatures.
- Fatigue: Paradoxically, even with excess energy and restlessness.
- Difficulty Sleeping: Insomnia or restless sleep patterns.
- Muscle Weakness: Especially in the upper arms and thighs.
- Thinning Hair and Brittle Nails: Changes in hair texture and nail quality.
- Bulging Eyes (Exophthalmos): A symptom of Graves’ disease, a specific form of hyperThyroidism.
- Increased Bowel Movements: May lead to diarrhoea.
- Menstrual Irregularities: Lighter, shorter, or more frequent periods.
Symptoms of HypoThyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
- Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired and lacking energy.
- Weight Gain: Even with controlled diet and exercise.
- Cold Sensitivity: Feeling excessively cold, especially in extremities.
- Dry Skin: Skin may become dry, rough, and flaky.
- Constipation: Slower metabolism affects bowel movements.
- Muscle Aches and Weakness: Especially in the arms and legs.
- Puffy Face and Weight Gain: Especially around the eyes and cheeks.
- Hoarse Voice: Due to swelling of the Thyroid gland or vocal cords.
- Thinning Hair: Hair may become thin, coarse, and brittle.
- Depression: Feeling low, experiencing mood changes.
- Memory Problems: Difficulty focusing and memory lapses.
- Menstrual Irregularities: Heavier, more frequent, or prolonged periods.
- Joint Pain: Aches and pains in the joints.
- Elevated Cholesterol: Increased cholesterol levels.
Navigating diagnosis and treatment
Forget what your relatives or the internet tell you. These are not the people you must go to for consultation. Connect with your doctor instead. If you are experiencing any such symptoms, see a doctor, and get the tests done for accurate diagnosis. The health expert will accordingly devise the treatment plan.
Balancing act: Lifestyle changes
Meanwhile, there are a plethora of treatment options available, Thyroid problems also demand a change in the lifestyle. Lifestyle changes can play a significant role in managing thyroid disorders and promoting overall well-being. While these changes may vary depending on the specific thyroid disorder (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism), here are some general recommendations that can be beneficial:
For Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)
- Balanced Diet: Focus on a diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Adequate fibre can help with digestion and managing weight.
- Iodine Intake: Include iodine-rich foods like seafood, seaweed, and iodized salt, but in moderation. Consult a healthcare professional before making significant changes.
- Selenium-Rich Foods: Selenium is essential for thyroid health. Incorporate foods like Brazil nuts, lean meats, and whole grains.
- Vitamin D: Spend time outdoors to get natural sunlight for vitamin D synthesis or consider supplements under medical guidance.
- Regular Exercise: Engage in moderate exercise like walking, swimming, or yoga to boost metabolism and improve mood.
- Stress Management: Practise stress-reduction techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or mindfulness to support adrenal health.
- Adequate Sleep: Prioritise quality sleep to aid hormonal balance and overall well-being.
- Limit Processed Foods: Reduce consumption of processed foods, refined sugars, and unhealthy fats.
- Gluten Sensitivity: Some individuals with hypothyroidism may benefit from reducing gluten intake. Consult a healthcare provider before making dietary changes.
- Medication Adherence: If prescribed medication for hypothyroidism, take it as directed by your healthcare provider.
For Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)
- Limit Iodine Intake: Reduce intake of iodine-rich foods, such as seaweed and iodized salt, as excessive iodine can exacerbate hyperthyroidism.
- Low-Iodine Diet: In certain cases, a low-iodine diet may be recommended prior to radioactive iodine therapy.
- Stress Reduction: Practise relaxation techniques to manage stress, as stress can worsen hyperthyroid symptoms.
- Limit Caffeine and Sugar: Reduce caffeine and sugar intake, as they can exacerbate symptoms like rapid heartbeat and anxiety.
- Regular Exercise: Engage in moderate exercises like walking or yoga to help manage stress and improve overall health.
- Avoid Stimulants: Minimise consumption of stimulants like energy drinks and excessive caffeine.
- Medication Adherence: If prescribed medication for hyperthyroidism, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions closely.
It’s important to remember that thyroid disorders are complex and individualised, so these lifestyle changes should be discussed with a healthcare professional. Always consult your doctor before making significant dietary or lifestyle modifications, as they can affect your condition and treatment plan.
Even though Thyroid problems can cause several complications, there is nothing to be afraid of as long as you are taking steps to manage Thyroid at your level. Thyroid problems can be managed. Let us remember that knowledge is our ally, and awareness is our guiding light. By acknowledging the nuances of Thyroid health, we empower ourselves and those around us to face this silent issue head-on. As the symphony of life continues, may our steps be sure, our decisions informed, and our bodies cherished. Here’s to embracing better health, fostering understanding, and supporting one another in our journey toward wellness.