If you have had any access to media this week, you’ve probably heard about Oprah Winfrey’s announcement that her weight has climbed to over 200 pounds again. She openly discusses her weight issues in her O Magazine (on stands December 16th), which she says have been heightened because of the discovery of a thyroid problem. The current media attention surrounding Oprah has generated an increased interest in thyroid problems as well as questions about the condition.
Women aren’t the only ones to suffer from thyroid problems, which result when too little or too much thyroid hormone circulates in the body. But they comprise up to 80 percent of the estimated 27 million Americans who have thyroid conditions, according to the Society for Women’s Health Research.
Hypothyroidism, which Winfrey suffered from, results when the thyroid (a small butterfly-shaped gland located near the Adam’s apple at the base of the throat) has stopped producing enough of the hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism and normal body function. A range of symptoms may result, including: fatigue; high cholesterol; hair loss, and a feeling of pressure in the neck.
On the other hand, hyperthyroidism results from an overproduction of thyroid hormone. Common symptoms include heart palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, breathlessness, trembling hands, weight loss (and in some cases weight gain due to increased appetite), hair loss, fatigue and light or absent menstrual periods. It is not uncommon for a hyperthyroid condition to eventually lead to a hypothyroid state, as it did with Winfrey.
Because of wide range of symptoms, the disorders are often undiagnosed in both men and women. Winfrey said she went “from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was wrong” until she finally discovered the problem was with her thyroid.
How are thyroid conditions diagnosed?
A variety of tests can be used to diagnose a thyroid condition. The most common is the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood test. This test is not part of a regular physical exam, so you need to request it. Other tests include thyroid antibody panels to evaluate autoimmunity, Free T4 and Free T3 tests to measure the key thyroid hormones, and imaging tests to get a visual picture of the thyroid and any lumps or enlargements.
What are the treatment options?
If you feel you may have a thyroid condition, you should consult with your physician who may prescribe a hormone replacement treatment. You can also ask your doctor about natural, healthy treatment options available to you. There are natural alternative options that can help. Ask about natural products that contain selenium, zinc and Vitamin B-12. These nutrients, working together can help improve the overall function of the thyroid and give your body the nutrients it needs to perform well. Do not overlook what these products can provide for you.