January is Thyroid Awareness Month also known as Thyroid Disease Awareness Month. Ever since my diagnosis of thyroid disease, I’ve made it my business to be vigilant in thyroid health awareness. Despite my late diagnosis and subsequent surgery to have my thyroid removed; I’d like to think that I can utilize my experiences to helps someone else! So in honor of Thyroid Awareness Month, I’d like to do just that!
What is the thyroid?
Although I’m pretty certain I’ve gone over this on the blog before; there are so many new readers here that it doesn’t hurt to go over it again! The thyroid is a butterfly shaped gland that sits in the front of the neck.
The thyroid runs along the front of your windpipe and when it is healthy you are NOT able to feel it. The function of the thyroid is to secrete thyroid hormones T3 & T4 that influence the body’s metabolism, growth and body temperature. The thyroid even contains nerves responsible for your vocals!
How do you know if your thyroid is unhealthy?
There are several symptoms of thyroid disease that can occur; depending on what type of thyroid disease you have would determine symptoms.
Another way to know you may have a thyroid issue is if a goiter begins to grow. A goiter is abnormal enlargement of the thyroid gland. As mentioned earlier, a healthy thyroid cannot be seen or felt. If you begin to feel like you have a lump in your throat or the sensation of food being stuck; it’s time to call your physician. Another way to check for a goiter is a swallow test. This is when you look at yourself in a mirror why you swallow water and observe if there is any blockage, lumps or swelling moving in your neck when you swallow. If you notice anything weird or strange, call your physician.
You can also request your physician to run a thyroid panel but to include T3 & T4 results. Most physicians will only look at TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone) to tell if a person has thyroid issues but that alone is not enough sometimes. In fact, MANY thyroid patients present with many symptoms but have normal TSH readings. If you have a doctor that doesn’t comply; make sure you tell them you want it documented in your medical chart that they are refusing to provide you a test. Then I suggest finding a doctor who will.
What if you get diagnosed with a thyroid disease?
If you are indeed diagnosed, take a deep breath. It can be a relief to know but overwhelming at the same time. Unfortunately, all endocrinologists are not created equal. So finding an endocrinologist that is right for you can be a task.
There are an array of treatments for thyroid disease, and most doctors will probably focus on the medicinal aspect if they determine you need medication. For some, surgery or radiation treatment maybe required. These things are important and you should make decisions based on your comfort level and the information your Endo has given you. However, I would strongly encourage finding a nutritionist who can help you explore how your diet/nutrition impacts your body.
No one individual is a like, so what may work for someone else may not necessarily work for you. It’s really important that you listen to your body because the way it responds to both medicine and food can tell you a lot about whether something is working for you or not.
How can you support a loved one with thyroid disease?
First, listen to what they have to say. Avoid the urge to tell them you understand or phrases like “you just need to” because the truth is you don’t truly know. Do your diligence to research, read other thyroid patient’s experiences. If you see a valuable suggestion then let your loved one know about it, send them a link but never try to force it on them.
Being empathetic and understanding goes a long way. If they tell you that they are fatigued or too tired to do something, BELIEVE them. It’s not regular sleepiness. It’s a consuming fatigue or exhaustion that can leave us feeling quite drained. Many thyroid patients deal with depression, so check in on your loved ones. Encourage their emotional health and even for them to seek professional treatment if needed.
The Wrap Up
Thyroid health was never something I thought would be apart of my life; yet here I am! I will always continue this conversation as long as I live and breathe because it impacted me in ways I didn’t know were possible. And what’s more; there are MANY other people out there who have been impacted by their thyroid health adn don’t even know.
If we share our knowledge, experiences and resources; we have the power to change someone’s life for good! So if this article can help someone, by all means share!
Checkout my thyroid story over at Paloma Health as well as many others!
Additional thyroid health resources:
Until Next Time,