January is Thyroid Awareness Month. BCB Founder + CEO, Lindsay Pinchuk has managed a thyroid condition for most of her adult life. She wants to take this time to share why it’s important to be aware of the big impact this small gland in your neck can have on your health.
By Lindsay Pinchuk, BCB Founder + CEO
Forget about the “freshman 15,” in college I gained the “senior 20.”
At the time, I attributed my weight gain to the six nights a week I spent at Rick’s All American Café, followed by a slice of Backroom Pizza at 2am on the streets of Ann Arbor. It’s almost certain that anyone living this lifestyle was bound to experience some kind of weight gain. Never did I ever imagine that what was going on was far greater than a few extra lbs. my senior year.
Gaining four full clothing sizes my senior was awful.
At the time, I chalked it up to going out and living up every last moment of college. I worked hard and played harder; but I was tired. Exhausted actually. I put off taking Anatomy and Physiology for my major and got stuck with this five credit monstrosity my senior year. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise? It wasn’t until we covered the chapter on hormones that I realized something may be wrong with my health (something beyond vodka tonics and late snacks.)
I fit the hypothyroidism profile to a tee. The weight gain, always being cold, and the dire exhaustion. At the time, I napped every day for over two hours. Sometimes for as many as four.
My doctor ran a blood panel upon my insistence. When the tests came back, the numbers were so low off the charts the doctors thought it was a mistake. So they ran the tests again. The same numbers came back.
The diagnosis was Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that can cause hypothyroidism, or under-active thyroid. Since thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy, many of your body’s functions slow down when you have this disease. This is the reason for the tiredness and weight gain. Other symptoms can include hair loss, feeling cold, joint pain and more.
The opposite of Hypothyroidism is Hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid. When a person has this condition, they experience unintentional weight loss and often times a rapid beating of the heart.
Knowing my diagnosis made me relieved. My doctors started me on a medication, which I took daily, and ultimately made me feel better. However when I became pregnant with my first daughter, I realized the serious nature of my thyroid disease. At my very first appointment my OBGYN told me that they would be monitoring me very closely. I learned that if left untreated, women with thyroid disease could have complications during their pregnancy. If a thyroid issue goes undetected or untreated, thyroid disease could also lead to problems conceiving.
I control my Hashimotos,’ but it has not gone without complications. After my second daughter was born I simply could not shed the baby weight. My family doctor insisted it was because I was getting older and my metabolism was slowing down. Yet my OBGYN and Endocrinologist ran further tests and found my body was not absorbing my medication properly. During this time they also found a nodule. While common among patients with thyroid disease, I didn’t take any chances. I saw a specialist and have had two scans to make sure that the enlargement was not an issue. Thankfully it’s not. But knowing and controlling my condition has made me incredibly vigilant not only about my thyroid health, but my health overall.
There have been a lot of blood tests and appointments to get me to where I am now. But I am finally on a medication that is working for me—making me feel more like myself on a day to day basis. Changing my diet to avoid certain foods also has helped, and quite honestly, after four years, I finally feel like me again.
January is Thyroid Awareness Month and it’s important to be aware of the problems that thyroid disease can have on a person. Luckily, most thyroid issues are easily controlled. But they can often be missed and lead to further complications. Women are more likely than men to experience complications with their thyroid. As these problems can have implications on pregnancy and trying to conceive, it’s important to share and be aware of them.
According to the American Thyroid Association:
Over the last few years I have been more vigilant than ever in understanding my disease, and the effects it can have on me later in life. While I am on a medicine now that is working great, I know that in the future that may change. I try to eat gluten and dairy free, and quite honestly I am feeling better than ever.
More than anything, I share this information to bring awareness to this medical condition. It’s important to take care of yourself, and to that small gland in your neck. The one that can often have big implications on your health if not treated properly.