Model Gigi Hadid Has Us All Asking, What is Hashimoto’s Disease?Thyroid Health
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
Models face tremendous scrutiny when it comes to their weight and appearance, especially female models. They are often criticized as being either “too fat” or “too thin.”
Supermodel Gigi Hadid is all too familiar with this harsh criticism and body shaming that is also exacerbated by social media.
Back in 2015, she posted an open letter to Instagram defending her body type after several negative comments calling her fat surfaced.
And now here we are just a few years later, and people are criticizing the 22-year-old model for being too thin.
She fired back with a series of tweets, revealing that she has an illness.
In one of her tweets, she states as follows: “For those of you so determined to come up with why my body has changed over the years, you may not know that when I started [modeling] @ 17 I was not yet diagnosed w/Hashimoto’s disease…”
What is Hashimoto’s Disease?
The unique name of this disease comes from Hakaru Hashimoto, a Japanese doctor who discovered the condition and revealed his findings in 1912.
It is an autoimmune disorder, which means that it is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the body. This particular autoimmune disorder attacks and damages the thyroid.
Also called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, it causes chronic inflammation of the thyroid that often leads to slowed thyroid hormone production.
It affects about five people out of 100.
Many people may not even know what their thyroid does and how critical a properly working thyroid is for overall health.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped endocrine (hormone secreting) gland located in the lower front part of the neck. This organ plays a major role in the metabolism, growth and maturation of the human body.
Thyroid hormones control how your body uses energy, so they affect nearly every organ in your body—even the way your heart beats. Without enough thyroid hormones, many of your body’s functions slow down.
The thyroid produces three hormones:
- Triiodothyronine or T3
- Tetraiodothyronine, also called thyroxine, or T4
T3 and T4 work together to regulate your body’s temperature, metabolism and heart rate.
- Calcitonin - helps regulate calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. It also helps with bone formation and helps prevent hypercalcemia (when too much calcium is in the blood).
“More hormones are produced when the body needs more energy, like when it is growing or cold, or during pregnancy (NIH).”
What causes Hashimoto’s?
Researchers wish they knew more about the cause of this condition, but some people may have a genetic predisposition. It may also be triggered by some kind of environmental factor (like a virus).
Untreated, Hashimoto’s may cause high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease.
“It [an underactive thyroid] may cause a slow heart rate, a rise in cholesterol, an increase in fluid around the heart, and heart failure,” reports Harvard Medical School. “A precursor to hypothyroidism called subclinical hypothyroidism may cause some changes in the blood fats and blood vessel function that may lead to an increased risk of narrowing of the arteries.
Hashimoto’s may also cause a woman to have difficulty conceiving. Not managing this condition may also cause complications during pregnancy. Thyroid hormones are needed for normal development of a baby’s brain and nervous system. And this disease is reportedly eight times more common in women than men.
What are some of the symptoms of Hashimoto’s?
Many symptoms of this condition can be mistaken for other diseases, and they usually progress over the course of a few years.
Symptoms may include:
- Swelling of the thyroid
- Weight gain
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Muscle aches and reduced tolerance to exercise
- Hair loss
The good news is you can be proactive.
Your doctor can check to see if you have Hashimoto’s by simply doing a blood test. And if you do have Hashimoto’s, it can be well managed with medication. If you develop hypothyroidism, your doctor may prescribe levothyroxine.
Diet may also play a major role in treating Hashimoto’s.
Reportedly, the minerals iodine, selenium and zinc are key for a healthy, functioning thyroid.
But balance of these nutrients is critical.
“Too little iodine can cause goiters [a swelling of the neck resulting from an enlarged thyroid] in some people. Too much iodine can make hypothyroidism worse. This is because iodine is vital to the production of thyroid hormone,” according to the report.
Iodine is a trace mineral. The body itself cannot produce iodine. In the intestine, iodine is taken from the food we eat and enters the bloodstream. Pregnant women may need a little more iodine. But consult a qualified health professional about your nutritional needs. Iodine-rich foods include seafood, eggs, table salt, potatoes and milk. Keep in mind that some cough syrups also contain iodine.
The report says that “[t]he thyroid has the highest selenium content in the entire body. There’s no solid scientific evidence backing the use of selenium to treat Hashimoto. However, people with the disease who take selenium supplements have shown a decrease in the number of antibodies attacking the thyroid.”
Selenium is also a powerful antioxidant, which means that it may help fight inflammation caused by Hashimoto’s.
Brazil nuts are very rich in selenium. Just one large nut can have 140 mg of selenium (more than twice the recommended daily amount). Oysters, whole grains and meats also contain selenium.
Zinc is also used to produce thyroid hormones. People who have goiters may be able to increase thyroid hormone levels if they take zinc supplements. Dietary sources of zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, crabs, shrimp, fish, lobster, oatmeal, whole grains, cheeses, yogurt, beans and nuts.
Some reports suggest that people with Hashimoto’s go gluten-free. Every person is different, and this is something you can discuss with your doctor.
Clearly, it is extremely important to undergo nutritional testing to determine whether you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies and/or imbalances. Being nutritionally balanced will help maintain the health of your thyroid and better manage Hashimoto’s.
And note that taking medications for Hashimoto’s may deplete your body of essential nutrients. This is why testing is key. A qualified health professional can help you tweak your diet and possibly work with you to identify good quality supplements.
Enjoy your healthy life!
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