10 Myths About Hypothyroidism
- How much do you really know about hypothyroidism?You might have heard of hypothyroidism, a condition that occurs when your thyroid gland stops producing enough thyroid hormones to effectively regulate how your body burns calories and stores energy. But how much do you really know about it? With all the information out there, it can be difficult to parse out the facts from fiction.
- Myth #1: If you develop hypothyroidism, you’ll definitely know that something is wrong.Truth: For many people with an underactive thyroid, the symptoms take a while to develop. They may also seem vague enough that you’re not quite sure if something specific is wrong or if you’re just experiencing normal symptoms of aging or stress. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, dry skin, constipation, elevated cholesterol levels, weight gain, muscle aches, joint pain, hoarseness, an increased sensitivity to cold, a puffy face, and a slowed heart rate. Some people also experience muscle weakness, thinning hair or depression.
- Myth #2: If medication doesn’t effectively address your hypothyroidism, surgery could be an option.Truth: There’s no reason to operate on your thyroid gland—it won’t help your situation at all. In fact, removing the thyroid gland is a possible treatment for an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), not an underactive one. The standard treatment for hypothyroidism is a daily dose of a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine to replace the thyroid hormone that your body’s thyroid gland isn’t producing. The effects kick in after a couple of weeks, although your doctor may need to experiment with the exact dosage to make sure you’re getting the appropriate amount.
- Myth #4: People with hypothyroidism should avoid eating anything containing soy.Truth: You shouldn’t completely avoid soy—but approach it with caution. Soy may interfere with your body’s ability to absorb hormone replacement medication, so don’t eat it on a daily basis; it’s also a good idea to wait several hours after taking your hormone replacement medication before noshing on edamame or downing that soymilk latte. And although iodine deficiency is rare in the U.S., soy users with hypothyroidism need to make sure their intake of iodine is adequate.
- Myth #5: You may experience some significant side effects from taking a synthetic thyroid hormone.Truth: While it’s always possible to experience side effects from taking a medication, the chances here are pretty low. If you do experience side effects like increased appetite, heart palpitations, or insomnia, it’s possible that your dosage of levothyroxine isn’t right for you. Talk to your doctor and ask to get your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels rechecked.
- Myth #6: Only women develop hypothyroidism.Truth: Women are much more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men—in fact, women over age 60 have the highest likelihood of developing an underactive thyroid. But it is possible for younger women and men to develop it.
- Myth #7: Stay away from broccoli if your thyroid is underactive.Truth: Don’t worry, broccoli fans—you don’t have to give up broccoli or its cruciferous cousins, cauliflower and kale. You may have heard the advice to steer clear of these veggies because they contain a substance called glucosinolate that could interfere with your thyroid function. They provide so many health benefits that it’s okay to eat them occasionally, although perhaps not on a daily basis. Try cooking them lightly instead of eating them raw.
- Myth #8: It’s not safe to take thyroid hormone medication while pregnant.Truth: It’s perfectly safe to take the synthetic thyroid hormone thyroxine while pregnant. Thyroxine replaces the T4 that your thyroid is no longer making—or making enough of—and it’s crucial for the development of your baby, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. During your pregnancy, your doctor will check your thyroid function about every six to eight weeks to make sure you’re taking the right amount.
- Myth #9: Hypothyroidism only develops during adulthood.Truth: Babies and children are sometimes diagnosed with hypothyroidism, too. They experience many of the same symptoms that adults do, but they may also have developmental and growth delays. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s critical that infants receive treatment because even a mild case can cause a slowdown in their growth and development and could lead to severe intellectual disabilities.
- Myth #10: You’ll never feel quite like yourself again once you develop hypothyroidism.Truth: Once you’re taking the appropriate dose of levothyroxine to compensate for the hormone that your thyroid isn’t producing, it should reverse the symptoms of hypothyroidism and you should start to feel better. Don’t skip doses of this oral medication, as you may begin to notice the symptoms of hypothyroidism returning. Keep taking the synthetic hormone to continue control of your symptoms.
10 Myths About Hypothyroidism