Few people wield the power Oprah does. With one word from her, a celebrity can skyrocket from B-list to A-list or plummet from adored to abhorred. A book can be resurrected from the forgotten shelves and land smack-dab on the New York Times bestseller list. A charity can gain the funds it needs to continue running and a ne’er-do-well manufacturer, author or all around bigwig can find himself begging America for forgiveness. Her topics vary weekly, covering a whole host of topics. Most recently, it was health.
Towards the end of October, Oprah announced that her summer illness and weight gain were the result of a thyroid disorder. First her thyroid was in overdrive; then, it was idling lazily. She went from insomniac to constant snoozer and gained twenty pounds. It wasn’t until Oprah stopped working, retreated to Hawaii and limited her diet to fresh foods that her problem was diagnosed and effectively addressed. Her first post-recovery acts were a magazine article and a television talk. Now, America is obsessed with the thyroid and Oprah’s recuperation. This is both good and bad.
It’s good because thyroid disorders are medical conditions that need to be addressed. Only two to three percent of Americans have a severe thyroid problem, but five to 15 percent have a milder case, which often goes untreated. As such, these individuals have a higher risk of congestive heart failure, other cardiovascular diseases, cognitive disorders, miscarriage and preterm delivery. They are likely to suffer from, depending on the type, weight gain/loss, fatigue/insomnia, depression, high cholesterol, neck pain, hair loss, constipation/diarrhea, anxiety and panic attacks, heart palpitations and menstrual/sex-drive problems, but have no idea why. They’ll try to treat other conditions associated with those symptoms with no success. It will be a constant source of poor health as well as a constant source of frustration, since not knowing what is wrong with your body is never comforting. So by drawing attention to the ailment, Oprah has done us a service. However, in describing her recovery, she has taken a misstep.
If you read Oprah’s story, you’ll believe that the key to treating a thyroid disorder is relaxation and improved nutrition. While both are important facets to healthy living, neither will cure an under- or overactive thyroid. The only proven effective method is medication, which means you have to see your doctor. You should be seeing him anyway, as you can only definitively diagnose a thyroid problem with a blood test. Self-diagnosing and self-treatment are never advisable.
For more information on thyroid disorders visit the American Thyroid Association.
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