Jane the Virgin" actress Gina Rodriguez said her thyroid disorder made it difficult to drop pounds. Here, experts discuss signs that you might be in the same boat.
Gina Rodriguez was diagnosed with a thyroid disorder when she was 19, and the Jane the Virgin star is now discussing the toll the diagnosis has taken on her health, especially when it comes to weight loss. “It began when I was 19 years old and I got fired, and I realized keeping my weight down was going to be much more difficult,” Rodriguez, 31, told PeopleStyle. “It was difficult for me to stay in the comfortable zone of my weight,” she said, adding that her “fatigue was through the roof.”
The actress has Hashimoto’s disease, she said in the interview. Hashimoto’s disease is the most common cause of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, Ruchi Gaba, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine/endocrinology at the Baylor College of Medicine, tells SELF. “Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune thyroid disorder,” she says. “What that means is antibodies are kind of attacking your thyroid and making it produce less thyroid hormone. That can lead to low thyroid levels and cause hypothyroidism.”
Your thyroid helps control your body’s metabolism, explains Gaba. “So if you have low thyroid levels, your metabolism tends to go down—and that’s when you start to gain weight and have low energy.” Other symptoms of low thyroid levels include excessive sleepiness, cold intolerance, constipation, a slow heart rate, swelling, hair loss or skin changes, nail changes, and irregular periods. (On the flip side, high thyroid levels, or hyperthyroidism, can lead to symptoms such as weight loss, heat intolerance, heart palpitations, insomnia, and anxiety.)
The American Thyroid Association estimates that about 20 million people in the U.S. have some type of thyroid disease—but that as many as 60 percent of those affected may not realize it. What’s more, women are significantly more likely than men to suffer from a thyroid disorder, and one in eight women will be have one at some point in their lives.
Since the symptoms are pretty vague and overlap with those of other health problems, it can be difficult to diagnose thyroid problems based only on having one or two of the signs we’ve listed here (and it’s worth noting that Gina Rodriguez toldPeopleStyle she felt hot all the time, even though that’s typically a symptom of hyperthyroidism).
If you’re hoping to lose weight but suspect you might have thyroid issues, don’t freak out. While they may sound scary, the good news is that they’re typically responsive to medicine. “I’ve been treating this for many years, and it’s absolutely treatable with thyroid medication,” says Gaba. “If you’re on an adequate thyroid hormone replacement, then losing weight [as well as treating any other symptoms] should not be an issue at all.” It’s more about finding the right dose of medication for your body, she explains.
“If you have a combination of all these symptoms, you might want to ask a doctor to evaluate your thyroid,” says Gaba, who explains that a blood test can let you know if you have abnormal thyroid levels. “But you shouldn’t [self-diagnose] off a single symptom.”