The quest for the root cause of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is very dear to my heart. It HAS to be. I have suffered many years with this disease. That’s why I think I have the experience to post on this subject. Mary Shomon has been a patient advocate and a thyroid patient herself for many years now. The problem I have and why I am writing today is to find balance in a bold statement she made in her latest article correcting Oprah Winfrey’s suggestion that somehow your thyroid disease can be your fault. Oprah admitted to working extra hard and being extremely tired before her diagnoses. Here’s the excerpt from Mary Shomon I am concerned about:
Here’s my wake-up call to women everywhere: Thyroid disease is NOT your fault. Thyroid disease results when heredity and genetics, autoimmunity, environmental exposures, viral infections, and hormonal shifts come together in a perfect storm to trigger a dysfunction. And while emotional and physical stress, as well as nutrition and lifestyle, can play a role creating a climate receptive for — or fighting against — most diseases including thyroid conditions, these factors are only part of a larger, complicated puzzle.
Women are more susceptible to thyroid disease, as well as most of the more than 80 autoimmune diseases, for a variety of reasons, including the balance of our hormones. Times of hormonal change — i.e., pregnancy, post-partum, perimenopause and menopause — are key trigger points for the development of thyroid disease.
Another factor that can affect your thyroid is overconsumption of soy. In an official letter of protest to the FDA, Drs. Daniel Doerge and Daniel Sheehan, formerly the FDA’s two key experts on soy, contradicted soy’s health claims — which were approved by the FDA — saying:
“…there is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soy, including genistein and equol, a metabolize of daidzen, demonstrate toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid….Additionally, isoflavones are inhibitors of the thyroid peroxidase which makes T3 and T4. Inhibition can be expected to generate thyroid abnormalities, including goiter and autoimmune thyroiditis. There exists a significant body of animal data that demonstrates goitrogenic and even carcinogenic effects of soy products. Moreover, there are significant reports of goitrogenic effects from soy consumption in human infants and adults.”
Dr. Northrup, however, dismisses the opinions of these experts, as well as the many journal articles on the issue, and instead points to the soy industry’s own studies as evidence of soy’s safety for women.
Also from another article from Mary Shomon:
I can’t make it any clearer: Thyroid disease is NOT your fault. It is a result of autoimmunity, environmental exposures, genetics/heredity, and hormone shifts. Yes, stress and diet can play a part in disease— in fact, thyroid problems are, as noted, sometimes triggered by overconsumption of soy. (italics and bold mine)
In order to give her fair representation, I have quoted her full thoughts on what she believes causes thyroid dysfunction. In summary, she maximizes the environmental, hormonal and things “out of our control” and minimizes our own emotional and physical choices. Notice how she minimizes stress and diet – kind of just floats through the statement as though it isn’t there? Is it wise of her to use such a bold statement as “Thyroid Disease is NOT Your Fault” given her admittance that “emotional and physical
stress, as well as nutrition and lifestyle, can play a role”? Doesn’t the bold title convey we absolutely have NO control over this disease? I beg to differ. Here’s an excerpt from her OWN book “Living Well With Hypothyroidism” (2000), suggesting her OWN thyroid problem could have been jumpstarted by none other than a severe pushing of her body to the max during a certain time of her life:
Looking back, I’m fairly sure the onset of my thyroid problem occurred in early 1993, when I was thirty-two… I had about a ten pound weight gain from age thirty to thirty-two, I grew from a size 6/8, to a size 8/10, but didn’t worry much about it. Then in the winter of 1993, I published my first book. I was working an intense fulltime job, then coming home and working late into the night on the new book. I had a new boyfriend. It was a period of several months of intense work/book/life excitement and stress, coupled with too little sleep, poor eating habits, and lot of cigarettes and caffeine… (bold and italics mine)
Does this sound like someone who had NO fault in her own body’s decline? Hmmm… does this not sound strangely familiar to what Oprah was saying might be related to her thyroid condition? Then she writes at the end of this article:
P.S. And Oprah, if you’re reading — my wish for you is that someday, you realize that your thyroid condition is truly not your fault. And please reconsider all that soy!
So let me get this straight – I have NO control over my thyroid disease BUT stop using all that soy? Doesn’t that imply I have some control? I hope Mary Shomon considers revising her strong statements about having no control yet publishing many books and articles about how we can actually control our Hashimoto’s Disease! Her statements are confusing in that they give the impression that there’s nothing you can do for your thyroid disease, and yet gives testimony to the positive effects of avoiding soy.
I understand the role I played in the disease that eventually was diagnosed in my body. I was even warned by someone early on that if I didn’t control my stress, I would make myself sick. Even though the event was beyond my control, my emotional response could have been much better. Referring to her sudden weight gain, Ms. Shomon stated, “I didn’t worry much about it”. I reacted the same way when I was warned about my stress. Is it possible that the body was warning her earlier about some stress it was going through but she did not connect the symptoms to change her lifestyle? I think so. But of course, this is just my opinion.
Regarding the other culprits she mentions, environmental, soy, etc., I have no doubt they are likely contributors to some people’s thyroid problems and I am not here to blame all cases of thyroid disease on the person. I am mostly concerned with the bold statement that there is NO fault to be contributed to any thyroid patients in any way!
I am not trying to write a technical story – those of you that have read my articles know I am writing from a patient’s viewpoint and steer away from the technical. However, having lived many years in a body that shows response to my “moods” and my lifestyle choices, I can tell you FOR SURE that we do have some control over the body and it’s function. I have kept journals on how my choice of foods and lifestyle effects my thyroid condition. It always does! That tells me there is control there. Having that information may not solve the problem at this time, but it indicates to me that there may eventually be a way to use this information to help reverse this condition. The body seems to react to stress and asks for changes by alerting us to it in ways that manifest as unusual symptoms. If we don’t “listen” to the body when the symptoms are small, I suspect disease is the outcome.
In my own life, I am aware of traumatic events that came prior to my diagnoses. I am aware of my decision to take medications that are now known to suppress thyroid function, like steroids for my asthma, birth control pills which could have easily made me estrogen dominate, eating high amounts of soy products (buying into the soy hype) and although difficult to control, many stressful events that I hadn’t any idea how to handle. And finally, eating the Standard American Diet which I have now begun to replace with a traditional diet through this great online eCourse I encourage everyone to take. Maybe I wasn’t aware of the damaging effects they might have but I need to admit that I made these choices. I might have been a victim in some ways but nevertheless, I am the one that chose the course. Could it also be that I can also help turn that around? Why wouldn’t that be a positive goal? What would I be losing if I was to make positive changes to my lifestyle that might alleviate or possibly reverse my condition? When should a person “give up”? Or should they?
I am very encouraged by the stress management programs popping up presently which would have been a very important asset to my life years ago – perhaps teaching me how to release pent up emotions for years. I am confident this act alone is a major contributor to thyroid disease. So, in that statement alone, I emphatically disagree with Mary Shomon’s strong statement that there is no blame to be found in the patient. The sooner we admit to any misuse of our body, the sooner we will be in position for healing. It goes both ways. It’s admitted that we can be predisposed to illness (when extra stress is given to the body). Could it be that we are also predisposed to healing (given the right support to the body)? I encourage you to think about the implications of such a possibility.
In an effort to ease your mind however, I want to make it clear that I am NOT trying to dismiss legitimate factors beyond our control (environmental, viral, etc.) that can result in disease, but to recognize ways you might be contributing to the problem yourself (ie. intense work or demands on the body, too little sleep, poor eating habits, cigarettes, caffeine, etc.) as Mary Shomon has previously admitted. Why would we NOT try to figure out what fault we might have in our own health? That is a troubling thought to me.
Let’s join together and admit any contributions we have made and support each other on correcting them. None of us are “perfect”. It also concerns me to read that Mary Shomon actually said that you can do everything “perfectly” and still have a thyroid problem. Have you ever met a perfect person? I haven’t and that helps me admit my contributions to this disease. It does not make me feel guilty. It makes me feel empowered. I hope you’ll join me and take responsibility for your health.
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