Why Do Women Neglect Their Thyroid Despite Greater Risk?

Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have thyroid disorders, and postpartum thyroiditis affects 2 in every 25 women.

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Paloma Gil on Pexel

Women in my community have reduced their sugar intake due to the rising levels of diabetes among their husbands, which is a concerning trend in the medical field. Jaggery has replaced sugar in many households. They’ve posted lists of healthy ingredients on their kitchen walls as a reminder not to compromise their commitment to getting their husbands’ health on track. Mindful shopping, preparing green salads with a sprinkle of salt to make them more appetizing, and scheduling appointments with healthcare providers for routine tests for their busy husbands. They constantly nag and regulate their loved ones’ diets. Tender loving care and YouTube shorts offering remedy recipes have become indispensable resources for them. It’s quite convenient for a man to have a lifelong nutritionist in the form of a mother first and a wife later. They understand his calorie intake better than he does.

There is one creature, besides dogs and cows, in India that often feeds on leftovers—mothers and wives. But what about their health? Why is their go-to lunch still that stale bread in the fridge? Why aren’t they dining with us at the dinner table? Are we afraid that there won’t be enough food for the rest of the family? If that’s the case, then why aren’t we making extra? Don’t we consider them as individuals deserving of enough fresh food?

Neglected nutrition and lack of attention have led to gynecological and thyroid issues, and women often overlook them, much like our government ignores important matters, hoping they’ll resolve themselves. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have thyroid disorders, and postpartum thyroiditis affects 2 in every 25 women. There must be an underlying reason for these statistics.

A significant portion of these cases goes undetected due to the absence of regular testing. Symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and depression often aren’t considered concerning in typical households, especially among Asians. Indians are known for seeking traditional remedies, delving deep into Ayurveda to find solutions. However, more often than not, they ignore and postpone addressing the issue until they receive an undeniable diagnosis. Sometimes, it’s more convenient to opt for medication. Additionally, the medical terminology associated with thyroid disorders can be bewildering for many.

Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, what’s the difference anyway? The small gland in the back of our neck has become a new area of concern, following mental health. Inadequate knowledge combined with myths and misconceptions create a dangerous mix. I know of one of my aunts who restricted her daughter’s thyroid medication, fearing it would harm her reproductive health and affect her ability to have children later on. Ironically, the aunt herself is diagnosed with the same condition, likely due to genetic factors. The daughter faces constant criticism for her weight gain and mood swings, which has led her to deprive herself of food to an unhealthy extent.

On the other hand, working women are achieving their professional goals but at what cost? In a culture that glorifies endurance and suffering, women often disregard their own health concerns. For instance, my mother is a 48-year-old government teacher in Bihar, specializing in Sanskrit. Her daily work involves standing and guiding students through various shlokas. Her school is located 40 kilometers away from our home in a remote village, and the daily journey is no easy feat. She spends two straight hours in an auto-rickshaw to fulfill her teaching duties. Despite her deep love for teaching and her students, the extensive travel and prolonged standing have taken a toll on her thyroid and overall health. I inherited my mother’s thyroid condition and was diagnosed in the 8th grade. The difference is, I have the flexibility to go to the gym and follow a protein-rich diet, whereas my mother does not.

Thyroid levels should be checked regularly, and medications should be taken as prescribed. However, misunderstanding and inexperience hinder proper care. Unbalanced menstrual cycles are burdensome and avoidable with the right knowledge. Studies reveal the limited knowledge women have about avoiding certain foods, like cauliflower or cabbage, when managing hypothyroidism. There’s so much to learn and address. How committed are women to ensuring they are on the right path to recovery? What ensures that our mothers, aunts, sisters, and others will make time for morning and evening walks, adhere to prescribed medications, get timely tests, and maintain a healthy diet? The assurance should come from society as a whole, which should prioritize women and women-centric health issues. Women should have the ease and comfort to take a moment to reflect on their symptoms seriously and seek assistance when needed.


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Sunidhi Rai

Sunidhi is a published writer who channeled her frustrations with patriarchy in her debut book. Currently, she is a creative writing MA student at Queen Mary University of London, having completed her Bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication. She is dedicated to using her future work as a guiding light for women navigating life’s challenges.

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