Millions of people have thyroid problems, which cause a wide range of symptoms affecting our quality of life.
Thyroid problems can affect just about anyone, including celebrities.
Famous people aren't immune to diseases, and many of them have thyroid-related conditions.
Throughout this article, you’re going to see seven celebs who have some form of thyroid disease and get inspired to manage your condition in the best way possible.
1. Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is one of the most popular people in the world. She's a talented actress, beloved TV host, and a philanthropist who raises awareness of important issues and helps people across the globe.
What we love about Oprah is that she's always been vocal i.e., she wasn't afraid to talk about her problems and struggles.
Oprah isn't a type of celebrity who pretends her life is perfect, and we love her for it. One subject she was frank about over the years is her health.
As you already know, Oprah struggled with weight for quite some time. She would gain weight easily, slim down a little bit, and gain it all back.
It was like a cycle that mirrored the underlying problem affecting her thyroid gland.
In 2007, fatigue and weight gain made her take an entire month off to seek balance in her life. Oprah wrote in her O, the Oprah Magazine that her body was turning on her.
First, she had hyperthyroidism, which only accelerated her metabolism. Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland where T3 and T4 hormones are produced excessively.
Most hyperthyroid people lose weight due to fast metabolism, but Oprah didn't. The condition also interfered with her sleep.
Then, Oprah had hypothyroidism i.e., underactive thyroid gland where the body produces insufficient levels of T4 and T3 hormones. Hypothyroidism slowed down Oprah's metabolism and made her want to sleep all the time. Most people with hypothyroidism gain weight, and so did Oprah. She gained 20 pounds[i].
The media mogul was quite vague about her exact diagnosis, but based on the symptoms she describes, experts deduce, she was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease. Her hyperthyroidism symptoms were a manifestation of a condition called Hashitoxicosis, a rare autoimmune phenomenon wherein the antibodies stimulate the thyroid gland to release excess thyroid hormone. This condition then progresses to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Eventually, Oprah announced that she was “cured” from her disease and that she stopped taking medications. Oprah explained that she doesn’t have the thyroid problem anymore because her hormone levels are in the normal range, and doctors have taken her off the medication she was taking[ii]. What we can conclude here is that Oprah focused on her wellbeing by finding a way to rest and relax while adhering to doctor-recommended treatment route.
2. Sofia Vergara
Sofia Veraga is the best-paid TV actress in the world thanks to her portrayal of Gloria in the hit show Modern Family.
What many people look at Sofia and all they see is a pretty face and gorgeous body or a woman who has it all. But many of us didn’t know that Sofia had a serious illness that could have ended in the most horrible way. When she was only 28 years old, Sofia was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She said the doctor felt a lump in her neck during the routine checkup.
This was a very traumatic period for Sofia because she was young, and she also had a young son.
Although it was difficult to learn she had thyroid cancer, Sofia tried not to panic for her son's sake. Back then, there was no internet, and she couldn't find information on Google, so she went to the bookstore to get books about thyroid cancer. It's always important to educate yourself about the condition you may have. The more you know, the better it is for your health and disease management.
Sofia’s doctor informed her that she would need to undergo surgery to remove her thyroid gland. She spent several days in the hospital, in isolation, while she received treatment with radioactive iodine to wipe out any remaining cancer cells.
The famous actress says she was lucky because her doctor spotted something was wrong, so cancer was diagnosed in early stages. Thyroid cancer is a quiet disease, and many people don't even know they have it until cancer spreads and is more difficult to treat.
Now Sofia remains cancer-free, but she has to take pills to make up for thyroid hormones that aren’t longer produced by her body.
Sofia Vergara also became the face of Follow the Script, a campaign designed for people with hypothyroidism to work with their doctor to manage thyroid hormone levels[iii].
3. Zoe Saldana
Zoe Saldana is the star of the Guardians of Galaxy and Avatar. This talented actress is one of many celebrities who have thyroid-related problems. The famous actress has experienced the uncomfortable symptoms associated with both hyperthyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Thyroid problems run in Saldana's family. Her mother struggled with Hashimoto's thyroiditis early on in her life, and she experienced symptoms such as fatigue, constantly feeling like her body was inflamed. That's exactly why she made sure her children, who were teenagers then, get blood tests that would check their thyroid levels.
When she was 17, Saldana showed signs of hyperthyroidism or overactive thyroid, which would explain why Zoe was always on the slender side. Talking to doctors, she learned that thyroid could burn out quickly from over-activity.
In her thirties, Zoe Saldana was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. But, she doesn’t let the disease slow her down. Zoe’s mom was the best influence and role model she could have. Since her mother dealt with the same problem, Zoe learned how important it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
The actresses described her mother as the only mom in Queens in the 80s who questioned all chemicals in their products, stopped buying canned goods and frozen meat, and would even take two trains and a bus to buy organic food[iv].
4. Wendy Williams
Wendy Williams is a TV host well-known for her sassy comments and the “I say it like it is” attitude. Millions of people watch her talk show to see what she has to say about some famous person and how she’s going to comment on some hot topic.
In 2018 Wendy Williams announced to her viewers that she was ordered by her doctor to take a three-week hiatus because of complications caused by Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition wherein the immune system attacks thyroid. It is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Williams admitted she heard of this disease before because George and Barbara Bush were diagnosed with it, but she didn’t know much about the condition.
Upon speaking with a doctor who specializes in the disease, Wendy learned this is an extremely complex and disruptive condition that leads to heart and bone issues if left untreated[v].
Her viewers also suspected she might have the autoimmune disease due to her bulging eyes. Wendy advises women that they should stop putting everyone first because if you’re not good, men aren’t good either.
She said it because she had a doctor’s appointment before her diagnosis but canceled it so she could attend a business meeting.
5. Gigi Hadid
Gigi Hadid is the world famous supermodel who does runway shows for the most reputable designers and is also a face of many beauty and fashion campaigns and brands.
Like many other people, especially young women, in the public eye, Gigi Hadid is criticized on a daily basis for everything she does, especially for the way it looks. Social media users can be quite cruel, and on more occasions than one, they ridiculed Gigi for her weight fluctuations claiming she can’t be a “real” model if she’s not super skinny.
Little did they know that her weight problems are associated with health troubles.
In February 2018, Gigi took to her official Twitter account to put an end to constant talk about her weight. She directed the tweet to people determined to mention how her body has changed over the years. Then, the famous supermodel revealed she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis when she was only 17. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition where the cells in the body attack thyroid; it is the most common cause of hypothyroidism.
Gigi wrote that people who claimed she was "too big for the industry" were actually seeing results of inflammation and water retention. Over the years, she was properly medicated to manage her symptoms, and she also was a part of a holistic medical trial[vi].
Gigi has the "contagious" cheerful and upbeat attitude, which is exactly why people love her. In order to manage symptoms, Gigi chose the best route – consulting her doctor and taking medications that were prescribed to her.
6. Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton is one of those public figures about whom we think we know everything, but that's not always the case. In July 2015, Hillary Clinton released her medical records, which indicated that the former U.S. Secretary of State underwent treatment for hypothyroidism. Women, especially older ladies, are more susceptible to hypothyroidism than men.
Hypothyroidism is usually treated with levothyroxine, a synthetic form of the T4 hormone. In order to manage symptoms of hypothyroidism effectively and to prevent complications, a patient needs to take this drug regularly. However, Hillary Clinton wasn’t treated with levothyroxine. Instead, she used a natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) called Armour Thyroid instead. Armour Thyroid delivers natural T3 and T4 hormones obtained from cows and pigs.
It’s important to mention that NDT isn’t considered the standard treatment route for hypothyroidism, but works great for some.
7. Gina Rodriguez
Gina Rodriguez is well-known for her role in Jane the Virgin. This quirky actress has an upbeat attitude, and she is loved by her fans for promoting body inclusivity. Gina was diagnosed with hypothyroidism when she was only 19. Later she found that hypothyroidism was caused by Hashimoto's disease.
Talking about her condition, Gina said she rejected the fact she had the disease at first. She went against the current by saying Hollywood has to accept her, but she wasn’t accepting herself. Later, she overcame this problem and now successfully manages symptoms with a combination of a healthy, well-balanced diet and medications.
Thyroid problems can affect just about anyone, and famous people aren't the exception. In this post, you had the opportunity to see seven celebrities that were diagnosed with thyroid-related conditions.
What we can learn from them is that it’s important to be proactive. Follow the doctor’s advice and make sure you adopt healthy lifestyle habits. At the same time, you shouldn’t let thyroid disease diagnosis slow you down.
Be happy, make healthy choices, and you’ll notice how things change for the better.
[i] Pallarito K. (2018). 11 celebs with thyroid disease – and how they knew something was wrong. Health. Retrieved from: https://www.health.com/thyroid/celebrities-with-thyroid-disorders?slide=496584#496584
[ii] Shomon M. (2019). Is Oprah Winfrey cured of her thyroid problems? Very Well Health. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellhealth.com/oprah-winfreys-thyroid-problem-wasnt-actually-cured-3895486
[iii] Shaw G. Surviving thyroid cancer: Sofia Vergara's story. Web MD. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/cancer/features/sofia-vergara#1
[iv] Zoe Saldana: Action hero. Web MD. Retrieved from: https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/zoe-saldana-action-hero#2
[v] Spector N. (2018). Wendy Williams has Graves disease. What is it? NBC News. Retrieved from: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/wendy-williams-has-graves-disease-what-it-ncna850616
[vi] Shiffer E. (2018). 13 celebs who've been super-honest about their thyroid conditions. Women's Health. Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/g23782761/celebs-with-thyroid-issues/?slide=1