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Career, kids, now thyroid

Playing superwoman isn?t easy. The stress of juggling multiple roles has many young women now coping with thyroid problems.

india Updated: Jul 09, 2006 02:23 IST

Delhi-based architect Tania Mishra, 27, was determined to lose those last five kilos and began to diet and workout. After months of trying to get the weight off, she realised she was instead putting on weight. Alarmed, she went to her doctor who recommended she get a thyroid test. The test was positive. Mishra had hypothyroidism and joined thousands of young women across India suffering from thyroid malfunctions.

“The number of young Indian women suffering from thyroid problems has shot up as compared to 5-7 years ago,” says Dr Shashank Joshi, a consulting endocrinologist at Lilavati Hospital and Bhatia Hospital.

“Women are nine times more likely to get thyroid-related diseases than men,” says Dr Joshi adding that he has noticed a surge in the number of women patients, especially in the age group of 18 to 35 years.

Both Joshi and Dr Nadeem Rais, an endocrinologist at CMC on Babulnath Road, attribute this to what Rais calls the ‘superwoman syndrome,’ or what Joshi terms the ‘triple task syndrome’ — caused by modern women juggling multiple roles of career, motherhood and homemaker. “There is a definite outbreak of thyroid-related disorders right after the Class 10-12 exams,” says Joshi.

Rais says most patients are women who are driven by their careers but also want to be excellent mothers and homemakers. “Something’s going to give somewhere if you stress your body out like that and the result is often hyper or hypothyroidism,” he says.

Hyperthyroidism is the condition when the body produces too much thyroid hormone, while hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid hormone in the body is low.

Endocrinologists say this is also the primary cause of miscarriage in the first trimester of pregnancy. Mumbai-based fashion designer Radha Sajnani, 34, got diagnosed with hypothyroidism a little before she got pregnant with her second child and had a miscarriage in the fourth month.

But doctors say through regular testing and careful monitoring, the situation can be prevented. It is also recommended that a woman planning a pregnancy should check her thyroid levels first and wait for these to stabilise before attempting to conceive. Thyroid diseases also lead to infertility, menstrual irregularity, lowered IQ in the child and depression. There is even a strong connection between hypothyroid and polycystic ovary syndrome. “In lab research, when you want to create a polycystic ovary, you create hypothyroidism in the animal,” says Rais.

While hyper and hypothyroidism are often triggered by the genetic bounty your ancestors present you with, your choice of lifestyle, stress and food, it appears, are equally to blame. One controversial cause seems to be the excessive use of iodised salt. Joshi explains, “There is a direct correlation between consumption of iodised salt and the fact that Indians are peaking with thyroid issues because excessive iodine in the body can induce an auto-immune attack on the thyroid.”

But most doctors, including A Rathinaswamy, director of operations at Thyrocare Technologies, believe it would be foolish to lift the ban on non-iodised salt. “The government should ensure that only in hilly regions, where people have little access to fish and leafy vegetables, iodised salt is made compulsory,” says Rathinaswamy. Others like Joshi feel that both iodised and non-iodised salt should be made available. Prajakta Sarmalkar, a registered dietician working with an endocrinologist, says, “I tell patients suffering from hypothyroidism to avoid eating iodine rich foods like cabbage, cauliflower, shell-fish, lentils, brussel sprouts and soy.”