Advice for Husbands of Hypothyroidism
Attention guys: If your wife, girlfriend, or partner has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and/or is hypothyroid, there are ways that you can play a supportive and productive role in her healing and her ability to live well.
We had an opportunity to talk with a husband-and-wife team — thyroid advocate and health coach Celia Aily Carranza, and her husband, Eduardo Carranza, a holistic health consultant and owner of the San Antonio, Texas-based Natural Remedy Store. Celia spent the first four decades of her life struggling with undiagnosed Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and hypothyroidism, and with Eduardo’s support, went through the years-long process of finally getting diagnosed and optimally treated for her thyroid condition.
Celia and Eduardo share helpful advice on how to be your wife or partner’s best advocate, and some secrets of how to remain a happy couple!
1. Believe her!
There is nothing worse than being told that your very real symptoms such as fatigue, or weight gain/difficulty losing weight are “in your head.”
Eduardo: Communication is the key. And for men to believe, they must listen, learn, and understand. Before Celia’s diagnosis, there were times when I didn’t believe her; I thought she was lazy. But when I started to listen, to ask questions — like: “Why is it that you slept for 10 hours and you’re still tired?” — then I started to truly understand. I needed to get to the what, where, when, and why. Once I did, I was totally on board with helping her find solutions.
Celia: There are some symptoms that are hard to truly believe and understand — like being lethargic and having absolutely no energy — unless you’ve experienced it yourself. But once I knew he believed me, we were both ready to take the next step — to start working toward solving the problem.
2. Encourage her to get second and third — or more — opinion.
Doctors are not infallible, some are better than others, and doctors use different criteria to make diagnosis and treatment decisions. If she’s not getting answers or solutions, encourage her to get more opinions from other doctors and experts.
Celia: Initially, I saw different practitioners, but no one pinpointed that it was a thyroid problem. Finally, I was diagnosed, but my symptoms got worse after initial treatment. Eduardo was determined and never stopped encouraging me. He frequently said: “If this doctor can’t help, let’s find another one.” Because he has a background in holistic health, he also recommended that we look for alternatives. “Let’s try acupuncture, or nutrition, and such.”
Eduardo: If I were to do it again, I would recommend that the couple both do their research. You need to seek out and work with the best experts … and find the right person. You don’t want each new visit to be a “lesson learned.”
Celia: I would add that patience is also important. This is not an easy fix or a one-week timeframe to get back to normal. You have to go at her pace. I was sick, tired, and frustrated, and there were times when I said: “I just can’t do this anymore, go to yet another appointment.” He realized he needed to slow down a bit at times.
3. Don’t body shame her.
One concern that some women have is that their husbands and partners shame them for changes in her body, such as weight gain or hair loss. Telling her she needs to lose weight or doesn’t look as good as she did in the past can be demoralizing. It can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and sex life.
Eduardo: It doesn’t matter if she is hypothyroid or not. You just do not do that to a woman you love.
Celia: I gained about 100 pounds in two years. It didn’t bother Eduardo, and he always said: “Your body is just a body, I love you, I love who you are.” The words were amazing, but in the end, I was the one who didn’t like me, and that affected our intimacy. When we were in bed, and he was very loving, I kept thinking, “I’m fat. He’s just pretending.” He wasn’t of course; it was my issue. But Eduardo wanted to help me, not because it bothered him, but because it bothered me. Together, we changed our lifestyle and changed our diets, knowing it would be easier to do it together. (And remember: Once you get your thyroid levels optimal and you get back in balance, your sex life comes back!)
4. Don’t compare her to other thyroid patients.
It can be frustrating to be compared to other thyroid patients. Some women report husbands and partners who say: “But my mother/sister/coworker is hypothyroid and on Synthroid, and she didn’t gain weight like you.”
Eduardo: What do you possibly expect to get out of it if you shame your wife or girlfriend? Again, even if she’s not hypothyroid, you just don’t do that!
Celia: Eduardo never compared me to anyone. Before I was diagnosed, we only knew one aunt with a thyroid problem. But I did so much reading and learned early on thyroid problems are bio-individual, so comparisons aren’t relevant. But I also have some advice for women who are doing well: Be grateful, but please be careful not to shame other women with thyroid problems. Everyone is different, and what works for you may not work for me.
5. Be her advocate.
Brain fog and fatigue can make it harder for a woman to advocate for herself with doctors. A supportive husband or partner can go to appointments with her, help her create an agenda for an appointment, take notes, and help her ensure that her questions are answered.
Eduardo: You’re a couple, so you need to take advantage of both people’s abilities and talents. In the beginning, it was mainly my ability to listen carefully and review things with Celia after appointments, when she was brain-fogged. Later, as she became more knowledgeable, I was able to put my experience in the nutritional area to good use in helping her with supplements and diet. If you’re good at something, do it!
Celia: In our case, it was helpful for Eduardo to initially come to visits. I had so much brain fog I literally could not understand the words. He would listen to everything, and I'd come home, and he would review what the doctor had said, and go over my bloodwork with me.
It’s also very important for a partner to stand up and advocate for you, to show a united front. My first endocrinologist wasn’t listening to me at all and didn't have any suggestions for all the reactions I had to being treated with Synthroid. Eduardo went with me to an appointment, and she went off on him, too.
Eduardo: In this situation, she was obviously not open to discussing alternatives, she wasn’t knowledgeable, and wasn’t acting professionally. I didn’t argue with her. Instead, after we left, it was quite clear that we needed to change doctors.
6. Remember that you are partners.
Some women do most or even all the household work like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and childcare. There are times, however, when supporting her in her wellness journey means that a guy needs to take on more of these tasks.
Celia: I had done it all for years, and then I got sick. Eduardo had helped put things in balance, for me, for our family, and for him as well. He stepped up and helped lovingly and has never been resentful. By taking on tasks, even something like taking the kids to school, we are that much closer to getting our lives back.
Eduardo: Some men are selfish — they feel resentful if they are doing laundry, cooking, or washing dishes. But you need to think about your family, and your relationship. Do you want to eat? Do you want clean clothes? Do you want to give her time to get well? Men need to look at the future reward. Whenever I did things for our family, it was also a chance for me to give thanks for my own health.
7. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too.
Helping support someone with an acute or chronic illness like hypothyroidism can be exhausting, so you also need to make sure to take time to restore yourself.
Eduardo: If you do too much without taking time for yourself, you lose your balance. Plan a regular massage, or go meditate, or have a guy’s night out. I'm not saying you schedule three hours per day, but if you plan and manage your time, you can get some time for yourself too.
Celia: Eduardo often goes out with his friends on Thursday nights. He also does periodic weekend trips with friends. These are important self-care for him — he needs this time. It takes some planning and organization, but it’s possible. We’ve been able to make sure Eduardo gets some time off, even with running our businesses, two kids, and four dogs!
8. Don’t forget date nights!
Even when she’s exhausted or not feeling well, it’s important to have date nights.
Celia: We have regular date nights. If I’m feeling sick and can’t go out to dinner, Eduardo is so creative! Once the kids are in bed, he will grill something delicious, and we'll have dinner in bed and watch a movie. Sometimes he draws a hot detox bath with candles, and we both climb in and pretend we’re at a luxury hotel!
9. Love her — in sickness and in health.
Finally, if you’re married, at some point in time you stood up and vowed to love, honor, and cherish her — in sickness and in health. Those aren’t just words. They represent a commitment.
Eduardo: If you don’t want to support each other when things are difficult, that’s not really love. But it’s a two-way street … You both must be there, for each other, no matter what.
Celia: You don’t just say: “Oops, I’m going back to my mother’s because you’ve got Hashimoto’s.” That’s not love. At the same time, I didn’t just lay in bed doing nothing, and saying: “He’s taking care of me.” While he stepped up, I researched, saw doctors, and tried different things. Because of his love and support, I couldn’t let him down.
Eduardo: It’s all about teamwork. You have to do it together, support each other … eventually, you get your partner back!