Gina Rodriguez Has Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism

Many Hypothyroid Patients Don't Know They Have Hashimoto's Disease

Gina Rodriguez
Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez was diagnosed with Hashimoto's 10 years after her hypothyroidism diagnosis. Mark Davis/Getty Images

One of 2014's fall season's breakout hit television shows is the CW's "Jane the Virgin," starring 29-year old actress Gina Rodriguez, who won a 2015 Golden Globe for her performance in the show.

Unlike many celebrities with thyroid disease, Rodriguez has been very vocal about her diagnosis with hypothyroidism at the age of 19.

Before the show premiered, Rodriguez starred in the soap opera, The Bold and the Beautiful.

In a 2013 interview with IndieWire, Rodriguez shared information about her initial diagnosis:

When I went to college, my first big struggle was that I was diagnosed with thyroid disease. As an actress, having to deal with weight issues, in general, was just like, “Oh brother, here’s another challenge.” I was going to have to deal with a disease that wasn’t going to let me be a 100 pounds.
When Jane the Virgin premiered in the fall of 2014, Rodriguez shared surprising news of an additional diagnosis with television's Entertainment Tonight:
While I was shooting the pilot, I was training for a half marathon and I went to see my holistic doctor right after the marathon was done.

She said, "From your test results, let’s talk about your Hashimoto’s (disease)." And I was like, "What are you talking about? I have thyroid disease" and she said, ‘No, no you have Hashimoto’s and to be honest, I don’t know how you’re standing right now and why you’re not asleep. I thought somebody would be bringing you here. Your blood tests are, like, off the charts." I was like, "I just ran a half marathon three days ago. I just bike rode, like, 12 miles here…!" She goes, "Aren’t you tired?’ and I was like, "Yeah, but you get up and push forward!"

Hypothyroid But Unaware of Hashimoto's Disease: Is This Common?

The situation Gina Rodriguez found herself in - being diagnosed and treated for hypothyroidism, but not being aware that she had autoimmune Hashimoto's disease, is actually quite common.

How does this happen? Typically, many conventional physicians and endocrinologists make a hypothyroidism diagnosis based on the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test alone.

Patients are told they are hypothyroid, given thyroid hormone replacement medication, but there is no further exploration of the cause of the underactive thyroid.

Antibodies tests - such as Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies (TPO) that can detect Hashimoto's disease -- are frequently not performed. The reason? Many endocrinologists do not feel that antibodies tests are useful or relevant, because, as one endocrinologist told me, "there's nothing we can do about antibodies anyway, so what's the point?"

So patients may receive treatment for years, and, like Rodriguez, never know that the cause of their underactive thyroid is the autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto's disease, also called Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Does Hashimoto's Disease Change How Hypothyroidism is Treated?

From the conventional perspective of many endocrinologists and other physicians, whether or not a patient has Hashimoto's does not affect the treatment. If a patient is diagnosed as being hypothyroid, the treatment is thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Integrative and holistic physicians, and more innovative endocrinologists, however, consider testing for Hashimoto's antibodies to be an important part of the diagnostic process, for several reasons:

  1. Even when TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 are within the reference range -- or even optimized -- presence of elevated TPO antibodies can indicate Hashimoto's disease. And there is journal-published research that shows that treating these patients may lower antibodies, stop elevation of antibodies, and prevent development of overt hypothyroidism.
  2. Evidence of autoimmune disease means that first degree relatives of the patient - parents, siblings, and children - are also at higher risk for other autoimmune diseases.
  3. Some practitioners recommend selenium supplementation, use of an anti-inflammatory diet, and prescription Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) to lower antibodies.
  4. Some patients who have Hashimoto's disease benefit from a gluten-free diet.
  5. There is evidence that when Hashimoto's antibodies are present and TSH is allowed to remain in the high-normal area of the reference range, there is an increased risk of thyroid cancer.

Recommendations for Hypothyroid Patients

As soon as you are diagnosed as hypothyroid, insist on a TPO antibodies test, to determine if you have Hashimoto's disease. Do not end up in a situation like Gina Rodriguez, where you go for months or even years without knowing if the cause of your hypothyroidism in in fact Hashimoto's disease.

A diagnosis of Hashimoto's can help you inform family members regarding their health risks, and may offer you additional options, as outlined above, to lower antibodies or even achieve a remission of your Hashimoto's.

Continue Reading