PHOENIX -- She used to save lives on the hit television series "Bay Watch," but now actress Gena Lee Nolin, who lives right here in the Valley, is helping others with a disease she's been battling since her 20s.
“I always had a sense that something was wrong,” Nolin said.
Fatigue, depression, hair loss and weight gain are just some of the symptoms Nolin suffered with for years.
“I was written off as you have depression and take this and you'll feel better,” Nolin said.
But those symptoms got worse after each of her three pregnancies.
“It took a couple of doctors to really find out my levels were high,” Nolin continued.
She discovered she has Hashimoto's disease, which is when your immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
“I finally knew what has been ailing me all these years,” Nolin said.
The thyroid produces hormones that give your body energy and regulates your temperature among many other things.
“One of the early indicators is the measurement of the bodies attack against the gland and that's a simple thing that can be checked on a box with a blood draw,” Dr. Alan Christianson said. “There can also be structural changes and that's something a doctor notices feeling the gland or by doing a non-invasive ultrasound.”
Christianson is a naturopathic medical doctor with Integrative Health. He said in some cases thyroid disease is genetic and for others it can be triggered by environmental factors.
“We can get exposed to fluoride, mercury, and per chlorate which is a chemical in the ground water,” Christianson said. “These are all things we get exposed to and some people have more of that in their thyroid glands than others do.”
Once diagnosed, treatment is pretty straight forward.
“In the big scheme of chronic diseases when it's pretty stabilized, it's just taking a pill a day as far as replacement end goes,” Christianson said.
Taking a pill is something Nolin does along with staying on a gluten-free diet and exercising.
“It’s not one pill you take and you're better and you’re cured,” Nolin said. “It's an every day battle.”
But Nolin has more good days than bad, and now she's helping others with her Facebook page called Thyroid Sexy.
“Thyroid Sexy helps with the comfort and what labs to take and should I get an ultrasound,” Nolin said. "You can't take no for an answer. You have to be your own advocate.”
Nolin and Christianson are also helping people with a thyroid quiz they created and plan to host an online thyroid boot camp this Friday, May 25.