The actress-host remains positive, despite the many lifestyle changes and insensitive comments (“How lucky, you can eat whatever you want!). By Dawn Chen
On the surface, everything appears to be going well for 27-year-old actress-host Vanessa Vanderstraaten. She’s got the looks, a good career, and a sweet relationship with fellow Fly Entertainment artiste Andrew Lua to boot. Watching her radiate such energy and positivity on set and off, it’s hard to imagine Vanessa has been battling the disease, hyperthyroidism, since last April.
According to the Health Promotion Board of Singapore, some common signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
● Anxiety, shaking, feeling nervous or irritated
● Fast heartbeat or palpitations
● Feeling hot
● Loss of weight
● Fatigue, exhaustion
● Increased frequency of bowel movements
● Changes in menstrual periods
It’s hard to imagine that actress-host Vanessa Vanderstraaten has been struck with the debilitating condition.
When did Vanessa Vanderstraaten first notice the signs of the disease?
It all began when Vanessa started losing weight without changing her lifestyle. Despite eating more than usual, the numbers on the scale kept dropping.
“Back in April, I was really eating like a pig,” she says with a laugh. “I was hungry every two hours, and my typical daily meal plan went like this: breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, tea, dinner, snack, snack, supper!” Despite her voracious appetite, she lost 4kg within a month.
Vanessa also noticed uncontrollable shaking in her hands, which hindered her work. “I remember presenting a show where the setting was intimate, and the audience stood close to me. I had the mic in one hand, and cue cards in the other. Both my hands wouldn’t stop trembling. I was so embarrassed, I tried crossing my arms to stop them from shaking so much.”
She also experienced irritability, heart palpitations and a higher than usual body temperature. “It felt as though I was perpetually experiencing PMS. Nothing I did would make me calm down.”
Then, there were also two worrying episodes where her heart started hammering hard and fast while she was lying down in bed. Her arms tingled from the elbows to her hands, and the sensation lingered for a long time before she eventually fell asleep.
Vanessa Vanderstraaten on getting diagnosed with hyperthyroidism
Although a seasoned performer, Vanessa wondered if her frequent trembling was because she’d suddenly developed an anxiety disorder or stage fright – until a friend pointed out that she might be experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Vanessa realised that what she had could be something more serious, and sought help in May. After a thorough examination, she was diagnosed with Graves’ disease – an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) triggered by a malfunction in the body’s immune system.
Secreted by the thyroid gland, these hormones are meant to regulate the metabolism – the rate at which food is converted into energy. They also affect one’s heartbeat, body temperature, muscle strength and appetite.
Excess thyroid hormones speed up metabolic functions and cause symptoms Vanessa experienced, like heart palpitations, sweating, trembling and weight loss.
She was shocked when the doctor told her she had Graves’ disease. “I didn’t expect this to happen to anyone my age.” However, she soon learnt that the condition is actually the most common cause of hyperthyroidism – and it usually affects younger women.
Next: Instead of being concerned about her health, Vanessa (ironically) received compliments on her weight loss. More of our interview with Vanessa Vanderstraaten >>