Has living with an underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, reduced your quality of life? If you’re in the 5% of Americans diagnosed and living with it, hypothyroidism has probably taken its toll on your activity level, sleep, and even moods, as it can be physically and emotionally draining.
Hypothyroidism is a condition caused when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck in front of your windpipe. The hormones produced by the thyroid are meaningful for regulating metabolism and other hormone interactions with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus in the brain. So when you don’t produce enough of these hormones, it throws your other physiological functions out of whack, and you may experience weight gain, hair loss and thinning, body aches, and even depression.
The most common treatment is a simple prescription for synthetic thyroid hormones, with regular monitoring by your doctor. But what else can you do to feel your best while living with an underactive thyroid?
Here are our top five tips for living well with hypothyroidism:
- Get educated and involved. As with all chronic illnesses, it’s up to you to know what’s going on. Your involvement in managing your condition will have a dramatic impact on your day-to-day wellness. Do your homework to learn all you need to know about your condition.
- Alter your diet. You can help your body function as well as possible and gain a lot of energy back by focusing on your diet. It is important to consult with your doctor regarding your specific dietary needs as an individual, especially if you have an underactive thyroid. Focus on whole foods, incorporating large quantities of vegetables that aren’t known to interfere with thyroid function; eat fresh fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats.
- Exercise. Some days living with hypothyroidism, just making it through the day can feel impossible. However, the less you exercise, the less energy you’ll have and the worse you’ll feel. If you exercise regularly, you’ll have more energy, feel better, and it’ll be easier to remain active. For people living with hypothyroidism, it’s actually important to avoid working out too much or too strenuously. Hitting the gym too hard can actually damage thyroid function and make symptoms worse. Instead, find a light aerobic activity you enjoy (walking, jogging, biking, dancing, tennis, golf) and aim to have three to four good sessions per week. Staying active will help with weight management, hormone balance, better sleep, and also stress relief, which is an important component of staying well with hypothyroidism.
- Manage stress. Life is hectic and stressful enough without having to manage a chronic condition. Unfortunately, stress makes hypothyroid symptoms worse. Make the effort to find a stress management technique that works for you, and make yourself a priority in your schedule. Many people living with hypothyroidism practice meditation, yoga, daily prayer, or journaling. Others have regular massages or acupuncture. Another way to manage stress is to seek support. Many support groups exist, both in person and online, for people living with hypothyroidism. Support groups offer opportunities to share struggles and be inspired by triumphs. It helps tremendously to talk to people who understand what you’re going through.
- Listen to your body. Monitor your own progress, and be your own advocate. Don’t settle for not feeling well. Take charge of your health, and if you feel something isn’t right, speak up to your doctor. If one or a few of your symptoms seem out of control, ask Dr. Gunawardene what else you can do to feel better.
Dr. Ishan Gunawardene seeks to build relationships with his patients, and stay with them every step of the way, from diagnosis to treatment and long-term disease management.
As a highly accomplished internist, Dr. Gunawardene can help guide you through your hypothyroid concerns for the best possible outcome. Call our office today at (561) 434-1935 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Gunawardene, or request an appointment online.
Walk-ins and same-day appointments are welcome! Don’t put off getting the help you need and the quality of care you deserve any longer.