Did you know a little butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck is one of the most powerful glands when it comes to how well your body functions?
It is a quiet little gland that produces a hormone that has direct effects on most organs including the heart. This gland is your thyroid gland. When the gland produces a low amount of hormones, this is called hypothyroidism. An over active thyroid is called hyperthyroidism. No one is sure what causes the thyroid to act up, but, when it does, it can be a real problem.
I am going to talk about the under active thyroid. 12% of the American population suffer from this disease. That’s nearly 20 million people. Unfortunately, there are as many as 60% that don’t know they have it. While hypothyroidism is most common in middle age or older women, men, children and infants can have it also.
There are a number of symptoms for hypothyroidism, but, a lot of the symptoms show up in other illnesses. If you have been suffering from any of these symptoms: unexplained weight gain, fatigue, depression, are sensitive to cold temperatures, dry skin, thinning hair, heavy menstrual periods, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, pain or swelling in joints, constipation, high cholesterol, or muscle weakness, you might want to check with your doctor. Diagnoses is as easy as a simple blood test.
If need be, the doctor will put you on meds. Make sure, you take the meds exactly as prescribed which is usually the first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, taken with a full glass of water. I have been guilty of grabbing my morning coffee first or taking the pill with the coffee. Unfortunately, people that take their meds with their morning coffee can have uncontrollable thyroid levels. You should wait at least 30 minutes after taking your medicine before having a cup of coffee!!
Also, if you take vitamins containing iron and calcium, or other medicines like proton pump inhibitors, wait at least 4 hours after you have taken your thyroid med. This will ensure the thyroid meds are fully absorbed.
While waiting to get the right dose of meds for yourself, you might want to try to live a more healthy lifestyle. We all know what that means, right? Exercise, eat healthy and get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night! While there aren’t any formal dietary guidelines, research does suggest a few things.
Foods with soy, including edamame, tofu, and miso can interfere with absorption of your meds. For that reason, wait 4 hours after eating soy products before taking your pill.
It’s a good idea to limit cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, kale, turnips and bok choy, because research suggests digesting may block the thyroid’s ability to utilize iodine, which is essential for normal thyroid function. Cooking can reduce the effects and limit the intake of cooked vegetables to 5 ounces a day.
Gluten that is found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains can irritate the small intestine and may hamper absorption of the thyroid hormone replacement med. If you do choose to eat gluten, choose whole grain varieties of bread, pasta and rice. Be sure to take meds several hours before or after eating high fiber foods to prevent them from interfering with absorption of the meds.
Fatty foods such as butter, meat and fried foods have been found to disrupt the body’s ability to absorb the meds. Fats may be a reason why the thyroid loses the ability to produce the hormone in the first place.
Processed foods in packages and in the frozen food aisle are loaded with sodium. People with hypothyroidism should stay away from sodium, as having an underactive thyroid increases a person’s risk for high blood pressure and there is a danger of the added sodium in packaged foods.
With hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down and you can gain unexpected weight. For that reason, you should stay away from cakes, cookies, candy and other foods with excess sugar. Sugary foods add a lot of calories with no nutrient value.
Getting enough fiber is a good thing, but too much can complicate your hypothyroidism. The governments daily guideline recommends older people to take 20-35 grams of fiber a day. Eating beans, legumes and vegetables and fruits above that can affect your digestive tract and can interfere with absorption of your meds. If you are on a high fiber diet, talk to your doctor, there might be a need of a higher dose of hormone replacement.
As for alcohol consumption, it can wreak havoc on both thyroid hormone levels in the body and the ability of the thyroid to produce hormones. Alcohol has a toxic effect on the thyroid gland and suppresses the ability of the body to use the hormone. Ideally, people with hypothyroidism should cut out alcohol completely.
As for the other symptoms of hypothyroidism, there are a few things you can do to make you feel better. Such as, for dry skin, moisturize after you shower. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests using a cream or ointment to lock in moisture. They can be more effective than lotion. Keep your shower to under 10 minutes and use warm water instead of hot.
If you are suffering from constipation, try adding a new kind of fruit or vegetable to your diet. Always drink plenty of water. Just remember not to over do the fiber.
To fight fatigue, weight gain and stress, go for a walk. Try to get 30 minutes of aerobic activity in every day. You might want to include strength training exercise in addition to low impact aerobic activities.
Eat lean proteins to keep up your energy. Things like turkey, skinless chicken breast, nuts or nut butter and low fat dairy products. Your body needs protein to build and repair muscles. Protein can also help with weight gain by moving the food more slowly from your stomach to the intestine making you feel full longer. Eating 4-5 protein based meals or snacks a day is a good way of keeping your energy up and controlling weight.
Hypothyroidism can cause fatigue. If your aren’t getting enough sleep at night it can make things worse. Make sure to power down an hour or two before bedtime. Put down your phone and computer. To beat fatigue you not only have to rest your body, you have to rest your mind. Try to get as close to 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
If you have tried all these things and your symptoms still persist, check with your doctor about adjusting your medication. Definitely talk to your doctor if you become pregnant or gain or lose a lot of weight.
Once you get on the right road with your hormone replacement, life will be good again. Don’t suffer needlessly!