Our thyroids may be little, but they’re awfully powerful glands. That’s great—unless they don’t function properly. Thyroid problems affect many women, and left unchecked, they may lead to depression, heart disease, unhealthy weight gain and other serious problems. I’m here to tell you, though, that you can live well, even with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s disease, and how you eat and exercise can make all the difference. Why do I know this? Well, because I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about 5 years ago. My doctor noticed a difference in my thyroid just after I had finished nursing my first son and we were trying for a sibling. But before we could even begin to try, we had to get the thyroid functioning properly. So with testing and the right dosage of Synthroid, it made a huge difference for me. My energy level and and overall well-being changed drastically for the better, as well as we got the green light to move forward in sibling making!
Hypothyroidism Versus Hashimoto’s
Let’s start by clearing up the differences between hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. The two often share symptoms, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease, in which the immune system targets the thyroid gland. The gland becomes inflamed, often reducing its ability to produce necessary hormones.
While Hashimoto’s is a specific disease, hypothyroidism is a condition. People who suffer from hypothyroidism have underactive thyroids that don’t produce enough hormones. While Hashimoto’s can bring on hypothyroidism, it can also be caused by other diseases, drugs or medical treatments.
Even though hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s aren’t one and the same, because Hashimoto’s so often leads to hypothyroidism—in fact, it’s the number one cause of underactive thyroid in the U.S.—the symptoms of each are typically the same. They often come on gradually and can even go unnoticed for some time, but you might experience:
- Weight gain
- Feeling unusually cold
- Reproductive problems, like heavy menstrual periods
- Fertility issues
- Joint or muscle stiffness and pains
- Memory problems
- Skin issues
It’s worth noting that Hashimoto’s disease doesn’t always present as hypothyroidism. It can also cause periods in which the thyroid kicks into high gear. Also, Hashimoto’s increases the size of the thyroid, a condition known as goiter, which can give you a full feeling in your throat and sometimes causes a noticeable lump on the neck.
Because hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s interfere with your body’s hormone levels, I recommend avoiding foods that will further affect hormone levels, like soy and alcohol.
Most importantly, though, it’s critical to pay attention to how much iodine you’re getting. Iodine is required for healthy thyroid function, but too much can actually impair it, so stay away from super iodine-rich foods, like kelp or seaweed. Keep your daily intake of iodine around 150 μg—the recommended allowance for adults.
Also, don’t eat too many foods that hinder your body’s absorption of iodine, such as cruciferous vegetables. Limit your consumption of cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, to no more than five ounces a day, and cook them first.
Because Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune issue, you might want to explore a total revamp of your approach to eating. Many people with autoimmune diseases find success with cutting out gluten and dairy, as these foods trigger inflammation.
Working out isn’t a magic bullet cure, but it sure has the potential to help manage symptoms, especially ones like depression, weight gain and memory troubles. I recommend exercising for 150 minutes a week with your heart rate between 50 to 70 percent of your max heart rate or 75 minutes a week if you are achieving 70 to 85 percent of your max rate. At least two days a week, also do weight training.
Of course, joint and muscle pain can interfere with your ability—or, let’s face it, your desire—to exercise, so I recommend making the most of workouts by going for high intensity. HIIT routines are just the ticket for that. By putting all of your effort into a series of high intensity activities with a short recovery period between each one, you’ll burn calories, build endurance and get lots of blood-pumping activity in a short time. A 30-minute HIIT workout will really get you moving, but even a 10-minute one will have serious benefits.
Yoga can be incredibly helpful for thyroid problems as well. The right poses help blood circulate and provide a massaging effect for the thyroid. Shoulder stand pose is one of my favorites for this. Fish pose and plow pose are great, also, and these two mix nicely with shoulder stand pose.
There’s no substitute for a doctor’s care when it comes to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, but the effectiveness of professional treatment will be buoyed by the lifestyle changes you commit to making. In addition to diet and exercise, I’m a big fan of getting plenty of sleep. And cutting back on stress is one of the best things you can do for your health.
For more help, keep watch for my new eBook, “Fast and Fierce Fitness for Hashimoto’s and Hormone Health,” coming out soon. Join me for fitness fun in my Living Fit Now Online Coaching or the Living Fit Now Phone Coaching.
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I would be HONORED if you would consider doing any/all just ’cause you’re so darn fabulously sweet 🙂