Affecting over 10 million Americans, hypothyroidism is the most common thyroid disease in the United States.
While you may need a synthetic thyroid hormone, like levothyroxine sodium (Levoxyl/Synthroid), to replace what your body isn't making on its own, you can also make changes to your lifestyle to help manage your hypothyroidism.
Whether you are newly diagnosed or have been struggling for years, we put together this guide to help you live a better life with hypothyroidism.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone needed to keep your organs functioning properly.
As a result of your body not getting enough of this hormone, your metabolism slows down, causing many physical, mental, and emotional well-being issues.
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism
Many people go undiagnosed from hypothyroidism because some symptoms, like fatigue, mimic the signs of getting older.
While not everyone experiences all the same signs, common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Unable to tolerate the cold
Dry skin and hair
Voice becomes hoarse
Numbness and tingling in hands
Increased blood cholesterol level
Muscle aches and stiffness
Heavier, irregular menstrual periods
Decreased heart rate
Living with hypothyroidism
When your thyroid isn't working the way it should be, you often feel run down, tired, cold, and have trouble maintaining a healthy weight.
However, using these tips can help you control many of the symptoms brought on by hypothyroidism.
Looking at your diet is a great place to start when you have an underactive thyroid. While there is no official "hypothyroidism diet" a balanced and healthy diet can help tremendously.
When it comes to eating and hypothyroidism:
Add in more lean meats, fresh fruits and veggies, legumes, and nuts
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Eliminate gluten if you have also been diagnosed with celiac disease
Speak with your doctor if you're unsure whether something in your current diet, medication, or supplement routine could conflict with your thyroid medicine.
If you're unsure about what you should or shouldn't eat, or need support creating a healthy diet plan, consider consulting with a dietitian.
We know it's easier said than done but managing stress is key to managing an underactive thyroid. With everything else going on in your life, even if you're being treated and monitored by your doctor, hypothyroidism can be stressful.
Make your mental health a priority, and find things that help you unwind and relax, like meditation, journaling, yoga, reading, or walks.
While the thought of doing any physical activity may add to your already exhausted state, regular exercise can actually help with weight loss, lower your stress levels, and boost your energy.
You don't need to hit the gym hard every day! Aim for 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week, with a mixture of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and toning exercises.
Visit your doctor regularly
You most likely will need adjustments to your hypothyroidism medication dosage at some point due to weight changes, trying to conceive, increased stress, or becoming pregnant.
Scheduling a yearly appointment with your doctor to get blood work done and talk about any new/worsening symptoms and other medical changes is important for managing your hypothyroidism.
Improve your sleep
It's well known that with hypothyroidism comes extreme exhaustion during the day. Take a look at your overall sleep hygiene and make adjustments to ensure you are getting the best sleep possible.
Quality is as crucial as quantity when it comes to good sleep habits. Therefore, be sure you are:
Going to bed and waking up simultaneously every day (even on weekends)
Developing a nightly bedtime routine
Using your bed only for sleep and sex, not for working, watching TV, etc.
Reducing screen time at least 30 minutes before bedtime
Creating an ideal sleep environment: blackout curtains, sheets, room temperature, etc.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for hypothyroidism, as it's a lifelong chronic condition. However, taking your medication combined with lifestyle changes can help you lead a healthy life while controlling your symptoms.
At CareCard, our mission is to help make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. Learn how CareCard can help make your medication payments more manageable.