Doctor, I am regular with my thyroid medication, but my hormone levels are still not normal. What do I do?
Does this statement sound familiar? Patients with thyroid problems often feel uncomfortable despite taking medication. Others who are newly diagnosed are scared, thinking they will never be able to lose weight or feel energetic.
Here is some good news. Thyroid disease does not mean you must always feel tired or take high doses of hormone replacement forever. There are solutions available that can help you feel healthy and energetic.
Before starting this journey, here are five questions you must ask yourself.
1. Am I taking my thyroid medication correctly?
Taking your medication correctly has two components to it - dose and regularity.
An expert in the field must set your thyroid dose for accuracy. Changing your daily dose yourself can be harmful and should be avoided at all costs. Here is what you should do instead.
If you are on a regular dose of, say, 50 mcg thyroxine, and you notice that you are tired, consult your thyroid doctor. Inform him of your symptoms and whether you have skipped any doses. Your doctor may advise specific blood tests or examinations and then determine whether you need a change in dose or not. Your doctor may also advise other micronutrient supplements to boost your energy levels.
Even if you are taking your medication regularly and face no symptoms, it is advisable to consult your doctor for follow-ups. It may be possible to reduce the dose of the medication gradually.
The second important point is to ensure that you take your tablet every single day, ideally at the same time each day. Traditionally, taking your medication on an empty stomach every morning is advisable to ensure good absorption. Avoid breakfast or coffee for about one hour after that.
If you are following all of the above steps, well done! You are correctly taking your medication.
2. Am I eating right?
There are some differences between a regular weight loss diet and one for hypothyroid persons. A study showed that over 75% of patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis had lactose intolerance.
Lactose intolerance is a condition that requires avoidance of milk and milk products such as curd, cheese, butter, paneer, etc. People who are lactose intolerant are advised to alternate dairy options such as almond milk, cashew milk, etc.
Another study showed the benefits of a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in several kinds of cereal and grains, such as wheat and barley. Gluten sensitivity can result in bloating and abdominal discomfort.
This means that unknowingly, your regular diet that has wheat chapatis, tea, curd, and many such foods may affect your thyroid disease negatively. There are several factors to consider before starting a dietary plan suited for thyroid disease. Consulting a dietitian is your best bet.
If you are conscious of which foods can affect your thyroid gland and have set your diet accordingly, keep it up! You are one step closer to better thyroid control.
3. Am I moving my body every day?
This may sound strange, but you might not be active even though you are busy! If you have a desk job or a primarily sedentary lifestyle, those long sitting hours can be more dangerous than you realise.
Sedentary jobs can be taxing and leave you feeling exhausted at the end of the day without much movement. They can also result in various aches and pains related to improper body posture. You may wonder when to fit in a workout in the middle of this packed schedule.
First, you must understand that exercise is not meant to tire you. On the contrary, physical activity can make you feel refreshed and recharged. It can help improve your focus at work too. Pick an activity you enjoy so your workout does not feel like just a task you must complete daily. Instead, it can be something you actually look forward to.
One tip to consider before you start: Take it easy! As a beginner, high-intensity and long-duration workouts will leave you with sore muscles and can even cause injuries. A safer option is to start with walking, swimming, or light jogging. You can also add strength training and yoga.
4. Am I sleeping well?
A good night's sleep is one of the most underrated parts of a healthy lifestyle. With all the modes of recreation widely available, it becomes more challenging to get to bed early. Be it the phone screen, laptop, or television, social media and movies make it difficult to fall asleep on time every night.
Another barrier to a restful night's sleep is stress. Daily chores and long hours at work can be very pressurizing. Stress can cause difficulty in falling asleep and affect the quality of sleep.
It is essential to familiarise yourself with sleep hygiene practices and follow them regularly. Research shows that a large percentage of the population sleeps lesser than the recommended seven hours every night. Thyroid problems are only one of the multiple health problems associated with lack of sleep. Others include diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and psychological issues.
Some of the practices of sleep hygiene include-
- Setting a regular time for sleeping and waking up.
- Maintaining a relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially close to bedtime.
- Not napping during the daytime.
If you are in the habit of checking your phone right before you sleep and as soon as you wake up, here is a simple challenge for you. For the next seven days, keep your phone aside for one hour before sleeping. Any work, including setting your morning alarm, should be completed before that. At the end of the week, you will find it easier to fall asleep and experience better sleep quality.
5. Am I avoiding other habits that can adversely affect my health?
Smoking is one of the habits that can have a negative impact on your thyroid health. Tobacco can directly hamper thyroid function and reduce the production of T3 and T4. It also increases the risk of developing autoimmune Hashimoto's disease and Grave's disease.
The effects of alcohol on thyroid health have been difficult to quantify. While it may be acceptable in moderation, it is generally advisable to avoid high doses of alcohol. Alcohol contains phytoestrogens and can result in high levels of the female hormone in the body. Specifically, this can affect sex drive in men and result in increased breast size. High estrogen levels also affect the mood ad ca aggravate depression and anxiety.
It is advisable to avoid these habits to prevent chronic health problems. If you regularly smoke, consume alcohol, or indulge in any form of recreational drug use, it is better to take the support of a family member or join a support group to help you overcome addiction.
How to find a cure for thyroid disease?
If you answered no to any of the above questions, some changes in your daily routine might be warranted. Regulating thyroid hormones requires maintaining a healthy lifestyle along with regular medication.
Do not make sudden drastic changes that will overwhelm you. If you want to find a permanent cure for thyroid disease, adopt a sustainable lifestyle. After all, these are not changes you just have to follow for a few weeks or months. When you enjoy your healthy life choices, it is easier to stick with them!
The bottom line:
To cure hypothyroidism, you must be open to lifestyle changes in addition to regular checkups and tablets. Thyroid disease does not have to be a life sentence. You can feel fresh and energetic each day, just as before.
If you are ready to get started on your journey of thyroid control, the Jeevam family is here to help you. We are a supportive community with varied experts who will solve your every health concern. So, what's stopping you?