Thyroid conditions can make managing your health slightly more complicated. Those with hypothyroidism often struggle with low energy and exhaustion, and those with hyperthyroidism may find that minor exertion leaves them panting like they just ran a 50-yard dash with a 100-pound backpack.
What can you do to feel your best? Here are eight diet and exercise tips for those suffering with thyroid conditions.
Symptoms of Common Thyroid Conditions
Your doctor can diagnose a thyroid condition with a blood test. The symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Cold intolerance
- Dry skin and thinning hair
- Muscle and joint aches
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Slow heart rate
This condition of hypothyroidism occurs when you have too little thyroid hormone. Conversely, you can have too much, a condition known as hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of this disorder include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Shaking and tremors
- Frequent bowel movements
- Goiter or thyroid nodules
- Heat intolerance
- Hair loss
Everything in your body exists in a delicate balance — a condition called homeostasis. When your thyroid hormone levels swing too far from the midline, and you experience the aforementioned symptoms frequently, it’s time to call your doctor.
Holistic therapies will not cure hyper- or hypothyroidism. However, they can complement hormone replacement therapy and help you maintain your overall health while mitigating symptoms and managing your disease. Here are eight diet and exercise tips for managing your thyroid condition.
1. Talk to Your Doctor or Pharmacist
Thyroid replacement meds are often inexpensive and have minimal side effects. However, many other medications can interfere with their effectiveness, which makes a consultation with your doctor a must.
If you don’t have coverage or regular care, look for a sliding-scale clinic. The average cash visit without insurance costs between $75 and $150, but some physicians will give you a break or let you pay over time.
If you have a care provider, see what options you have. Modern tech makes communicating with your doctor faster and easier than ever with advances like text messaging to answer quick questions. Will this supplement interfere with your thyroid medication? Shoot them a quick text to find out.
Before you start any exercises or new routines, it is ideal to review the process with your healthcare provider. You want to be sure your body is ready and able to handle new exercises before you select a program or routine.
2. Time Your Meals and Meds
Perfecting your thyroid dose takes time, and it’s complicated by how certain foods can interfere with absorption. Ideally, you should take your medication on an empty stomach — the middle of the night is a good time if you tend to wake up then. You can keep your medication next to your bedside.
If you take it in the morning, wait before consuming foods high in nutrients such as calcium and iron.
Additionally, you should avoid the following foods and medications within two or three hours of taking your dose:
- Soybean flour
- Cottonseed meal
- Some cholesterol and ulcer medications
Again, speak to your doctor to understand how both foods and medications may impact your daily dose.
3. Spend More Time in the Sun
Some researchers have noted an association between low vitamin D levels and thyroid conditions. Fortunately, your body naturally produces more of this substance with adequate sun exposure. Those who live above the 37th parallel, a line running nearly the direct middle (north to south) of the U.S., should supplement in winter, though, as light levels aren’t sufficient.
4. Foods for a Healthier Thyroid
Studies show that zinc and selenium are crucial to thyroid health. Where can you find these substances in droves? They’re abundant in most nuts and seeds — indeed, a single Brazil nut contains your full day’s RDA of selenium.
The fruits of the sea are rich in iodine, which is crucial for those with hypothyroidism. You might want to steer clear if you produce excess hormones. However, those with low thyroid function benefit from digging into sushi rolls.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli contain goitrogens, substances that can increase goiter. Those who are hyperthyroid don’t need to avoid these healthy foods, but they should cook them to destroy these substances before eating.
5. Get Regular Activity
Your thyroid condition may affect your desire to exercise. However, mild, regular activity decreases the fatigue that is characteristic of hyper and hypothyroidism. Pick something you love, like walking with friends, dance, or yoga.
It is OK to start slow, and work your way up to more vigorous exercises. Simple walks around the block after dinner can be a great way to get started. Not only will they help you maintain an ideal weight (or help you to lose pounds), it can also be a great aid to mental health.’
One of the best ways to exercise is to simply be consistent. If you are bored from walks, consider mixing up your methods. Look for free- or low-cost classes in your neighborhood. Regularity is the key. Find ways to pique your interest with a variety of exercises. Perhaps today you bike. Tomorrow you walk. The next day you swim. The choices are endless, and having variety can make it easier to stay motivated.
6. Start Slow and Be Gentle
Those with hypothyroidism may struggle with feeling too tired to exercise. Try introducing “tricks” like an under-the-desk treadmill or cycle to walk or ride while you do other work. The distraction makes movement less burdensome.
Those with hyperthyroidism could find their heart racing from mild exertion. Stick to slower-paced activities, like riding a recumbent bike, yin or restorative yoga, or ballroom dancing.
7. Exercise with a Friend
Another great way to stay motivated, especially when you have thyroid conditions causing low energy levels, is to workout with a friend. Walking alone is great to clear the mind at times, but if you can walk with a friend, it also provides time to catch up or vent your stressors.
If friends are not readily available nearby, consider wearing a headset and talking to them via telephone. Walking makes for a great time to call friends and family, and stay in touch with those you love. The connection may help you stay motivated to walk, make it feel like the walk is going faster and easier, and also allow you to even look forward to your next walk.
Thyroid Condition Lifestyle Tips
Holistic measures won’t heal thyroid disease completely — but they can make it easier to manage. Talk with your doctor and follow these thyroid condition diet and exercise tips to decrease your symptoms and feel your healthy best.
If you have some tips or methods that have helped you while handling your thyroid condition, please feel free to share in the comments section!