Hypothyroidism Doesn’t Have to Slow You Down
Average Read Time: 5 minutes
If thyroid hormone is like gasoline, then hypothyroidism is like a gasoline shortage. Everything runs more slowly, or not at all. Put simply, hypothyroidism means that you don’t have enough thyroid hormone. And thyroid hormone’s job is to help ensure that oxygen and glucose – basically fuel and energy – get to your cells, tissues, organs, and glands.
Even after treatment, many people with hypothyroidism complain about the ‘Big Three’ symptoms: fatigue, weight challenges, and feeling stressed and depressed.
These symptoms are all evidence that even with treatment, hypothyroidism can still slow your energy, slow your metabolism, and interfere with your moods. But hypothyroidism doesn’t need to slow you down if you know what to do.
Treat It Right
Finding the right prescription thyroid hormone medication at the safest and best dose for you is an important first step in dealing with your hypothyroidism. What is the right medication at the right dose? The answer: whatever safely and best resolves your symptoms!
The key is realizing that the typical drug treatment offered by most doctors, levothyroxine (i.e., Synthroid), may not work best for you. Like many others, you may benefit from another brand of levothyroxine, like Levoxyl or Tirosint. Or, you may need added T3, such as liothyronine, Cytomel or compounded, time-released T3. Alternatively, you might get good results on a natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) drug like Nature-throid or Armour Thyroid.
You also need to be on a dosage that is optimal for you. You may feel your best with a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level of 1.0, but feel exhausted and gain weight at a 4.5 – even though both are ‘in the normal range’. Or, your Free T3 could be so low that it’s clear you need an increase of T3 medication or natural desiccated thyroid.
Ultimately, there’s no way to predict which drug or combination (or dosage or blood test levels) will help you safely and best resolve your symptoms. It’s a trial and error process to figure out how to optimize your hypothyroidism treatment, but one thing is clear: it’s time well spent!
Stop Being Sick and Tired of Being Tired!
Even if your medication and test levels are optimal, you may still struggle with fatigue. If you are sick and tired of being tired, there are ways to add some energy back into your life:
- Make sure you are getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water, and the resulting dehydration, is a commonly overlooked cause of fatigue, especially if you have a thyroid problem.
- Cutting out gluten provides a much-needed boost of energy for some thyroid patients.
- Studies show that 650 mg of thiamine (vitamin B1) daily can help resolve fatigue in people with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. (See note)
- Daily use of D-Ribose, a supplement, can help improve your energy (See note)
Win the Weight Loss Battle
One of the most common complaints of hypothyroidism is difficulty losing weight, or weight gain despite a healthy diet and exercise. Even with optimal drug therapy, this can be a challenge for many of us. Some reasons why:
- Hypothyroidism can slow your basal metabolism (your body’s rate of burning calories).
- Hypothyroidism can make you tired, which can reduce your level of activity and exercise, which slows your metabolism even more! Less activity also results in loss of muscle, and muscle helps to burn calories.
- Hypothyroidism can affect your endocrine system, make you more resistant to insulin, and affect the production of hunger and satiety hormones like leptin and ghrelin. This means you can feel hungrier more often, less satisfied and full after eating, and the food you eat is more likely to be stored as fat, rather than being released as energy.
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (the most common cause of hypothyroidism) can go hand in hand with gluten intolerance, leaky gut, and intestinal inflammation. This means you absorb fewer nutrients from the foods you eat, and inflammation can wreak havoc on your ability to digest, store energy, and release energy appropriately.
For thyroid patients who struggle to lose weight, some basic approaches include:
- Controlling your blood sugar elevation and fluctuations and improving your sensitivity to insulin. This can be accomplished with dietary changes, targeted supplements (see note), and the right amount of activity and exercise.
- Calming your gut inflammation. You can reduce inflammation with diet changes that focus on anti-inflammatory foods, and limit foods that cause sensitivity. You can also add supplements such as probiotics and digestive enzymes (see note).
- Changing the timing of when you eat. Some approaches that have been successful include limiting yourself to two or three meals and no snacks each day, not eating before 8 am or after 8 pm, and utilizing intermittent fasting.
- Adopting a specialized way of eating, such as the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet, Paleo, the Ketogenic diet, the Rosedale Diet, or going gluten-free. These approaches focus on healthy fats, lower carbohydrates, and anti-inflammatory foods.
- Increasing your activity, without adding additional stress, by incorporating gentle movement and exercise into your daily routine.
up next: How much water should I drink?
Stressed and Depressed?
Even after treatment, you may still find yourself with mood changes that interfere with your daily life. You may feel less able to cope with stress, feel anxious, or even suffer from panic attacks. Or, you may feel like your thinking is slowed, that daily tasks are daunting and exhausting, and you feel down in the dumps. Anxiety and depression are common complaints from thyroid patients, but there are some approaches that can help.
A healthy lifestyle is a good foundation. Let’s review:
- Get enough sleep
- Stay well hydrated
- Eat a healthy diet (minimizing processed foods, sugar, and toxins)
- Get regular activity and exercise
Mindfulness practice has been shown to be as effective as prescription medications for depression and anxiety in some people. Research shows that over time, they can change your neurotransmitter levels and pathways. The key is to find the approaches that work best for you and practice them regularly. Meditation, guided meditation, and breathwork (such as Transformational Breathing) are some standout mindfulness approaches to consider.
Therapy can also be a cornerstone of effective treatment of depression and anxiety. A good therapist can help you learn innovative ways to view challenges and new techniques to resolve them.
Several supplements (see note) may help people with depression and anxiety. Speak with your doctor about options that are appropriate for you.
For more chronic or hard-to-treat anxiety, prescription anti-anxiety medications may help you return to balance. There are even specialized integrative approaches such as the Walsh Protocol that evaluate your neurotransmitters and address imbalances with supplements, successfully treating depression and anxiety without prescription medications.
Don’t Give Up!
The word ‘patient’ can refer to someone being treated for a condition. But it can also be defined as persistence in pursuing an outcome. Be a ‘patient patient’! Give new approaches you are trying enough time to work before you give up and try something else. Keep an open mind, and cultivate an unshakeable faith that you will find the approaches that work for you.
Never give up hope. One helpful approach is to reframe how you talk about your healing journey by adding the word ‘yet’. Instead of, “I can’t find a way to lose weight,” try, “I can’t find a way to lose weight…yet.” Change “I can’t figure out how to feel happier,” to, “I can’t figure out how to feel happier…yet.” Even this slight change in how you express your frustrations can help shift you into a more productive mindset.
Here at Thyroid Refresh, we are focused on a whole-body, whole-life approach to feeling well. We are here to help you feel supported, inspired and connected on your healing journey, so you can learn new ways to thrive!
Note: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner before incorporating supplements, as there may be risks such as drug interactions.