You’ve been to the doctor, had your blood tests, and your results came back positive … you have hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland). This comes with its own set of struggles and blessings.
When I found out I had a low thyroid in March 2011, it both came as a surprise and made complete sense. I’d had symptoms associated with low thyroid over the past few years before that without knowing they were related to my thyroid. My symptoms came one at a time, so I just attributed each symptom to being busy or stressed or needing more sleep.
For me, the blessing to being diagnosed with low thyroid is that it made me want to take my health and fitness more seriously. It can be easy for young adults to not focus on their health, but my diagnosis made me create healthier habits for myself earlier on, which I hope will pay off later in life, too.
It is hard to have to deal with something like a low thyroid at a young age versus later on in life, but it can actually help me live a more fulfilled life by being more aware and appreciative of my health.
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5 Changes That Helped my Low Thyroid and Health in General (and That Might Help You, Too):
1. I started taking medication for low thyroid.
I was prescribed Levothyroxine by my doctor (and shortly after by an endocrinologist). When I first was diagnosed with a low thyroid, I was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, which my doctor said was hereditary and often associated with low thyroid. I discussed my options for natural treatment versus taking medicine, and my endocrinologist said it was important for me to treat my low thyroid with medication because my thyroid was so low and needed to be treated right away.
At some point, I’d like to try natural thyroid hormone. You’ll have to check with your doctor to see which medicine is best for you.
Within the first week of taking thyroid medication, I felt more rested. My doctor has had to make a number of adjustments in my medication levels, but the medication has made a great improvement in my health from the few years previous to my diagnosis.
2. I started getting more sleep.
Up to this point, I hadn’t been the best with getting consistent sleep or a large amount of sleep. Getting more sleep was the next step in my low-thyroid health journey. I began making sleep an important part of my schedule, and my goal was to get nine hours of sleep per night. Although this hasn’t happened every night, it’s made a big difference. I started to feel much better from this improvement. I could also feel a big difference on the days when I got less than nine hours sleep.
Recently, I’ve been experimenting with sleeping from 10pm-5am, which is supposed to be equivalent to nine hours after midnight (what I was getting before). I learned about this from Dr. Marc Bubbs at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in August. So far, it seems to work well as long as I actually get to bed at 10pm. I love having extra time in the morning to get my work done.
3. I started exercising 6 days a week.
I’ve always loved exercising, and I’ve done workouts throughout most of my life. (See my bio from Against the Grain for my background.) However, when I began working out 6 days a week instead of 3-4 days a week in summer of 2012, I began to notice a big change in how I felt, an increase in my confidence levels, and an improvement in my body composition.
One of the most common symptoms of low thyroid is weight gain, since the metabolism slows down. When I began to work out more often and with more intensity, I began to notice a big difference in how toned I was. This also encouraged me to continue with this exercise schedule as I liked the results. I started working out more with P90X, although my favorite workouts now are TurboFire or doing my own workout creations. (I’m a fitness expert/consultant, so I’ve had a lot of training and education in that area.)
4. I started experimenting with gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free nutrition.
I’ve experimented with dairy free at times both before and after I knew I had a low thyroid. I experimented with gluten free on its own near the end of 2011. I then took a diet leap and tried my own version of gluten-free, dairy-free, and sugar-free for 6 months beginning in November of 2012. This has made a MAJOR difference. See my 6-Month Fitness and Nutrition Experiment to see how I lost the 15 pounds I had gained before my treatment for low thyroid. (You’ll find links in that post to my results post as well as my two following experiments: The Relax Day Experiment and Event Preparation Experiment.)
5. I started studying hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.
The more that I research, read, and learn about low thyroid and Hashimoto’s, the more ideas I find to experiment with that could have a positive influence on my health. The research can be contradictory at times, so it’s helpful to keep an open mind and experiment with what feels right to you (and works with what your doctor recommends).
Having a low thyroid is definitely a journey of discovery, and it helps to have the support of your loved ones and close friends. I hope you find this post helpful to you if you or someone you know are struggling with low thyroid. I’d love to hear about ways you’ve had success in treating your low thyroid.
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