Lifestyle changes may not cure hypothyroidism, especially if it’s severe, but they certainly help to manage some of the symptoms. In the last post of this series, I wanted to give you some practical ideas of changes you can make.
The biggest lifestyle choice you can make is whether or not to let stress get the better of you. I know, you may feel like you have absolutely no control over how stress affects you but you do. That’s your overworked adrenals saying “Enough! I can’t handle any more!!” I totally understand that feeling. I went through 15 months of non-stop stress and I didn’t take the time to stop and say “No! I’m not letting all this stuff control me”. It takes time and a concerted effort to get over the ‘stressed out’ experience and I’m certainly not making light of it. My experience during those months was horrible. I went from being hyper and angry and feeling like I was on the edge of a breakdown all the time (that’s high cortisol levels) to feeling apathetic and mildly depressed, which is when my cortisol levels tanked. I finally realized that I needed help and turned to an amazing nutritionist (yes, even nutritionists need outside help sometimes) whose program helped me. But it was still my responsibility to recognize I needed help and seek out appropriate help.
So what are some practical methods for reducing stress?
Walking, cycling, swimming or other forms of cardiovascular exercise which includes PiYo and other bodyweight exercises is one of the best ways of combatting hypothyroidism. Cardio work boosts seratonin levels which are usually low with hypothyroidism. Seratonin affects mood, appetite and sleep.
Strength training, whether in the form of weight lifting or bodyweight exercises, is important for building muscle. This helps burn fat, which is very important for people with hypothyroidism.
Yoga is an excellent addition to your daily routine, both for stretching your muscles and for relaxation. There are several yoga stretches, which stimulate the neck where the thyroid gland is.
Meditation is an excellent form of stress reduction. Even simply sitting still and taking several deep breaths (inhale to count of 8, hold for 4 and exhale for a count of 8) helps to oxygenate the blood and reduce stress levels. Stress reduction is very important. During times of stress our cortisol levels increase and our hunger levels increase, which affects insulin levels. One of the keys to maintaining a healthy weight is to maintain steady insulin levels.
Weekly or bi-weekly massage is another great way to de-stress. Just remember to have a soak in a very warm bath with Epsom salts afterwards to help remove the toxins that can get stimulated during a massage.
Sleep. I know it is really challenging to get between 7-9 hours sleep per night. Between the job, the commute, the kids (if you have them), exercise, healthy meal prep and eating, yoga, meditation. The list goes on. And if you have kids who are in sports …. sleep becomes a hot commodity.
I encourage you to at least make one or two of these changes. Start with going for a walk at lunch for 20-30 minutes, meditating (or being still and breathing) for 5-10 minutes per day. Get as much sleep as you can manage, but make it a regular amount of sleep. Six hours per night each night is better than 4 hours one night and 9 hours the next.
You might be surprised at how incorporating just a couple of changes can make a huge difference in how you cope with your hypothyroidism.