Your voice is hoarse and your face is puffy. You are losing your hair and gaining weight. Seeing all these, you are going into depression, everybody is noticing your mood swings and a drastic change in behaviour. What the hell is happening to you? You would deny but you could be suffering with HYPOTHYROIDISM.
We sometimes ignore the small warnings that our body gives, thinking that the problem will go away itself. But if you really want to ward off major health issues, take a serious note of these changes, get yourself tested and treated timely.
“Hypo” means less and “Thyroid-ism” means a disease of the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism is a malfunction of the thyroid gland, which causes decreased production of the thyroid hormone. The risk of developing hypothyroidism is greatest in women over 50 and risk increases with age, particularly in menopausal stage. Women are 7 to 10 times more likely than men to suffer from hypothyroidism.
ROLE OF THYROID GLAND
The small butterfly-shaped thyroid gland, located in the front base of your neck just below your Adam’s apple, is part of your endocrine system. It produces thyroid hormones – triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) – which affect metabolism and play a role in body temperature; brain and muscle function; skin and hair dryness; cholesterol levels and menstruation. In short, thyroid gland puts a tremendous effect on nearly every aspect of your health, from weight to mood to heart rate to energy level.
SYMPTOMS OF HYPOTHYROIDISM
- Increased sensitivity to cold.
- Dry skin.
- Weight gain.
- Puffy face.
- Muscle weakness.
- Elevated blood cholesterol level.
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness.
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints.
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods.
- Thinning hair.
- Slowed heart rate.
- Impaired memory.
Sign and symptoms vary, depending on the severity of the hormone deficiency.
Patients with an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) tend to have a very low BMR which hampers body’s ability to burn calories at a normal rate. So, one of the most common concern for them is maintaining proper body weight. Of course this makes shedding excess weight difficult but NOT impossible. The best long-term solution for maintaining proper weight would be a combination of healthy diet and exercise to regulate metabolism and burn calories.
I have seen many people saying – “Oh I have gained so much weight, am I suffering with hypothyroidism”? Let me make it clear, Hypothyroidism rarely causes significant weight gain. Only about 5-10 pounds (2.2-4.8kilos) are usually attributable to the disease. If you have gained more, the cause is likely how you eat and whether you workout or not? Diet and exercise go hand in hand to control weight gain for a hypothyroid patient. Have a look :
DIET FOR HYPOTHYROIDISM
Apart from your thyroid medication, you can bolster thyroid function with a well-balanced diet. One thing you should keep in your mind is – “Don’t Diet, just Eat Right”. As you know, hypothyroidism lowers down the metabolism. Then how is going on a diet going to raise your metabolism? It’s more likely to make it even lower. So always try to have 5-6 small frequent meals rather than consuming large bulky meals. It will not only help your intestine to digest food but will also keep your energy level up. Keeping a food journal is important for someone with hypothyroidism to track their calorie intake.
A diet high in healthy fats, moderate proteins, and moderate-to-low-carbohydrates is best for thyroid function.
- Include complex carbohydrates in the form of fibre-rich foods like whole cereals, whole grains such as whole wheat, oatmeal, and quinoa, vegetables, whole pulses etc. Complex fibres makes you feel full and stop you from overeating.
- Stay away from starchy, refined carbs (source of empty calories) with high glycemic index such as refined flour, crackers, pasta, white rice, white bread, rich desserts and bakery items like cakes, cookies, pastries etc.
- Diet low in protein sources stress the body and cause suppression of thyroid gland. Try to have at least 20 g of protein with breakfast as this can give you a slight metabolic boost. Daily protein intake should be as much as 70-100 g. Eat lean protein like cheese, potatoes, nuts, fish, skinless turkey and chicken breast. Adequate amount of protein will also prevent hairfall.
- Lack of iodine is one of the most common cause of thyroid. Iodine deficiency leads to reduction in production of thyroid hormone, causing poor metabolism, weight gain, water retention and fatigue. So foods rich in iodine (iodized salt, seaweeds, seafoods, sushi and other saltwater fishes) and selenium (meat, chicken, dairy products, garlic, onion, brazil nuts, whole unrefined grains etc.)
Since most weight gain from hypothyroidism is caused by excess salt and water, so it is wiser to cut as much sodium from your diet as you can. Excess sodium causes a person to retain water, which makes him heavier. Don’t consume more than 500mg of sodium per day.
Some tips to reduce WATER RETENTION in your body-
- Avoid unhealthy, processed or junk foods, many of which are loaded with sodium like potato chips, nachos, pizza, burgers, cake, and ice cream etc.
- Avoid salted nuts, salted crackers, pickles, sauces, salt preserved foods etc.
- Don’t sprinkle salt on your salad.
- Avoid sugary drinks, especially processed fruit juices and soft drinks because carbonation in soft drinks leads to water retention.
- Eat slowly to help digest your food better.
- Drink 10-12 glasses of water in a day.
- Include fruits and beverages like coconut water, plain lemon water etc. in your diet. This will also keep the metabolism rate up throughout the day.
- Avoid having raw vegetables like broccoli, cabbage etc.
ALSO READ: Healthy Eating Tips To Stay Slim And Fit.
Make exercise, an important part of your overall strategy if you actually want to control weight gain in hypothyroidism. Controlling weight is difficult even for a healthy individual and if you are suffering with hypothyroidism, it becomes quite a challenge for you. Although your energy level will be low but try to engage in some physical activities. Doing exercise burns calories and can counter the effects of your sluggish metabolism.
Most commonly asked question is what is the best form of exercise for hypothyroidism. I would recommend LOW IMPACT cardio and strength training is always the best option to start with. Here I am putting stress on “low impact” exercises so that it would not put too much pressure on your joint because joint pain is another most common symptom of hypothyroidism.
These exercises help in strengthening cardiovascular system as hypothyroidism reduces cardiac fitness also. Aerobic activities not also strengthen heart and lungs but also help in burning calories. Do brisk walk, you can use pedometer which will help in counting your steps. Apart from walking, running, rowing, on the spot marching, jogging, swimming, stationary cycle are other beneficial options. You can start with gentle yoga as well. Keep one thing in mind – “Go slow and don’t push yourself too much”. Take the stairs every time you have to climb up or down. Short medium paced walks after your meals will be beneficial too.
It helps a lot in losing weight. Weight training builds calorie-burning muscle while promoting your overall health. It burns more calories than fat, even when you are at rest. Avoid high-intensity exercises, always start at low pace and work upto a higher level. You can also try on lunges, squats, leg raises and push ups. These exercises help in protecting the joints, tendons and ligaments.
Try to alternate between the two like one day you do cardio and strength training on the other day. Enjoy your workout and make it a regular routine. Doing exercise has several benefits, it not only burns calories but also releases endorphins and other mood-enhancing happy hormones. Thus helps in relieving your stress and uplifts your mood.
Finish your regimen with stretching exercises to cool down your body and avoid muscle injury.
- Always consult your physician before starting any particular exercise regime.
- Never compromise on your medication. Take your medicines regularly and keep your thyroid levels as close to the normal range as possible. Try to take medicines at the same time every day so that you don’t forget it.
- Last but not the least, avoid stress because it leads to unhealthy food choices and overeating.
If you have any queries regarding Hypothyroidism, feel free to write in comment section below.