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Hypothyroidism is a systemic chronic illness caused by lower than normal levels of thyroid hormone, which is needed for various bodily functions. Hypothyroidism is diagnosed more than 3 million times each year in the United States. Although it is a common endocrine disorder, it can still have a significant impact on your overall well-being due to its widespread effect on many organ systems like your skin, mood, digestion, muscles and even sleep. 

Many cases remain undiagnosed or improperly treated for a long time, even patients who are under correct therapies may take a long time to see any health improvements. In this article, we will discuss some simple but practical steps you can take to take control of some of the annoying symptoms of this hormonal imbalance and allow the medications to take their effects.

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Symptoms of Low Thyroid Activity

According to the Mayo Clinic, hypothyroidism may not be easy to spot. In the early stages of a hormone deficiency, you might simply experience weight gain, dry skin, or fatigue. These are all symptoms easily attributed to other reasons, including age or stress. As the disease progresses, you may experience irregular periods, a slower heart rate, impaired memory, depression, hoarseness and higher cholesterol levels.

Early Diagnosis = Early Clinical Management

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed by combining a thorough clinical history and a routine set of blood tests, especially thyroxine hormone levels in your blood. In some cases additional hormone tests may be needed to rule out other endocrine imbalances especially if your Doctors suspect a much more systemic hormone disorder, possibly associated with an autoimmune disease.

 

Ideally an Internal Medicine Doctor, specialised in endocrine disorders would be able to guide your care. This involves standard hormone replacement therapies, nutritional counselling and possibly repeat blood tests to see the prognosis of your treatment.

 

Most cases may be of a short duration and are easily managed with the correct medication regimen, however in women and in older ages with other comorbidities, perhaps thyroid replacement therapy may take a more life-long course, in order to decrease the symptoms and their possible effects on other organ systems (especially to prevent heart failure).

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Regular Exercise to Help You Manage Hypothyroidism Symptoms

If you experience these symptoms, your first step should be to arm yourself with information. By knowing where your health stands, you can then make better decisions for yourself. One of these healthy decisions should be to exercise more often. While exercise will not cure your hypothyroidism, it will help improve your energy levels and may increase your metabolism so that you can maintain or even lose excess weight. 

elderly senior retirees walking while holding yoga mats staying active and hydrated in old age

The best exercise to start off with is power walking for 20-30min every day. If power walking seems too hard, just a gentle walk can have mood enhancing effects, get the blood flowing and keep the joints and muscle groups active.

Hypothyroidism also triggers muscle cramps, breakdown, and weakness, all side effects that can be controlled with regular low intensity exercise. Perhaps most importantly, working out triggers the release of another type of hormone, endorphins, which can counterbalance the negative effects of depression, often associated with low thyroxine hormone.

 

Unfortunately, exercise is often difficult for those in the moderate to severe stages of hyperthyroidism. Because hypothyroidism affects the joints, impact exercises, such as jogging and playing basketball, may be uncomfortable at best. But swimming is a great low-impact option that Summit Orthopedics explains can also lead to healthy blood pressure and better circulation. Walking and yoga are other at-home options that can help you meet your fitness goals when you have hypothyroidism.

Easy Self-Care Strategies

Whether you have hypothyroidism or not, it pays to pay attention to your health and wellbeing. A few quick tips to keep in mind are:

 

  • Get at least eight hours of sleep each night.
  • Learn stress mitigation tactics since stress amplifies physical pain.
  • Join a support group for people with hypothyroidism.
  • Eat healthy foods, which mostly consist of lean meats, grains, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Maintain an ongoing relationship with your healthcare provider.
  • Limit your alcohol and caffeine consumption.
  • Avoid cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and other addictive drugs.
  • Socialize often — being social may improve your mood and encourage you to be more active.
  • Take a warm bath to alleviate joint pain and muscle fatigue.
  • Stretch each morning when you wake up.
  • Do something nice for yourself to improve your overall mood. This may even include pursuing that online course you’ve put off for a time.
  • Talk to your doctor about medications and/or supplements that will help.
woman with afro practising yoga at home

Conclusion

Ultimately, learning how to live with hypothyroidism means making daily healthy changes to your routine. But it also means arming yourself with information, including the symptoms and how to exercise safely. Remember, while there is not necessarily a cure for hypothyroidism, hormone treatment and natural remedies, such as managing stress and eliminating sugar from your diet, can help. 

 

This article was published to our database by our resident guest blogger, Brad and the information was confirmed for its accuracy by Dr. Ravi, Dr. Sheela and Dr. Gaurav – our always on call and on duty Internal Medical specialists.

 

If you would like to have a personalized care session with our endocrine specialists, click here to visit the Virtual Internal Medicine department of The VIOS Clinic, and join our amazing concierge telemedicine plans.

BLOG AUTHOR

Brad Krause

After years in the corporate world, Brad discovered that his real calling is helping people implement self-care practices that improve their overall well-being. 

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