One of the worst symptoms of hypothyroid/Hashimoto’s is the unrelenting and dragging fatigue. It’s difficult to describe to someone who has never “been there,” but if I had to try, Id’say it’s like when you first wake up in the morning and you’re still half asleep. Try as you might, your brain still hasn’t kicked in (like before morning coffee; it’s been stuffed into a bag of cotton), you’re stiff and sore and everything is processing very slowly. All of your “get-up-and-go” just got up and went — sluggishness has taken over; arms and legs are now just heavy, troll-like appendages while your eyes just refuse to feel like they can be completely opened.
I am actually experiencing this as I type. I am sitting at my computer and it feels as if there were a small weight in the front of my forehead pulling – I just want to lay down on the table and take a nap. I know that this is impossible for me to do at the moment, so I thought I’d share some of my tips for helping fight the worst of the fatigue so you can more easily accomplish your day, too.
- Get lots of sleep the night before – this is going to be tough. If you haven’t seen a doctor and started your medicine (Synthroid, Levothyroxine, etc…) then you’re in for an even rougher ride. Not all symptoms can be cured or curbed with diet and exercise, though many can (I’ll get into that later.) Best advice I can offer is to listen to your body — if it wants to go to bed at 8pm and you have the ability to do so, do it. The harder you fight yourself right now, the harder it’s going to be to heal.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to perform at 100% – if you’ve recently been diagnosed with hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s (or you believe you have it and are wanting to learn more) then you know you’re sick. You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon with the flu and this is no different. Now is the time for you to slow down and begin to identify your triggers and environmental stimulants so that you can avoid/change/overhaul them to better suit this new lifestyle. (Yes, I did just say LIFESTYLE. For most, this disease will require medication and/or treatment for the rest of your life.)
- Food may not completely cure you (but it can help or hurt)- it’s always important to eat a balanced diet and receive your nutrients from as wholesome of food as you can. I was instructed to eat as much “natural” food as I could. That meant eating veggies that were fresh from the store (or farmer’s market), not canned. To eat lean, organic meat instead of over-processed deli meats. Cut way back on caffeine intake (think tea only, no soda or coffee) and almost eliminate sugar and processed carbs like sweets, bakery items and even store-bought bread. My husband and I find that the Paleo Diet adheres pretty closely to this type of eating. My doctor also recommended 100mg of selenium every day along with Vitamin D to boost my overall health.
- Exercise still matters – the greatest impact of hypothyroid fatigue is that it can be so hard to just live a regular daily life. The motivation you may have once had is gone and crippling depression took its place. Activities that were enjoyed have lost their appeal, you don’t feel like going out. You just really don’t feel like doing… anything. I know this one may be the hardest to do, but you have to keep moving even when you don’t want to. I recommend walking, swimming or yoga. These low-impact exercises will help stave off a little of the depression and help offset a little of the weight gain. Only getting the thyroid under control can completely stop or even reverse these symptoms.
- Keep your stress down – stress on a thyroid can lead to adrenal fatigue. Cortisol is a stress hormone produced from glands on the tops of the kidneys and it is very necessary in small doses for the body and thyroid to function properly. An autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s means that the body is attacking itself (in this case, the thyroid) which puts chronic stress on the adrenal glands and leads to long-term sensitivity to caffeine and sugar along with depression, anxiety, fatigue and weight gain. Be sure to slow down and take time for yourself.
- Take your medicine as prescribed – this is the most important one, I cannot stress enough. Thyroid medication does NOT work well when taken with food or beverages other than water. Coffee, juice, etc… interfere with the absorption which means you’re not getting your full and proper dosage for the day. It is recommended that the medicine be taken at least an hour before breakfast with a full glass of water. This is so easy to do if you keep the medicine by your bedside and take it when you first wake up. Then go about your morning routine, do your chores, sip hot water if you have to, but avoid coffee, tea or juice for that first hour. It is also recommended that you wait to take any other medications at least 4 hours after taking thyroid meds. This is because there are so many other medications out there that can interact with Synthroid and Levothyroxine and then none of the medicine will absorb properly. As an example, I take my Synthroid at 5:30, eat breakfast by 7, then take my Vitamin D and Multi-vitamins at lunch with food. You don’t want all this effort you’re putting in to be for not, so read the entire pamphlet that comes with your medication for all the rules.
As you move forward with your battle, please use these tips to better your situation. I cannot guarantee that every tip will work for everyone, but I have found through the years that following these “rules” has helped out my day-to-day life.
I wish you the best!