Massage therapy can be a wonderful and healing part of your routine as you learn to live with Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid gland, is a thyroid disease in which the thyroid gland fails to produce an adequate amount of thyroid hormone. It’s an increasingly common condition, affecting more women than men. According to the Thyroid Foundation of Canada, it’s estimated that 1 in ten Canadians suffer from a thyroid condition and half may be undiagnosed.
The Thyroid hormone is responsible for the body’s metabolism and use of energy. Symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland include poor ability to tolerate cold, fatigue, weight gain, and constipation. It’s not known what causes hypothyroidism; it may be caused by a number of conditions including autoimmune disease, radiation, and medications.
In the majority of cases, hypothyroidism is treated by supplementing the thyroid gland with levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). This medication is typically taken in pill form on a daily basis. In Canada, a common brand name for levothyroxine is Synthroid.
However, many people find that taking a daily dose of levothyroxine isn’t enough to make them feel well, or as well as they did before they developed the condition. If you too find that you’re struggling to remain healthy while living with hypothyroidism, the following may help.
It’s especially important that people with hypothyroidism be mindful of any stress they might be exposing themselves to. Cortisol, a hormone released when the body is in a stressful situation, can adversely affect the function of the thyroid gland, in turn exacerbating hypothyroidism symptoms. Take steps to ensure that you’re managing stress as best you can, and if you feel that you’re not coping, then speak to your doctor.
Massage therapy can be a huge source of relaxation and has many additional benefits. For example, hot stone massage therapy is a soothing option. Another example, manual lymphatic drainage is a type of gentle massage which is intended to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph, which carries waste products away from the tissues back toward the heart.
It may be that you can cut back on some tasks or get support from friends or relatives with certain commitments you have. It could be that you just need to slow down. Put your health first and make any changes you feel you need to.
While hypothyroidism shouldn’t stop you from exercising, you may find that you can no longer maintain the exercise schedule you previously did, or that you now need a lot longer to recover from a workout than you did before you developed hypothyroidism. These scenarios are fairly common for people with an underactive thyroid gland, so it’s important to learn not to push yourself and recognize when you are overdoing your activity. If you’re struggling to stick with an exercise regimen, consider switching from any high-intensity workouts to activities such as aqua aerobics or yoga. The benefits of yoga are many and the various types of yoga classes provide something for everyone. For example, Gentle Hatha yoga classes focus on breathing, basic poses, slow movements, and relaxation to enhance the awareness of the mind-body connection. Yin yoga classes involve passive poses that are held for up to five minutes in order to encourage the softening of connective tissue and induce deep relaxation. These types of activities will still provide a beneficial workout but will be less stressful on your body.
It’s important to continue exercising and remaining active. As well as the physical benefits you will gain, keeping physically fit in group classes can help you avoid feelings of depression, another common symptom of hypothyroidism.
Although there’s currently no scientific evidence to prove a gluten-free diet will help those with hypothyroidism, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest it might. This is especially true if you suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto’s disease, autoimmune disease and a common cause of hypothyroidism. With Hashimoto’s disease, the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland. The anecdotal evidence suggests that gluten triggers an attack on the thyroid gland; therefore, eliminating gluten from your diet may prevent such attacks.
Further anecdotal evidence has linked an immune intolerance in people with Hashimoto’s disease to dairy products. Again, it’s believed the body may mistake dairy for gluten, which triggers an attack on the thyroid gland.
If you’re failing to see improvements in your health while taking the medication prescribed by your doctor and are prepared to make modifications to your diet, with approval from your doctor, you may want to start by eliminating gluten or dairy, or both, from your diet.
Moderate Carbohydrate Diet
While a gluten- and dairy-free diet may help alleviate hypothyroidism symptoms, there is evidence to suggest that those with hypothyroidism should avoid a diet too low in carbohydrates. This is because insulin is needed to convert inactive T4 (which is what the thyroid gland produces) into active T3 (which is what the body’s cells use), and the production of insulin is generally low on a very low carbohydrate diet. Furthermore, restricting the intake of carbohydrates can cause a drop in blood sugar, which the body compensates for by producing an excess of stress hormones including adrenaline. The thyroid gland is needed for the production of stress hormones, so this process can be taxing on the thyroid gland. So you may want to check that you’re including a moderate amount of healthy carbohydrates in your diet if you don’t feel your health is as good as it could be.
Don’t look at hypothyroidism as preventing you from living the life you used to enjoy before your diagnosis. Massage therapy and activity can be a part of your new lifestyle. All that’s needed are a few changes so that you can better manage your condition, and you’ll be more than able to continue to enjoy life and get the most from it.