1 in 8 Women Suffer from Hypothyroidism -- Are You One of Them?
The thyroid—that master gland of the human body that controls everything from our metabolism to body temperature, to growth and brain function, to heart rate and just about every other element that keeps us functioning—can wreak havoc with an otherwise healthy existence when it fails to produce the right levels of thyroid hormones.
When levels are too low, one can struggle with a condition known as hypothyroidism, marked by symptoms such as cold hands/feet, insidious weight gain, an inability to lose weight, low stamina, general malaise, depression, fatigue or needing a nap, constipation, sluggish reflexes, dry skin, unhealthy cholesterol levels, brittle nails, achy muscles, digestive issues, and many others. When levels are too high, one struggles with hyperthyroidism, which comes with its own set of problems.
While there are an estimated 20 to 27 million people suffering from thyroid dysfunction in the United States, hypothyroidism, in particular, is disproportionately a woman’s disease. It is estimated that one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
There are many reasons for this. An autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, could be responsible for antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland. Certain medications, radiation treatments, pregnancy, and even genetics can play a role.
The good news is that hypothyroidism can be somewhat controlled, with vigilant medical supervision, proper nutrition, and an exercise plan tailored to one’s individual needs.
It is critical to seek skilled medical supervision if you suspect you may have hypothyroidism. An endocrinologist can monitor symptoms, do bloodwork on a routine basis, and monitor levels of all pertinent hormone levels. He/she will generally begin with a common medication such as levothyroxine, supplementing as necessary with other types of medication to get hormone levels where they need to be.
Exercise is one of those things that most hypothyroid individuals feel least like doing. On any given day, you may be tired, a little sluggish, and a bit achy—even with properly managed medications. This, though, is exactly why exercise needs to become a part of your daily routine.
Choice of exercise is very significant for someone suffering hypothyroidism. What works for one person may not work for the next, because of the very real medical issues you are dealing with.
Consider the following:
· When you are hypothyroid, your body does not recover and rebuild after exercise in the same way that others do.
· Some forms of exercise (intense, nighttime, exceeding-caloric- intake types of exercise, for example) will cause your body to stop producing the hormoneT3 almost immediately.
· Hypothyroidism impacts your respiratory system and oxidative energy. Intense cardio exercise demands a chronic stress response from your body which is extremely catabolic.
The best forms of exercise for those with hypothyroidism focus on stimulating the body’s repair processes, rather than working to break down the body so it can rebuild itself. These types of exercise target healthy breathing techniques, which move the body into a healthy oxidative state. Finally, they work to lower the body’s stress levels, which also allows it to begin rebuilding and repairing itself.
Some examples of these types of exercise include Tai Chi, yoga, water aerobics, walking, strength training, and pilates.
Given the importance of exercise and the impact the type of exercise can have on hypothyroidism, it is essential to consult with a qualified medical professional to insure that whatever type of exercise you pursue improves rather than hinders your condition.