Not all types of hypothyroidism are a lifelong sentence! Some are temporary and will resolve themselves once whatever it was that caused the thyroid gland to reduce its production of thyroid hormone stops / heals / disappears. However, some types of hypothyroidism are permanent and for those diagnosed with these, living with hypothyroidism and controlling it will be a lifelong commitment.
But it’s also possible to live a completely normal life! Indeed many people do just that simply by:
- ensuring they take their medications as directed,
- changing their diet if needed,
- making a few lifestyle tweaks if required,
- getting regular check ups to monitor their condition.
Living With Hypothyroidism – Taking Your Medications
If you have been diagnosed with a permanent type of hypothyroidism taking your medications daily will become a fact of life. You may be tempted to stop or cut back when symptoms disappear but they’ve only disappeared because you’re taking hormone replacements. As soon as you stop taking them your symptoms will return. Most people are prescribed synthetic hormones, either T4, T3 or a combination of both depending on their individual circumstances. However, there are also natural hormone replacements available which some people find work better for them. So if your current hormone replacement isn’t working, consider talking to your doctor about alternatives.
Regular monitoring of your condition, both by keeping an eye on your health generally and getting regular checkups, will spot any changes quickly and allow your medications to be altered as required.
Interesting Questions about Thyroid:
One of the more psychologically unpleasant and frustrating side effects that can occur with either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is hair loss. There is no way to predict which patients will experience hair loss and which will not. Similarly, there is no way to predict who will be severely affected and who will have only minimal hair loss.
Because each person is unique, responses to thyroid disease and treatment will vary. This can be disturbing to patients who have lost a great deal of hair and want to know exactly when this will stop and when their hair will be normal again.
Here are a few facts to remember if you experience hair loss because of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism:
- Hair loss from thyroid disease is usually reversible with proper treatment of the thyroid condition.
- Typically hair loss does not immediately stop when the blood work becomes normal. Most people stop losing their hair and begin replacing lost hair a few months after the thyroid hormone levels become normal. In some cases, it can take longer.
- Stress can contribute to hair loss. Because of the nature of thyroid disease, it can have a direct impact on the psychological well-being of patients, particularly on the coping mechanisms that deal with stress. Unfortunately, as patients become more and more concerned about their hair loss, their stress levels increase, making the situation worse.
- It is advisable to take caution when considering chemical treatments of the hair-for example, coloring or permanent waves. If at all possible, avoid such treatments until the hair loss has stopped.
- Cutting the hair shorter, using moisturizing and conditioning hair products, and avoiding back combing are other methods to decrease stress on the hair.
The most important things you can do to minimize further hair loss are to faithfully take prescribed thyroid medications and to be calm and patient.
There are several different causes of hyperthyroidism:
- The entire thyroid gland may be overactive, producing too much hormone. Doctors call this problem diffuse toxic goiter, or Graves’ disease.
- One or more lumps (also called nodules) in the gland may be overactive. One such lump is called a toxic autonomously functioning thyroid nodule, and several lumps are called a toxic multi-nodular goiter.
- The gland may be inflamed, a condition called thyroiditis. It can release the thyroid hormone that was stored in the gland, causing hyperthyroidism that lasts for a few weeks or months.
- Some patients may take more thyroid hormone pills than needed or prescribed.
- Some drugs, such as Quadrinal®, amiodarone (Cordarone®), and Lugol’s solution, contain large amounts of iodine, a chemical the thyroid uses to produce its hormones, and may cause the thyroid to produce too much hormone.
® Quadrinal is a registered trademark of Knoll Pharmaceutical.
® Cordarone is a registered trademark of Wyeth Labs.
Between one and two million Americans received radiation treatments in childhood or adolescence between 1920 and 1960. The most common reasons for these treatments were:
- enlarged thymus gland
- enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- various chest conditions
The risk factor for developing thyroid cancer if you had childhood radiation treatments is between 2% and 7% as compared to .004% in the general population.
There have been cases of side effects from radiation treatments (not radioactive iodine treatments) reported as long as 45 years after treatment.
Most physicians agree that the thyroid gland of these patients should be checked annually.
Some physicians rely solely on physical (manual) examination of patients treated as children with radiation. Others prefer to perform scans or ultrasounds for nodules too small to detect manually that might be cancerous.
A person treated as a child with radiation can request that their medical records be sent to them by writing the hospital or clinic where they had the treatments. Ask for a record of how much each dose of radiation was as well as how often and over what period of time treatments were given.
Have more questions? Need more answers? Check our Full Thyroid FAQ
Living With Hypothyroidism And Your Diet
Most people with hypothyroidism can eat a fairly normal diet but what you can and can’t eat really depends on the reason for your hypothyroidism and any other systems affected by it. The most common cause in developing countries is iodine deficiency. If you live in a developed country like the US, you’re far more likely to have the autoimmune form of the disease Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Therefore, if either of these are the cause of your hypothyroidism, ensuring your diet is high in the nutrients needed by the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones is paramount. These include:
- copper (lesser quantities)
- iron (lesser quantities)
- B group vitamins (essential for your immune system if you have Hashimoto’s)
- omega 3 fatty acids
- vitamin A
Just as there are foods you should include in your diet there are also things you should remove or restrict:
- raw cruciferous fruits and vegetables (only a problem if you’re also iodine deficient but cook them anyway to be on the safe side)
- canola oil
- omega 6
If your hypothyroidism was caused by thyroid surgery or radiation treatment, it usually isn’t necessary to make too many changes to your diet. You’ll be on hormone replacement therapy and so long as you take it as directed, your body should function exactly as it would with a healthy thyroid.
Living With Hypothyroidism And Your Lifestyle
Along with making a few dietary changes, living a healthier life generally will improve the way you handle your disease. Mentally, emotionally and psychologically. Eating a healthy balanced diet, getting plenty of regular exercise, avoiding stress and getting enough sleep are important. As is setting up a routine that allows you to take your medications when you should, visit your doctor when you should and keep an eye on your symptoms as you should!
The Attitude Of Your Doctor Can Make A Big Difference To Living With Hypothyroidism
Ultimately the quality of treatment and advice you receive from your doctor will make a huge difference to your quality of life. Mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Treating hypothyroidism is not a one solution fits all type of disease. Every patient is different and their treatment should be planned and administered accordingly. Some people do fine on synthetic hormone replacement medications. Other people do better on natural hormone replacements. Therefore it’s important to find a doctor who is not only experienced with hypothyroidism but is also open-minded enough to consider, and try, other options.