What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism means your body is not making enough of the thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone regulates your metabolism. Metabolism is the internal process that allows your body to use food and nutrients and produce and use energy. Hypothyroidism may occur for many reasons, including as a result of cancer treatment or surgery that affects or removes the thyroid gland.
What are the side effects of hypothyroidism?
The side effects of hypothyroidism include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sleeping too much
- Puffiness (often in the face) and bloating
- Loss of concentration, memory loss, absentmindedness.
- Weight gain
- Anxiety, irritability, mood swings
- Dry eyes and mouth
- Dry or flaky skin
- Inability to process nutrients used by the body, such as calcium
- Hair loss or thinning
- Changes or interruptions to menstrual cycle
- Joint pains and stiffness
- Muscle cramps
- Intolerance to cold
- Tingling or numbness in fingers or toes (neuropathy)
Remember, these side effects are temporary. Once you begin taking a thyroid hormone (levothyroxine, sold under the brand names Synthroid and Levoxyl), your side effects will gradually improve. Your doctor will need your help to know if you are getting the right dosage.
What can I do to manage hypothyroidism?
Take your medication as directed.
- It is important to take your thyroid hormone as directed by your doctor, usually on an empty stomach at the same time every day.
- It is usually recommended that you not take supplements for a period of time after taking thyroid hormone. Antacids, iron, and calcium supplements, dietary fiber, soy, and even walnuts can affect your body’s absorption of the hormone. Check with your doctor or pharmacist for more specific recommendations.
Eat a healthy diet.
- Proper nutrition will help you fight fatigue, prevent unwanted weight gain, and promote healthy hair and skin.
- Your calorie needs may change as your thyroid hormone levels change, and therefore you may find it helpful to talk with a Registered Dietitian for guidance.
- Physical activity can improve quality of sleep, increase energy, treat constipation, prevent unwanted weight gain, and alleviate feelings of depression or anxiety.
- Ask your healthcare team before starting any exercise program.
Go easy on yourself.
- You may feel frustrated by fatigue and absentmindedness, but remind yourself that these side effects won’t last forever.
- Once you begin taking levothyroxine, it may take months for the body to re-regulate itself; try not to get discouraged.