Best Practices for Taking Care of Yourself With a Thyroid Condition
If you have a thyroid condition, you want to do everything you can to take good care of yourself, and do whatever possible to stay healthy. You may hear about many things that you should do, but here are 10 things a thyroid patient should never do.
1. Don’t Believe Everything You Read on the Internet
With many millions of thyroid patients around the world struggling to feel well and understand their conditions, you may go online for information.
It’s important to realize, however, that many of the things you read are not true.
A search on “thyroid disease” brings up misrepresented research summaries, misguided advice, and many marketing pitches disguised as blogs, news, or research. There are hundreds of ebooks, books, foods, supplements, videos, webinars, subscription services, and practitioners promising instant cures for thyroid disease and easy solutions to your persistent symptoms, but the truth is, there are no magic cures or easy solutions, so buyer beware.
2. Don’t Talk to Your Doctor Like He/She Is Your Best Friend
You may walk into the doctor and when he/she says, “so, how are you feeling,” start to complain about your legitimate symptoms. “I can’t lose an ounce…every time I look at a donut I gain five pounds!” Or, “I’m so tired, you can’t believe it, I’m dragging myself around, and it’s just awful…”
This is not an effective approach.
In today’s world, you usually have a very limited amount of time to effectively communicate your symptoms to your doctor. When you express symptoms emotionally, you run the risk of the doctor seeing your symptoms as emotional in nature. The solution? Provide data to your doctor, and quantify your symptoms.
For example: “Doctor, I’ve been doing an intense cardio routine for 3 one-hour sessions a week, and I’m eating a 1,500 calorie a day low-glycemic, low-fat diet, and I’m gaining 2 pounds a week.” Or “I’ve been making sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, and I’m still so tired that I have to take a 30-minute nap before I can even make dinner, and even then, I’m needing a 3-hour nap on Saturdays and Sundays as well, just to function.”
When you don’t feel well, you have a right to whine, complain, feel frustrated, or otherwise discouraged. But those conversations are best to have with sympathetic family and friends.
3. Don’t Assume All Your Symptoms Are Thyroid-Related
Once diagnosed with a thyroid condition, you may have a tendency to assume that every ache, pain, and symptom is thyroid-related. This can pose two challenges:
- First, by assuming every symptom is your thyroid, you may end up erroneously gauging the success of your thyroid treatment based on resolution of symptoms that aren’t related to your thyroid.
- Second, you may end up overlooking other conditions that can be diagnosed and treated apart from your thyroid condition.
Even symptoms that can be related to the thyroid may not be a symptom of yourthyroid condition, but rather, could show up as separate conditions.
For example, some people have the autoimmune disease alopecia and as a stand-alone condition, it can result in hair loss. While hair loss is a common thyroid symptom, if you also have alopecia, even the best, most optimized thyroid treatmentmay not impact the alopecia.
Be familiar with the symptoms and conditions that are thyroid-related, but make sure that when you talk with your doctor, you’re leaving open the possibility that they are not a direct result of your thyroid condition.
4. Don’t Smoke Cigarettes
Cigarettes contain a variety of chemicals that are specifically detrimental to the thyroid.
For Graves’ disease patients, smoking increases your chance of developing thyroid eye disease and makes the treatments for thyroid eye disease less effective. There are many other reasons not to smoke, but thyroid patients have their own unique reasons to stay away from cigarettes.
5. Don’t Accept “Your Tests Were Normal” as a Test Result
Many thyroid patients say, “My thyroid tests were ‘normal’ but I still think I have a thyroid problem.” The key question is, what was normal according to your doctor?
As a thyroid patient who wants to feel well, you’re going to have to become more knowledgeable, assertive and empowered when it comes to your health. And one of the most important steps is no longer relying on a phone call or postcard from your doctor’s office saying “Your tests came back normal.” You need to know the actual numbers, and ideally, obtain a copy of the actual lab results, and keep them on file.
6. Don’t Hide the Supplements/Unprescribed Medications You’re Taking From Your Doctor
Some thyroid patients take over-the-counter glandular supplements or “thyroid support” combination formulas or even self-medicate with thyroid drugs without a prescription. And when they see their doctor and are asked, “what else are you taking,” they are afraid to tell the doctor. This is a mistake. If your thyroid results are abnormal, or symptoms develop, your doctor doesn’t have the information needed to make the right kinds of decisions about your treatment. In some cases, thyroid supplements and unprescribed thyroid drugs can result in overmedication, which can cause atrial fibrillation or uncontrolled tachycardia (high heart rate).
7. Don’t Assume that Products Labeled “All-Natural” or That Are Available Over-the-Counter Are Universally Safe and Good for You
There’s a temptation to believe that if something is labeled “all-natural,” or it’s available without a prescription, it must be totally safe. But that is a mistake, especially for thyroid patients. Some of the “thyroid support” formula supplements are loaded with iodine and kelp, which may actually aggravate your thyroid condition. After nuclear accidents, some people rush to needlessly take potassium iodide, which can actually trigger or worsen thyroid conditions when not needed.
Some studies have also found that many popular over-the-counter health supplements marketed as “thyroid support” contain varying levels of actual thyroid hormone. In some cases, those supplements have levels of thyroid hormone that exceed doses of prescription medication, putting you at risk of overmedication. Work with a knowledgeable practitioner to help determine the best supplements for you.
8. Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs That You Need a New Doctor
You may have a good relationship with your doctor, but notice that he/she doesn’t seem up-to-date when it comes to thyroid issues. If you have a physician who is focused on your lab test results and not relieving your symptoms, or who is giving you misinformation about thyroid disease, it’s a sign that you need a new thyroid doctor.
9. Don’t Miss An Opportunity to Share Thyroid Awareness and Spread the Word
Each and every thyroid patient can be a thyroid patient advocate. When you hear someone saying “I had a thyroid test and it was normal,” tell them they need to know the numbers and what they mean. Speak up when you hear someone say “I’m taking levothyroxine for my hypothyroidism, and I’m doing great. Of course, I’m cold all the time, my hair is shedding, and I can’t lose 20 pounds no matter what I do, but that’s not my thyroid.” Tell those friends who are tired, depressed, anxious, struggling with infertility, low sex drive, difficult menopause, or who can’t lose weight to get a complete thyroid check. Everyone can play a role in increasing thyroid awareness.
10. Don’t Give Up Hope
There are times when it’s tempting to just give up hope that you’ll ever feel better, find the right doctor, get back your energy, regrow your hair, or lose weight. Remember that research is ongoing, and your situation is unique from everyone else’s. Work together with your healthcare team to find solutions that work best for you.