Pursuing proper treatment and an overall healthy lifestyle that includes eating well and exercising can help you manage a thyroid condition. But what else can you do to live well with and thrive with your condition? The information can be overwhelming and Annabel Bateman, thyroid health advocate and author, has created this guide to walk you through essential lifestyle tips once you have been diagnosed.
You’ve just been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or Graves’ disease, hypo- or hyperthyroidism, or another thyroid condition…what do you do next?
I get it, you head to Google and start researching. Then it gets all so overwhelming. You’re already feeling exhausted and foggy. It just seems so hard. I was diagnosed back in 1996, before the Internet, but I know if I were diagnosed now, I’d head online first for sure, and like you, would probably end up confused.
So, let’s slow down. In this article, I go over ten steps to get you started now that you have a thyroid condition.
But first…Please make sure you know what is actually wrong with your thyroid.
Do you have an autoimmune disease or not? It’s important to understand what type of thyroid condition you have.
It’s very common for people to not know what’s really going on. I’ve heard people say things like “I don’t know if I have Hashimoto’s, I just have the type that makes you fat”. Or, “I just take a pill, but I’m not sure what’s really wrong. My doctor said to just take the medication and that was all I could do.” Knowledge is power.
While these ten steps apply across the board, when it comes to the details of how you manage your health, you need to know what’s really going on for you.
Thyroid health is complex. It’s not linear, so while there is some logic to these ten steps, they aren’t strictly linear. Some things will overlap, some are quick things to do, while others will take a lifetime to work through.
You don’t have to deal with everything all at once. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You live with your thyroid condition forever, so it’s helpful to take a long-term perspective from the outset.
You’re going to find lots of information and you don’t have to do it all or all at once.
You can be unhurried, you can be undaunted, you can stop and take a breath. I know this is really hard to do, because those of us with thyroid conditions, particularly autoimmune ones, often tend to have personalities where we’re not very good at stopping.
If you can start with this long-term approach, it will make your life much easier in the long run.
When you’ve been diagnosed with a thyroid condition, you’re in it for the long haul.
The thyroid gland is so critical to pretty much every other system in your body. It impacts your brain health, your gut health, your cardiovascular health, your nervous system, it impacts everything. You cannot ignore your thyroid health. You can’t take a ‘set and forget’ approach either. You do have to take an active role in your thyroid health management.
This can take a bit of time to get your head around. Living with a chronic illness has a grieving process. That’s really normal. Strangely, this leads to the next step…
Yes, this is a life-long condition. No, there isn’t a quick ‘fix’.
BUT there are so many things you can do to manage your health, to start to feel better, and to get on with your life.
If you don’t have hope (yet), that’s okay. This is difficult and emotional. Please don’t take this as a negative though. You don’t have to deal with it all at once, but you do have to deal with it. There are so many things that you can do.
If you don’t have hope that you can feel better, I’m happy to lend you some of my hope. I’ve borrowed other people’s hope before. I’ve had health practitioners that have said, “It’s okay Annabel, you can feel better. I know you can get better.”
I borrowed their faith, if you want to put it that way. I borrowed their hope for myself so that I would feel better, and I did. And I’m happy to lend you some until you feel it for yourself.
“It’s a journey” can sound a bit naff, but I haven’t come up with a better word, and it’s true! Living with a thyroid condition isn’t a straight road, freeway journey. It’s often a back-roads, twisted, dead-end, and U-turn journey.
You are the driver in this journey of yours though, not the passenger. You get to lead your own journey and take responsibility for the direction you go.
No one cares about your health as much as you do. Yes, you need an excellent health team, but you need to take responsibility for your health and not abdicate it to your health team. This is deeply empowering.
“Part of taking responsibility is being deliberate about who is in your thyroid support team. Start with finding a doctor (usually an integrative/holistic doctor) who really understands the complexities of thyroid health.”
Part of taking responsibility is being deliberate about who is in your thyroid support team. Start with finding a doctor (usually an integrative/holistic doctor) who really understands the complexities of thyroid health. This is a great guide for finding a good doctor who runs a full thyroid panel and prescribes treatment options (important). So, if you don’t have a qualified doctor yet, start there.
Other members of your thyroid support team may include:
Get a journal and a folder. In your journal start recording food, mood, chemical triggers, activities, stress levels and start paying attention to what you notice. In your folder keep all blood test results, notes from medical appointments, etc.
Keeping a record of these things is super helpful when it comes to taking this information to medical appointments and in identifying what’s working and not working for you.
Forgive yourself, your doctors, your body for not knowing better in the past. Now you know yourself better, so you can do better.
It’s easy to look back and think, “Why didn’t my doctors listen to me? I wish I had found a new doctor. I wish I had changed my diet earlier. I wish I hadn’t been so wiped out for my family”. There are lots of things you can look back on and wish were different.
Something to understand with thyroid problems is that it’s an emotional journey as well as a physical one. Being able to deal with those hurts, traumas and even past abuse is important in being able to move forward.
Forgive yourself, forgive others around you, and focus on the future, not on the past.
Once you know better, you can do better. Don’t live in the past and worry about what could have or should have or, what might have been.
Focus on the future and what will be and what can be.
Are you good at asking for help? Are you more of an independent type that prefers to go it alone?
You can’t do thyroid problems alone.
This goes back to having that support team. You have to learn how to get help and ask for help. Stop trying to do everything yourself. That’s stressful, and stress is unhelpful to the thyroid.
Perhaps you could outsource your ironing, or your cleaning, or your shopping, or it could be asking for help to find a great acupuncturist. Ask a friend who is managing their thyroid health well and ask what’s working for them? You probably like to help others, so let others help you, too.
The things in this checklist are the core of what we need to be doing over time, or at least investigating and trying to see if they work for you. These are things to explore over years. They are factors that need to become part of a thyroid-friendly lifestyle. It’s not possible to do all of these things at once but they are all important.
Here is a printable checklist.
Start with one thing. One thing at a time. Depending on your symptoms and how you feel, it might matter where you start, but more important is that you don’t become paralyzed with overwhelm and don’t start at all. Start somewhere.
Perhaps it’s removing your plastic food containers, or trying a gluten-free diet. Maybe it’s buying a journal and starting to record what’s going on in your body. Maybe it’s finding a good integrative doctor that can be in this for the long haul with you. Just pick your one thing. Then you can move on to another thing.
Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Annabel Bateman is a Hashimoto’s patient and passionate thyroid health advocate. She has learnt in 25+ years of living with Hashimoto’s that the key is developing a lifestyle that supports (and doesn’t stress) her thyroid health. Annabel is the author of the best-selling cookbook, What Annabel Cooks: Real Food That Will Make You Flourish and she hosts a successful podcast, Let’s Talk Thyroid which seeks to spread thyroid awareness and information.
Her next book is Kiss & Makeup With Your Thyroid: Your Positive and Practical Lifestyle Approach to Love Your Thyroid Back to Health which should hit the shelves in mid-2022.
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