Winter is so bittersweet. I love extra hot lattes, cozy lounge-wear (the excuse to dress comfortably anywhere you go) and snowy weather with christmas lights glaring through frosty windows. I like winter but my thyroid does not and my thyroid makes all the decisions in this relationship.
My thyroid levels are consistently balanced these days and each time I do lab work my antibodies decrease and I feel better and better, but every October, like clockwork, my TSH jumps and I begin to feel rather symptomatic again. Whether you suffer from diagnosed hypothyroidism or not, thyroid levels tend to alter in the colder, darker seasons of the year.
It is estimated that 15% of people taking antidepressants are also hypothyroid and are either undiagnosed or mistreated. These patients would benefit from proper thyroid treatment more so than any anti-depressants. If you are dealing with low mood or depressive symptoms, especially in the colder months, have your thyroid levels tested, TSH, T4 and T3 at a minimum.
Low mood is not the only symptom that reveals itself in the winter time, symptoms like fatigue and exhaustion are quite common as well as weight gain, hair loss, hormonal imbalances, temperature intolerances and anxiety. So what can you do to ensure you are feeling your best this winter?
1. TEST TEST TEST
First and foremost, you need to have OPTIMAL thyroid levels. If that means increasing your thyroid medication, even just for a few months, than that is what you are required to do. Your TSH will not tell the full story, you need to know how much of each essential thyroid hormone is present in the blood, free T4 and free T3. It is not always what is known as optimal on paper, but more so what numbers are optimal for you, individually. Knowing your optimal levels is your responsibility, so always ask for a copy of your lab work.
2. VITAMIN D
When October rolls around my vitamin D dosage goes from 2000IU to 5000IU. Vitamin D is an essential vitamin and each and every person requires adequate vitamin D levels to function optimally. A deficiency in this vitamin is directly linked to the manifestation of autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, chronic infections, depression and cancers. 79% of Hashimoto’s patients are DEFICIENT in this vitamin. Treatment of vitamin D has no known side effects and can really improve one’s quality of life, especially during the darker seasons where sunlight is not as widely available as most of us would like.
I hate to say this because I am not an athletic person and would rather spend my time doing pretty much anything else, but movement is so incredibly important to optimal thyroid levels, better mood, and overall greater health. I am not talking about cross fit, I am talking about any sort of consistent movement, stretching the muscles and getting your heart rate up. Over-exercising for some can be extremely dangerous and have the opposite impact on your health so finding the right balance for you is important. You do not need to work out for an hour or more everyday either. I have recently committed to 10 minutes of Yoga in the morning, and 20 minutes of yoga when I get home. I use this awesome website called The Yoga Collective.
If you are not sleeping, at a minimum, 8 hours per night there is a significantly higher chance of you suffering throughout the winter months, catching infections and viruses, and having lower thyroid function. Tackle those things that keep you from sleeping like stress, blue-light from technology, alcohol, caffeine, or adrenal issues. Try blue-light blocking glasses so that your body is maintaining melatonin production and allowing you to have a restful sleep. If there are external factors that are keeping you awake at night, like small children, than it is even more important that you are taking all the other steps to to keep your thyroid as healthy as possible.
5. SAY NO
You cannot do it all. I love the saying, “you can do anything but not everything.” If hypothyroidism has taught me anything, it’s that you cannot please everyone, and people will eventually get over you cancelling on them. If they don’t, it may be time to associate yourself with different people.
So, to all my fellow hypothyroid friends, stay warm this winter. Get lots of rest, take some days off, get your thyroid levels checked, take some vitamin D, and get out and move. We are all in this together. As the Butterfly Effect suggests, everything that has happened in your life has led you to this moment.
Thank you for reading,
Diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism, Victoria explores the reality of living with chronic illness through her blog, The Butterfly Effect.
Victoria seeks to spread awareness of autoimmunity and writes to inspire chronically ill patients to live wholesome lives beyond their health struggles.
You can also find more from Victoria on Instagram and Facebook