If you’ve ever been diagnosed with thyroid problems or adrenal fatigue you know how “sick” it can make you feel on the inside, all the while you still look totally healthy on the outside.
I was diagnosed hypothyroid after an out-of-the-blue anxiety attack (accompanied by several other non-specific symptoms) led me to the emergency room.
Three weeks later, I got a second opinion and was told I had transient thyroiditis, meaning it was only temporary and although it would take some time, my body would eventually correct itself without medication.
In the meantime, I’ve done a lot of reading and Google searches about thyroid health and I’ve had in-depth conversations with friends who struggle with their thyroid and adrenal glands, too, to find out what lifestyle changes I needed to make in order to feel better and speed up my body’s ability to heal.
I’m a mom and a wife! I need to feel my best and if I can control how I feel through lifestyle changes, than you bet I’m going to give it a try.
Updated 8/2015: It’s been 17 months since my initial diagnosis.
The good news is, overall I feel so much better! Yes, I still have bad days, but the trend is that it’s mostly a day or two prior to my period, and then I’m good again.
I’ve written this post because so many people approached me with questions about my thyroiditis experience and how I’ve overcome the symptoms. I’m not a doctor, and I can’t promise that what worked for me will work for you.
To expand a little on this topic, I recorded a video series this year, too, called Stop Looking at Me Like I’m Crazy: Navigating Midlife, Hormones, & Thyroiditis. Be sure to check it out!
Be sure to check with your doctor before trying something new.
13 Lifestyle Changes that Helped Me Overcome Thyroiditis and Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
1. I Take Probiotics and Digestive Enzymes
A major symptom I had initially was sudden gastrointestinal discomfort, excessive gurgling when I would drink water, a burning sensation in my stomach, acid reflux, and nausea. So a good friend of mine (with hypothyroid) recommended I take probiotics and digestive enzymes. What a difference they made in how I felt! It was nearly immediate relief. A healthy gut is so important for healing. GNC has a good selection to choose from. I’ve used the Ultra 25 Probiotic Complex and the Ultra 50 Probiotic Complex with good results. They also have a good selection of digestive enzymes to choose from. I’ve used the Natural Brand Super Digestive Enzymes and carry around a small container of Papaya Enzyme in case I have tummy trouble while out and about.
Update 8/2015: I still take the occasional extra dose of digestive enzymes and probiotic when I’m feeling ill, but for the last 6 months I’ve been drinking Shakeology every day which includes probiotics, prebiotics, and digestive enzymes.
2. I Eat Lots of Avocado
Avocado has many health benefits, but one of the primary reasons I eat it regularly is because it is a great source of magnesium which according to Livestrong.com aids in reducing anxiety, a problem hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue brought on. Avocado also has a high potassium to sodium ratio to help balance electrolytes. Dehydration and an electrolyte imbalance was discovered by my doctor the same time they tested my thyroid. I have to be very intentional about staying hydrated because of fatigued adrenal glands. Additionally, avocado has anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation in the body is a common symptom in autoimmune diseases.
3. I Consume a Healthy Diet of Fresh, Whole Foods
Many have asked if I’ve gone gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, or grain-free. (See my update below.) My diet consists of lots of chicken, beef, turkey, and occasionally salmon. I enjoy all kinds of vegetables as side dishes, and a variety of fresh fruits (lots of berries) with a morning meal. For breakfast, I like to have an egg or two either fried in a little bit of coconut oil or as a veggie omelette. Egg yolks are very nourishing for adrenal glands. So is sea salt, so that’s a regular seasoning I use as well. If I have a bowl of cereal, I make sure it’s got a good amount of protein in it. Greek yogurt or a handful of raw almonds are my snack of choice most days.
Update 8/2015: Since March of this year, I’ve been through 2 rounds of Beachbody’s 21 Day Fix program. This program changed my eating habits, and as a result I have gone about 90% gluten-free and soy-free. The meal plan only allows for whole foods – nothing prepackaged. Occasional whole grain bread, pasta, and dining out (tough to control ingredients) make up the 10%.
4. I Replaced Coffee with Tea
I had a big coffee problem before my thyroid went crazy. It wasn’t the coffee I loved, but the creamer. There are some delicious creamers out there! Anyway, if I do have coffee which is rare these days, it’s decaf. Now I drink one cup of caffeineted green tea every morning. It’s my understanding that the body metabolizes the caffeine in green tea differently than it does from other sources. I drink green tea because I’ve read it’s good for adrenal gland health. Most evenings an hour or so before bed I like to drink a cup of sleepy time tea, too. It really helps relax my body and mind in preparation for sleep.
5. I Take a Multivitamin and Necessary Supplements
I’ve always taken GNC vitamins with good results. They have so many different options to choose from. I also take extra B12. I mention a book about B12 deficiencyhere. Another supplement I take is Chia chews, because they are loaded with fiber and healthy omega-3’s. In fact chia is very beneficial to our health. Omega-3 Fish Oil supplements is also on my list of must-have’s each day, because it helps keep inflammation under control in the body, among having other health benefits. Lastly, I take extra vitamin D-3 because I don’t live in a climate where sunshine is in daily supply. B12 and D-3 have made a significant difference in my mood and energy levels. Do your research if you decide to try them, and talk to your doctor. There is such a thing as too many vitamins.
Update 8/2105: Since February this year, I’ve been drinking Shakeology every day. This has replaced my multivitamin because each shake has comparable vitamins and minerals in it. I do still take my fish oil, B12, and D-3 each day, too.
6. I Drink Lots of Water
This is so important. As soon as I got my electrolytes balanced and was fully hydrated, I started to really feel great. When I don’t drink enough water, my skin is dry, my eyes are dry, my hair is dry, I get headaches and have sinus problems, and I lack energy. If you have any kind of adrenal fatigue, you are more susceptible to dehydration. I carry a container of ice water with me everywhere, and I aim for at least 10 cups of water each day, in addition to my morning and evening tea and orange juice. I try for more when I know I’m going to have a glass of wine with dinner because alcohol can be dehydrating. I also like to add lemon to my water because lemon helps prevent acid reflux by balancing the body’s ph levels and it also helps detox the liver, among many other health benefits. Plus I like how refreshing it tastes. After I exercise, I drink a container of coconut water because it has less sugar than a sports drink and quickly rehydrates the body.
7. I Get Adequate Sleep
I used to only get 5 hours per night. Now, I force myself to sleep a minimum of 7 hours, preferably 8 or 9. If I feel the need for a nap, I stop what I’m doing and lay down for a bit. It has to be a priority. My body cannot function at full capacity without adequate sleep. I actually feel anxiety come on when I’m sleep deprived, my mood changes dramatically, and I feel generally unwell. My family watched me go through this health nightmare. They want me healthy and they understand sleep is an important factor in keeping me that way. So my kids know if mommy needs a nap they need to keep the noise down, and watch a little TV while I snooze nearby. My hubby understands if I need to say goodnight a little earlier than usual. I do what I need to do. And as long as I’m getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, I’m good to go, full of energy and all.
8. I Learned to Be Intentional About Stress Reduction
Stress wreaks havoc on our adrenal glands. At first, slowing down to really experience life was hard for the Type-A side of me, but now that I’ve been intentional about it, I really feel the difference and see so much more of the gift of life around me than I ever did before. To reduce stress, I do things like take time to sit and read a good book, watch some favorite shows on TV, take long relaxing bubble baths, get regular massages at the local day spa, play games, laugh, and spend time with the people I love, and get some exercise each day. If there’s a specific problem causing me to worry, I pray about it, talk it over with my husband or a trusted friend and then put it behind me.
9. I Talk to a Good Friend
Thyroid problems are pretty common. I was surprised to learn how many people I know or chat with regularly that have thyroid problems. One person, in particular, is a really good friend of mine. She was (and still is) an absolute blessing to me during the months when I felt awful. My dear friend talked me through every symptom I experienced. She encouraged me and listened when I needed to talk. She gave me great advice and tips for things that helped her. She made me feel less alone in the journey. She even referred me to her doctor who was a major player in my recovery. So talk to your friends or people you trust. You might be surprised who God puts in your path to help you.
10. I Journal Daily
I have days and days of journal entries that were just quick how-I-feel-today updates. I wanted to have everything documented so I’d be prepared to talk to my doctor about how I was feeling, but also so I could watch for trends in how I was feeling compared to how much sleep I’d gotten, what foods I’d eaten, how much exercise I’d done, and more. But there were also journal entries where I poured my heart out about how frustrated I was with my health, and it helped me cope with the season of life God allowed me to be in.
11. I Exercise Every Day
Update 8/2015: Moderate exercise every day is important for healthy hormones. I’m very active with Beachbody workouts, running, walking, and using our elliptical. I aim for 30 minutes every day and mix things up so my muscles are always guessing. I’ve lost weight, toned up my body significantly, and I feel great!
12. I Choose Natural Remedies First
I used to be quick to grab antacids out of the medicine cabinet or take Motrin for a headache. Now I turn to essential oils first, combined with asking myself questions about my diet and fluid intake. Am I dehydrated? Do I need to drink more water? Will some peppermint help my upset stomach? What did I eat that I shouldn’t have? Am I just tired? Maybe an epsom salt bath will help. I’m constantly googling “natural remedy for_____.” I don’t think God meant for us to have chemicals and drugs in our body. Sure, some medicine is necessary and does help us to heal and feel better, but I’m all for choosing a natural remedy first.
Update 8/2015: Essential oils can be very helpful with hormone health. I’ve experienced the benefits, and my friend Jolene Engle will tell you more about themhere.
13. I Pray Without Ceasing
I can’t express enough how much power there is in prayer. I spent hours and hours praying over my health and my symptoms. God always brought relief when I asked, usually by leading me to a solution. He really carried me through some tough days. God sometimes allows these hard seasons of life because he’s using that time to strengthen us, change us for the better, and to draw us near to him through prayer. I wouldn’t wish hormone problems on anyone, but I can say I’m a stronger person having gone through it, and a healthier person knowing what I know now about how my lifestyle affects my body.