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Self-care isn’t just bubble baths, face masks and duvet days. Self-care is the very practice of taking action to preserve or improve your health.
It can be great for your stress levels, mental health and wellbeing to find things that let you recharge and de-stress such as bubble baths, face masks and duvet days, but self-care should also implement what preserves and improves your physical health too.
As a thyroid patient, what does this mean?
1. Have Comprehensive Testing
Getting the right things tested with a thyroid condition is crucial. Testing the ‘full thyroid panel‘ (or ‘thyroid function test’ as it is sometimes known), gives the full, comprehensive view of your thyroid health, how treatment is working and how management could be improved.
The full thyroid panel consists of:
- Free T3
- Free T4
- Thyroid peroxidase antibodies
- Thyroglobulin antibodies
However, many thyroid patients fall at the first hurdle when doctors only test TSH, a pituitary hormone (not a thyroid hormone), which gives an indication of thyroid hormone levels, whereas Free T3 and T4 give the actual levels. The antibody tests also diagnose and monitor Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the most common cause of hypothyroidism. 
Not having all these tested means you are missing part of your treatment and management puzzle and therefore, may not be getting the best treatment for you. Many thyroid patients find that they need a different dosage and/or type of thyroid medication, upon having all of these tests ran, when TSH alone would not pick up on this.
Have you also checked if you have the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis by having your thyroid antibody levels tested?
It’s good to know if you have Hashimoto’s because if you do, there are things you can do to lower the antibodies, and keeping antibodies low is important if you want to stop any further damage being done to your thyroid gland. Getting my antibodies low and Hashimoto’s in to remission was key in helping me to manage my thyroid condition and feel better long term.
It’s worth knowing that you can order full thyroid panels yourself from online laboratories too. Find a UK lab here and a worldwide lab here.
Related Article: Signs Your Thyroid Medication May Need Adjusting
2. Exercise in The Right Way
Many people (and a lot of thyroid patients) fixate on exercise just being there for weight loss, but we should all be exercising daily for overall good health. Find what you enjoy and what helps you to keep in balance. Exercise should help you to unwind, feel calm and de-stress.
If exercise leaves you feeling worse physically, you may be over exercising or doing the wrong kind of exercise for you. Those with chronic health conditions such as thyroid disease often need to reevaluate and adapt their exercise regimen post-diagnosis so as not to make their symptoms, such as fatigue, worse.
Repeatedly engaging in overly demanding exercise can cause a surge of biochemical imbalances to occur within the body, including the disruption of the hypothalamus-pituitary axis, which can reduce thyroid function. Intense cardio, marathon running and training, obsessive weight lifting etc. with little to no recovery time can all cause extreme stress to the body and particularly the thyroid.
So, it is important for us to know when we need to slow things down or change things up. Listening to our bodies is crucial and taking things at our own pace will help us avoid causing any issues with over exercising.
Read about the types of exercise that work for many thyroid patients here.
3. Optimise Rest
This probably sounds obvious, but it’s simple self-care to ensure you have a good bedtime routine and stick with it. This is especially true for anyone managing a longterm health condition. Bodies with chronic illness need extra time to recuperate and recharge.
We should all aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep a night and stop electronics usage 1-2 hours before bed. You can also try a bath with Epsom salts. See this article for tips on maximising your sleep and improving any sleep complaints you may have, such as insomnia.
4. Eat Nutritiously
Your diet can play a big part in how you feel. Many thyroid patients state they feel better when they avoid gluten for example. Others that can exacerbate thyroid symptoms may include alcohol, caffeine, goitrogens, soy, all grains, dairy, eggs etc. Read more here.
It is also important to ensure that you are eating a nutrient dense diet. You can’t expect your body to function well if you don’t give it the right nutrients and useful stuff.
As many of us are prone to imbalanced blood sugar levels too, it’s crucial to ensure that we’re keeping blood sugar balanced. Being more aware of eating less sugar and more protein and healthy fats is often a simple enough change to banish the fatigue, nausea, acne, hangry feeling (being hungry and angry) and sugar cravings of blood sugar imbalances. This can in turn improve your adrenal and thyroid health.
Find cookbooks for thyroid patients here and here.
5. Embrace Being Your Own Thyroid Health Advocate
No one knows your body as well as you do.
‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate’ is literally the tagline of my website and name of my book.
I’ve made it no secret that the reason I was able to go from barely functioning thanks to hypothyroidism, to finally getting my health back on track again and resuming a normal quality of life, is because I took ‘be your own thyroid advocate’ literally.
I had to learn to be my own advocate when it came to my health, because being passive in my own healthcare meant I stayed unwell.
To be your own health advocate means to:
- Understand your thyroid condition and what it means – via research e.g. studies, books, blogs and online resources
- Understand options in terms of treatment, management and the level of care you are entitled to receive
- Go in to your medical appointments armed with the knowledge and tools you need to make sure you’re taken seriously and treated properly
I tell thyroid patients to keep trying different doctors until they find one they can build mutual respect with – one who will listen. I tell them to write down everything they want to say so that the intimidation of a trained professional doesn’t make them forget anything. I explain to them that you’re best working together as a team and let them know that you want to be a partner with them in your healthcare. After all, you are an active participant in your own health.
Most importantly, listen to your body. You know better than anyone if something isn’t right and if you’re still not feeling as well as you could do, you deserve to push for a better quality of life.
Do you practise these forms of thyroid health ‘self-care’?
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
Related article: Simple Ways Thyroid Patients Can Practise Self-Care
The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, which builds on this article in detail. Live a thyroid healthy life.