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With cooler seasons comes the importance of prioritising your thyroid health.
I’ve put together some information on keeping warm and looking after your thyroid health this winter.
Did you know that one of the key functions of your thyroid gland is thermoregulate the body’s temperature? Yes, the thyroid gland is in charge of regulating the temperature of the body and then maintaining it at that temperature, too.
Therefore, when temperatures around you drop, your thyroid has to crank it up a notch and work harder to help maintain a normal body temperature. This would explain why, when you feel colder, you can feel more hypothyroid symptoms such as aches and pains, brain fog and fatigue, as it increases your body’s need for thyroid hormone, which can cause your TSH to rise, and Free T4 and Free T3 levels to drop.
The inability to maintain a normal body temperature, with the average being 98.6 Fahrenheit/37 degrees Celsius, can lead to cold intolerance.
Just as I have covered in my post Why Do We Often Need Less Thyroid Medication in Warmer Months?, many of us also need more thyroid medication in colder months. Not a lot, but a slight medication increase can help our bodies stay warm and function without pesky hypothyroid symptoms returning or worsening in the colder months. Of course, don’t make this adjustment on your own but rather speak to your doctor. You’d likely benefit from a retesting of a full thyroid panel, which is always wise to check when the seasons change.
If your doctor won’t check the full thyroid panel (TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Tpoab, Tgab) then it’s worth knowing that you can check this yourself with online laboratory testing options. Medichecks are a popular choice in the UK, with LetsGetChecked working worldwide.
Other Things You Can Do To Help
Wrapping up adequately (this may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many of us don’t wear enough layers), meaning jumpers, scarves, gloves, hats and of course a substantial coat.
Sleeping under a thick duvet, staying in warm places where possible and using warm blankets to keep warm will help support your thyroid and the thermoregulation too.
Eating and drinking lots of warm food and drink such as decaf tea, soups and warm lunches as oppose to salads and sandwiches, is also beneficial when the weather changes. Warm lunches can still be nutritious, such as homemade soups, and you should be eating plenty of protein to keep your body fuelled and blood sugar well-balanced. Good sources of protein can include meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, yoghurts, beans and legumes.
There are also thermogenic foods which are named as such as they create heat when they’re converted in to energy. Common ones include chillies, pepper, mustard, coconut oil and even avocado.
Getting out and going for a walk can also gently warm up the body and not over-do it so that you end up feeling even more unwell. Take it at your own pace and remember that pushing yourself can do more harm than good, as well. A gentle walk once a day is beneficial for so many reasons.
A study also said:
Living in a colder climate can also be a risk factor for developing thyroid cancer. Researchers looked at correlations between average temperature by state, and the rates of thyroid cancers. (They adjusted for exposure to radiation, a key risk factor for thyroid cancer). What they found was that living in colder areas significantly increases the risk of developing thyroid cancer. For example, living in Alaska actually doubled the risk of thyroid cancer, compared to a warmer state such as Texas. Maybe the snowbirds who head to a warmer climate for the winter have the right idea! At minimum, it’s clearly better for their thyroid health! 
Protecting your immune system
You’ll also want to think about protecting your immune system in the winter, since many of us with autoimmune hypothyroidism have a compromised immune system. Consider whether the flu jab is suitable to you.
Supplementing Vitamin D, C and B-complex can help support your immune system, as well as some herbs such as holy basil and ashwagandha. Always consult a doctor or pharmacist before supplementing anything, though. What each individual needs can differ greatly. Many of us also have low zinc levels which can greatly impact immune system function. Getting your vitamin and mineral levels tested this time of year can be a good idea. See a list of tests here.
Have your thyroid hormone levels checked often (namely Free T3 and Free T4) to ensure they’re kept optimal, and keep in mind that adrenal stress can greatly lower your immune system’s ability to fight things off.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
Low Vitamin D levels have been linked to SAD and various low vitamin levels are pretty common with hypothyroidism.
Even if you don’t experience full on SAD in the darker months, even twenty minutes a day in the sun, soaking up some Vitamin D can help keep depression at bay. It’s a good idea to get your Vitamin D levels checked before supplementing any Vitamin D, and you can also explore SAD lamps.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given.
What tips do you have for looking after your thyroid health in the winter?
There is also an online thyroid course which you can complete from your own home, if you’re struggling with low energy levels. Freedom From Thyroid Fatigue helps you tackle low energy with a personalised approach.
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and award-winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, blogger, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. She has two books: ‘Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate‘ and ‘You, Me and Hypothyroidism‘. Her thyroid advocacy work includes authoring books, writing articles, blogging and speaking on podcasts. Rachel has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, BBC, The Mighty, Yahoo, MSN, ThyroidChange and more. She is well-recognised as a useful contributor to the thyroid community and has received eight 2020 WEGO Health Award Nominations.