Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, there’s a lot of opportunity for stress. The holidays can be a beautiful time of year to make fantastic memories – but it’s also when high expectations and being thrown together with (occasionally difficult) family can make you equally miserable.
But, there are ways to mitigate the effects of stress to enjoy this time of year fully with a minimum of emotional turmoil – keep reading to discover thirteen effective stress reduction strategies to get you through the season.
Have Realistic Expectations
Your holidays don’t need to be perfect or happen just like prior year’s celebrations. As our families change and we grow older; rituals and traditions often must change.
Hold on to the most important ones, but be open to starting new ones. For example, if your grown children can’t make it home this year, try finding new ways to celebrate as a family, such as using Skype and sharing pictures or videos by email.
It’s also important to realize that your 14 year old won’t be as enthusiastic about some holiday traditions as he or she was when they were only eight. It can be disappointing not to share a particular movie or trip because a child has outgrown it. Accept that this is a natural part of life and move on.
Make Peace with Family Members
Make an effort to accept your family members and friends the way they are, especially when they don’t live up to your expectations. Lay aside any grievances until after the holidays and try to see both sides of the situation. Also, be as understanding as possible when others get hurt or angry when something goes wrong. The odds are that they’re experiencing the effects of holiday season stress too.
This is the most critical time of year to have a plan. Preparing for family gatherings, travel, accommodations, and of course, gift giving, will ensure that things go as smoothly as possible.
Planning will minimize the chances of things going wrong or getting caught unprepared at the worst possible time. Set aside time to get the shopping done, make travel arrangements well in advance, schedule car or home maintenance beforehand to avoid the stress of home heating problems or getting stuck on the road. With the season’s chores, activities, and commitments set out in advance you’ll enjoy more and stress less.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say No
No one wants to be rude or hurt anyone’s feelings on purpose – but it’s important to know when to say no. Saying yes to someone when you should have said no could leave you overwhelmed and feeling resentful. Friends, family, and office mates will understand if you aren’t able to join in every holiday project or activity. Even when it’s not possible to refuse when the boss needs you to work overtime, you may still be able to change something else on your schedule to make up for lost time.
Share the Load
Many of us take on too much over the holidays. Whether it’s cooking, baking, decorating or planning activities – you need to know when to delegate some of the work. Taking on too much responsibility or work can cause high levels of stress that will ruin any enjoyment for you.
Be willing to admit that you can’t do it all by yourself and just as ready to ask others to lend a hand.
Take a Break
The holidays can be overwhelming – between Halloween, Thanksgiving, religious holidays and New Year’s Eve; it’s a non-stop roller coaster ride of festivities for over two months. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from it all. Sometimes a little alone time or scheduling a break from seasonal activities will keep you refreshed and able to appreciate the festivities better with less stress.
Get Enough Sleep
Chronic sleep deprivation can cause a lot of health problems (and even weight gain), so it’s’ crucial that you get enough sleep during this busy time. While late nights with friends can be an enjoyable way to pass the time, getting too little sleep for too long will eventually catch up to you and make many other holiday commitments unnecessarily stressful as you deal with excess fatigue and struggle to stay awake.
Make Time for Exercise
Being busy with holiday preparations, keeping up with work commitments, and attending to family shouldn’t keep you exercising. Keeping to your fitness routine over the holiday provides you with:
Important time for yourself
A way to keep holiday weight gain to a minimum
A great way to relieve holiday season stress
If you don’t have a fitness routine – then this is a great time to start one. December is the time of year when the gyms are least crowded.
Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Although a couple of drinks can be an excellent way to relieve stress; drinking to excess will damage your health. This is especially true for people who don’t ordinarily drink very much throughout the rest of the year. A sudden increase in drinking over the holidays is the cause of holiday heart, a type of heart arrhythmia caused by alcohol affecting heart tissue adversely.
Pick Your Fights
Arguments are inevitable when people are thrown together for any activity, but especially the holidays. Keep stress to a minimum by picking your fights.
Is it that important that someone is seated next to somebody else or that a meal is served a particular way? Try to determine the situations when it’s important to stick to your guns or better to just let it go and avoid a confrontation.
Things Will Go Wrong
The kids will fight, decorations will break, plumbing will fail, you’ll argue with your siblings over stupid things, etc. Keep your perspective and anticipate that things will go wrong. If you go into the holidays expecting that there will be some difficulties, then you’ll stress less when they do happen.
Keep Electronics Charged
Avoid the stress of missing a picture or video opportunity because the smartphone is out of juice. Make sure that you won’t ever miss the perfect holiday shot (or a call) by keeping the phone, tablet, and digital camera charged and ready for use.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. The whole point of being together with friends and family is to enjoy each other’s company. Instead of stressing, try to take advantage of the holidays to enjoy the festivities. It could be a fun day getting a Christmas tree with the family and decorating it, or going ice skating with your partner; instead of stressing over it remember to have fun.
If you are having trouble feeling alive and refreshed in the mornings, you may need to make some changes in your lifestyle and in your bedroom to get the illusive z’s you require. Healthy sleep habits are often called sleep hygiene to describe the best practices in your life to get all of the refreshing sleep you need every night. Good sleep hygiene is important for both your metal and physical health. It can improve your productivity and your overall quality of life too.
Maintain a Sleep Schedule
Just as when we were babies and our parents put us on a sleep schedule so they could feed us, diaper us and put us down for a nap or the night, it is best as an adult to continue this type of a schedule.
Your body has a circadian rhythm which is like your body’s clock that regulates your sleep and wake cycles. Most adults require about seven hours of sleep a night to wake refreshed and ready for the day’s events. In order to keep your body’s clock working correctly, it is best to go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Try not to sleep in late on your days off or the weekends as this will only give you a sleep hangover on Monday morning from lack of sleep.
Maintain a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual
Try to use a bedtime ritual each night before you get in the bed that helps you become sleepy. Many people take a soothing shower at night before bedtime to relax them and help to wash away the worries of the day. Some people find reading a book, the old-fashioned kind and not on a Kindle, will help them to become very relaxed. Some people find that yoga or stretching will help relax them before bedtime. Just make sure whatever your routine is that is doesn’t include bright lights or strenuous exercise, which can make it harder to sleep.
Get Your Exercise Daily
Physical exercise makes your body want to sleep well at night as the muscles recover when you sleep. You can do a rigorous workout or even a 10 minutes walk or cycling to help you to sleep better. So, no matter your level of fitness, just keep moving, but not close to bedtime.
Outdoor Light Exposure
During the day, get some natural outdoor light exposure. This is also a part that controls your wake and sleep cycles. The sunlight exposure can be for only a few minutes by parking your car farther away from the front door at work, or just soaking in a few rays with a short walk after lunch. It also helps to experience some outdoor darkness so your body’s clock ticks on the idea that daylight hours are for being awake and nighttime hours are for sleeping.
Don’t be a Clock Watcher
We have all been there when we can’t sleep for some unknown reason and we check the clock or phone over and over to see how much longer we have to sleep before the alarm goes off. This is very disruptive to your sleep cycle. Either turn the clock’s face away from you or put your phone on the other side of the room so you are not tempted to keep checking the time. Clock-watcher’s increase their tension and it makes it hard to get back to sleep in the middle of the night, or may make it harder to get to sleep. If you find yourself awake for a while at night, get up and read or listen quietly to some soothing music to relax your body and then go back to bed.
Take a Nap Early
If you absolutely must take a nap in the daytime, then do it as early as possible in the day. Many people require a daily nap, and that is okay, but napping late in the afternoon or for a long time, decreases your sleep drive at night and make it harder to stick to a sleep schedule. Late naps can also make it harder to fall asleep. Limit your daytime nap to 30 minutes for the best results.
Don’t Take your Worries to Bed
Many people lie down to sleep at night and all of the worries of the day start running through their heads, making it impossible to sleep. For an hour before you go to bed you should avoid stressful situations, doing work from home and discussions about emotionally charged subjects. Stress causes your body to secrete cortisol, which increases your alertness. Instead of taking your problems to bed, you can set them aside by writing things down on paper and setting them aside. Other aspects of stress management include getting organized, delegating tasks to others and setting your priorities in order.
Watch What You Eat at Night
Eating a heavy meal at night can give you that overfull feeling of Thanksgiving dinner and make you sleepy at first, but then it will likely prevent good sleep because you can’t get comfortable. Avoid large meals at night and watch out for spicy foods that can give you discomfort from indigestion. Try to eat your nighttime meal two to three hours before bedtime and you can eat a light snack approximately 45 minutes before bed if you are still hungry.
Avoid Stimulants at Night
It is best to avoid any types of stimulants before bed such as caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. Some people find that drinking alcohol in moderation before bedtime can help them to fall asleep, but that will wear off and they will most probably wake several times in the night unable to sleep. Caffeine and nicotine stimulate your body into wakefulness and can prevent you getting to bed on time. You should also balance your liquid intake to drink enough that you don’t wake up thirsty in the middle of the night, but limit liquids near bedtime so you won’t wake and need a bathroom trip.
Evaluate Your Bedroom
The best conditions for getting to sleep and staying asleep is to have your sleeping environment very comfortable. If your room is quiet, cool and dark, it will help you to get a better night’s rest. Some people find a white noise device or earplugs can reduce outside sounds. The use of blackout or heavy curtains can limit the light and the best temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Check Your Mattress
One of the most important items is to check your mattress and bedding. This is most often the reason you aren’t getting the sleep you need. If your mattress is over eight years old, it may be time to replace it. Signs of a failing mattress include waking up sore and stiff, waking up tired and tossing and turning at night. Visual clues to needing to replace your mattress are sagging, lumps or bumps, body impressions where you sleep, a moaning box spring and you and your partner roll toward each other in the night.
The signs of poor sleep hygiene include daytime sleepiness and frequent sleep disturbances in the night. You can prevent all the tossing and turning and get a restful night’s sleep every night by following some of the tips above.
Your baby isn’t gaining weight properly, sleeps poorly, spits up or frequently chokes when feeding and suffers from repeated lung infections – and worse of all; is making seizure-like movements of the back and neck. Could it be Sandifer’s syndrome?
Sandifer’s syndrome is a stomach disorder that can cause a baby to make disturbing and seizure-like movements that resemble an epileptic attack. These symptoms will usually be seen in children from shortly after birth up to adolescence in some cases. But, it’s most commonly seen in children from 18 to 24 months of age.
When the symptoms are seen in older children, they are typically mentally impaired, suffer spasticity or already have other neurological disorders.
According to an article in the journal Pediatrics International, Sandifer’s syndrome is a rare disorder that affects about one percent of children and is often misdiagnosed as some neurological problem because the symptoms don’t look like a stomach problem.
What is Sandifer’s syndrome?
Sandifer’s syndrome isn’t a disease, it’s a collection of symptoms that can be caused by acid reflux, and these symptoms may include:
- Torticollis, which is an involuntary and chronic movement of the child’s neck
- Dystonia, twisting and writhing movements that place the child in an abnormal posture because of involuntary muscle contractions
- Head nodding (the baby tips the chin down)
- Gurgling noises
- Back arching
Chronic acid reflux in children is usually called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Signs of GERD
According to recent research, the common warning signs of the GERD that may create the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome are:
- Being frequently irritable
- Difficulty swallowing or choking spells
- Holding breath for short periods
- Back arching and head jerking
- Unusual eye movements
More severe warning signs are frequently contracting lung infections (pneumonia) which researchers believe is the body’s reaction to the pain of acid reflux or irritation of the esophagus. Feeding difficulties and not gaining weight on schedule are two other warning signs that a baby is dealing with the discomfort and pain of gastrointestinal problems.
What Causes Sandifer’s Syndrome?
Sandifer’s syndrome is a poorly understood health issue. Research hasn’t yet discovered what cause the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome. What doctors do realize is that the symptoms frequently come with stomach acid moving back up into the esophagus (acid reflux). The esophagus is the section of a child’s digestive tract that brings food from the mouth to the stomach. The theory is that the pain of stomach contents, acid or gas coming back up the esophagus could be the cause of Sandifer’s syndrome symptoms.
Treating Sandifer’s Syndrome
Doctors will focus on treating the symptoms of Sandifer syndrome and trying to fix whatever is causing the child’s persistent acid reflux problem, which the doctor may also call gastroesophageal reflux disease. The best way to treat this problem depends on the child’s symptoms and stage of development.
The doctor could prescribe:
- Feeding changes
- Antacid medicines
- Even surgery
There are various methods a pediatrician could use to correct the problems that may be causing the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome.
Feeding Changes for Sandifer’s Syndrome
According to currently accepted recommendations, a doctor could begin treating the child’s acid reflux issues by asking parents to change the way they handle feedings.
Changes may involve:
- Not overfeeding
- Keeping babies upright for a half hour after feeding
- Using a predigested protein formula for a few weeks if sensitivity to milk proteins is suspected
Parents could also be told to mix some rice cereal with the baby formula to help buffer the stomach acid that might be causing the Sandifer’s symptoms. If the child is still experiencing acid reflux after the feeding changes have been made and yet has problems gaining weight, growing, feeding or sleeping well, the next treatment could be antacid drugs.
Medicine for Sandifer’s Syndrome
Drugs that the doctor could prescribe to treat acid reflux and resolve the symptoms of Sandifer’s syndrome may include antacids like; Tagament, Pepcid, Axid or Zantac. There is also a class of drugs that inhibit stomach acid production called proton pump inhibitors that could be used. Proton pump inhibitors include Nexium, Prilosec, and Prevacid.
When Surgery is Required
Sometimes the acid reflux issues that result in Sandifer’s syndrome require surgical intervention. When surgery is recommended, the procedure that may be used is Nissen fundoplication. This is the repositioning and stitching of the upper part of the stomach around the spot where it attaches to the stomach.
In Nissen fundoplication, the surgeon wraps the top of the stomach around the bottom of the esophagus. Doing this tightens the opening of the food passage to fix the problem that could have let stomach acid back up into it.
The Mayo Clinic says that it’s uncommon for GERD and the symptoms of Sandifer’s disease to continue after the baby reaches approximately 18 months of age. The acid reflux that may be causing Sandifer’s symptoms is almost never a serious medical problem and typically becomes less of an issue as the child grows older.
Cold or Flu – The Best and Worst Ways to Fight Winter Viruses
Cold and flu season is here again, and it seems like everyone has advice about how to avoid illness or get better quicker it if you do catch something. But there are lots of myths being passed around about how best to get over a winter bug, especially remedies that have been handed down for generations that have no basis in fact.
Here’s a rundown of the seven worst and three best ways to either avoid getting sick in the first place – or treat your symptoms if you do.
7 Cold and Flu Myths You Should Forget
Here are the old wives tales most of us have heard since childhood. While many may seem to make sense – scientific evidence indicates that these words of wisdom are anything but.
1) You Can ‘Sweat Out’ a Cold
Trying to get over a cold quicker by sweating it out won’t accomplish anything. The common cold can be caused by well over 200 different viruses. Regardless of what you do, it can take from several days to a few weeks for your immune system to get a cold out of your system. Worse, if you don’t keep hydrated during your attempts at ‘sweating it out,’ you’ll possibly do more harm than good since even mild dehydration will make your mucus thicker and harder to clear.
2) Don’t Exercise when you’re Fighting a Cold
While you will need to rest, exercising a little could help you to feel better.
A study from Ball State University divided volunteers with severe colds into two groups, one of which exercised for thirty minutes a day, five days a week. The second group was instructed to only rest. Test-subjects from both groups experienced cold symptoms for about 8 days which peaked during the morning hours. But, the exercisers reported feeling better in the afternoon and evening than the resting group did.
While exercise is good for you, you shouldn’t overdo it when you’re feeling poorly. Hard workouts (more than an hour) could actually weaken your immunity.
3) Avoid Dairy when you have a Cold
There’s absolutely no medical benefit to avoiding dairy when you’re sick. Although many people, including some doctors, think that dairy consumption increases mucus secretion, research shows that this is probably just the placebo effect. In a recent study, people who were told that they were drinking cow’s milk reported more severe nasal symptoms than people who were told that they were drinking soy milk. But when the same individuals didn’t know which milk they were drinking they reported the same effects – none.
If you do find that you or a family member get sinusitis (sinus inflammation) or ear infection after consuming dairy; the problem may be a dairy allergy rather than anything cold or flu-related.
4) You can catch a Cold from Being Cold
Everybody should know by now that the only thing that causes a cold is the cold virus. But many of us still cling to the belief that going out in the cold when not dressed warmly enough or while your hair is wet is an express ticket to a cold or flu. This is just a case of guilt by association; yes, we tend to get sick more often during the winter – but it’s not the cold that’s to blame.
The real reason cases of cold and flu spike in the winter months is proximity. When the weather turns nasty, we tend to spend more time indoors, which increases the odds that we’ll pass viruses to each other by sneezing and physical contact. Being poorly dressed against the cold can be dangerous to your health (hypothermia), but it won’t make it any likelier that you’ll be infected with a virus.
5) You’re not Contagious if you Don’t have a Fever
When you have a cold, you’ll be most contagious in the first two to three days, whether you’ve got a fever or not, according to the National Institutes of Health. The contagious period of a cold virus is typically over sometime between seven and ten days after onset. And adults or older children will generally experience a very low fever or even no fever at all. Young kids, though, will often have a fever that hovers around 100° to 102°F.
Flu can be sneaky as well: The CDC says that most healthy adults could be able to infect others from as early as one day before showing apparent symptoms and for a further five days afterward, whether or not they have a fever. Children with weaker immune systems can be contagious for more than a week.
6) Antibiotics will cure a Cold or Flu
This one myth is not only false but has caused a great deal of damage our general health. The over-prescription of antibiotics has created numerous strains of antibiotic-resistant viruses for which we no longer have many effective treatments left to use.
It’s true that in cases of bacterial infection that a course of antibiotics will help you get better faster, but they are ineffective when dealing with a viral infection. For example, if suspect that you have strep throat, the doctor will take a culture to determine whether or not the bacteria that causes strep is present. If so, he’ll prescribe a round of antibiotics to get rid of it fast – but if the test is negative and you’re experiencing the symptoms of strep; it’s likely a virus causing your discomfort. All antibiotics will do at that point is risk creating a resistant strain of any bacteria that are present.
7) Vitamin C Cures Colds and Flu
Sadly, this belief isn’t supported by science.
In 2007, researchers examined the results of 29 different studies searching for any effects vitamin C can have on colds. They concluded that taking at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C every day (not just when you’re sick) might make your symptoms go away about one day sooner than if you didn’t.
And the benefit ends there.
Following a daily vitamin C supplement regimen didn’t make it less likely that people will catch a cold. Furthermore, starting vitamin C once a cold had already begun didn’t have any positive effect either. This study concluded that vitamin C doesn’t work any better than a placebo.
8) A Cold can turn into the Flu
Both the common cold and influenza are caused by completely entirely viruses. So a cold virus won’t change into the one that causes flu. If you get the flu, it’s because it was a flu virus to begin with. Since these two illnesses have very similar symptoms, it can be hard to tell the difference between them based solely on how bad you feel. A good rule of thumb is that (typically) flu symptoms are worse than you’ll feel with a cold, with more serious symptoms, like a fever, painful body aches, tiredness, and a persistent, dry cough. A cold is also more likely to be accompanied by a stuffy or a runny nose. Colds won’t usually result in more serious problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or being hospitalized.
3 Ways to Feel Better Faster
1) Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough water to stay well-hydrated will make mucous thinner and easier to clear. Besides water you can drink juice, soup broth or a soothing mix of warm lemon water with honey to help loosen congestion causing mucous and stay hydrated. You should avoid caffeinated sodas, alcohol or coffee which act as diuretics and can make encourage dehydration.
2) Use a Humidifier
Adding moisture to the air in your home with a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer might help loosen up congestion in your lungs and nasal passages. Make sure that you change the water every day, and clean the appliance according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Whatever you do, don’t use hot steam, it hasn’t been shown to help any better than a cool mist and carries the risk of burns.
3) OTC Cold and Cough Medicines
These won’t prevent illness or in any way shorten the duration of a cold or flu, but OTC medications will make the symptoms of illness more bearable. Pain reducers will relieve the head and body ache (neuralgia) that accompanies infection. Decongestants will clear your sinuses and allow you to breathe clearly. Cough medicines will keep you from irritating your throat and lungs with constant coughs.
Your thyroid gland does some heavy-lifting: The hormones it produces help to regulate your heart rate, keep your skin healthy, and keep your metabolism at the right speed.
When you develop hypothyroid (the thyroid slows down), you can experience:
- Loss of energy,
- Dried out skin
- Aching joints
- Sudden weight gain
If your thyroid starts working overtime (hyperthyroidism) and secretes excess hormones, then you can experience rapid heartbeat, disturbed sleep, and rapid weight loss.
Hypothyroid is More Common
A majority of people suffering thyroid disease (about 80%) have hypothyroidism.
When symptoms become severe enough that you’re driven to see a doctor, the first things you’ll be asked is if any of your relatives have a slow thyroid because thyroid disease can run in families. The risk of hypothyroid also increases with; advancing age, being female – hypothyroid is many times more common in women, or already having an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or type I diabetes.
Hypothyroidism Risk and Age
The overall risk of suffering from hypothyroidism is highest for women over fifty, and the odds of developing this disorder only increase as you get older. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most frequently seen form of hypothyroidism: It’s an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system begins attacking the thyroid. This is an inherited condition that affects over 10 million US residents (mostly women) and may be undiagnosed for years.
People dealing with hypothyroidism may not consider that their thyroid levels are too low because the symptoms seem like the things we usually associate with getting older, like:
- Hair and skin changes
- Sore muscles
- Lack of energy
Hypothyroidism may also cause a decline in mental function and be an undiagnosed cause of depression in people 50 years and older.
Hypothyroid and Pregnancy
The increased demands on your body during pregnancy frequently place increased demands on the thyroid gland.
According to one study, 85% of women who are pregnant and taking thyroid hormone replacement needed to increase their regular dose by an average of 47% during their pregnancy. When hypothyroidism does occur during pregnancy, it’s usually because of Hashimoto’s disease which affects close to 5 out of every 1,000 women who are pregnant.
Undiagnosed hypothyroidism carries an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm deliveries, preeclampsia, and a dangerous rise in the mother’s blood pressure during the later stages of pregnancy. It may even affect fetal brain development and rate of growth.
There is a higher risk of thyroiditis and hypothyroidism in women who’ve been pregnant in the last six months.
This is What Happens Next if You’re Diagnosed with Hypothyroid
Diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism can be challenging for your doctor, especially when your thyroid hormone levels test near the borderline-normal range.
In the majority of cases, a hormone level between 4 and 10 is the accepted range for a doctor to start treatment. But, when patients are still experiencing symptoms with a low-normal hormone level of 3, physicians must deal with the question of whether or not to prescribe medication.
This is a tricky question because thyroid hormone replacement therapy isn’t just a matter of taking a pill that can immediately cure your symptoms. Adjusting the dosage for just the right amount of hormone replacement medication to maintain optimum levels is a delicate balancing act.
Low Thyroid in Men
Most of the work published today focuses on the ways hypothyroidism affects women. Men are generally excluded from discussion, and the challenges hypothyroidism presents men aren’t often considered.
Worse, it can be tough for men to communicate the physical changes that impact things like their sexuality and healthy brain function. Complicating matters is the fact that thyroid conditions are typically under-diagnosed and often completely missed by routine medical testing, leaving men to suffer silently.
Almost all men today have heard how low-testosterone (low T) can affect their health thanks to the many TV commercials and print ads peppering the media. What most aren’t aware of, however, is that the symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to those of a low thyroid. Additionally, low thyroid hormone levels can actually reduce men’s testosterone levels. Many patients, who are being treated for low-t, have an underlying thyroid condition that hasn’t been diagnosed.
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism in men are:
- Decreased testosterone levels
- Decrease in sex drive
- High cholesterol
- Reduced ability to deal with stress
- Erectile dysfunction
- Fatigue and reduced energy
Untreated or Under-Treated Hypothyroid Can Make Weight Loss Impossible
For most people dealing with a slow thyroid, not being treated or not receiving enough treatment can make losing weight an almost impossible feat regardless of any diet or exercise changes.
The most important thing is that your hypothyroidism gets diagnosed as soon as possible. The longer you wait to get diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the greater the weight you can gain. During the process of becoming hypothyroid, even before your hormone levels are at the point that warrants immediate treatment – your metabolism could significantly slow down. So, you’ll begin burning fewer calories each day and putting on more fat.
Hypothyroidism will also make you feel more tired and more achy. A combination that makes it much less likely that you’ll exercise, also slowing your metabolism. Of course, when you feel listless, you’re more likely to eat starchy or sugar-laden foods for energy.
If you suspect that your symptoms indicate a thyroid problem, see your doctor right away, and educate yourself about both the diagnosis and treatment process.
What if I’ve had My Thyroid Removed or Treated for Cancer?
Bear in mind that most people who’ve had their thyroid surgically removed of or have needed a course of radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment will become hypothyroid. But there is often a delay between these procedures and the start of thyroid hormone replacement medication, potentially leaving you in a state of hypothyroid for an extended period. Discuss a plan with your doctor for routine thyroid testing after the surgery or RAI so that hormone replacement treatment can start as soon it becomes evident that you’re hypothyroid.
The 4 Best Ways to Lose Weight When You’re Hypothyroid
Hypothyroid, as we’ve already discussed, makes it very hard to maintain a healthy weight – but there are effective ways to lose weight if you’re dealing with this condition:
Drink More Water
Water will help your metabolism to work more efficiently, and it can help reduce your appetite, prevent water retention, relieve bloating, and even ease constipation and aid digestion.
Eat More Fiber
Getting a healthy amount of fiber is a basic tactic you can use as a thyroid patient who wants to drop weight. Fiber has many benefits for sufferers of hypothyroidism trying to lose weight, and it you can get it from food or supplements.
Make Sure That You Sleep Enough
A critical factor for losing weight is getting enough quality sleep. Many studies have established a link between sleep deprivation and a slowed metabolism leading to weight gain.
Boost Your Metabolism with Exercise
Restricting calories or overhauling your diet often isn’t enough for the hypothyroid to lose weight. It will slow your metabolism, which means you can gain weight even when eating fewer calories, making it almost impossible to cut enough calories to lose a significant amount of weight. One of the most effective things you can do to speed your metabolism is to exercise.
Exercise can make your metabolism function more efficiently by burning calories and fat, moderating your blood sugar level, and encouraging the release of weight-loss promoting hormones like growth hormone.
Being overweight comes with lots of challenges, both social and psychological, that can make life difficult, but it’s the damage to your health you really need to be worried about. Carrying excess fat has severe implications for your long-term health and can eventually lead to lower quality of life, depression, and several life-threatening conditions.
Obesity and pain are both considered to be critical health concerns that can make daily life almost unbearable. Recent studies have also discovered a strong correlation between pain and obesity. Complaints of discomfort were found to be common among the obese and obesity is a frequent factor in people suffering from chronic pain.
Being chronically overweight can lead to:
- Back Pain and Obesity
- Diabetes and kidney disease
- Heart Disease
- Leg Lymphedema
Let’s look at each one of these ways that obesity can hurt you and show you that losing weight isn’t just a way to improve your social life or improve your self-image; it can also be a matter of life or death.
The Difference between Being Fat and Being Obese
Overweight or being obese are both terms for carrying more body fat than what is medically considered to be healthy. Both terms are used to identify individuals who are at a higher risk for health problems from being too heavy. As a rule, the term obese typically refers to someone with a much higher amount of body fat than a person who is only overweight.
Back Pain and Obesity
You can try to dismiss the cause of some increased back pain to the aging process, and it’s true that as we age, our body tissues degrade and this causes (painful) changes to the vertebrae and discs that compose our spines. However, if you’re obese or overweight, the chances are that you already have, or will eventually develop chronic back pain.
Becoming overweight can contribute significantly to the symptoms associated with osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and degenerative disc disease.
Your spine has to carry the body’s weight and evenly distribute the stress encountered during both activity and rest. When you’re carrying excess weight, the spine is forced to support a heavier burden than it was designed for. This can lead to degenerative conditions and injuries that result in painful conditions like sciatica. The part of the spine that’s most vulnerable to the effect of obesity is your lumbar spine (lower back), and damage in this area can be the most debilitating because it also affects how well your legs function.
Obesity and Cancer
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), cancers related to obesity currently account for approximately 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. Over a half-million Americans were diagnosed with a cancer resulting from excess body weight in 2014.
After reviewing more than one-thousand studies, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has identified thirteen cancers related to being overweight:
- Postmenopausal breast cancers
- Multiple myeloma
We can all agree that carrying around excess body fat isn’t good for our health. But did you realize that dropping weight will help prevent kidney disease? Losing weight may also slow the progression of kidney disease in people already diagnosed with the chronic form of this disease. Being overweight or obese is a medically recognized risk factor for the development of kidney problems.
Being overweight or obese will increase the odds of developing the common kind of diabetes called type 2. This disease means that although the body is making enough insulin, the cells in your body have become resistant to the healthy, sugar-metabolizing stimulus from insulin.
But, why does it happen?
Researchers think that being fat stresses the insides of our cells and that overeating stresses the network of membranes inside the cells. When the cells have more nutrients to process than they can handle, an alarm signal is sent out telling the body to slow down the insulin receptors on each cell surface. This can cause the insulin resistance and high blood levels of the sugar glucose – a clear symptom of diabetes.
Being Overweight and Heart Disease
Carrying a lot of excess weight from body fat means that you’re much more likely to develop heart disease. Even if there are no other risk factors, such as smoking, this is true. Being overweight or obese will hurt your heart in these ways:
- Undue strain on the heart
- Increased blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and reduced high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol)
- An increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes
- Excess weight can cause hypertension (high blood pressure)
And if you’re carrying your excess fat in the abdomen (a waistline above 35 inches for women or above 40 inches for men), then you’re at an even higher risk for heart disease. Losing weight, particularly abdominal fat, is an excellent first step toward reducing your blood pressure and controlling blood cholesterol levels.
New research concludes that obesity is a significant risk factor for another painful condition; leg lymphedema. Leg lymphedema just means that there is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the leg.
This happens when the lymphatic system is obstructed by something (like a clot) that blocks one of the lymph vessels. This makes lymphatic fluid collect in your skin, and you can develop a painful swelling. Leg lymphedema can affect your life both psychologically and a physically because it not only makes it painful to get around and leave the house but also makes it embarrassing and awkward to interact socially. The researchers concluded that obesity is a risk factor for lymphedema when someone’s body mass index (BMI) is more than 60.
While only 2% of the general population suffers from Fibromyalgia – almost 45% of obese people who are tested end up diagnosed with this painful disease. Typically fibromyalgia causes obesity by making exercise and physical exertion extremely painful. But some studies have also concluded that just being obese is a risk factor for developing this, at times, crippling condition.
But what happens if you lose the weight?
Researchers discovered that when obese participants with fibromyalgia lost weight, they saw improvements in; depression levels, sleep quality, reduced pain sensitivity, and an improved quality of life.
In this case, it’s a question of which came first; the depression that made you gain weight or you gained weight and became depressed as a result. But, doctors are discovering that there is a direct correlation between inflammation and depression – and obesity can cause inflammation to occur throughout the body.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada published a study that concludes individuals who are depressed had a 30% higher level of inflammation in the brain than people who aren’t. This is one of the first studies to show conclusively that, even absent any other conditions, inflammation is almost always present in individuals dealing with depression.