You’ve gained weight lately, although your eating habits have remained the same; you feel fatigued, your skin is dry, you experience many changes in your body, but don’t understand what’s going on. You go to the doctor, and his diagnosis is hypothyroidism. What does that mean?
To succeed in any medical treatment, the most important thing is to understand what’s happening to your body and what strategies you need to take to stay healthy.
The thyroid gland is a small gland located inside the neck and it produces the thyroid hormone, which is essential to regulate metabolism, or the way your body uses energy. The thyroid gland also influences breathing, cardiac function, nerves, body temperature, the strength of muscles, menstrual cycles, weight, and cholesterol levels.
When the production of thyroid hormone stops or is reduced, a medical condition known as hypothyroidism appears. Since this hormone works in so many parts of the body, when its levels decrease in blood many changes occur inside the body. This includes metabolism, which becomes slower, causing weight gain.
There are many reasons why you can develop hypothyroidism, such as radiation, an autoimmune disease (your defense system attacks your own body), or a neck tumor. This medical condition is more likely to occur in women, and you must be especially aware if someone in your family suffers from hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed by performing a blood test of your thyroid hormones. The main treatment for this condition is a synthetic hormone that replaces what your body is no longer producing. This medication must be prescribed by your doctor or specialist. If hypothyroidism is detected promptly, your doctor will prescribe the adequate treatment, and it will be easier for you to maintain your weight.
Here are some strategies to avoid weight gain and to maintain your cholesterol levels within healthy ranges:
- Exercisehelps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, while reducing your blood cholesterol levels.
- Control your food portions. Eating more servings than those indicated in your personalized diet plan means you're exceeding the calories your body needs. What your body doesn't use as energy is stored and produces weight gain.
- Choose the right foods. Select lean meats, whole grain cereals, low-fat dairy products, low-fat sausages, and many fruits and vegetables.
- Keep an adequate controlof the medication prescribed by your doctor or specialist. This is the most important part of the management of this condition. You might have to be on medication your whole life, so it's sensible to take it exactly as your doctor indicates, in order to avoid needing a higher dose in the future.
NIH. National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service (2008) Hypothyroidism. Retrieved on December, 2008 from: http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/Hypothyroidism/
American Thyroid Association (2005) Hypothyroidism. Retrieved on December, 2008 from: http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Hypo_brochure.pdf
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