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What no one is talking about with Hashimoto’s

The fatigue that goes hand in hand with Hashimoto’s can feel like no other. Using the words crippling, debilitating, and life-altering are an understatement. I know, I’ve lived it, which doesn’t really feel like “living” at all. As women we dream of playing with our kids, being present with our families, waking up with an abundance of energy, feeling vibrant and radiant. I was far from this dream four years ago and I slept twelve hours a night just to get by.

What no one is talking about with Hashimoto’s

What does Hashimoto’s exhaustion look like?

“Getting by” looked like dragging myself out of bed after hitting snooze five times, and chugging coffee like water only to hit the exhaustion wall around 2 pm. My Mondays felt as though I had worked a full week and I would crash on the couch. Exhausted, my mother looked after my new baby and my husband looked confused. What happened to the driven, type-A spunky wife?!?! Once my head hit my pillow I was wired but tired. My mind raced on what I needed to do the next day to just get by.

I saw multiple doctors who told me, “well, you’re a new mom, sleep deprivation is normal” and “New York will run you down especially when you’re raising a family.” I convinced myself I just needed more sleep than the average person and motherhood was just more strenuous than I thought. I was running on empty with owning a clinic and seeing patients on top of being present with my new baby.

How does a functional medicine doctor treat Hashimoto’s?

There are many recommendations from functional medicine experts to beat fatigue from how your blood work should look, how you should eat, and what supplements to take to beat Hashimoto’s fatigue. Some of my favorite resources can be found here:

  • Izabella Wentz – The Thyroid Pharmacist who loves to dive into research yet still explains it in an understandable way.
  • Dr Alan Christenson – A naturopathic thyroid expert, NYtimes bestseller. Another friend who loves to read and analyze all the research but then presents hard concepts with ease. He also has a telemedicine component to help anyone across the country.
  • Dr Gabrielle Lyon – My own functional medicine doctors and best friend. She helped me put my Hashimoto’s into remission and literally saved my life.
  • Dr Carrie Jones – Medical director for the Dutch Test and a great resource for everything hormones and thyroid-related.
  • Dr Jolene Brighton – Ladies, if you have ever been on birth control and want to know how birth control can affect your thyroid, this wonderful woman is for you.

The missing piece with Hashimoto’s

The topic many don’t address around Hashimoto’s is the exercise component, especially since certain kinds of exercise can lead to more fatigue. There are common recommendations but they seem to miss the bar on giving long term solutions. The most common exercise recommendations I hear for Hashimoto’s are:

  • Walk 20 minutes a day
  • Do some elliptical or stair master
  • Stretch or foam roll
  • Do Yoga or Pilates
  • Low impact exercise- hmmm, what exactly does this mean?

Why do these recommendations not work in the long run? If you are in a flare-up, these are great to start with but there needs to be progress once you are out of a flare-up. As a chiropractor and movement expert who’s worked with hundreds of women with chronic pain, there is a consistent clinical finding.

This finding is hypermobility. Their joints feel loose, unstable, and double-jointed. I find cardio and yoga recommendations will not help with hypermobility but actually accentuate it. When we have “loose” joints, I find the yogi’s with Hashimoto’s will get temporary relief with stretching but feel destroyed and sore for days after. This feeds a mindset that they need more yoga every time that tightness and muscle soreness comes back.

Should I do cardio if I have Hashimoto’s?

In my experience, if I dial back the cardio, yoga, and I put them on a solid strength training program with full-body functional movements, women feel so much better, stronger, and their energy returns. I’m not talkin’ pink 3 lb weights here ladies. I’m looking at 24-kilo kettlebell as a starting weight for deadlifts.

Cardio and stretching also does not feed and train the largest endocrine organ in the body, the muscle. We need good muscle mass and quality muscle tissue because:

  • Muscle is our metabolic engine
  • Muscle helps stabilize our joints
  • There are thyroid receptors in muscle tissue
  • Muscle is the key factor in our quality of life as we age
  • Muscles help us not waste away as we age
  • When we have Hashimoto’s we are predisposed to having less muscle mass
  • When we have Hashimoto’s we have a tendency to have muscle tissue that is of lesser quality
  • When we have Hashimoto’s we have slower tendon turnover
  • It takes longer for us to recover with Hashimoto’s

Now that we are on the same page and knowing all this, the most common question asked is, “well heck, where do I start to workout especially if I’m not supposed to just do cardio or yoga, and I never really learned how to pick up a weight? Especially if every time I work out, I can’t get out of bed for 3 days and I feel like I was hit by a bus. And how do I use working out as a way to beat my crippling fatigue?” Here we go!

Top 5 ways to overcome Hashimoto’s fatigue through exercise

Strength training

Strength training is non-negotiable. At its essence, pick up something heavy, with amazing form, put it down, then do it again.

Use your breath

Always, always, always start with a good 360-degree breath into the belly. This will turn your core on and protect your spine. Goodbye to any muscle aches and joint pain! Nothing like a good belly breath to recharge your energy.

Brace your core

Ladies, this means DO NOT suck in. I know we’ve done this since we were teens, it’s a hard habit to break. We all want to skinny up our waistline and we do this by sucking into the detriment of our core strength. I’m asking you to pick up a weight with a 360 breath and brace your core outward as if you were going to take a punch. I call it our “tank of strength!”

Take longer breaks than you think

Take a 1-2 minute break between sets to prevent feeling burnt out. Most trainers or group classes never give a break to tap into the “work hard, play hard” feeling where the average person wants to pass out after 45 minutes. With Hashimoto’s, you will probably want to pass out after about 5 minutes.

Get stacked

AKA, don’t hang out on your joints. Clinically I find women with Hashimoto’s often have hypermobility in their joints, especially their knees, elbows, and lower back. We already know we don’t have the same kind of muscle mass to stabilize the joints and when we hang on the joints, joint pain and muscle aches come apparent quickly. We all know joint pain is a massive energy drain.

The Hashimoto’s Take Away

Conventional exercise recommendations of cardio and stretching will not get you across the finish line to your dream if that dream is to have an abundance of energy. I know first hand how fatigue can impact everyday life and leave you out of commission. Overcoming Hashimoto’s fatigue is an essential step in regaining your energy and actually living life instead of just getting by. You have the power within you to take back your health, you just need the right tools.

If you are looking for more tips, I’m offering a free master class on the “The 3 changes you absolutely MUST make to your workouts if you have Hashimoto’s: How to finally get off the couch, lose the weight, wake up without pain, and get your life back without constant set-backs or confusion on what to do next.”

Join me for this free masterclass.

I know this information will help you get your energy back soon. I had to do it for myself to heal my own Hashimoto’s and every woman I worked with over the last 12 years in practice.

Thyroid Strong, my 6-week strength training program for women with Hashimoto’s on how to workout without burning out is available February 19th. Looking forward to seeing you there.

In good health,

Dr Emily Kiberd