Exercise & Nutrition for Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
Hashimoto’s Disease, or Thyroiditis, is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. It is an autoimmune condition that can cause symptoms of weight gain, fatigue, joint and muscle pain. Through appropriate exercise and recovery methods it is possible to lose weight and/or gain lean muscle mass when diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. Although the excess stress from exercise can cause fatigue, worsened thyroid function, depressed immunity, increased risk of injury and raised inflammation – it is important to know your own limits when training.
There are two suitable training methods suitable for those with Hashimoto’s Disease:
Short sessions of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training); and
Weight training with heavy weights and low repetitions.
Short and high intensity workouts such as HIIT will ensure (often limited) energy is dispersed quickly – which means the 30 minutes you had set aside for training can be shortened to 10-15 minutes, giving yourself an increased recovery time. You’ll know you have trained well if you are breaking a sweat around the 3 minute mark, breathing deeply and rapidly, and hitting 70% or greater of your max. heart rate (220 – age in years = max. heart rate).
Take advantage of the body’s natural cortisol surge in the morning by getting to the gym or completing some at-home training within 10-30 minutes of waking up – before breakfast. It is easier to burn fat during this time, completing fasted will help reduce insulin resistance.
Training the larger muscle groups can increase overall lean muscle mass. Heavier weights are better for your metabolism in low to mid range repetitions. Constant repetitions of 20+ can cause bad Achilles tendonitis or shoulder problems. Make sure to work your way up in weights rather than starting heavy – a personal trainer is best to assist you with this.
Over exercising can heighten symptoms of Hashimoto’s, including:
Excess bad gut bacteria; and
Leaky gut (where undigested foods, bacteria, yeast and other pathogens enter the blood stream).
Appropriate exercise boosts the chemicals in the body that improve brain function, increase overall well-being and raise energy levels. There are some pre-exiting factors that will increase your vulnerability to over training with Hashimoto’s such as low-high cortisol levels, systematic inflammation, immune weakness, nutrient deficiencies and obesity.
If you are unsure whether you are over training or just simply experiencing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), you may notice that you are experiencing lengthy recovery times or being in a state where you can not imagine getting out of bed the following day due to joint and/or muscle pain. You may also notice that although you are consistently training, your performance is declining, muscle strength is decreasing, and you are experiencing a lack or loss in motivation and enthusiasm to train.
Aim to feel refreshed and energised after each training session! Taking time to recover is extremely important – especially when it comes to sleeping. Adequate sleep will encourage muscle repair, improve the metabolic system and help your brain to recharge. It’s important to adopt a lifestyle that will support your diet, exercise and supplementation in order to feel your best and to slow the progress of the autoimmune disease.
Nutrient timing for training is important whether you have an autoimmune disease or not. For those with Hashimoto’s disease it is best to consume a drink of electrolytes before training (avoid sugary ‘sports drink’ options) and look into supplementing with n-acetyl l-carnitine (check with your gp, depending on medication dosage). Post workout you’ll be best to consume something that will aid in reducing inflammation such as turmeric, alongside another drink of electrolytes.
*It is necessary to eliminate sugars, processed foods and minimise or remove gluten, diary, corn, rice and other simple carbohydrates from your diet.
*Focus on nourishing your body with good quality meats, vegetables (organic where possible) and good fats such as avocados, olive oil and coconut oil.
*Protein is also important and should be consumed at 1.5-2g per kilogram of body weight (around 40% of your diet).
If you feel as though you are eating nutritious and ‘clean’ foods but not experiencing any benefits you may want to consider food sensitivity testing. Probiotics and fermented foods can also encourage a balance of bacterial flora.
Macro & Micro-Nutrients
Our bodies need macro and micronutrients to thrive! If you are malnourishing it by under-eating or following a high calorie deficit your body will sabotage any progress by slowing down the metabolism or causing you to have cravings and even feel hungry when you have had enough.
The most common nutrient deficiencies in people with Hashimoto’s are:
Vitamin D; and
Kalanick, B. (2015, January) When Exercise Harms Your Thyroid, Bottom Line Health. Retrieved from https://bottomlineinc.com/health/thyroid/exercise-harms-thyroid
Dr. Wentz, I. (2018, January) How to Lose Weight With Hashimoto’s, Thyroid Pharmacist. Retrieved from https://thyroidpharmacist.com/articles/how-to-lose-weight-with-hashimotos/
Ryan, M. (2014) How to Exercise With Hashimoto’s, Hashimoto’s Healing. Retrieved from https://hashimotoshealing.com/how-to-exercise-with-hashimotos/
(2017, May) Extreme Exercise is Good for You Right? Not if You Have Hashimoto’s, Functional Medicine; Functional Health News. Retrieved from http://functionalhealthnews.com/2017/05/extreme-exercise-is-good-for-you-right-not-exactly/