When I was sixteen, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. The thyroid produces hormones that regulate metabolism, muscle control, heart and digestive functions, as well as bone and brain development.
Essentially, a thyroid disorder can easily present itself as a curse. I ultimately had to have my thyroid radioactively ablated (so yes, I was emitting radioactivity for weeks afterward!) and am now dependent on synthetic thyroid hormones for the rest of my life.
Many women will develop a thyroid disorder at some point in their lives, yet some of us are forced to reevaluate our diets and lifestyles at a much younger age. College presents numerous challenges to those of us who are forced to pay extra attention to our diets and exercise habits, yet this cheat-sheet will provide a basis for understanding the most critical adjustments.
1. Take Your Medication Properly
Surprisingly, this piece of advice is not as redundant as one would hope. Most thyroid hormone supplements must be taken on an empty stomach, at least one hour before eating. I made the mistake for the first few months of taking my medicine with breakfast. As a result, I was severely reducing the absorption and was not seeing as great an improvement of my symptoms.
2. Know What To Eat, When
This follows from correctly taking one's medicine, however, it is very important to choose foods that will not impede absorption. For example, high fiber and/or high calcium foods have been shown to minimize the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone by great margins. So, if you take your medicine in the morning, best steer clear of steel-cut oats, fortified cereals, or yogurt for breakfast.
Iodine is a chemical element that is shown to support thyroid function. Yet, many of us lack it in our diets. Iodine can help combat some side-effects of low-thyroid levels, such as fatigue, muscle-weakness, and lack of concentration. Delicious sources of this critical supplement are in sea vegetables and leafy greens like kale.
4. Keep a Food Diary
Unfortunately, for those of us suffering from thyroid disorders, the idea of the "teenage/young adult" metabolism is a fallacy. Intuitive eating is an important component of having a healthy relationship with food, however it is important to remember that thyroid disorders often throw off one's metabolic rate: most often, slowing it. Food diaries help keep one accountable.
It is still okay to indulge and treat yo'self every now and then, but consistent eating is critical for maintaining a healthy weight. Be grateful that you, unlike those who coasted through their teens eating 5,000 calories of Burger King a day, will learn healthy habits before getting set in your ways!
5. Exercise Regularly
Because of our compromised metabolisms, it is especially critical to exercise on a regular basis. Exercise raises your metabolism hours after your workout ends, and new muscle will be more metabolically active, thus boosting your daily burn.
6. Avoid Alcohol (Sorry)
Aside from being the second most caloric nutrient (if one can even call it that), anyone hoping to balance an endocrine disorder and a healthy lifestyle should avoid alcohol whenever possible.
Alcohol disrupts glycogen synthesis, harms the liver, and can impair your athletic abilities for days after consumption. I personally prefer to eat my calories, and considering a shot of vodka contains nearly 100 calories, I'd rather munch on some brazil nuts or kale chips.
While it may be difficult to mentally separate college socializing from alcohol, it is 100% possible to still have fun with friends and stay sober. I personally always chose a night in with friends over hitting up the bars. If your crowd is not accepting of your choices, then it's time to change scenes. Your friends should support you in all of your health goals!