10 Cold Weather Survival Tips for Thyroid Patients

Woman with arms outstretched in snow
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When warm weather is a distant memory, and you're up to your neck in freezing cold weather, snow, and ice, it's time to do a cold weather thyroid tune-up. Surviving the cold weather season means you need to consider some helpful tips to help you "winterize" your thyroid and enjoy better health during the colder months.

Get Your Thyroid Levels Checked

Cold weather can increase your body's need for thyroid hormone, and make you feel more hypothyroid. Commonly, during colder months, your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level will rise, and free T4 and free T3 levels will drop. If you notice hypothyroid symptoms worsening as the weather gets colder, it's worth having your blood levels tested. You may need a slight increase in your thyroid hormone replacement dosage.

NOTE: Some doctors even make it standard practice to automatically raise their patients' dosages slightly during colder months, in order to meet the body's cold weather thyroid stress.

Tune Up Your Thyroid

If you're still having significant hypothyroid symptoms, it's a good time to check in with your physician to discuss whether you are at the optimum TSH level for you. Some patients feel best when TSH levels are at low-normal range, so it's worth discussing with your doctor. Keep in mind that while some doctors consider the TSH reference range (.3 to 4.5 or so) is "normal," some practitioners feel strongly that TSH levels above 1.5 to 2.0 are not optimal, and require further assessment, more in-depth blood testing, and evaluation of symptoms.

Make Sure You're on the Optimal Thyroid Drug for You

Some patients feel better on natural desiccated thyroid drugs (i.e., Armour thyroid or Nature-throid), others need the addition of a T3 drug (like Cytomel), and some do best when switching from one brand of synthetic levothyroxine, i.e., Synthroid, Unithroid, or Tirosint.

Make sure you're on the right drug that safely relieves the majority of your hypothyroidism symptoms. (Read: Thyroid Patients: Do You Need T3 or Natural Desiccated Thyroid?)

Start Exercising

Cold weather blues may make you less inclined to work out, but there's no better time to begin a regular program of exercise. Whether you join a gym, start a walking program, take a yoga class, do T-Tapp at home, or do Pilates tapes, even a gentle exercise program can help banish the blues and relieve stress -- not to mention help avoid winter weight gain. Not sure how to exercise in the winter? Read these winter exercise tips! Need an indoor exercise program that won't exhaust you? Try my favorite program, T-Tapp.

Get Some Sunlight Every Day

There's evidence that exposure to sunlight affects hormones that have an impact on both brain chemistry and the endocrine system. Even if you don't suffer from a full-out case of "seasonal affective disorder," 20 to 30 minutes a day of outdoor light exposure can help ward off fatigue and depression.

One doctor recommend that when you are driving, you keep your window open so you are exposed to the natural sunlight. (Keep in mind that wearing sunglasses will reduce the benefit of the sunlight.)

If you have a more pronounced seasonal affective disorder and find yourself gaining weight and feeling significantly depressed during the colder months, consider light therapy. You can get an inexpensive light therapy box or desk lamp to help deal with the shorter, colder, greyer days. Also make sure to get Vitamin D levels checked and supplement if necessary. 

Eat Less Sugar

While a cold day may say hot chocolate and cookies, that may be the worst thing you can do. Many people with thyroid conditions find that they are susceptible to processed sugar, in a number of different ways. You may have some underlying yeast overgrowth (candidiasis), or some level of insulin resistance. With the double whammy of winter weight gain and depression both being factors that can be affected by too much sugar in the diet, it makes sense to bypass sugary treats as much as possible, in favor of healthier alternatives. 

Get Enough Sleep

The average American doesn't get enough sleep. Add a thyroid condition to the mix, and it's clear that many thyroid patients are walking around in a state of chronic sleep deprivation. Autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances and difficulty losing weight are all aggravated by insufficient sleep, so it's critical that you make sure you get your zzzz's. How much do you need? The typical adult without a thyroid problem need seven to eight hours and many thyroid patients need even more. And in the winter, our bodies seem to need even a bit more. So forego a bit of late night television in favor of a few extra winks, and your body will thank you for it.

Reduce Your Stress

With work, families, activities and other stressors everywhere, there's no better time for your health to incorporate a form of stress reduction into your daily activities. Keep in mind that different types of stress reduction work best for different people. You may respond well to needlework, or crafts, such as beading or quilting. Or you may find mind-body exercises such as yoga or tai chi highly effective. Prayer or meditation can be the right stress reduction technique. Even remembering to taking frequent stretch breaks while working at your computer can go a long way toward reducing stress.

Avoid the Flu

Flu seems to be going around full steam these days, and if you haven't succumbed, you can still avoid it!

A Word From Verywell

Sometimes, you just need to recognize that cold, winter days are nature's way of telling us to slow down. Find out more about how beat "The Winter Blues."

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