Don’t just accept tiredness as part of being a certain age. It could be a sign of a common but under-diagnosed problem, says Patsy Westcott
Don’t just accept tiredness as part of being a certain age. It could be a sign of a common but under-diagnosed problem, says Patsy Westcott.
Spring’s here and with lighter evenings, the prospect of some long-awaited sun and a chance to get out and about, low winter energy levels often surge upwards. But if, despite the new season, you’re feeling weary, you’re not alone.
Why we feel tired
Fatigue hits many of us once we reach a certain age – perhaps not surprising when you consider the frantic lives we all lead. It can be linked with menopause – for example insomnia due to hot flushes or night sweats, anxiety or stress. But one of the most common, although often overlooked, culprits is a small butterfly-shaped gland situated in our throat: the thyroid.
- Weighing on average just over 14 grams – about as much as a couple of cherries – the thyroid produces two iodine-containing hormones, which regulate metabolism, meaning they control how quickly and efficiently our bodies convert food into energy.
- Tiredness is a common sign of a sluggish or underactive thyroid – hypothyroidism. Other symptoms include feeling cold, weight gain, constipation, dry skin and hair, hair loss, foggy brain, slow heart rate and low mood.
- Intriguingly fatigue can also be a symptom of a thyroid that has gone into overdrive – confusingly called hyperthyroidism. Other symptoms of an overactive thyroid include tremor, anxiety, feeling hot, restlessness and a racing heart.
The good news
Whether your thyroid is underactive or overactive, treatment can restore energy and wellbeing. Before you jump to conclusions, talk about how you’re feeling to your GP.
Once you’ve got a diagnosis, which isn’t always easy, taking any treatment prescribed plus carving out some me-time and looking after body and mind can bring about a welcome return to form.
This is something I know about from personal experience. Six years ago I was piling on the pounds, despite healthy eating and exercise, my skin was like parchment and my hair like straw.
Worst of all my get up and go was at an all time low. I couldn’t even summon up the energy to go dancing or walking by the sea, two of my top favourite activities.
After months of investigations a blood test finally revealed an underactive thyroid. I now take a small dose of the hormone, levothyroxine, to top up the dwindling levels produced by my own thyroid, and with a healthy lifestyle my energy levels are flying high again.
Things you can do right now
Here are some simple steps we can all take – thyroid problems or no – to help keep tiredness at bay and zing with energy.
- Eat well – a Mediterranean diet with plenty of veg, dairy foods like yoghurt and cheese, healthy fats from olives, olive oil, nuts and seeds and the odd glass of red wine is one of the healthiest ways to eat for your body and mind.
- Do some daily exercise – whether that’s long walks in the country, by the sea or through hidden parts of a city, cycling, the gym, dancing, swimming or whatever rocks your boat.
- Make time to relax – veg out on the sofa with a book, watch a film or DVD, have a massage or spend time with friends and family.
- Watch what you drink – excess caffeine can perk you up but bring you swiftly down, while alcohol can disturb sleep.
- Sleep – seven or eight hours of shuteye a night is optimum.
Have you suffered with an over- or under-active thyroid? How do you perk yourself up when you’re feeling tired? Share your stories in the comments section below.