For those of us with a dodgy thyroid, or those of us without one, the months hugging either side of the shortest day can seem like one big, dreary Wednesday, with added dumbness thrown in. Even those of you with perfectly functioning butterfly glands may find yourself being weary and teary this time of year, and considering buying one of those SAD lamps that purport to sort you right out. The reason is that your thyroid, even your healthy one,slows down in the Winter months, and for most people, this will mean that your TSH (thyroid Stimulating Hormone) will kick in, and tell your thyroid to produce more of T4 and T3 to make you feel better. For most people this works. If your thyroid has packed up, it won't. You'll be stuck with your replacement dose of artificial T4 (and if you are lucky, like me, T3), and you'll be on a hiding to nothing to get the GP to up it for the Winter, leaving you with a grotty few months ahead.
How does this affect me? Well, round about end of October, I started to feel sluggish. Then came the jerking limbs, dropping things (7 mugs in one week, almost one child), joint pain. The random forgetting. And I do mean forgetting. Like having my 4 year old point out it was a school day (and bless him for it). Bad circulation, Reynauds syndrome in hands and feet (believe me, this is not fun. Your fingers and Toes go blue, then white, then hurt LIKE FUCK when they get blood back in them again), and feeling cold, cold cold. As the thyroid person feels the cold more than most, Winter is not a nice time. I'm the one with 4 quilts and ten jumpers on. In the lounge. When, by November, I was starting to go to bed at 8pm again, I decided to be naughty. I upped my dose without asking the GP or having a blood test. And lo! 3 weeks in, I feel "normal" again (or what passes for it here). There are lots of scholarly papers with titles like "Thyroid hormone fluctation in Male Sea Bass during Di-urnal Blah..." and a few papers from GP's saying they have found that their patients benefit from a dose increase, but most of the evidence is basically anecdotal. Because thyroid disease isn't really money-making, it attracts no big funding, it's not glamourous ( basic premise is that women get fat, hairless, moan a lot and feel crappy: no big dying gracefully, no big showbiz names with it, unless you count Davina Macall, which I don't, and it only happens to women anyway, so sod it).
So if you have a SAD feeling, my advice is to get your thyroid checked out. And if you already have a dodgy thyroid and feel worse, take a sneaky bit more. I can do this easily because my dosage allows me half a pack extra every month, but if you don't have this leeway, please do pop along to your GP and mention it. But for those of you with thyroid issues, crappy GP's and no sympathetic ear (which is a lot of us), here are some tips for getting through the Winter.
- Eat small, often. Keep portions low on sugar but with energy giving properties. Porridge is great. You're aiming for a stove effect in your tum.
- See some sunshine. Any sun, even that piss-poor grey thing peeking through the cloud, helps your thyroid produce stuff.
- Keep extremties covered. I cannot explain how painful Reynauds' is to a non sufferer. When my fingers and toes have "gone" I can take a hammer to them and not feel it. But when the blood comes back, trust me, if the Inquisistion could have tapped that feeling, they would. I have thermal gloves covered by woollen gloves, and handwarmers (99p from Boyes!). Alongside snow boots and thermal socks. This does not make me the most glam mum on the school run, especially when combined with my fluffy old lady hat (also 99p from Boyes!) but hey, I can feel me toes and walk! A mum who cannot feel her toes is liable to criminally embaress her child.
- Flu jab! If, like me, you have autoimmune thyroid disease, your immune system is shot and a big dose of flu will just increase thryoid antibody activity. If they offer it, take it.
- Selenium. Helps decrease antibody activity and it's worth it.
- Take your medication at night. Bit controversial this one. Standard advice is to take meds first thing, and then leave 45 mins before drinking or eating. For me this is hard anyway (picture me, rising at 6am, policing the cereal arguments, forcing recalcitrant children into clothing, all WITHOUT FOOD OR COFFEE, nope, doesn't work), but I have found that taking it at night helps enormously with the morning "fug" before the meds kick in, and that fug is always worse in the Winter. I concede though, that as I eat my tea at 4.30 with the kids, I can go to bed on an empty tum and absorb the meds effectively. If you go to bed having eaten at 8 or 9pm, this is not for you.
- Get a big calendar, and round about September write on it in big letters IT'S YOUR THYROID, YOU'RE NOT JUST GETTING OLDER. Which is what I thought, because i'm nearly 40.