Daily lifestyle and meals
In the case of severe hypothyroidism, you need to stay in bed until you recover. Rarely though, if you have a problem with your heart or other organs, a hospital stay is necessary to undergo treatment.
If your thyroid gland functions normally or medication with a proper dosage keeps the thyroid hormone levels in your blood normal in spite of hypothyroidism, there are no restrictions on your daily life. You can lead a normal life and fully enjoy activities such as sports or travel. You do not need to undergo special diet therapy.
Patients with hypothyroidism need to keep taking medication, which is troublesome, but please accept it and try to think of it as food. Taking medication can be less burdensome if it becomes a daily habit like brushing your teeth.
If you stop taking thyroid hormone medication, your thyroid gland will become underactive again. If this happens, you have to start over again from a small dosage. It is necessary to continue your thyroid hormone medication, even when you take other medication for other diseases.
Thyroid disorders and iodine
It is often said that patients with thyroid disorders including Hashimoto's disease should not eat seaweed or should eat plenty of seaweed. This is because seaweed is rich in iodine and the iodine contained in seaweed can affect the thyroid gland in rare cases.
The content of iodine varies widely with the type of seaweed. The one containing the most iodine is kelp (konbu) and the content in the other types is markedly low. If patients with Hashimoto's disease continue to eat a large amount of food in which kelp is the main ingredient, the thyroid gland may become underactive and their goiter may grow larger. However, if the intake is stopped, the thyroid gland returns to its former state. As iodine is indispensable in producing thyroid hormones, some amount of iodine is necessary for everyone. However, in addition to seaweed, iodine is also contained in fish and grains to some extent and there is no particular need to worry about iodine deficiency if you eat ordinary Japanese food.
Hospital visits and tests
In Hashimoto's disease, as thyroid hormone levels may change temporarily or decrease gradually, it is necessary to undergo periodic tests even if your thyroid gland functions normally. The intervals between tests depend on the patient. If thyroid functions are normal, it is generally sufficient to visit the hospital every six months.
If you find that your thyroid gland is clearly bigger than before or notice any disturbing symptoms, please visit the hospital, even before your next scheduled appointment. There is no need to rush over to the hospital, as Hashimoto's disease does not require urgent treatment.
Pregnancy and delivery
Some common misconceptions about Hashimoto's disease include that it causes infertility, that mothers with Hashimoto's disease give birth to intellectually impaired babies and that medication for Hashimoto's disease affects the fetus or the contents of breast milk.
Even if diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease, a normal pregnancy or delivery is possible if your thyroid function is normal. However, since your thyroid function may be affected during the first half of pregnancy, regular monthly or bimonthly visits to your doctor are required.
Even if you have hypothyroidism, there is no problem if the thyroid hormone levels in your blood are kept normal with thyroid hormone medication. Thyroid hormones help the mother's body to metabolize normally, that is, they enable the mother to have the same condition as a healthy woman. Therefore, medication should not be stopped even during pregnancy. Thyroid hormone medication are the same substances as the thyroid hormones synthesized in our body and no problems are caused by taking them during breastfeeding, either.
In Hashimoto's disease, the condition often changes after delivery. Painless thyroiditis may occur within about 6 months after delivery. Excessive amounts of thyroid hormones spontaneously return to normal in 3-4 months but, after this, thyroid hormone deficiency may occur. It is important to visit the hospital as instructed, because the thyroid hormone deficiency may be prolonged.
If a baby is born with hypothyroidism and is left untreated, it may affect the baby's intellectual development. In Japan, however, every baby is supposed to be examined during the mother's hospital stay after delivery. As the baby's condition can be predicted while the baby is still in the womb, there is no need to worry if your obstetrician is well aware of your disease.