The fatigue with Hashimoto’s can feel crippling, debilitating, and life altering. I know, I’ve lived it, which doesn’t really feel like “living” at all. Not the living us women with families and drive dream of…a dream of an abundance of energy, vibrant and radiant, and someone that attracts and puts out good energy. I was far from this dream and slept 12 hours a night just to feel like I could get by.

What does Hashimoto’s exhaustion look like

 “Getting by” looked like dragging myself out of bed after hitting snooze five times, mumbling to myself “win the morning, win the day” to psych myself up, and chugging coffee like water only to hit the wall around 2pm. My Mondays after work looked like what a normal full week of work on a Friday evening. Me passed on the couch, exhausted while my mother looked after my new baby and my husband looked confused. What happened to his driven, type A spunky wife?!?! Ask me if I slept well at night, I was wired but tired, my mind raced on what I needed to do the next day to just get by.

I saw multiple doctors who told me, “well, you’re a new mom, sleep deprivation is normal” and “New York will run you down especially when you’re raising a family.” I just thought I needed more sleep than the average person and motherhood was just more strenuous on my body with running a clinic and seeing patients in addition in trying to be present with my new baby.

How does a functional medicine doctor treat Hashimoto’s

There are many recommendations from functional medicine experts to beat fatigue from how your blood work should look, how you should eat, and what supplements to take to beat Hashimoto’s fatigue. Some of my favorite resources can be found here:

Izabella Wentz The Thyroid Pharmacist and loves to dive into the research but can explain it in an easily understandable way.

Dr Alan Christenson A naturopathic thyroid expert, NYtimes best seller. Another friend who loves to read and analyze all the research but then present it in a digestible approach. He also has a telemedicine component to help anyone across the country.

Dr Gabrielle Lyon My own functional medicine doctors and best friend. She helped reverse my Hashimoto’s and saved my life.

Dr Carrie Jones Medical director for the Dutch Test and a great resource for everything hormones and thyroid related.

Dr Jolene Brighton Ladies, if you have ever been on birth control and want to know how birth control can affect your thyroid, this is woman is for you.

What no one is talking about with Hashimoto’s

But what I found is no one is talking about how to exercise to overcome the Hashimoto’s fatigue! There are common recommendations but they seem to miss the bar on giving long term solutions. The most common exercise reco’s I hear for Hashimoto’s are:

  1. Walk 20 minutes a day
  2. Do some cardio-elliptical or stair master
  3. Stretch or foam roll
  4. Do Yoga or Pilates
  5. Low impact exercise- (what does this really mean?!?!)

Why do these recommendations not work in the long run? As a chiropractor and movement expert who’s worked with thousands of women with Hashimoto’s in chronic pain, there is a consistent clinical finding. This finding is hypermobility. Their joints feel loose, unstable, and double jointed. I find cardio and yoga recommendations will not help with hypermobility but actually accentuate it. When we have “loose” joints, I find the yogi’s with Hashimoto’s will get temporary relief with stretching but feel destroyed and sore for days after. This feeds a mindset that they need more yoga every time that tightness and muscle soreness comes back. 

Hypermobility knees

Should I do cardio if I have Hashimoto’s

In my experience if I take women off of cardio, yoga, and stretching, which sometimes I feel like I’m stealing their only passion and killing their soul. But I put them on a solid strength training program with full body functional movements (no pink 3 lb weights here ladies) they feel so much better, stronger, and their energy returns.

Cardio and stretching also does not feed and train the largest organ in the body, the muscle. We need good muscle mass and quality muscle tissue because:

  1. Muscle is our metabolic engine
  2. Muscle helps stabilize our joints
  3. There are thyroid receptors in muscle tissue
  4. Muscle is the key factor in our quality of life as we age
  5. Muscles helps us not waste away as we age
  6. When we have Hashimoto’s we are predisposed to having less muscle mass
  7. When we have Hashimoto’s we have a tendency to have muscle tissue that is of lesser quality
  8. When we have Hashimoto’s we have a slower recovery time

Now that we are on the same page and knowing all this, the most common question asked is, “well heck, where do I start to workout especially if I’m not suppose to just do cardio or yoga, and I never really learned how to pick up a weight? Especially if every time I work out, I can’t get out of bed for 3 days and feel like I was hit by a bus. And how do I use working out as a way to beat my crippling fatigue?” Here we go! 

Top 5 ways to overcome Hashimoto’s fatigue through exercise:

  1. Strength Train baby! At its essence, pick up something heavy, with amazing form, put it down, then do it again.
  2. Use your breath. Always, always always start with a good 360 degree breath into the belly. This will activate the core, give you deep core strength, and stabilize the spine. Goodbye any muscle aches and joint pain! Nothing like a good belly breath to recharge the internal batteries.
  3. Brace your core. Ladies, this means DO NOT suck in. I know we’ve done this since we were teens, it’s a hard habit to break. We all want to skinny up waist line and we do this by sucking to a detriment to our core strength. I’m asking you to pick up a weight with a 360 breath and brace your core outward as if you were going to take a punch. I call it our “tank of strength!”
  4. Take longer breaks than you think. Most trainers or group classes never give a break to tap into that “work hard, play hard” feeling where the average person wants to pass out after 45 minutes. Well, hello with Hashimoto’s, you will want to pass out after about 5 minutes. Take a 1-2 minute break between sets, this will prevent burn out and a Hashi flare up.
  5. Get stacked aka don’t hang out on your joints. Clinically I find women with Hashimoto’s often have hypermobility in their joints, especially their knees, elbows, and lower back. We already know we don’t have the same kind of muscle mass to stabilize the joints and when we hang on the joints, joint pain and muscle aches come apparent quickly. We all know joint pain is a massive energy drain.

The Take Away

Conventional exercise recommendations of cardio and stretching will not get you across the finish line to your dream, if that dream is to have an abundance of energy. I know first hand how fatigue can impact everyday life and leave you out of commission. Overcoming Hashimoto’s fatigue is an essential step in regaining your energy and actually living life instead of just getting by. You have the power within you to take back your health, you just need the right tools.

If you are looking for more tips, I have a free guide on “How to beat fatigue and exercise to heal your Hashimoto’s” which shows you my top 6 moves to start working out and the essential steps that need to happen before you workout.

I know this information will help you get your energy back soon. I had to do it for myself to heal my own Hashimoto’s and every women I worked with over the last 12 years in practice. 

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In good health,

Dr Emily Kiberd