Weight Gain? Blame It On Your Thyroid

Photo Credit: Erifyli Tsavdari CC-BY-2.0
The thyroid gland is located in your throat and produces hormones that regulate a number of body functions, including how your body uses energy, protein production and oxygen use. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid is under-active and does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism can result in weight gain because the metabolism slows down when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones to stimulate metabolism. A slower metabolism can lead to weight gain due to fat storage and water retention. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include dry skin and hair, muscle cramps, constipation and a general sluggish feeling or a lack of energy. Menopausal women are more susceptible to hypothyroidism than men of the same age. Untreated thyroid problems can lead to other, some very serious, health problems. Osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke are possible. Only your doctor can diagnose a thyroid condition. See your doctor for a complete physical, including tests to determine your thyroid health.
Regular exercise is important generally, and especially if you have hypothyroidism. Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, helps to stimulate the metabolism which can lead to weight loss. Try to get at least 30 minutes every day, if possible. You don’t have to get the full 30 minutes at one time. Spread your exercise throughout the day in 10 minute intervals. Selenium may also help women who suffer from thyroid problems. Foods that contain selenium include tuna, onions, tomatoes, broccoli, whole wheat and bran. Brazil nuts are also rich in selenium. Spinach, apricots, asparagus, olive oil, avocado, sunflower seeds, whole grain cereals, bananas, oily fish and carrots also contain sufficient selenium.  Include these foods in your diet and follow your doctor’s advice.

For more information about selenium and hypothyroidism, see:

Exercise for Menopause Symptom Relief

Photo Credit: Tom Thai CC-BY-2.0

Menopause is a normal stage in a woman’s life. Hormonal changes in a woman’s body manifest as physical symptoms, including sweating at night and “hot flashes,” moodiness, sadness, irritability and sleeplessness. It is important to remain physically active and continue to eat a healthy diet throughout life. Menopause is no time to stop exercising. Your bones and muscles will benefit from strengthening and flexibility exercises. Your mood can be improved by the release of endorphins during physical exertion. Exercise and diet are important in the prevention and treatment of diseases, like arthritis and osteoporosis. See your doctor for a complete physical and talk to him or her about continuing or beginning an exercise program to help you deal with the symptoms of menopause. 
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise may not help to lessen menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and sleeplessness. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that physical exercise can help reduce menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes and improve mood. Whether exercise has a direct and measurable impact on the symptoms of menopause is less important than remaining physically active throughout your life. Walking, swimming, yoga and tai chi are low-impact exercises than can help keep your joints flexible, improve your balance and strengthen your muscles. Swimming is an excellent whole body aerobic exercise that helps to maintain cardiovascular health. Staying physically active or beginning a physical fitness program can also help you to avoid weight gain or promote weight loss. Because women tend to lose more muscle mass and add belly fat after menopause, it is important to remain physically active or begin an exercise program. You can feel better physically and emotionally by staying active and eating a healthy diet. If your symptoms are severe and interfere with your life, see your doctor for treatment options. 

Get Fit With Baby

Photo Credit: Yihungkuo CC-BY-3.0 2009

Women who have had a baby can use exercise time as a time to bond with their baby and enjoy some fun time together. The exercises are a game to baby and fun for you while you firm and tone your body. Exercise also lowers your stress levels, which is important for new mothers. See your doctor before beginning any exercise program or resuming your previous routine. Women who have had a C-Section should not begin or resume an exercise program without their doctor’s okay. Make sure your baby is safe and always hold her securely. Never use dumbbells or other weights when baby is nearby. Don’t push yourself when exercising with baby. The idea is to have fun while getting some light exercise. When your baby can hold his head up on his own, sit up and roll over, you should be able to begin some exercises, but always check with your baby’s pediatrician before beginning exercise games.

Lie down on your back on a soft rug of exercise mat. Bend your knees up toward your chest with your feet together. Place baby on your shins and slowly raise and lower your shins a few inches on her tummy with baby facing you. Raise and lower your shins a few inches, slowly and pretend baby is flying. Hold your baby securely at all times. Repeat this exercise for 2 to 3 minutes. From this same position, you can do some crunches with baby. Keep baby securely on your shins and lift your shoulders using your abdominal muscles. As you perform the crunch, give baby a kiss and then lower your shoulders back to the floor. Perform 10 or more crunches and get lots of kisses.

Lie on your back on the floor and place your baby on your tummy facing you. Hold baby securely. Flatten your shoulders and bend your knees to place your feet flat on the floor. Lift your bottom off the the floor to perform a bridge exercise. Lower your bottom back to the floor and repeat. Baby will enjoy the up and down motion. Do 5 to 10 bridges. From this position, you can move to baby bench presses. Hold your baby firmly with both hands. Bring her close to your chest with your elbows bent and close to your sides. Lift baby straight up above your chest and then lower her back to your chest. Give baby a snuggle or a kiss when you bring him back down.