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Hormone replacement therapy can't do a lot against depression, which is a common consequence of having an underactive thyroid, but luckily there are things you can do to feel better without antidepressants.

It' s a well known fact that underactive thyroid comes with mood changes. Patients with low levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone are quite prone to depression. Low levels of triiodothyronine and elevated levels of thyroxine, a blunted thyroid-stimulating hormone response to TRH, raised CSF TRH concentrations, and a positive test to anti-thyroid antibodies are among the most common problems people experience when it comes to thyroid health.

The consequences of an underactive thyroid gland on the brain are more serious than most people think and hormone replacement therapy only will rarely solve problems like depression, but there are a few things you can do to ease your symptoms.

1. Find the source of your depression

Symptoms of depression caused by hypothyroidism are often similar to symptoms of an independent condition and they can be hard to differentiate. This includes period-related problems such as PMS, perimenopause, and as menopause.

This is one of the reasons blood tests are commonly recommended when it comes to diagnosing your hypothyroidism. They are great to avoid misdiagnosis, but some people can be depressed and have an underactive or overactive thyroid at the same time.

2. Make sure to get hormone replacement therapy

Drugs that can add more hormone if needed, or those that block the ability to make new thyroid hormone, tend to improve the overall mental health of a person. The majority of those who have an underactive thyroid benefit from hormone replacement therapy using levothyroxine, This medication is basically T4 hormone that the body then converts to the other thyroid hormone known as T3 or triiodothyronine.

There are people who can't convert T4 to T3, and despite using hormone replacement therapy they are stuck with having an underactive thyroid. Patients like this need to supplement with hormones and combine these two forms of therapy until they feel better. Ever since the 1960s, hormone replacement therapy has been in use in the treatment of depression and various other mental conditions. Hormones are used to accelerate the response to antidepressants, and to enable a response in those who don't respond well to drugs against depression.

3. Try not to stress out

It's a little known fact that stress lowers the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone in the blood. To maintain good function of the thyroid gland, the body has to maintain a good balance between cortisol and stress hormones. If a person can't cope well with stressful situations, they have an increased risk of getting depressed.

It's hard to live with a chronic disease even if it's one that's easy to treat such as an underactive thyroid. For most patients, it's okay to expect that hormone replacement therapy will work, an this can be something that can help you cope with stress.

When fighting stress, it's important to keep one thing in mind. You should be doing things you enjoy every day. Find time for yourself, watch a movie, go for a walk, or have a fancy bath. Another thing is to be easy on yourself – never take on too many responsibilities, and rest whenever you get a chance.

4. Eat nutritious food

Nutrition is greatly connected with depression. Studies have shown that people who eat too much fast food, processed meat, artificial sugar such as chocolates or refined cereal tend to aggravate the symptoms of depression. People who consume enough fruits, vegetables, and fish tend to have fewer symptoms of depression.

Many people don't believe in this connection, but it's scientifically proven that people who consume a Mediterranean diet – one that focuses on fish, fruits, and vegetables,and restricts dairy and meat – tend to suffer from depression less often than people eating a standard western diet.

Make sure to eat plenty of foods rich in antioxidants such as:

  • Foods rich in beta carotene like broccoli, carrots, collards, pumpkin, cantaloupe, sweet potato
  • Foods rich in vitamin C such as kiwi, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries
  • Foods rich in vitamin E like wheat germ, nuts, and seeds.
Carbs tend to boost your serotonin levels, the hormone responsible for good mood, but make sure to choose complex carbs like lentils and whole grains rather than simple carbs (sugars) like cakes or pasta. You should also consume plenty of protein-rich foods such as tuna, chicken, or turkey because they contain tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in serotonin production.

5. Have a good night's sleep

Bad sleeping habits can lead to depression, and depression can lead to poor sleep; it's a vicious cycle. In patients with an underactive thyroid, sleeping issues tend to come before depression. Studies have shown that people who suffer from insomnia are 10 times more at risk of getting depression when compared to people with good sleeping habits.

Depressed people can have all kinds of sleeping problems including:

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulties falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Sleep that doesn't relieve fatigue

Research has shown that going to bed at approximately same time every night can do a lot for the quality of your sleep. Also, turning off all electronic devices after 9 pm, washing up, brushing your teeth, and reading can help as well. It's important to stick to a routine that suits you. Don't force yourself to lay in bed and toss and turn if you're not sleepy. Some people find it difficult to fall asleep in their bed and find it easier to fall asleep in the living room. Try meditation and breathing exercises, it's a good way to relax before going to bed.

6. Make sure to exercise

Working out not only releases serotonin – the happiness hormone — but it also increases blood flow to the head, which is a natural antidepressant. Exercise also releases endorphins responsible for good mood. When people are depressed, they have a decrease in chemicals responsible for good memory called brain-derived neurotropin factor. Working out increases the amount of this chemical in the brain.

Research has shown that exercise works as well as antidepressant medications and people who worked out at least three days a week about 40 minutes experienced the best results. Half an hour of exercise for a few days a week works against anxiety, but don't despair if you can't meet this norm right away, as even a simple walk or 10 to 15 minutes of exercise count and make a difference.

7. Spend time with people you love

Even at the times you feel most depressed and tired, it's crucial to find something to do. Spending time with friends or family is key to a good mood. Inviting your loved ones to dinner can be healing. Make sure not to withdraw from everybody and into your own four walls.

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