How Thyroid Function Can Affect Your Weight
Thyroid hormone helps regulate your metabolism. Your metabolism is how much energy your body uses and at what rate. This means that thyroid hormone also affects your basal metabolic rate. This is how much energy your body uses to keep functioning while its at rest.
In most cases, excess thyroid hormone is associated with a high basal metabolic weight. This means that your body burns more energy while its at rest, so weight loss is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism.
This also means that not producing enough thyroid hormone is usually associated with a low basal metabolic rate. Therefore, hypothyroidism can cause weight gain. Your body isnt burning as much energy, which can lead to a calorie surplus.
But your metabolism is affected by a lot more than just thyroid hormone. Other hormones, how much and what you eat, your physical activity, and many other factors play a role. This means that thyroid hormone levels arent the whole story when it comes to losing or gaining weight from thyroid conditions.
Some people with hyperthyroidism might experience weight gain instead of the more common weight loss. Some reasons why that might happen include:
Tricky To Diagnose Treat
Diagnosing and treating an underactive thyroid can be challenging, he says, especially when a patient’s thyroid hormone levels test in the borderline-normal range. In most cases, a hormone level between 4 and 10 is the accepted range for treatment. When patients experience symptoms with a hormone level of 3, doctors are faced with the question of whether or not to treat. And it’s a tricky question, because treatment is not just a matter of taking a little pill that immediately cures all your symptoms. Finding just the right amount of hormone replacement medication to keep levels stable can be a difficult balancing act.
In Kruger’s case, it took her nearly 20 years to finally feel like “I got my life back.” During that time, despite being on medication, her thyroid levels were still problematic. She continued to feel tired and to gain weight, her cholesterol levels shot up and she began developing heart disease, a consequence of insufficient thyroid.
What To Do If You Cant Lose Weight
You might be finding it difficult to lose weight even though youre carefully following your treatment plan. If so, there are several courses of action you and your health care provider might take.
Gaitonde D, Rowley K, Sweeney L. Hypothyroidism: an update. South African Family Practice. 2012 54:384-390. doi:10.1080/20786204.2012.10874256
Chiovato L, Magri F, Carlé A. Hypothyroidism in Context: Where Weve Been and Where Were Going. Adv Ther. 2019 36:47-58. doi:10.1007/s12325-019-01080-8
Sanyal D, Raychaudhuri M. Hypothyroidism and obesity: An intriguing link. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2016 20:554-557. doi:10.4103/2230-8210.183454
Also Check: Environmental Causes Of Thyroid Disease
Will Thyroid Medication Help Me Finally Lose Weight
Yes, no, and maybe.
It is definitely the hope that thyroid medication will help patients with Hashimotos lose weight but that isnt always the case.
The most commonly prescribed thyroid medication, levothyroxine, contains one of the least powerful thyroid hormones known as T4.
T4 is not active by itself and must be converted into T3 in order to act on your cells and do its job.
T3 is the thyroid hormone responsible for increasing your metabolism, raising your body temperature, and helping you lose weight.
So if you are someone who has been given T4 in the form of levothyroxine but your body cant activate it or convert it then weight loss will be very difficult.
What can you do to solve this problem?
You can take a combination thyroid medication that includes both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones.
This allows you to take both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones at the same time and gives your body more of the thyroid hormone that actually helps you lose weight.
It gets even more complicated when you realize that the amount of T4 and T3 that you take needs to be individualized for the person.
For instance, someone with Hashimotos may be fine using 100mcg of T4 and 10mcg of T3.
On the other hand, another patient with Hashimotos may need 80mcg of T4 and 20mcg of T3.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism
Symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly, often over several years. At first, you may feel tired and sluggish. Later, you may develop other signs and symptoms of a slowed-down metabolism, including:
- Feeling cold when other people do not
- More than usual menstrual bleeding
You also may have high LDL or bad cholesterol, which can raise your risk for heart disease.
You May Like: How To Stimulate Thyroid Function
Surgery For Thyroid Disorders
Removing the thyroid gland can cure hyperthyroidism, but the procedure is only recommended if antithyroid drugs don’t work, or if there is a large goiter. Surgery may also be recommended for patients with thyroid nodules. Once the thyroid is removed, most patients require daily supplements of thyroid hormones to avoid developing hypothyroidism.
You’re Having Digestive Problems
We know constipation is an embarrassing topic that no one likes to discuss, but if you can’t boot your bowel issues, it might be time to call up your doctor. Without enough of the metabolism-controlling thyroid hormone, many of your body’s functions slow down. One of these functions is the action of the digestive tract, which will start to slow down. Hypothyroidism can weaken the contraction of the muscles that line your digestive tract, causing stool to move too slowly through the intestine. If your sluggish digestive tract isn’t due to hypothyroidism, consider eating a banana. The super fruit is rich in fiber to help increase stool weight, potassium to help you avoid bloating and cramping, and prebiotics to help feed good gut bacteria and improve digestion.
Also Check: Normal Range For Thyroid Antibodies
Hyperthyroidism And Weight Gain
About 10% of people who have an overactive thyroid experience weight gain. The common reasons are:
An increased appetite is a side effect of the excessive calorie-burning process. If a person starts consuming many more calories than before, the rapid metabolism caused by hyperthyroidism may not be enough to cause weight loss.
It may even be possible to gain weight. Additionally, excessive food consumption could lead to a variety of other adverse side effects, including problems with your digestive system, such as:
When you start anti-thyroid medications to treat your hyperthyroidism, hormone production returns to normal and you may start gaining weight. If your increased appetite due to untreated hyperthyroidism has caused you to habitually increase your food consumption, it can be hard to revert to your usual eating habits after the condition is treated.
Many people start gaining weight when they begin treatment. Studies show that 38% of people experience a weight gain of 10% or more during hyperthyroidism treatment. To avoid weight problems, it’s imperative to adjust your diet accordingly.
If you have surgery to remove your thyroid gland, you may develop hypothyroidism. Weight gain is one of the symptoms of this condition.
To control hypothyroidism, your doctor will prescribe hormone-replacement medication. It can take several weeks or even months to find the right dosage. During this time, your weight could fluctuate.
Why Is It So Hard To Lose Weight With Hashimotos
If you have Hashimotos and you are gaining weight then stopping this weight gain should be your top priority.
Im not kidding when I say that weight gain in thyroid patients can cause a lot of distress.
More so for patients that have Hashimotos thyroiditis.
Because losing weight and keeping it off is harder for patients who have thyroid problems.
But there is some good news:
Gaining weight with Hashimotos is not some inevitable thing that has to happen.
And, even if has already happened to you, doesnt mean that you cant stop it or even lose the weight that youve gained from your diagnosis.
The key is all about understanding the underlying cause of weight gain if you have a thyroid problem.
Contrary to popular belief, its not just about your calories or your diet .
Its a little bit more complicated which is why we are going to be discussing it today.
In this article, you will learn:
Foods to Avoid if you Have Thyroid Problems:
Ive found that these 10 foods cause the most problems for thyroid patients. Learn which foods you should avoid if you have thyroid disease of any type.
The Complete List of Thyroid Lab tests:
Recommended Reading: How Do You Diagnose Thyroid Problems
How Do I Know My Thyroid Is Causing My Weight Gain
Its actually more difficult than you might think!
It is well known in the scientific literature that low thyroid function results in weight gain but, for whatever reason, doctors will look to blame just about anything else except your thyroid.
To some degree, they are on the right track but their approach is still misguided.
They are partially on the right track because the truth is that there are many conditions that can contribute to weight gain aside from your thyroid.
Before you blame your thyroid, you will want to make sure that these other factors are not contributing.
For instance, you cant blame your thyroid for weight gain if you are sleeping 4 hours per night.
You cant blame your thyroid for your weight if you are eating an unhealthy diet, going through menopause, avoiding exercise, stressed out of your mind, and so on.
All of these factors can and will have an impact on your weight.
One of the easiest ways to check if your thyroid is contributing to your weight gain is by excluding these other factors.
If you notice that youve suddenly gained 10-20 pounds out of the blue, without changing your diet or exercise pattern, AND you are experiencing the symptoms of low thyroid, then theres a very high chance your weight gain is from your thyroid and not something else.
What People Living With Graves Disease Need To Know About Maintaining A Healthy Weight
Medically reviewed in August 2022
One of the most common symptoms of Graves disease is a change in weight.
In some cases, Graves disease causes unintentional weight loss. Unintentional weight loss refers to a person losing weight without making changes to their diet or activity level.
In other cases, Graves disease can contribute to weight gain. Weight gain can also occur following treatment for Graves disease.
These changes in weight are a result of the way Graves disease disrupts metabolism.
Thyroid hormone and metabolism Graves disease is an autoimmune condition that causes an overproduction of thyroid hormone, one of the hormones that regulates metabolism.
Metabolism is a series of chemical processes the body uses to convert food into energy. It sometimes helps to think of metabolism alongside digestion. Digestion breaks food down into very small components that can be absorbed by the body. Metabolism is the next step in the process, where cells convert those components into energy.
The relationship between the thyroid, metabolism, hunger, and weight is complex. But a simplified explanation is that an overactive thyroid causes overactive metabolism. This means the body will burn through calories more quickly and easily than normal.
But weight loss that occurs because of a condition like Graves disease is not the same as weight loss that results from eating less and exercising more. Its a sign that important processes within the body are not working correctly.
Read Also: Prescription Thyroid Food For Cats
Related: 8 Prescription Meds That Make It Harder To Lose Weight
Though these two conditions are vastly different, theyre both usually caused by an autoimmune disease, which causes antibodies to attack the thyroid and make it produce more or less thyroid hormone than the body needs.
A host of issues can come along with both of these diagnoses, but many women worry about how their abnormal thyroid production affects their weight. Hyperthyroidism can cause unintentional weight loss, anxiety, and heart palpitations, but it can also increase the appetite, causing people to gain some weight. Hypothyroidism can cause weight gain more directly. It can also cause fatigue, heavier or irregular periods, a slowed heart rate, and chilliness.
Luckily, for the one in eight women who will develop a thyroid disorder, according to the American Thyroid Association, hormones are here to help. Tan says that when a blood test reveals abnormal levels, and she diagnoses thyroid dysfunction, she turns to T4 supplements. Also known as Levothyroxine or Synthroid, synthetic T4 is biochemically the same as the hormones that your body makes.
Watch a hot doc explain how to treat your thyroid disorder:
The More Medication Myth
You may have heard that thyroid hormones can be used to lose weight, even in people without thyroid disease. While synthetic thyroid hormones have been used this way in the past, research has shown that most people gain all the weight back once they stop using them. Worse, being on thyroid hormones unnecessarily can result in serious side effects.
For people who are already using levothyroxine, increasing the dose above whats needed can lead to more weight loss, but its usually not significant and those pounds are often gained back once the dose is decreased again.
This is also an unhealthy way to lose weight, as an increased dose is also associated with adverse reactions, including heart issues, insomnia, headaches, menstrual irregularities, and skin rash.
Also Check: Best Supplements For Underactive Thyroid
Can You Gain Weight With Graves Disease
In some rare cases, the immune response to Graves disease the most common type of hyperthyroidism can continue long enough to attack the thyroid and lead to inflammation. Therefore, it can cause Hashimoto disease, which can in turn cause weight gain. Other symptoms of Hashimoto disease are: fatigue.
If There Is A Growth What Happens Next
Nodules under a centimeter in size are not likely to be concerning. Larger ones we pay more attention to. Their appearance on an ultrasound can tell us if they are solid, filled with fluid or irregular in shape. If a nodule is concerning enough, a fine needle biopsy to sample the tissue can reveal whether it is cancerous or not. The only real reason to have them removed is if they are cancerous or so large theyre interfering with swallowing or the nerve to nearby vocal cords. If theres cancer, all or part of the thyroid is removed, sometimes followed by treatment with radioactive iodine pills. It is rarely a fatal cancer.
Id estimate that half of women over 50 have thyroid nodules. They are very common.
Read Also: How To Treat Thyroid Problems In Humans
Coping With Weight Gain
The symptom linked to hypothyroidism that gets the most attention, but actually has the least overall impact, is weight gain. Its typically fairly minimal, and usually is mostly water weight, Pearce says.
To reduce water weight and feel better in general:
- Stay hydrated. Again, you want to drink lots of water and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
- Eat a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
- Adjust calories and add daily physical activity, which will also help boost your energy level while youre getting your thyroid condition under control.
Additional reporting by Jennifer Kelly Geddes.
Other Causes Of Hypothyroidism
In some cases, hypothyroidism results from a problem with the pituitary gland, which is at the base of the brain. This gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone , which tells the thyroid to do its job. If your pituitary gland does not produce enough TSH, levels of thyroid hormones will fall. Other causes of hypothyroidism include temporary inflammation of the thyroid or medications that affect thyroid function.
Read Also: What Can Help Underactive Thyroid
Understanding Impact Of Obesity On The Thyroid Gland
If an obese person with normal thyroid function has a higher TSH, Kitahara says, ”it may be a consequence of excess weight.” Research also suggests that weight loss interventions may be best to reduce the risk of developing a high TSH level.
Reducing TSH to normal levels may also lower thyroid cancer risk, she says, since TSH fuels the growth of thyroid cells and TSH levels are found to be high in thyroid cancer patients with aggressive tumors. More research is needed in this area, however, she says.¹³
The Role Of Thyroid Hormones
Thyroid hormones heavily influence your metabolism, your body temperature, and your appetite regulation. Your thyroid works closely with your hypothalamus, a small area of your brain, to maintain both your weight and your energy balancewhats left after you eat and your body uses the calories it needs.
How this happens isnt exactly clear, but one thing is certain: It isnt thyroid hormones alone that play a role in how much energy your body uses. Thyroid hormones work along with a number of other hormones, proteins, nuclear receptors, and chemicals, which is why its such a complicated process.
Read Also: If Thyroid Levels Are High
How Thyroid Disorders Can Lead To Weight Gain
Weight loss is a journey that is considerably harder than weight gain.
This is a fact that all obese individuals already know. There are many reasons why a person may find it more difficult to lose weight than to gain weight.
Think about the fact that sweets, pastries, take-outs and many other of the unhealthiest foods on the planet are often considered more delicious and flavorful than some of the healthy options out there.
If you were to be presented with two plates once containing a number of vegetables, and the other one a pizza or burger, which would you rather choose.
For many people, the answer would be the second choice, but this can contribute to weight gain.
While cravings and the consumption of too many unhealthy foods are certainly the most important reasons why we are facing a public health epidemic, with over 36.5% of the American population obese and the majority of the population weighing more than their recommended weight1.
The consumption of unhealthy foods are not the only problems contributing to weight gain.
In this post, we would like to focus on how disorders affecting your Thyroid can be a particular issue leading to your difficult journey in weight loss, and even cause you to gain further weight unintentionally in some cases.