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First, let's get a thorough understanding of what hypothyroidism is. Or you can skip directly to the 7 tips if you prefer.
Losing weight is made difficult not by the lack of resources, but due to the abundance of things that can distract you from your goal. Sometimes, people just get the short end of the stick and have physiological issues that make weight loss harder than it should. One of those issues is hypothyroidism, and those who suffer from it know the struggles of maintaining a healthy weight.
The thyroid is this butterfly-shaped gland in the body located in the lower front area of the neck. It is responsible for producing hormones that regulate the body's metabolism and make sure they're all balanced. Safe to say, thyroid hormones play a large role in many of the body's processes.
Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough hormones.
Hypothyroidism (also known as Underactive Thyroid) is a common, potentially serious, and often clinically overlooked disease. Some researchers state as much as 10% of the adult population have hypothyroidism with majority composed of women (1).
Suffering from hypothyroidism can lead to many dysfunctions in the body. Since the thyroid directly affects basal metabolic rate, facilitates fat burning, modulates appetite and food intake, having an underactive thyroid can lead to unmanageable weight gain.
Hypothyroidism is much more common than you might think, and millions of people don't even know they have it. One of the main reasons it goes undiagnosed is due to how its symptoms not only mimic other diseases (2), but also because the symptoms themselves aren't always considered a major health issue.
Those symptoms include:
Another reason hypothyroidism goes undiagnosed is due to how many of the symptoms take time to manifest. From months to years, these symptoms can easily be overlooked and come out as a "normal" or genetic anomaly. If left untreated, some of these symptoms can be life-threatening or lead to other diseases that put your life at risk.
When hypothyroidism goes untreated, the signs and symptoms gradually worsen and could lead to goiter or an abnormal enlargement of the thyroid (3). When the body feels as if the hormones produced are not enough or imbalanced, it signals the thyroid to produce more. A normal functioning thyroid gland usually does what the body asks for, but when you have hypothyroidism this constant stimulation can result in goiter.
Many reasons can be attributed to why the thyroid gland is unable to produce enough hormones. There are two generally common causes of hypothyroidism, however, and those are existing autoimmune disease and surgical removal of the thyroid gland.
The immune system can mistake the thyroid gland cells as an infection or a foreign invader when you have autoimmune disease. When the number of thyroid cells are depleted, the thyroid gland will have trouble producing hormones and will cause hypothyroidism. Since women are more susceptible to autoimmune disease than men (4, 5), this explains why women are the ones who mostly get afflicted with hypothyroidism.
Some of the common forms of autoimmune disease are Hashimoto's thyroiditis and atrophic thyroiditis.
People with thyroid cancer, nodules, or Grave's disease require part or all of their thyroid removed. This makes them either hypothyroid or much more susceptible to it.
Other known causes of hypothyroidism are:
Radiation treatment. For those with Grave's disease or thyroid cancer and don't want surgery are treated with radioactive iodine. Radioactive iodine is used to destroy their thyroid gland. Other patients with diseases in the head or neck area that require radiation treatment are also susceptible to losing part or all of their thyroid function.
Congenital hypothyroidism. Some children are born with hypothyroidism due to having no thyroid or having a partly formed one. Sometimes their thyroid is in the wrong place (aka ectopic thyroid) and in some babies the thyroid cells or enzymes just don't work at all.
Thyroiditis. Inflammation of the thyroid gland is also known as thyroiditis. This is usually caused by an autoimmune disorder or a viral infection. It should be noted thyroiditis can cause short-term hyperthyroidism before it becomes underactive (6).
Medicine. It's no secret that some prescription medicine can have side effects with regards to thyroid function. Medicating with lithium, interferon alpha, amiodarone, and interleukin-2 can disrupt regular thyroid production (7). These drugs also make those who have a genetic tendency to develop autoimmune disease much more susceptible to hypothyroidism.
Large or small iodine intake. Keeping thyroid hormone production regular and balanced requires adequate intake of iodine. Too much or too little can result to hypothyroidism.
Damaged pituitary gland. Our thyroid gland takes orders from the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland signals how much hormone to make, so when it is damaged by radiation, tumors, or surgery, it will no longer be able to communicate with our thyroid gland properly and can result to stopping hormone production.
Rare disorders. There are certain diseases that while they don't directly affect the thyroid, they often leave abnormal substances and cause impairment in function. Diseases such as amyloidosis, sarcoidosis, and hemochromatosis all leave behind substances that cause thyroid damage or impairment.
Although hypothyroidism can affect anyone, you're risk increases if you have are one or more of the following:
As you can imagine, losing weight is much more difficult if you're afflicted with hypothyroidism. Your metabolism is slow and your body sometimes just doesn't want to move. This annoying symptom is due to low T3 levels, the active thyroid hormone responsible for regulating the body's metabolism (8).
With that said, weight loss is still accessible despite the disease and we came up with tips and strategies so you can shed the pounds safely and without aggravating your hypothyroidism.
Before you start with any sort of weight loss plan, make sure you get yourself properly treated first. Remember: your thyroid gland is either damaged or completely non-functional. If you jump the gun and attempt to lose weight while avoiding treatment, you might just aggravate certain symptoms or compromise your health in the process.
Proper treatment for your hypothyroidism could also lead to a more carefree and healthy lifestyle, whereas avoiding them could mess with your fitness lifestyle if only because you would have to see your physician more than you should.
Not to sound trendy, but you might want to consider going gluten-free. Studies actually link gluten with hypothyroidism, particularly when it comes to autoimmune disease (9).
Then we have the goitrogens or substances that promote goiters or thyroid dysfunction. Goitrogens are found in legumes, raw cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, and turnip. It’s also found in Soy and soybean products (10).
Excessive green tea extract intake has also been linked to thyroid dysfunction although the studies were conducted in rats and are still inconclusive at this point as far as safe doses are concerned (11).
Not just to lose weight, reducing simple carbs and sugars can go a long way as far as preventing inflammation is concerned. Simple carbs like sugar promote cytokine production, tiny proteins that can influence the body’s inflammation (12).
There are cytokines that are anti-inflammatory, but simple carbs produce the type that are pro-inflammatory (13). Going on a low-carb diet would seem extreme, but the science around it is sound when it comes to weight loss. The only real problem is sticking with the diet as many of the “sweet stuff” just happened to be mostly composed of carbohydrates.
If you need help with reducing cravings for sweets, you should avail of a natural appetite suppressant like PhenterPro SR tablets. PhenterPro SR helps burn more fat for energy which beats food cravings for a long period.
Speaking of inflammation, it goes without saying foods that are inflammatory should be reduced or outright removed from your diet as much as possible. Consuming anti-inflammatory foods help ease joint pains as well as relieve depression, symptoms that could be due to hypothyroidism.
Anti-inflammatory foods have also been shown to help “calm” the immune system which is often in overdrive when you have hypothyroidism (14).
This is basic advice, but it still helps when it comes to being aware of what you eat.
Writing down the food you eat as well as how much you eat will help you become more aware of what goes inside your mouth. It helps in filtering out foods you know are bad for your hypothyroid. It also helps control the amount of food you eat which goes a long way for weight loss plans. One of our favorite food diaries is MyFitnessPal. It makes keeping a food diary super easy, and actually kindof fun.
It’s no secret exercise is healthy and is beneficial for those looking to lose weight and gain strength and fitness. It burns a lot of calories and helps your body reduce the risk of muscular injury. Just make sure you’ve properly managed your hypothyroid and have enough energy. If you feel tired, it’s best not to do any activity that require a lot of effort.
Last but not least, looking for professional advice on what diet plans or exercise programs to follow is always helpful. You can start by asking your doctor for help or if they can refer you to specialists and nutritionists who have ample experience working with hypothyroid patients.
You can also try to inquire about T3 monotherapy. One study compared hypothyroid patients with T3 or T4 treatment and it showed T3 patients had significantly more weight loss and reduction in total cholesterol without any adverse cardiovascular side effects (15). The same study also noted a decrease in fat mass and is attributed to T3 increasing metabolic rate.
Just because your thyroid is down doesn’t mean you should feel down too. Suffering from hypothyroidism can bring difficulty in living a normal, healthy life. Not only do you have health issues and medications to worry about, you also have to battle with weight gain. Still, there is always hope when you look for it hard enough.
Losing weight may be a lot harder for you, but if you begin to care for yourself, manage your symptoms and acquire the right mindset, weight loss will be a welcome reward.
Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Medicare Coverage of Routine Thyroid Screening; Stone MB, Wallace RB, editors. Medicare Coverage of Routine Screening for Thyroid Dysfunction. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003. 3, Prevalence and Consequences of Thyroid Dysfunction. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK221535/
Garvey WT, Mechanick JI, Brett EM, et al. AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF CLINICAL ENDOCRINOLOGISTS AND AMERICAN COLLEGE OF ENDOCRINOLOGY COMPREHENSIVE CLINICAL PRACTICE GUIDELINES FOR MEDICAL CARE OF PATIENTS WITH OBESITYEXECUTIVE SUMMARYComplete Guidelines available at https://www.aace.com/publications/guidelines. Endocr Pract. 2016;22(7):842-84.
Melish JS. Thyroid Disease. In: Walker HK, Hall WD, Hurst JW, editors. Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations. 3rd edition. Boston: Butterworths; 1990. Chapter 135. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK241/
Voskuhl R. Sex differences in autoimmune diseases. Biology of Sex Differences. 2011;2:1. doi:10.1186/2042-6410-2-1.
Oliver JE, Silman AJ. Why are women predisposed to autoimmune rheumatic diseases? Arthritis Research & Therapy. 2009;11(5):252. doi:10.1186/ar2825.
Furqan S, Haque N, Islam N. Conversion of autoimmune hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism. BMC Research Notes. 2014;7:489. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-489.
Dong BJ. How medications affect thyroid function. Western Journal of Medicine. 2000;172(2):102-106.
Mullur R, Liu Y-Y, Brent GA. Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism. Physiological Reviews. 2014;94(2):355-382. doi:10.1152/physrev.00030.2013.
Ch’ng CL, Jones MK, Kingham JGC. Celiac Disease and Autoimmune Thyroid Disease. Clinical Medicine & Research. 2007;5(3):184-192. doi:10.3121/cmr.2007.738.
Bajaj JK, Salwan P, Salwan S. Various Possible Toxicants Involved in Thyroid Dysfunction: A Review. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research : JCDR. 2016;10(1):FE01-FE03. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2016/15195.7092.
Chandra AK, De N. Goitrogenic/antithyroidal potential of green tea extract in relation to catechin in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 2010;48(8-9):2304-11.
Zhang J-M, An J. Cytokines, Inflammation and Pain. International anesthesiology clinics. 2007;45(2):27-37. doi:10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e.
Myles IA. Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity. Nutrition Journal. 2014;13:61. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-13-61.
Sears B, Ricordi C. Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition as a Pharmacological Approach to Treat Obesity. Journal of Obesity. 2011;2011:431985. doi:10.1155/2011/431985.
Celi FS, Zemskova M, Linderman JD, et al. Metabolic Effects of Liothyronine Therapy in Hypothyroidism: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Crossover Trial of Liothyronine Versus Levothyroxine. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2011;96(11):3466-3474. doi:10.1210/jc.2011-1329.