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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. These hormones affect every single part of your body, including your brain, heart, muscles, and even your skin. Sometimes thyroid can produce too little or too much T3 and T4 hormones. Numbers show that 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime while about 20 million Americans already have some form of the thyroid disease. A staggering number, 60%, of people aren’t even aware they have some form of thyroid condition. Hypothyroidism is a common problem, yet it is still largely misunderstood (1).
Hypothyroidism is a condition that occurs as a result of your thyroid gland is unable to produce the essential thyroid hormones in the amounts that your body requires it to do.
Hypothyroidism, also referred to as an underactive thyroid disorder, is a much more common thyroid disorder than one would think it to be. It is also quite the potentially dangerous and even life-threatening disorder, a lot of the time causing serious symptoms that are commonly overlooked and not diagnosed in time. According to some researchers, hypothyroidism is ten times more common in women, as compared with men (2).
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.
As we mentioned earlier, hypothyroidism is much more common, causing symptoms which in most cases are mistakenly diagnosed. The reason for that is the fact that hypothyroidism causes a lot of symptoms which mimic the symptoms of other diseases and disorders. Then again, we also have the issue of not taking the symptoms of hypothyroidism too seriously so when we finally do, the damage that the disorder has done is much bigger and much more serious (3).
Sometimes we fail to realize something’s wrong with our thyroid is that in early stages hypothyroidism may not cause some noticeable signs and symptoms at all. Over time, as the condition progresses, symptoms tend to become apparent or more obvious. This leads us again to the already-mentioned fact that some symptoms of underactive thyroid are mistaken for those of other conditions.
That’s also the reason why it’s important to pay attention to every change that happens in your physical or psychological health and inform your doctor about it when you schedule an appointment.
In the following, we will share some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism, so that you can see for yourself how easy would it be too mistaken these symptoms and diagnose the condition improperly. The most common symptoms of hypothyroidism include (4):
As you can see for yourself, hypothyroidism causes a wide variety of more general symptoms, symptoms which we already know are commonly caused by a variety of disorders and diseases. It takes a lot of time, effort and knowledge to diagnose hypothyroidism in its early stages and it is almost impossible and not just because the doctors are unable to do so. A lot of the patients as well, do not think much of these symptoms when they experience them. Most times, hypothyroidism has already progressed to a late stage when the patient has decided to finally ask for help.
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.
A goiter, or an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland, is what happens when your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones over a long period to what no treatment has been prescribed (5). 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.
Although the goiter is most commonly painless, having an enlarged thyroid gland can cause quite a discomfort as well as cause difficulties with breathing, swallowing and cause a rapid cough. Despite the fact that insufficient production of thyroid hormones can lead to goiter formation having an enlarged gland doesn’t automatically indicate hypothyroidism is to blame.
Other causes of goiter include inflammation, Graves’ disease (the most common cause of hyperthyroidism), thyroid cancer, pregnancy, and iodine deficiency (6).
Therefore, if you have a goiter especially if it’s accompanied by symptoms such as hoarseness, coughing, and difficulty swallowing and breathing, make sure you schedule an appointment and see your doctor. Your physician will order the necessary tests and inform you about the underlying cause of your 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.
A lot of times, hypothyroidism occurs as a result of inflammation, that has happened in the past, or it is still present, of the thyroid gland. This inflammation causes a lot of the thyroid gland's cells to get damaged and even die, leaving the thyroid gland no longer able to produce the necessary amounts of thyroid hormones, leading to hypothyroidism of course.
An example of inflammation of such kind is the inflammation caused by the patient's own immune system as a result of the presence of an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis. And since women have been considered to be more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, as compared with men, that would explain why women are most commonly being diagnosed with hypothyroidism, or more specifically Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism (7, 8).
Atopic thyroiditis is another autoimmune disease that characterizes itself with the occurrence of hypothyroidism and the absence of goiter.
People with thyroid cancer, nodules, or Grave's disease require part or all of their thyroid removed. Due to the surgical removal of a part of the or the whole thyroid gland, the remaining part is simply not able to produce the required amounts of thyroid hormones. 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. As we mentioned earlier, thyroiditis is most commonly caused by an existing autoimmune disease in the body (10).
Medications. It's no secret that some prescription medications can have side effects with regards to thyroid function. Lithium, used to treat certain psychiatric disorders, is commonly linked to cases of hypothyroidism (11). 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.
Hypothyroidism can affect anyone, disregarding the age group – infant, child, or an adult. However, there are some known risks factors when it comes to hypothyroidism. In the following, we will mention only the most common ones. If you find yourself belonging to any of the following groups, please consult your doctor about the possibility of occurring hypothyroidism, especially if you have been experiencing the common symptoms that we have mentioned before.
You might develop hypothyroidism if you are:
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 happens as a result of your low Th3 levels in the body, due to your underactive thyroid gland (12).
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. Please consult your doctor about getting proper diagnosis and treatment for your hypothyroidism.
Not to sound trendy, but you might want to consider going gluten-free. Studies done, have actually linked the use of gluten in the diet to cases of hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, eating gluten is what brings you closer and closer to the risk of developing hypothyroidism (13).
And have you heard about goitrogens? Goitrogens are substances found in broccoli, cabbage, kale, turnip, etc. and which have been scientifically proven to be able to interfere with the thyroid hormones production. What the goitrogens actually do is triggering the pituitary gland to release the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which leads to a growth of the thyroid tissue and with that the development of goiter. (14) We would advise you to rethink your goitrogens intake through your diet, especially if you belong to the risk factor groups for hypothyroidism.
Drinking too much green tea is thought to increase the risk for hypothyroidism as well. According to some recent studies, excessive intake of green tea has been unfortunately linked to thyroid dysfunction in rats. However, more scientific research has to be done on the topic in order to draw a real conclusion (15).
We would recommend following a healthy diet that includes all of the vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients in the amount that they are required on a daily level. This will not only help you with your weight loss goal but also, it will improve your general health and help you with your hypothyroidism symptoms.
Not just to lose weight, reducing simple carbs and sugars can go a long way as far as preventing inflammation is concerned. Unfortunately, many carbs are increasing the production of cytokines – small proteins in the body which are most beneficial, but not all of them (16).
You see, although most cytokines are anti-inflammatory, unfortunately, there are some of them that are able to cause an inflammation to develop (17). 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. Bearing in mind these tablets can helps you slim down and manage healthy weight they can also contribute to easier hypothyroidism management.
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. When we say anti-inflammatory foods, we are thinking about foods that are rich in antioxidants. Some of the best choices would be dark chocolate, strawberries, raspberries, kale, goji berries, etc.
Anti-inflammatory foods have also been proven to be able to take some of the stress that is being put on your immune system by the presence of the hypothyroidism symptoms (18).
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. A study done in the past showed that a T3 monotherapy has helped patients not only to lose some extra body weight but also, reduce their total cholesterol without experiencing any great cardiovascular side-effects (19). 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.
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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.