Hypothyroidism is a health condition that causes weight gain, among many other symptoms.
People who have hypothyroidism may find it hard to lose weight. The condition causes the body not to produce enough thyroid hormones, which help control growth, cell repair, and metabolism. Those diagnosed with the disorder experience symptoms like tiredness, hair loss, and weight gain.
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland at the base of the neck. It is responsible for producing and storing thyroid hormones, affecting almost every cell in the body. These hormones regulate how the body uses energy and keep the brain, organs, and muscles working.
Reportedly, hypothyroidism affects 1 to 2 percent of people worldwide, and women are more likely to be diagnosed than men. Per Women’s Health, about 5 percent of Americans have the condition. A combination of medication and a proper diet could help restore thyroid function.
The connection between hypothyroidism and weight gain.
Thyroid hormones control the speed of metabolism. Hence, faster metabolism means the body burns more calories at rest. However, people with hypothyroidism release less of these hormones, and it causes them to have slower metabolism – burning fewer calories at rest.
Healthline noted that slow metabolism might leave you tired and increase your cholesterol levels, making it difficult for you to lose weight. Women are particularly affected by this, and it feels like their hormones are working against them regarding weight loss.
“Women with hypothyroidism tell me they’re on a 1,200-calorie diet, and they can’t lose weight. In the end, it’s much more difficult to lose weight and keep it off,” says Caroline Apovian, MD, an endocrinologist, weight-loss researcher, and director of the Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at Boston Medical Center.
When to see a doctor?
If you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism like unexplained weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, and fatigue, then it might be time to see your doctor. You will undergo a blood test to determine your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.
In the event that the doctor confirms it’s hypothyroidism, you’ll begin treatment for the condition. The doctor will prescribe a cheap, safe, and effective synthetic hormone – which will replace the ones your body should be making. The medication also restores the normal levels of TSH.
Don’t expect your weight to fall off after you start taking medications. Dr. Marilyn Tan, MD, an endocrinologist at Stanford Health Care’s Endocrinology Clinic, said: “Normalizing the thyroid with thyroid hormone will not cause the weight gain to be reversed.”
Dr. Scott D. Isaacs, MD, medical director of Atlanta Endocrine Associates, added that you still have to work on losing weight even if the blood test is normal and you no longer have hypothyroid. He added that dropping pounds depends on the body and your weight-loss efforts.
Three important nutrients to keep the thyroid functioning properly.
The first one is iodine, an essential mineral needed to produce thyroid hormones. Those who have iodine deficiency – which is coming and affects approximately one-third of the population – are at higher risk of hypothyroidism.
Iodine deficiency can be managed easily, and supplements aren’t necessary. If you have the condition, adding iodized table salt to your meals is recommended. It is also advised to consume more iodine-rich foods, such as eggs, fish, seaweed, and dairy.
The second essential nutrient is selenium, which activates the thyroid hormones so the body can use it. The mineral has antioxidant benefits that protect the thyroid gland from being damaged by harmful molecules known as the free radicals.
Add selenium-rich food to your diet if you want to increase the level of the mineral. These include legumes, tuna, eggs, sardines, and Brazil nuts. It should also be noted to avoid taking supplements unless prescribed by doctors, as large amounts of selenium may be toxic to the body.
Lastly, zinc also activates thyroid hormones. According to several studies, the mineral helps the body regulate TSH. People with hypothyroidism are advised to eat zinc-rich foods like chicken, beef, oyster, and other shellfish.
What is the best diet if you have hypothyroidism?
Making a significant change in the way you eat can help you successfully lose if you have hypothyroidism. Remember that there is no “best thyroid diet,” as the meal plan depends on certain factors, such as your physiology, food sensitivities, and ability to absorb nutrients.
Here are some food options:
- Meat: lamb, chicken, beef, etc.
- Fish: salmon, shrimp, tuna, and all other seafood.
- Eggs: the yolk is rich in iodine and selenium, while whites are plenty of proteins.
- Fruits: berries, bananas, oranges, etc.
- Vegetables: broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, etc.
- Dairy products: yogurt, milk, cheese, etc.
- Gluten-free grains and seeds: rice, buckwheat, quinoa, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
- Beverages: water is the best, and other non-caffeinated beverages.
Exercise and other tips to manage weight.
Try to do moderate or high-intensity cardio if you want to lose weight. These workouts include rowing, hiking, running, and fast-paced walking. Also, studies have shown that moderate to high-intensity aerobic exercise boosts the thyroid hormone levels, speeding up the metabolism.
“Cardio is essential for maintenance of weight loss,” says Dr. Elizabeth Pearce, MD, an endocrinologist specializing in thyroid disorders at Boston Medical Center.
Aside from exercise, yoga and meditation help de-stress and improve your overall health. According to research, these two methods play a vital role in weight management. It’s also important to get enough sleep every night, at least 7 to 8 hours.
Meanwhile, practicing mindful eating is a crucial tip in losing weight. You must pay attention to the food you consume, why you’re eating them, and how fast your eating habit can help you build a better relationship with food.
Celebrities who have thyroid problems.
Back in 2017, the talk show host revealed she was suffering from thyroid problems. But even before she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, she had openly discussed her struggles with her weight. She revealed that she had a hard time shedding pounds and felt exhausted all the time.
The supermodel revealed her ongoing battle with Hashimoto’s disease in 2016. The condition causes the thyroid not to make enough thyroid hormone. Gigi had been very vocal about her autoimmune disease, noting that it affected her metabolism.
The “Jane the Virgin” actress was also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease when she was 19. Just like Gigi, Gina was open to the topic of her condition. She said that she struggled with the autoimmune disease’s symptoms, including weight gain and anxiety.
In February 2018, the daytime talk show host announced that she would be taking a break from “The Wendy Williams Show.” The hiatus was due to her ongoing battle with Grave’s disease, an immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones.
The “Modern Family” star looked bubbly in the Emmy-winning series, but she hit rock bottom when she was 28. Sofia revealed that she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and she had to undergo surgery to have her thyroid removed.
George H. W. Bush
The Former President of the United States was diagnosed with Grave’s disease in 1991. At the time, he was treated with radioactive iodine. His wife, former First Lady Barbara Bush and their dog Millie, were also diagnosed with immune system disorder.