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Do Thyroid Problems Cause Weight Gain

Cut Out Simple Carbs And Sugars

Do Thyroid problems cause weight gain? – Dr. Karthik Prabhakar

Kelly Austin, ND, a naturopathic doctor specializing in hormone disorders and the director of the Prime Wellness Clinic in San Diego, recommends a moderate- to low-carbohydrate diet that focuses on complex carbohydrates and avoids simple sugars . According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, foods with a high a glycemic load may increase inflammation in the body. But Dr. Austin stresses the importance of eating enough calories because “low calories can cause a stress response and result in decreased T3 production, she says.

How Levothyroxine Causes Weight Gain

So how does this all relate to Levothyroxine and weight gain?

We can look at some studies to help us understand:

Take for instance this study.

Patients in this study were given T4 only medications and treated based on their TSH. 

The researchers tested their resting energy expenditure both before they added the thyroid hormone and after they suppressed the TSH. 

Do you know what they found? 

It showed that patients taking thyroid hormone did NOT have an increase in metabolism or a change in their body weight.

This is really interesting information and it has profound implications for treatment…

For one it shows that our reliance upon TSH as a marker for managing thyroid medication and function is not very accurate.

Don’t get discouraged because there are other thyroid medications that actually do help with weight loss which we will discuss below.

But, for this reason I generally don’t recommend using T4 only medications to treat hypothyroidism and I recommend against using the TSH to dose your medication. 

What’s more:

This study also showed that suppressing the TSH did NOT result in adverse side effects.

Enter your text here…

One of the main reasons Doctors are afraid to increase thyroid medications is because they are concerned that the low TSH will result in damage to the body over time.

Here is another very interesting study that compared people taking Natural Desiccated Thyroid to those taking Levothyroxine: 

Moral of the story?

Hashimotos Often Goes Undiagnosed

Hashimotos prompts your body to create antibodies that attack and inflame the thyroid.

But doctors often dont check blood for the telltale antibodies because all hypothyroidism is treated the same way.

Many people are never told they have Hashimotos, says Dr. Kellis. But at the end of the day, if your thyroid is underactive, its usually Hashimotos thyroiditis, she says.

Other, less common, causes of hypothyroidism include:

  • Surgical removal of the thyroid.
  • Radiation to the neck.
  • Use of certain psychiatric, heart, cancer or rheumatologic medications.

So knowing whether or not you have Hashimotos may be a moot point unless youre a woman trying to conceive.

Hashimotos carries a slightly higher risk of miscarriage, so youll need the blood test for thyroid antibodies, says Dr. Kellis.

You may need to take thyroid supplements, even if your TSH levels are normal.

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T4 To T3 Conversion Matters A Lot

Before we talk about how Levothyroxine and Synthroid can cause weight gain we need to talk about some basic thyroid physiology. 

Your thyroid, under the influence of TSH , pumps out primarily the thyroid hormone T4. 

What you need to understand is that T4 is an inactive hormone. By itself it doesn’t do anything for your body except act as a reservoir for T3 and T3 is the active thyroid hormone in your body. 

T3 is what enters into your cells and turns on the genes that increase your metabolism, help with hair growth and give you energy.

In order for T4 thyroid hormone to be active in your body, it MUST be converted to the active hormone T3.

The problem is that T4 doesn’t always convert to T3: 

You see:

Your body has two options:

1. Turn T4 into T3 which enters into your cells and activates genetic transcription


2. Turn into Reverse T3 which blocks thyroid action, lowers metabolism and makes patients feel like they are hypothyroid

The more reverse T3 in your bloodstream the less you can rely on normal thyroid blood tests to give you any actionable information. 

So if you understand this concept the next question you should be asking yourself is this: 

What causes your body to turn T4 into the inactive reverse T3?

Understanding Weight Gain Related To Hypothyroidism

7 Signs of an Underactive Thyroid

    Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland doesnt produce enough of certain hormones. Its estimated that nearly 5 percent of the U.S. population over the age of 12 may be living with hypothyroidism. Below, Dr. Harshit Shah, an endocrinologist with Dignity Health Medical Group – Bakersfield, explains how hypothyroidism can impact weight gain. 

    “While the condition may not cause any noticeable symptoms at first, it can lead to other health problems if left untreated including weight gain,” says Dr. Shah. “In fact, the majority of patients I see in my practice who are diagnosed with hypothyroidism are experiencing unwanted weight gain.”

    Hypothyroidism causes a decreased body metabolism or BMR , which is what leads to weight gain. The weight gain is often greater in those individuals with more severe hypothyroidism.

    The cause of this weight is complex and not always related to excess fat accumulation. Most of the extra weight gained is due to excess accumulation of salt and water.

    Massive weight gain is rarely associated with hypothyroidism. In general, 5-10 pounds of body weight may be attributable to thyroid, depending on the severity of the disease. Since much of the weight gain is from salt and water, one can expect a small weight loss once the hypothyroidism is addressed.

    Dr. Shah also recommends patients follow general weight loss and wellness guidelines:

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    When Should I See A Thyroid Specialist

    Dont delayif you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of hypothyroidism, the time to see a doctor is now. They can test you for thyroid problems and get you started on treatment to help you start feeling better and reduce the risk of complications.

    You can start with your primary-care provider, or they may refer you to an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is a doctor that specializes in hormone disorders, including thyroid disease

    What Can I Do If I Cant Seem To Lose Weight

    Tried all of the above, and still cant seem to lose weight?

    First, make sure your medication and thyroid levels are optimal. Your thyroid levels can change over time, and you may need to see your healthcare provider for a repeat blood check to make sure your medication is at a high enough dose. 

    You should also make sure you arent taking in too many calories. Keeping track of your calories and what you eat in a food diary has shown to help people lose weight. There are many calorie tracking apps such as MyFitnessPal, Cronometer, and LoseIt that can make this really easy. 

    And finally, if the scale doesnt seem to be budging, it may be worth checking in with a nutritionist to look at your overall diet and come up with the best plan for you.

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    Myth 1 Hypothyroidism Causes Significant Weight Gain

    As stated above, the average weight gain from hypothyroidism is only about 3-5 pounds. While obesity and hypothyroidism commonly occur together, itâs possible that obesity can actually cause thyroid problems more frequently than the reverse. The reason for this is excess weight can impair the way the body uses thyroid hormone.

    Why Do We Put On Weight With Hypothyroidism

    *Thyroid Weight Gain Symptoms* Do I have a Thyroid Problem?

    This post may contain affiliate links, to find out more information, please read my disclosure statement. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Originally published on 9th April 2016

    Thyroid disease is often used as a joke or a scapegoat for weight gain. People throw it around, and as such, its not taken very seriously.

    Many people think its just an excuse for being overweight. 

    But weight gain is a legitimate symptom of an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism, along with many others. Why? 

    Read Also: Can Thyroid Problems Cause Foot Pain

    Nail Splitting & Hypothyroidism

    One other thing you can see here in this image is the splitting at the tips of the nails. This is also very very common in people with a hypothyroid condition.

    Look at your fingernails and see if you have these types of findings. If you do, follow up with your doctor and have your thyroid fully evaluated.

    Thyroid Function In Obese Subjects

    TSH levels are at the upper limit of the normal range or slightly increased in obese children, adolescents, and adults and are positively correlated with BMI. Low fT4 with a moderate increase in T3 or free T3 levels has been reported in obese subjects. Progressive fat accumulation was associated with a parallel increase in TSH, and fT3 levels irrespective of insulin sensitivity and metabolic parameters and a positive association has been reported between the fT3 to fT4 ratio and both waist circumference and BMI in obese patients. Although the typical picture of high TSH, low fT4, and high fT3 is the most common, various studies on adult obese individuals report thyroid hormone and TSH concentrations as normal, elevated, or reduced.

    In obese children, the most common abnormality clearly is hyperthyrotropinemia. Recently, it has also been shown that obese pediatric patients frequently have an ultrasound pattern of the thyroid which is highly suggestive of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. These findings are not associated, however, with production of thyroid autoantibodies.

    Also Check: Can Your Thyroid Mess With Your Period

    Hypothyroidism Weight Gain And Mitochondria

    The real cause of hypothyroidism weight gain is this weight gain is because of small organelle in your body called mitochondria.

    This mitochondrion is responsible for producing energy in your body and also regulates several metabolic processes.

    It was initially thought that the thyroid hormone affects the functioning of mitochondria and this affects the metabolic rate and thus causing weight gain.

    But in reality, the mitochondrial dysfunction in people with thyroid problems happens earlier than the hypothyroidism.

    What this means is that  first, mitochondrial destruction happens and then later on thyroid gland destruction happens. 

    Hashimotos Is Not As Scary As It Sounds

    301 Moved Permanently

    Read patient blogs about Hashimotos thyroiditis, and youll find it portrayed as a frightening disease.

    In reality, Hashimotos is a benign, highly treatable condition, stresses Dr. Kellis. Taking thyroid supplements will improve most of your symptoms, and most people do quite well on them.

    The bow-tie-shaped thyroid gland, at the base of your throat, secretes a hormone called T4 . Your body must convert T4 to T3 to maintain your metabolism, and regulate your body temperature, heart and other vital organs.

    Sometimes, when youre first diagnosed with Hashimotos, you can still produce some thyroid hormone, she notes. As the years go by, you may produce less hormone, so your doctor will gradually increase your dose of medication, she says.

    Those with celiac disease or who have had gastric bypass surgery must be carefully monitored because they may not absorb thyroid medication properly, and their levels can fluctuate.

    Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Thyroid Swelling

    How To Finally Lose Weight With Hypothyroidism

    So what are you supposed to do if you still have hypothyroid symptoms with “normal lab tests”? 

    What are you supposed to do if you haven’t been able to lose weight despite increasing your dose of Levothyroxine or Synthroid?

    You have 2 ways to go about this:

    1. Change your thyroid medication to include T3 containing medications

    2. Boost thyroid conversion by taking certain supplements and treating certain conditions which limit the conversion process

    The easiest way to increase thyroid function and lose weight is by adding pure T3 to your dose of Levothyroxine or Synthroid. 

    This allows you to bypass the T4 to T3 conversion process.

    Your body can only make Reverse T3 if T4 is present, so if you only provide T3 to the body then it simply doesn’t have the option to create Reverse T3 and your levels will naturally fall.

    This is one of the ways to “flush” out high levels of Reverse T3 in the body

    You can accomplish this by either switching from Levothyroxine to NDT or by simply adding Liothyronine or Cytomel to your total dose.

    This step will require that a Doctor is willing to work with you, however, which is why I always recommend seeking out a provider with advanced knowledge about thyroid function. 

    If your plan is to take this information to your current Doctor to get them to understand this information or to order the “right” tests it will most likely backfire.

    If you don’t have anyone local to you, then you do have a few options: 

    As a primer remember this:

    What Is Hypothyroidism Again

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland on the lower part of the front of your neck. A healthy thyroid performs an important job: Making enough thyroid hormone for your body to function properly. But when your thyroid doesnt make enough of this hormone, its called hypothyroidism, or having an underactive thyroid. This can lead to a slew of problems as the systems throughout your whole body slow down without the thyroid hormone there to help them use energy efficientlyfor example, the digestive system may slow down, causing constipation, and the cardiovascular system may slow down, causing a slow or irregular heartbeat.

    Around 5% of Americans over age 12 have hypothyroidism. The most-common form of hypothyroidism is an autoimmune condition called Hashimotos disease, which is when the immune system accidentally attacks the thyroid and causes hypothyroidism. Many cases of hypo are mild and may not have obvious symptoms, while others can be severe. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complicationsso thats why its important to know the signs of this condition so you can get it under control.

    Recommended Reading: How To Lose Weight With Underactive Thyroid And Menopause

    Belly Fat: Can Poor Thyroid Function Increase Your Waistline

    Not only is belly fat unattractive but it may be a sign of poor health. Even if your overall weight is within the range of normal, an increasing amount of visceral fat the fat which surrounds your internal organs and causes a widening of the waist may contribute to very serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. For women, especially those who are post-menopausal, tummy fat is usually associated with a decreasing level of estrogen.

    Yet, many women fear their widening waist line may be caused by a thyroid problem.

    What Is Hypothyroidism

    Freda: “Underactive thyroid causes weight gain, depression, painful periods”

    Hypothyroidism can occur when your thyroid gland doesnât produce or release enough thyroid hormone.

    There are other more rare forms of hypothyroid, including problems with the pituitary gland in the brain, where not enough Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, or TSH, is produced, but these are more unusual.  

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    About Dr Peter Osborne

    Dr. Peter Osborne is the clinical director of Town Center Wellness in Sugar Land, Texas. He is a doctor of chiropractic and a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist. His clinical focus is the holistic natural treatment of chronic degenerative musculoskeletal diseases. He is an expert in the relationship that gluten sensitivity and food allergies play in chronic inflammation. He has helped thousands of patients recover from chronic painful conditions.


    Heymann, W.R. . Thyroid Disorders with Cutaneous Manifestations. London: Springer-Verlag London Ltd.

    Macura, A.B. et al. Nail susceptibility to fungal infections in patients with hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Przegl Lek. 2005;62:218-21.

    Magee, D.J. . Orthopedic Physical Assessment: Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation Series, Sixth Edition. Missouri: Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier Inc.

    Sacchidanand, S. and Savitha, A.S. . Nail & Its Disorders. New Delhi: Jaycee Brothers Medical Publishers Ltd.

    Signs And Symptoms Of Hypothyroidism

    Symptoms of hypothyroidism are usually subtle and gradual, and may resemble those of other conditions or medical problems. Many symptoms are non-specific and may be ignored as normal parts of our everyday lives. Because of this, the condition may go undetected for years.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Slower reaction time
    • Weight gain
    • Sparse, coarse and dry hair
    • Coarse, dry and thickened skin
    • Slow pulse
    • Sides of eyebrows thin or fall out
    • Dull facial expression
    • Enlarged thyroid, producing a goiter-like growth on the neck
    • Increased menstrual flow and cramping in girls and young women

    If you have concerns about your child’s health, talk to your childs physician.

    Also Check: Does Removing Thyroid Cure Hashimoto’s

    You’ve Lost Interest In Sex

    Having little or no desire to get it on is a side effect of a thyroid disorder. Because of the connection between thyroid function and adrenal glandsthe organs that control your “fight or flight” response as well as sexual hormones like testosteronevia the shared hypothalamus and pituitary gland regulators, low levels of thyroid hormone also result in low levels of sex hormones.

    “Libido is a reflection of testosterone status,” explains Dr. Srinath, “too little thyroid hormone can stimulate a pituitary hormone called prolactin, which then suppresses testosterone levels.” While too little thyroid hormone could be a contributor to a low libido, the cumulative impact of other hypothyroidism symptoms, such as weight gain, depression, low energy, and body aches, certainly may also play a part. So if you’ve been avoiding these foods that kill your sex drive and still don’t feel like romping around in the sack, there might be this health condition to blame.


    With Hyperthyroidism Weight Loss Than Weight Regain Is Common

    Female Weight Gain

    The researchers turned to the Thyroid Clinic Database at the University Hospitals Birmingham National Health Service Foundation Trust to gather data on all adult patients with hyperthyroidism treated either with antithyroid drugs, radioiodine , or both. Information was collected for patients treated between 2000 and 2014 with three years of followup.1 None of the patients had a thyroidectomysurgical removeal of the thyroidwhich is another treatment option.

    In all, there were 1,373 patients, ages 18 to 90 years, who were evaluated, and their weight was tracked over time. During treatment, the men, in general, gain about 17.6 pounds while the women gained a little over 12 pounds. The researchers compared the patients’ weight gain with that of a matched comparison population of nearly 11,000 people who did not have an overactive thyroid.1

    At the start of drug treatment, those who were diagnosed as having an overactive thyroid weighed less, on average than the comparison population, Dr. Boelaert says, which was expected. However, after treatment, the patients with hyperthyroidism were more likely than the comparison group to reach a level of obesity. In effect, men were 1.7 times more likely and women, 1.3 times more likely, to gain enough weight to be considered in the obese range.1

    When compared with drugs alone, treatment that included RAI was linked with an additional gain of about 1.3 pounds. .1

    Recommended Reading: Can Thyroid Symptoms Come And Go

    Signs Your Thyroid Isnt Working Right

    by The Surgical Clinic |

    The thyroid gland is an important part of the endocrine system. This butterfly-shaped organ regulates important hormones that influence many functions in your body. These hormones also influence how well your body performs physically and mentally.

    Keep in mind, your body is a complicated and intricate system that operates on many levels of performance. However, over time many factors can build up and disrupt the balance of your body. Specifically, your systems can become overactive or underactive in order to compensate or respond to these factors. 

    Thyroid function problems, in particular, occur when the thyroid either becomes under or overused. These conditions are called hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, respectively. Both of these conditions can cause several problems. In order to explore twenty signs of thyroid problems, our Nashville, TN surgeons have divided them into ten signs for each of these separate conditions.

    Thyroid Weight Gain Solutions

    At least now we understand that weight gain in the thyroid is not just because of thyroid hormone deficiency, its much more than that. So we need to devise a strategy for thyroid weight gain.

    Its the underlying inflammation and mitochondrial destruction which is slowing down our whole metabolic system. 

    So can you speed up your thyroid to lose weight? Certainly yes we can speed up your whole body to recover from all this damage which has happened and this will in turn help to lose weight.

    1. Diet: As I mentioned before there are several weight-loss diets out there and they might work for some time. But what they dont remember is that diet is just one piece to this whole puzzle. So from a diet perspective, I will encourage you to eliminate all simple carbs from your diet and also sugars from your diet as much as possible.

    Eliminate gluten and dairy again as much as possible. Focus on eating more vegetables, clean protein, and good fat in your diet. Add lots of fiber-containing food like whole grains, chia, flax seeds. Drink green tea on a daily basis at least 2-3 cups.

    Also, eat lots of turmeric and ginger, they reduce inflammation and can be helpful. focus on reducing carbohydrate-rich foods and introduce more protein and good fat-containing food.

    2. Intermittent Fasting: This can be a game-changer for a lot of people. Intermittent fasting gives you that metabolic flexibility which is lost for us.

    Read Also: How To Improve Your Thyroid Without Medicine

    Other Coexisting Conditions You Should Be Aware Of

    The water retention in hypothyroidism can also be caused by adrenal fatigue. The functioning of adrenal gland is affected in autoimmune thyroid conditions and in hypothyroidism.  The adrenal hormones aldosterone and cortisol are not secreted properly resulting in low sodium levels and blood pressure.

    This causes retention of water. Treating the adrenal fatigue and adding more salt to foods will help in increased aldosterone production.

    Estrogen dominance in women during their peri-menopausal and menopausal stage is another cause of water retention. Low thyroid function, stress and nutritional deficiencies can lead to high estrogen levels. Restoring the hormonal balance is an effective way to treat the water retention in such cases.

    Why Thyroid Hormones Are Important

    Does Levothyroxine Cause Weight Gain? What to do if it is slowing down your metabolism

    A thyroid gland produces five hormones: T1. T2, T3, T4 and Calcitonin.

    These 5 hormones are needed for every process, every cell and everything function in your body, especially T3 and T4. So when they are abnormal , a lot of other stuff can go wrong too.

    T3 is the most active thyroid hormone.

    The main purpose of thyroid hormones, produced by the thyroid gland, is to ensure the metabolism is running properly.

    The metabolisms job is to produce heat and fuel. Heat to keep us warm and fuel to give us energy. Now, if we dont have enough of those thyroid hormones I told you about, our metabolism wont work properly and so cant provide us with adequate heat and fuel.

    Therefore, people with an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism can have a slow metabolism, with symptoms associated with a slow metabolism, such as cold intolerance and extreme tiredness and weight gain .

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    Does Hypothyroidism Cause Weight Gain

    If your weight has increased recently, your thyroid could definitely be part of the problem. 

    About half of people with hypothyroidism experience some weight gain. Most people usually gain only 5 to 10 pounds; however, some women can gain more, especially if the hypothyroidism is severe. While most of the weight gain is mainly increased salt and water retention, some of it can be due to increased fat gain.

    Even though weight gain is common with hypothyroidism, if youve gained a lot like 20 or more pounds your thyroid is probably not the only cause. Its a good idea to have your thyroid checked, but you should also take a look at your diet, stress levels, and physical activity.

    Rachel Hill Thyroid Patient Advocate

    Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.

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