First Things First: You’ve Gotta Get It Diagnosed
If youre experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidismfatigue, unexplained weight gain, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, and dry skinit’s time to see your doctor, who will do a blood test to determine your TSH levels.
After a diagnosis, you’ll likely start treatment for hypothyroidismand it’s a pretty straightforward approach: Youll be prescribed a cheap, safe, and effective synthetic hormone that replaces the one your body should be making on its own. The medication will restore normal levels of TSH.
Something to be wary of, though: at-home thyroid testing. Even if the results are reliable, it will likely be difficult for you to understand how to interpret the lab, or what action should be taken if you see an abnormal result, Dr. Isaacs adds.
Treating Hypothyroidism After Radioactive Iodine Treatment Helps You Find Balance
For those who struggle with hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer, radioactive iodine treatment can be a life-changing treatment option. But despite the promise of RAI, there is often a downside: you are likely to develop transient or permanent hypothyroidism after completing treatment. If you have had RAI or are about to start, this potential outcome can be a serious concern, and its important to have the right resources in place to address it. By connecting with a skilled health practitioner with expertise in hormone replacement therapy, you will have the support you need to manage hypothyroidism and achieve a healthy balance.
Can Hypothyroidism Cause Weight Gain
Yes, hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, but the real question is why does hypothyroidism cause weight gain.
Initially, the thought was that the weight gain in hypothyroidism was because of the slowing of the BMR. BMR which is a basic metabolic rate is the rate at which your body is expending energy when you are at rest.
According to this theory, the thyroid hormone controls your BMR. So when there is a deficiency of thyroid hormone it causes to lower your BMR. This lowered BMR leads to less energy expenditure in our body and the excess energy is stored in our body as fat.
But if this theory was correct then as soon as patients were started on thyroid hormone replacement they will lose weight. But in reality that doesnt happen.
Several patients even after starting the thyroid hormone medication find it difficult to lose weight with thyroid dysfunction.
And the only question they have is how to lose this thyroid weight gain.
For this, we need to understand what is the real cause which is causing the weight gain and is there a fix for it.
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How Long After Starting Thyroid Medication Will I Lose Weight
Hypothyroidism and weight gain often go hand in hand. Indeed, weight gain is one of the more common symptoms associated with an underactive thyroid. Understandably, many people assume that taking thyroid medication will help them lose weight. Some doctors even prescribe it to help with weight loss Ahead, determine how much weight you can expect to lose once you start taking thyroid medication and if it is a sustainable solution.
Avoid Foods That Inhibit Absorption
Theres a few precautions when taking certain medications, certain supplements as well as eating high fiber and soy rich diets when you have an underactive thyroid. All of these can interfere with Levothyroxine absorption. Foods to avoid while taking thyroxine medication include:
- Cottonseed meal
- Soybean flour
Avoid taking iron and calcium supplements, multivitamins with iron, magnesium or aluminum-containing antacids, calcium supplements, certain ulcer drugs certain cholesterol-lowering drugs
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What Is Iodine And How Does The Supplement Work
- A low-carbohydrate diet or very low-carbohydrate diet: Examples include the ketogenic diet and the Atkins diet.
- Changing the timing of your meals: Try the intermittent fasting diet. Another approach that may be effective is the “mini-meal”/grazing-all-day approach to eating. Limiting your eating to two or three meals per day with no snacks and no food after 8 p.m. may help stimulate fat burning and help regulate hunger hormones.
- Getting tested for food allergens: Common allergens include dairy, wheat, soy, and certain fruits and nuts. If you find you have allergies to any of these, work to eliminate them from your diet.
- A gluten-free diet: There’s a link between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease and the development of autoimmune conditions, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Some patients have reported significant weight loss when they shifted to a gluten-free diet.
Talk to your doctor before starting any of these diets. Your own health may make some diets suitable, and others unhealthy for you. For example, a ketogenic diet could be dangerous for you if you have kidney disease, while a gluten-free diet would not be useful for you if you don’t have gluten sensitivity.
Treating Hyperthyroidism To Help With Weight Loss
If you have your thyroid then you should focus on reducing thyroid antibodies that cause hyperthyroidism.
You can actually check for these antibodies with the TSI serum test.
This test evaluates for thyroid stimulating immunoglobulins and it is these guys that basically sit on your thyroid hormone and cause it to pump out excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.
But the good news is that you might be able to reduce these antibodies with some targeted therapies.
This will go a long way to reducing the amount of thyroid hormone you are producing naturally and may help you to reduce your medication.
If you can reduce your antithyroid medication down to half of what it was, or even go off of it completely, then you will dramatically improve your metabolism.
How to reduce TSI antibodies:
You can find a list of supplements below that can improve thyroid function and improve immune function in those with hyperthyroidism:
Weight loss after Thyroidectomy & RAI ablation therapy:
If you’ve already had your thyroid taken out or you’ve had radioactive iodine ablation, then you are going to be reliant upon thyroid medication.
And let me be clear:
If you’ve had your thyroid taken out you are no longer hyperthyroid, you are now HYPOthyroid.
Because your body can no longer produce thyroid hormone on its own – you now need to supplement with thyroid hormone replacement.
Patients who have had their thyroid removed or who have undergone RAI almost ALWAYS gain weight but sometimes even more.
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Ongoing Maintenance And Possible Treatment Changes
Hypothyroidism is typically simple and easy to treat, even after RAI. However, it can take a little while for you and your doctor to find the appropriate dose for your thyroid medication. Too little, and your hypothyroidism symptoms, such as deep fatigue and hair loss, may compromise your quality of life. Too much, and you might experience the familiar racing heart and nervous energy that you needed RAI to resolve. Its also possible for hypothyroidism to worsen over time, which is why ongoing monitoring is critical to ensuring the best outcomes. After years of taking one dose of hormones, you might need to increase to a higher dose.
Additionally, if youre still struggling with symptoms after increasing your dose of T4 hormones, you may be one of the individuals who need more advanced treatment to feel balanced. The human body naturally converts T4 hormones into T3 through the process of monodeiodination. But some people struggle to process this conversion and may require T3 supplementation in order to feel their best. T3 medications are a possible treatment option for you if your body hasnt responded to T4 treatment alone.
Change Your Hypothyroidism Treatment
Some people with hypothyroidism find that they cant lose weight until they optimize their thyroid treatment. Mary wasnt able to lose weight until she started on a WP Thyroid natural desiccated thyroid drug. I lost 40 pounds in a year. Katya, who had irritable bowel syndrome in addition to hypothyroidism, wasnt able to lose weight: Then, my doctor put me on Tirosint, which is designed for people who dont absorb well. Thats when I finally started losing weight.
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Hypothyroidism: A Frustrating Condition
Even if you are able to get your hypothyroidism under control through treatment, some people still have problems shedding those extra pounds and preventing more weight from creeping on.
Angie, a Graves’ disease patient in Frankfort, Ky, was diagnosed with a hyperthyroid condition a few years ago. Hyperthyroidism is caused by an overactive thyroid gland. After receiving treatment, she developed hypothyroidism and has struggled with maintaining a healthy weight ever since.
“Since my thyroid was made inactive due to hypothyroidism, it has been a monumental struggle to lose and maintain weight. This is despite having a dedicated exercise program and watching what I eat,” says Angie.
She believes the weight loss process has become even slower for her specifically because of her hypothyroidism. “While it might take a normal person a week to lose two pounds, it may take me a month to do so. It is frustrating, but weight can be controlled through a consistent exercise program and watching what I eat. What works for me is to be consistent with my exercise,” says Angie. She hits the gym at least four to five days a week for 60 to 90 minutes each session, combining strength training with cardiovascular exercise. Angie also watches her calorie and carbohydrate intake, eats plenty of fruits and vegetables, and drinks lots of water to help maintain a healthy weight.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Medications
Some of the drugs doctors prescribe for your thyroid-related symptoms or other conditions you might have can cause weight gain. For example, the following medications are associated with weight gain:
- Antithyroid drugs such as Tapazole and PTU , used to treat Graves disease and hyperthyroidism
- Beta-blockers, like Sectral , Tenormin , and Corgard , which are often used to treat hyperthyroidism
- Steroid anti-inflammatories such as prednisone
- Estrogen and progesterone, either alone or together in hormonal birth control or in hormone replacement therapy
- Certain antidepressants, especially Prozac , Paxil , and Zoloft
- Mood-stabilizing and anticonvulsant drugs such as those given for bipolar disorder, including lithium, Depakote and Tegretol
If you’re on any of these medications and you’re gaining weight, talk to your doctor about your concerns. Never stop taking a medication without your doctor’s input.
Thyroid Disease Doctor Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next doctor’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
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Take A Probiotic Supplement
There Is evidence that taking a good-quality probiotic supplement to restore your balance of good intestinal bacteria may be helpful for weight loss. Eileen was eating a low-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, but she wasnt shedding pounds. I started taking a probiotic supplement, and within a week, I was less bloated, and I started to finally lose weight. I’m now down 15 pounds in three months!” Learn more about the benefits of probiotics for thyroid patients.
What Is The Relationship Between Hyperthyroidism And Weight
Since the BMR in patients with hyperthyroidism is elevated, many patients with an overactive thyroid do, indeed, have some weight loss. Furthermore, weight loss is related to the severity of the overactive thyroid. For example, if the thyroid is extremely overactive, the individuals BMR increases which leads to increased calories needed to maintain the body weight. If the person does not increase the amount of calories eaten to match the excess calories burned, then there will be weight loss. As indicated earlier, the factors that control our appetite, metabolism, and activity are very complex and thyroid hormone is only one factor in this complex system. Nevertheless, on average the more severe the hyperthyroidism, the greater the weight loss observed. Weight loss is also observed in other conditions where thyroid hormones are elevated, such as in the toxic phase of thyroiditis or if the dose of thyroid hormone pills is too high for a patient. Since hyperthyroidism also increases appetite, some patients may not lose weight, and some may actually gain weight, depending on how much they increase their caloric intake.
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Speed Up Your Metabolism
You have no doubt heard that muscle burns calories faster and more efficiently than fat. You can increase your basal metabolism the rate at which you burn calories when you are resting by increasing your bodys muscle mass. Regular strength training will build muscle and help speed up your metabolism.
You can help the process along, too, by making sure that you get enough vitamins and nutrients, especially B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. These will help your body perform more efficiently. Finally, make sure that you are staying hydrated. Dehydration is sure to slow your metabolism.
Managing Your Weight With Hypothyroidism
Theres a good chance youll gain weight if you indulge in a few too many comfort foods or stay away from the gym for too long. But if you have hypothyroidism, the numbers on the scale can creep up, even if youve stuck firmly to your diet and exercised religiously.
The hormones your thyroid gland releases help regulate your metabolism, or how efficiently your body burns food for energy. When your thyroid makes less of its hormones as it does in hypothyroidism your metabolism slows down. So you wont burn off calories as quickly and youll gain weight. The weight gain usually isnt extreme, maybe 5 or 10 pounds, but it can be enough to affect your self-esteem.
The more severe your hypothyroidism is, the more weight youll gain. Some of the weight gain is fat, but much of it is fluid buildup from the effects of an underactive thyroid on your kidney function.
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When One Drug Isn’t Enough
Levothyroxine drugs like Synthroid are synthetic forms of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, also known as T4. When everything works perfectly, your body should convert the T4 into the second key thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine, known as T3. T3 is the active hormone that helps facilitate energy and helps oxygen reach your cells.
Research shows, however, that in a subset of thyroid patients, this conversion process is faulty. Whether due to genetic changes, stress, or nutritional deficiencies, these patients fail to effectively convert enough T4 into T3.
If you fall into this category, you may find that even after being treated with levothyroxine, you may have hypothyroidism symptoms, such as fatigue, hair loss, or brain fog. If this is the case, you might benefit from the addition of T3 to your levothyroxine.
Ask your healthcare provider to test your T3. If you have low or low-to-normal levels, you may be a candidate for supplementation with Cytomel or a compounded, time-released formulation of this medication.
Note that compounded medications can be difficult to accurately dose, however, as it is very hard to determine the exact quantities of T3 and T4 in each pill. Compounded formulas can be difficult to control and could lead to overly suppressed TSH levels and low free T4/high T3 levels in the blood.
It’s also worth noting that adding T3 to your regimen is still relatively experimental: There is not enough clinical evidence to support this practice in every patient.
When To See A Doctor
In most cases, weight gain with hyperthyroidism is probably nothing to worry about, especially if you previously lost a lot of weight due to your initially untreated condition. However, if youre gaining a lot of weight or have other uncomfortable symptoms, it might indicate a new problem. Talk to your doctor about finding the right course of treatment for you.
Weight gain alone is generally not a sign of a thyroid problem. But weight gain alongside the following symptoms can indicate hypothyroidism:
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Thyroid And Your Weight
Your thyroid gland sends hormones into the bloodstream that help keep your metabolism in check. When you donât make enough of these hormones, that process slows down.
That puts the brakes on body functions. You might feel cold, tired, or sluggish. Your body may also hang on to salt and water. That causes bloating.
You might put on a few pounds — a few. Only about 10% of your total weight gain is likely due to the water and salt that your body keeps because of hypothyroidism.
If extra weight is the only symptom left after thyroid medication brings your hormone levels back to normal, hypothyroidism probably isn’t directly to blame for it.
“People with hypothyroidism often have gained quite a bit of weight before their diagnosis,” says nutrition coach Cheryl Harris, RD. “They may experience fatigue, and that makes it harder to have the energy to eat well and exercise regularly.”
Why Hypothyroidism Can Lead To Weight Gain
Its hard to lose weight with hypothyroidism because when your thyroid gland is underactive, your metabolism slows down.
A slow metabolism often means weight gain and can also lead to slower progress when losing weight.
But its more than just your metabolism slowing several factors lead to weight gain during hypothyroidism.
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The Link Between Hypothyroidism And Weight Gain
The way the thyroid functions to affect weight and body composition is quite complex. Research has found interactions between thyroid hormones and factors directly affecting energy expenditure, such as fat tissue, other hormones, and the brain.
Although clinicians are not certain whether hypothyroidism causes obesity or vice versa, there is undoubtedly a link between the two.