Table of Contents
- 1 How Thyroid Disorders Can Lead To Weight Gain
- 2 The Endocrine System, The Thyroid Gland And Metabolism
- 3 Additional Steps To Improving Weight Management
- 4 Final Words
- 5 References
How Thyroid Disorders Can Lead To Weight Gain
Weight loss is a journey that is considerably harder than weight gain.
This is a fact that all obese individuals already know. There are many reasons why a person may find it more difficult to lose weight than to gain weight.
Think about the fact that sweets, pastries, take-outs and many other of the unhealthiest foods on the planet are often considered more delicious and flavorful than some of the healthy options out there.
If you were to be presented with two plates – once containing a number of vegetables, and the other one a pizza or burger, which would you rather choose.
For many people, the answer would be the second choice, but this can contribute to weight gain.
While cravings and the consumption of too many unhealthy foods are certainly the most important reasons why we are facing a public health epidemic, with over 36.5% of the American population obese and the majority of the population weighing more than their recommended weight1.
The consumption of unhealthy foods are not the only problems contributing to weight gain.
In this post, we would like to focus on how disorders affecting your Thyroid can be a particular issue leading to your difficult journey in weight loss, and even cause you to gain further weight – unintentionally in some cases.
The Endocrine System, The Thyroid Gland And Metabolism
The Thyroid Gland is situated in your throat, and is part of the body’s endocrine system. The endocrine system involves numerous glands and organs that produce hormones. These hormones are, in turn, used to activate other parts of the body.
Some hormones activate glands that produce other hormones, while certain hormones, such as those produced and secreted by the Thyroid Gland, has a role to play in certain bodily functions.
The Thyroid Gland is stimulated by Thyroid Stimulating Hormones, which is secreted by the Pituitary Gland, located in your brain2.
When the Pituitary Gland releases thyroid Stimulating Hormones, they are sent toward the Thyroid, a Gland that has a shape that resembles a butterfly. In turn, the Thyroid Gland responds by producing and secreting Thyroid Hormones into the bloodstream.
The main hormones produced by the Thyroid Gland include Triiodothyronine and Tetraiodothyronine3. These are commonly also simply referred to as T3 and T4. T4 hormones are sometimes called Thyroxine. In addition to these hormones, another hormone produced by the Thyroid Gland is called Calcitonin.
Only approximately 20% of the hormones produced by the Thyroid gland are T3 hormones, while the rest primarily consist of T4 hormones. T3 hormones are, however, more potent and useful to the body than T4 hormones4.
These hormones assist with the metabolic functions of every single cell within the human body – and also plays a vital part in how the body uses energy.
Disorders That Affect The Thyroid Gland And Your Weight
In a healthy person, the Thyroid Gland produces enough T3 and T4 hormones to support overall metabolism and to ensure cells can utilize energy adequately.
When disorders develop that adversely affect the function of this Gland, then a person can start to grow quite a large number of unpleasant symptoms.
There are different types of disorders that can affect the Thyroid Gland.
Hashimoto’s disease is one of the most common disorders that causes Thyroid problems within the United States. Patients with Hashimoto’s disease have an immune system that mistakenly attacks their healthy Thyroid tissue.
When Thyroid tissue is attacked, it causes inflammation and often also an underactive Thyroid. An underactive Thyroid leads to a condition known as Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism causes the Thyroid Gland to release an inadequate supply of T3 and T4 hormones.
This, in turn, causes the overall metabolism of the human body to slow down. How much metabolism slows down really depends on how serious the condition is and how much reduction in T3 and T4 hormone secretion the patient is experiencing. This is also the most common reason why individuals often suffers from weight gain and a hard time losing weight when their Thyroid Gland is to blame.
When metabolism is slowed down, it means that cells are unable to process an adequate amount of energy, since this function is regulated by the hormones secreted by the Thyroid Gland.
This is why many women with Hypothyroidism often find themselves experiencing fatigue, feeling like they do not have energy and also a general feeling of weakness.
In addition to Hashimoto’s disease being a possible cause of Hypothyroidism and a lack of the Thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, other issues can also cause an underactive Thyroid.
Some of these include treatments administered for a patient who was previously diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism, as well as undergoing radiation therapy or having undergone Thyroid surgery already. Some medication, including those that contain lithium, can also cause the Thyroid to become underactive5.
It should be noted that, in some cases, Hyperthyroidism, a condition where there are too many Thyroid hormones being secreted by the Thyroid gland, can also contribute to weight gain. While
Hyperthyroidism is usually associated with weight loss, some people experience an increase in their appetite when they suffer from this condition. Since the body uses energy too quickly, they become hungry faster. This can lead to the excessive intake of food and, in turn, cause weight gain.
Treatment Options To Target Weight Gain Caused By Thyroid Disorders
There are many different treatment options available to assist with reducing the effects that Thyroid disorders have on a particular individual’s weight.
The first step to determining the best treatment option is to identify the cause.
If the Thyroid is, indeed, responsible for the weight gain and the difficult time the person has had in losing weight, then specific blood tests can help a physician determine how much Thyroid Stimulating Hormones, as well as T3 and T4 hormones, are present in the patient’s body.
If these hormones are found to be at levels higher than what is considered normal, the patient is diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism.
If the levels of these hormones seem to be insufficient, then the patient is diagnosed with Hypothyroidism.
Most patients with Hypothyroidism are started out with a dosage of Levothyroxine, a synthetic version of T4 hormones naturally secreted by the Thyroid.
Most patients are provided with this medication throughout their lifetime in order to help their bodies with the normal regulation of metabolism. One study6 describes that, in addition to synthetic T4 hormones, some physicians are now also prescribing Levotriiodothyronine, a synthetic version of T3 hormones, to patients.
This additional drug is usually prescribed when a patient does not experience improvements in their symptoms after taking synthetic T4 hormones for some time.
Treatment for Hyperthyroidism usually depends on the cause behind the condition. In cases where Thyrotoxicosis is the cause, then Beta-blockers may be prescribed to a patient. Patients who have been diagnosed with Graves’ Disease may be provided antithyroid drugs, as well as radioactive iodine therapy.
In some cases, surgery may be recommended to the patient if they have a goiter that is causing too much Thyroid hormones to be produced and secreted by the patient’s Thyroid Gland7.
Additional Steps To Improving Weight Management
After going on a treatment plan to assist with managing a condition such as Hypothyroidism, it is only natural to think that the increase in Thyroid hormones will make weight loss happen automatically.
Unfortunately, this is a misconception that many people have once they opt for synthetic Thyroid hormones in order to assist with the management of Hypothyroidism. Even though levels of Thyroid hormones are restored to normal through such a treatment plan, it is vital for a person to take into consideration that weight loss will now only be easier for them – it will not magically happen.
Weight loss efforts still need to be exerted by the individual who is obtaining the treatment. The primary method of losing weight after restoring normal Thyroid hormone levels would be to start following a caloric deficit diet.
This, in basic terms, means that you will have to eat fewer calories daily than you exert. There is no need to starve yourself, however, as you need to start participating in exercises, which means your daily caloric requirements will be going up.
It is highly advisable to participate in a healthy amount of exercise on a regular basis. This will not only promote weight loss but will also assist with further alleviating the problems that Hypothyroidism has caused.
Heart health will improve, mental focus and overall cognitive performance will be enhanced, muscle mass will increase – these are only some of the benefits you will experience when you participate in an exercise.
Once your daily caloric expenditure has increased through these exercise plans, it is time to look at what you consume.
Try to opt for healthy choices instead of take-outs and greasy food. Foods high in saturated fats and refined or added sugars are not only adding to your waistline, but their also bad for your health. Consider swapping that greasy bowl of potato crisps for something healthier, like a packet of nuts.
Additionally, eliminating processed foods from your diet can be very beneficial for you.
Try turning toward whole-foods that have not gone through processing. Stop by your local grocery store and pick up some organic vegetables and fruit. Then browse the internet and find some healthy recipes – you’ll be surprised at just how delicious, healthy food can be!
Metabolism plays a significant role in the body’s fat conversion and distribution, with the Thyroid Gland being one of the primary body parts to regulate metabolism.
Conditions affecting the Thyroid Gland, with Hypothyroidism in particular focus here, can lead to a slow down in metabolism and, in turn, lead to excessive weight gain, coupled by the difficulty to lose weight, even with effort.
While treatment options for Thyroid Gland disorders will not act as miracle drugs and cause instant weight loss, they can be coupled with healthy lifestyle habits, in order to achieve improved weight management skills and to allow for weight loss to become an easier goal to achieve.
1 Adult Obesity Facts. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
2 TSH (Thyroid-stimulating hormone) Test. Medline Plus. https://medlineplus.gov/labtests/tshthyroidstimulatinghormonetest.html
3 How does the thyroid work? PubMed Health. 7 January 2015. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
4 Robert M. Sargis. How Your Thyroid Works. Endocrine Web. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works
5 Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/symptoms-causes/syc-20350284
6 Multiple Authors. Recommendations for treatment of hypothyroidism with levothyroxine and levotriiodothyronine: a 2016 position statement of the Italian Society of Endocrinology and the Italian Thyroid Association. U.S. National Library of Medicine. 29 July 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27473077
7 Simone Deo Leo, Sun Y. Lee and Lewis E. Braverman. Hyperthyroidism. HHS Public Access. 27 September 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5014602/