Weight loss often begins with momentum, but it can taper off. This is known as a plateau, and it happens to plenty of people. So don’t feel bad if you are struggling with a few unwanted, stubborn pounds. For some, there is never that initial slimming result, even when calorie intake is greatly reduced. While a healthy diet and regular exercise often leads to long-term weight loss success, some people simply can’t lose weight – no matter how hard they work in the gym, or what they eat. Issues with the thyroid gland could be the reason.
Meet Your Thyroid Gland
This butterfly-shaped gland is a part of the endocrine system that helps to maintain homeostasis of your bodily systems.
These glands are used in the body to produce a variety of hormones that regulate everything from mood to sleep-wake cycles.
The thyroid gland produces three hormones: calcitonin, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Each has a significant impact on the body. Used in the conversion of foods into energy, oxygen metabolism, heat production, growth and fertility, these hormones are essential to maintaining a healthy weight.
When the thyroid does not produce enough of these hormones, a condition called hypothyroidism can occur. Specifically, a lack of thyroxine (T4) can cause body systems to slow, leading to unwanted weight gain and an inability to successfully lose weight.
How Does My Thyroid Affect My Weight Loss?
The relationship between your weight and a properly functioning thyroid gland is well established. Because this gland is needed to produce hormones that regulate metabolism, it becomes essential to your ability to burn fat.
When you work out, your body is able to burn fat and calories faster that it does when it’s at rest. However, your resting metabolism, or basal metabolic rate (BMR), is a good indicator of your capacity to lose weight or maintain your ideal weight over time. Those with a sluggish thyroid often have lower BMRs than those with properly functioning thyroid glands. In fact, BMR measurement was one of the ways doctors used to test a patient’s thyroid health as oftentimes, low thyroid hormone levels were associated with low BMRs, and vice versa.1
How Do I Know If I Have Hypothyroidism?
If your thyroid isn’t producing enough hormones it could be any number of causes including genetics, age, and stress or it could be that you are suffering from hypothyroidism – a condition that affects an estimated 20 million Americans.2
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
|Fatigue||Thinning hair||Facial puffiness||Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness|
|Sensitivity to cold||Slowed heart rate||Hoarseness||Pain, stiffness, or swelling in the joints|
|Constipation||Depression||Muscle weakness||Irregular menstrual periods|
|Dry skin||Unwanted weight gain||Elevated blood cholesterol level||Brain fog|
Usually, the symptoms of hypothyroidism worsen gradually and can become severe if left untreated. If you notice any of these symptoms, call your doctor.
How To Do an At-Home Test
If you are suffering from an underactive thyroid, or are concerned that you may have hypothyroidism, try this simple at-home test in order to ease your mind, while you wait to talk to your doctor.
If you are concerned about the healthy function of your thyroid gland, here is a simple at-home test you can do.
- Locate your thyroid gland with your index and forefinger in your neck just below the Adam’s apple, and to the side.
- Holding your fingers there, apply a small amount of pressure and swallow. If this area is large, or you notice any bulges, you may have a thyroid problem. Check with your doctor for a more accurate test if you feel it’s necessary.
What Can I Do To Improve the Health of My Thyroid?
One of the most common causes of hypothyroidism is a deficiency in vital nutrients needed to produce thyroid hormones including protein, magnesium, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B-2, B-12, vitamin C, vitamin D, iodine, and zinc.
While hypothyroidism is often a permanent condition, your doctor may have a variety of suggestions for treatment including synthetic hormone replacement. However, if you simply are suffering from a sluggish thyroid gland, there are many foods that you can eat to support the healthy function of your thyroid, to restore low levels of essential hormones.
Here are just a few of the BEST foods for a healthy thyroid:
|Apples||Chicken||Lentils||Plain yogurt (full fat)|
|Brazil nuts||Cranberries||Organic Potatoes||Strawberries|
|Cayenne peppers||Green tea, Rooibos tea||Pasture-raised eggs||Sea vegetables (kelp, arame, hiziki, and kombu)|
If you have noticed unwanted weight gain, and suspect it could be due to an underactive thyroid, remove any foods from your diet that produce thiocyanates – compounds that hinder nutrient absorption into the thyroid.
Foods to AVOID while on a thyroid diet:
|Arugula||Cabbage||Collard greens||Mustard greens, Turnips|
|Bamboo shoots||Canola||Horseradish||Sweet potato|
|Brussels sprouts||Choy sum||Lima beans||Watercress|
Am I At Risk for Hypothyroidism?
Understanding your risk factors is essential to know if your unwanted weight gain could be caused by a dysfunction of your thyroid gland.
The best way to know is to address your risk factors. Here are the most common factors known to increase the risk of hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) or hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid).
Top risk factors for thyroid problems:
- A family history of thyroid disease or any autoimmune disease
- Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune disorders
- Previous use of anti-thyroid medications
- Previous thyroid treatments (thyroid removal, radiation, or symptomatic goiter)
The thyroid gland is part of a vital system known as the endocrine system that also includes the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and the pineal body. This system works to produce hormones, along with other chemicals needed to regulate the activity of every cell in your body. Because it is so vital to hormone production, the thyroid is needed to regulate metabolism, stress, appetite, and sleep. Take good care of it and it will take even better care of you!
Thyroid Weight Loss
Clearly, thyroid and weight gain are closely associated — an underactive thyroid gland can make it extremely difficult to keep extra pounds off.
But it’s important to keep in mind that a thyroid problem can also make it difficult to keep pounds on. This condition is known as “hyperthyroidism” and it occurs when the thyroid is overactive. People with hyperthyroidism have a much faster basal metabolic rate (BMR), and so they burn calories quickly — even at rest.3 It might seem like a stroke of good luck to burn calories so easily, but unfortunately, an overactive thyroid gland can cause quite a bit of discomfort. Here are a few symptoms associated with hyperthyroidism:
- Sudden unintentional weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat
- Increased appetite
- Feelings of nervousness
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Sensitivity to heat
- Changes in bowel patterns
- Fatigue and muscle weakness
- Sleep trouble
- Thin, brittle hair
- Thinning skin4
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is something called Grave’s Disease, which is an overproduction of the thyroid hormone. Other causes of hyperthyroidism include nodules on the thyroid, or inflammation of the thyroid gland.5
As always, it’s important to check in with your doctor if you’re concerned about any of these symptoms.
Article updated: April 6, 2018
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