Thyroid weight gain is a problem for millions of people. According to Richard Shames, M.D. and Karilee Shames, Ph.D in the Share Guide article “Feeling Fat, Fuzzy or Frazzled?” experts concur that one in ten Americans suffer from some form of endocrine gland condition.
Perhaps the worse part about an underactive thyroid is most people who suffer from this condition remain undiagnosed as it slowly erodes the quality and joy from their life. If you’re suffering from the following symptoms, an underactive thyroid may be to blame:
If you’re gaining extra pounds or experience sudden weight gain without any reasonable explanation and if you’re feeling fatigued, depressed, anxious, constipated and have dry skin, brittle nails, thinning hair or are having problems getting or staying pregnant, an underactive thyroid gland may be to blame.
Thyroid Gland is the “Gas Pedal” for the Whole Body
The thyroid gland, located in the front of your neck, controls metabolism and keeps the body functioning properly. It’s literally the “gas pedal” for the body that secretes energy hormones that control the metabolic speed of the body. When your thyroid slows down, so does your whole body (Shames).
According to Angela Haynes in the Natural Health article “Thyroid Trouble,” over “12 million American Adults have been diagnosed with thyroid disease, and nearly 10 million of those are hypothyroid.”
Haynes also states that many health experts believe actual rates for hypothyroidism are much higher, and the numbers keep growing. Women need to be extra cautious. An underactive thyroid gland in women is more common than men, and the risks for an underactive thyroid increase during pregnancy and with age, especially for women over 50.
Many health professionals recommend that people over thirty-five get checked every five years for hypothyroidism. Make sure to ask your doctor for a “full thyroid panel: TSH, free circulating T4, T3 and reverse T3,” says Haynes.
Underactive Thyroid Symptoms
Depending on how deficient the hormone, the symptoms of hypothyroidism can vary widely depending in severity. In general, thyroid symptoms develop slowly over several years. At first, the symptoms may barely be noticeable, and many people associate things like fatigue and extra pounds as a part of getting older. However, as people keep getting older, the signs typically become worse.
You may not have all of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid; however, if you have a few signs or if hypothyroidism runs in your family, you should see your doctor as soon as possible to check your thyroid levels.
According to the MayoClinic, there are several signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Frequent fatigue
- Sensitivity to cold
- Dry, pale skin
- Puffy face
- High cholesterol
- Unexplained increase in weight – Sudden weight gain
- Aches, stiffness and tenderness in muscles
- Joint pain, stiffness or swelling
- Heavy menstrual period
- Fingernails and hair that are brittle
- Slowing of thought process
If an underactive thyroid is not treated, symptoms will probably gradually become more severe and may cause an enlarged thyroid (goiter).
Underactive Thyroid Diet
If you’re diagnosed with hypothyroidism, your doctor will most likely prescribe daily medication such as synthroid or levothyroxine, but there are some things you should be aware of as far as your diet. Make sure to eat organic foods free from pesticides, hormones and other toxins, says Haynes. Experts believe one of the reasons for the increase in hypothyroidism is all the toxins and pollutants in foods and in society.
Make sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist about foods or supplements that may interact with your thyroid medication. Usually, it’s not necessary that you avoid these foods or supplements; however, it may be important that you don’t eat specific foods or take certain supplements for a while before or after taking your medication.
If your iodine is low, some foods such as soy, cabbage, bod choi and Brussels sprouts are believed to exacerbate hypothyroidism, so eat these foods in moderation (Haynes). It’s very rare that people in developed countries have iodine deficiencies, but if you’re concerned about this, talk with your doctor about iodine supplements. You can also eat seaweed, which is rich in iodine.
Many people who suffer from an underactive thyroid gland find they will lose a few pounds after they begin taking medication; however, many also find that even with proper medication, it’s still challenging to keep weight off. The best way to lose weight when you suffer from hypothyroidism is to follow a diet that is low in calories and fat. You should exercise regularly.
Causes of Hypothyroidism
The most common cause of an underactive thyroid gland is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an inflammation of the thyroid gland and an autoimmune disorder that may be caused by a viral infection. When a person has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, the body produces antibodies that strike the thyroid gland.
Radiation therapy, iodine radiation therapy, certain medications, thyroid surgery and pregnancy may also cause hypothyroidism. Sometimes people are born with congenital hypothyroidism.
Haynes, Angela. “Thyroid Trouble.” Natural Health. December 2010/January 2011, Vol. 41 Issue 1, p54-61.
Shames, Richard and Shames, Karilee. “Feeling Fat, Fuzzy or Frazzled?” Share Guide. Jan/Feb2006, Issue 83, p27-80