One of the primary symptoms of hypothyroidism is weight gain, it is also one of the most frustrating. I don’t know anyone with hypothyroidism who doesn’t struggle with their weight, plus there is the bloating and the puffiness. The good news is Women’s Health Network has some options to help lose those excess pounds.

Most of us still blame our weight gain on lack of willpower, eating too much and not exercising enough. Unfortunately, magazines, the internet and even many well-meaning practitioners continue to perpetuate the blame game. But when your thyroid is imbalanced, you’re likely fighting an uphill battle with your weight that simply isn’t your fault. And you can do something to stop it.

When thyroid hormones are low, it causes physical changes in your body and brain that increase weight gain. Even with minimally low thyroid hormone, the centers of the brain that control appetite are altered and the chemical “messengers” that regulate how and when we eat get mixed up. These messengers include serotonin, beta endorphin, and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which perhaps not coincidentally, are also tightly connected to moods. If that wasn’t enough, the hormone leptin — which stimulates weight loss, decreases hunger, and increases fullness — can also become inefficient when thyroid hormone is low.

These changes often lead to sharp carbohydrate cravings, weight gain, distressing changes in body shape, as well as low energy, and depressed mood. But you have the opportunity to nip this weight gain in the bud. And the sooner you do, the less likely you’ll be continuing on the path toward worsening thyroid imbalance and even more weight gain.

4 “ingredients” to stop thyroid weight gain

1. Herbs. Several helpful herbs are known to boost thyroid function and halt thyroid-related weight gain.

Bacopa monnieri is an ayurvedic herb that can increase T4 hormones. (T4 and T3 are the thyroid hormones made and used by your body.)

Hops (yes, the same plant they use in beer!) benefit your thyroid by allowing thyroid hormones to enter cells more accessibly.

Sage contains phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that promote better hormone reception in cells as well as boost mood, memory and healthy blood sugar balance. Irregular blood sugar is often a major player in weight gain.

Ashwagandha is another ayurvedic herb that supports thyroid hormone production while also working to balance the endocrine system.

Coleus forskohlii contains an important plant chemical known as forskolin, which mimics thyroid-stimulating hormone and supports healthy body weight and mood.

We’ve put all of these herbs together in a combination formula, T-Balance, to support the healthy signaling between your thyroid and the rest of your body. This signaling is essential to staying at your best weight. If you’re already taking thyroid medication, we always suggest discussing new supplements with your practitioner.

2. Nutrients. Many vitamins and minerals play roles in thyroid health, but by far the two most important are iodine and selenium. Iodine is the most basic building block your body needs to make the key thyroid hormones T3 and T4. Iodine can be found in sea vegetables, seafood and iodized sea salt. Selenium helps to convert T4 into T3, which is the most useful hormone form. Selenium can also regulate thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism. Brazil nuts, mushrooms, beef and sunflower seeds are all healthy sources of selenium.

3. Food choices. Obviously, seafood, sea vegetables sunflower seeds, and Brazil nuts are part of a thyroid-healthy diet. But there are other important food choices you can make to support your thyroid and healthy weight.

Eliminate gluten. The first and most important recommendation is to cut back on or completely eliminate gluten from your diet. We understand this is difficult, but it can make an enormous difference in how you look and feel. Research shows that gluten has been connected to a very common form of hypothyroidism known as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or autoimmune hypothyroidism. Many foods that contain gluten (pasta, bread, cakes, pastries, etc.) are also generally high in carbohydrates that can disrupt blood sugar balance and shift your body toward weight gain.

Limit soy. Soy is another food that may disrupt thyroid function. However, if you have enough iodine in your body, the effects of soy are generally minimal. If you are taking a good multivitamin or supplement that includes iodine, cooked soy is not harmful to your thyroid.

Add protein, fiber and fat. We also recommend eating protein, fiber, and/or healthy fats with every meal. These foods minimize blood sugar highs and lows and help keep insulin levels steadier. This will not only help with your thyroid function, but also limit extra weight gain.

Eat fresh, whole foods cooked in non-plastic cookware. When you eat and drink, try to limit your exposure to bisphenol-A, found in plastic water bottles, the lining of aluminum cans and some non-stick cookware. According to the National Academy of Hypothyroidism, BPA can significantly block thyroid activity.

4. Exercise. It may be hard to get up and exercise when your thyroid function is sluggish, but research is showing that increasing your heart rate through exercise can increase your thyroid hormones. You can start by simply taking a walk around the block, renting a gentle yoga DVD from the library, or taking a swim at your local pool. We suggest finding “a friend, family member or co-worker who wants to take regular walks and set a time each day to take a walk together.” This way you can keep each other motivated.

A new approach for a new you!

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