Is losing weight linked to thyroid function? Unfortunately, no matter what you try, losing weight with hypothyroidism is almost impossible, and you probably are still gaining!
Are you trying to lose weight, but instead, you have been gaining weight steadily for the last few months or maybe years? The frustrating part is that many of you have had your thyroid checked but were told everything is normal. Not to mention, those with low thyroid hormone levels are told that only 10% of the weight gain is linked to hypothyroidism. Yea, right!
So, What Gives?
If you have been gaining weight, look at what else is going on in your life, specifically- are you tired, do you have brain fog, moody or depressed, or constipated?
There are many reasons we gain weight; age, poor diet, stress, lifestyle, and health problems, and unfortunately, those issues contribute to poor thyroid function, which often leads to weight gain.
The thyroid, located at the base of your neck, secretes hormones that regulate all the functions in your body. These hormones are the messengers between the body’s cells, keeping everything in sync. If your thyroid function slows, you will notice symptoms including fatigue, constipation, mood changes, weight gain, skin issues, vision changes, memory loss, and feeling cold.
However, the changes often happen slowly, and you may not even notice until those changes start interfering with your life. And you are far from alone; it’s estimated that over 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid dysfunction.
What Causes Thyroid Dysfunction?
Many functional medicine and holistic doctors believe stress, nutrient deficiencies, and environmental toxins are the top three contributors to thyroid dysfunction. In addition, environmental toxins are linked to the rise in autoimmune diseases. The toxic burden damages the thyroid and overloads the body’s detoxification process, leading to the inflammation that is the root cause of autoimmune diseases.
Is Your Weight Gain Linked To Your Thyroid?
I know that some of you are saying, “My doctor checked my thyroid. Everything is normal!” However, many are still suffering from the symptoms of low thyroid hormone, including weight gain.
Many who have thyroid dysfunction or disease will test at the high or low end of the hormone level chart, leading doctors to believe all is well and dismiss the symptoms’ severity. These patients fall into the “subclinical hypothyroidism” class, where many doctors believe no treatment is needed because the thyroid will correct itself. However, some doctors believe that “subclinical hypothyroidism” is the start of full-blown thyroid disease.
At-home thyroid test by Dr. Broda Barnes
If you have had your TSH levels tested and were told everything is fine but still have symptoms, you can try Dr. Barnes’s at-home test.
Dr. Broda Barnes studied endocrine disease, particularly hypothyroidism. During the 1970s, he wrote several books claiming hypothyroidism was underdiagnosed in the U.S. and was the cause of a wide variety of health issues.
Dr. Barnes developed and promoted a diagnostic test for thyroid function in the 1970s known as the “Barnes Basal Temperature Test.”
Immediately upon waking and before rising for 5-7 consecutive days, place a thermometer in the armpit for 10 minutes. If you are premenopausal, start the 2nd-3rd day of menstruation.
Some physicians recommend taking your temperature for 2 to 4 days in a row, while a few believe (including Dr. Barnes) that you need to take your temperature for several consecutive days for the most reliable information.
Dr. Barnes considered an average measurement of 97.8 °F (36.6 °C) or below to indicate hypothyroidism, especially if hypothyroid symptoms are present. Barnes also believed a reading over 98.2 °F (36.8 °C) was indicative of hyperthyroidism.
Losing Weight With Hypothyroidism
As I said earlier, the increase in thyroid disease and the problem of losing weight with hypothyroidism are linked to three triggers: stress, environmental toxins, and nutrient deficiencies. Making some changes will help take the pressure off your thyroid, allowing it to produce enough thyroid hormone to balance out your body and regulate your metabolism, helping with weight loss and easing symptoms.
Stress has an impact on your thyroid. Stress also can trigger autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Mild exercise will help reduce stress and ease anxiety; keep in mind if you have thyroid disease, start slowly and gradually increase your activity. Extreme cardio will increase joint discomfort and cause more stress. Instead, focus on stretching, yoga, and walking for easy workouts that don’t overdo an already out-of-balance body.
Honestly, I’m not a yoga fan, and I don’t do much stretching, but I love my walks. Those walks ease my stress, lower my anxiety and boost my mood. I try to walk a mile to a mile and a half every day. I love to walk out in nature, but I walk at the mall during the colder months since I live in South Dakota. We have gotten to know several walkers at the mall, so we get socialization, exercise, and have a few laughs.
The key is to do an activity you like, but you still have to get up, get started, and do it, which is easier said than done. My partner and I have an agreement that we can only skip our walks twice a week. Illness and family gatherings are the only exceptions; we try to work around all other conflicts. Do we always walk? No, but we have gotten a lot more consistent. We do laugh at the excuses we try to come up with!
Eliminate Environmental Toxins
The thyroid is highly susceptible to environmental toxins because these toxins have a structure similar to thyroid hormones. The thyroid is intended to draw up iodine (a halogen) and selenium (a metalloid) to produce thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, the thyroid also accumulates harmful halogens and metals that mimic thyroid hormones, disrupting hormone production and slowing metabolism.
These toxins are divided into four groups: industrial chemicals, pesticides and herbicides, toxins in consumer goods, and heavy metals, all of which make losing weight with hypothyroidism practically impossible.
The three most common are perchlorate, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxin. Research has shown they significantly disrupt thyroid function.
Perchlorate–Perchlorate contains chlorine, a halogen with the same ionic charge as iodine. As a result, perchlorate competes with iodide, a vital component of T4, for uptake by the thyroid resulting in lowered thyroid hormone production.
Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs– PCBs disrupt thyroid function in various ways. PCBs also contain chlorine and are similar to thyroid hormone, leading to multiple disruptions with hormone receptors and thyroid transport proteins, leading to decreased available T4. PCBs are also responsible for hindering liver enzymes needed to convert T4 to T3 and are linked to increased thyroid antibodies associated with autoimmune thyroid disease.
Dioxin– Like the previous two chemicals, dioxin is a manufacturing by-product, including plastic and pesticide production. Acceptable exposure levels are linked to decreased T4 and slowed thyroid function, affecting females more than males. Dioxin mimics thyroid hormone and interrupts the excretion of hormones out of the body.
Pesticides and Herbicides–
Pesticides and herbicides interfere with gene expression, stop iodine uptake by the thyroid, bind to uptake proteins, and remove thyroid hormone from the body.
Toxins in Household Products-
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)- also known as flame retardants, are one class of toxins that harm the thyroid. These chemicals are in furniture, computer and tv screens, synthetic textiles, and carpet padding. PBDEs contain bromine, a halogen that mimics thyroid hormone and prevents T4 from being transported in the blood. They also compete for receptor binding sites and disrupt estrogen levels.
Plastics- BPA, and phthalates, known as plasticizers, mimic natural hormones and disrupt the endocrine system, which includes the thyroid. For example, BPA (Bisphenol A) found in plastic bottles, and food-can linings alter thyroid cells. While phthalates, found in vinyl flooring, plastics, and personal care products, inhibit thyroid hormone from binding to its receptors, disrupting function.
The last three household toxins to be aware of-
Triclosan is an antibacterial chemical found in liquid hand soap and many personal care products linked to breast cancer.
PFOA-This chemical used in non-stick cookware and stain-resistant fabrics can cause testicular and kidney cancer. In addition, studies show that triclosan and PFOA lower T4 slowing thyroid function.
Fluoride-Last but not least is fluoride. Did you know that in the 1940s and 1950s, doctors used fluoride to slow overactive thyroids? If you drink tap water, you are most likely ingesting enough fluoride to slow your thyroid function.
The metals impacting thyroid function the most are lead, cadmium, mercury, and aluminum.
Lead– is found in inexpensive jewelry, children’s toys, and paint in old homes. Exposure has been linked to slowed thyroid function and elevated TSH.
Cadmium– This heavy metal is found in plastics, pigments, batteries, sewage, and phosphate fertilizers. Exposure has been linked to goiter and may lead to thyroid cancer.
Mercury– Sources of exposure include seafood, dental amalgams, and coal-burning power plants. Mercury reduces iodide uptake, reducing thyroid hormone production.
Aluminum– is commonly found in antacids, deodorants, food additives, and aluminum-based cookware. Aluminum damages the thyroid, reducing iodide uptake and limiting hormone production. It can also trigger an immune response leading to the production of antibodies, which may target the thyroid.
As you can see, the thyroid has several toxins that mimic its structure and disrupt its function. The main problem isn’t so much of each toxin; it’s so many toxins from so many areas of our lives.
My doctor explained that a dysfunctional thyroid causes problems everywhere in the body. The thyroid is a gland in the endocrine system. This system is made up of glands that produce hormones; these hormones act as messengers between the cells in our bodies. So when one gland starts having issues, it doesn’t take long for the whole system to get out of sync.
So the plan he laid out for me included supplements, foods to nourish the thyroid, and foods to avoid or eat in moderation.
The supplements recommended included-
Vitamin D– It’s believed that this vitamin deficiency leads to an underactive thyroid. Doctors once believed vitamin D was linked to autoimmune thyroid disease, but a recent study discovered all hypothyroidism was linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Selenium- In the ’90s, selenium was identified as a vital component of activating thyroid hormone. Now, selenium deficiency is studied as a cause of thyroid disorders. Selenium supplementation has been shown to help ease Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s disease and may help with postpartum thyroiditis.
Iodine– Since your thyroid needs iodine to produce thyroid hormones, adding iodine to your diet can improve your thyroid function. However, adding too much can cause the over-production of thyroid hormone or hyperthyroidism.
Zinc- This mineral is vital for making the thyroid hormones T3, T4, and TSH. Zinc is often combined with magnesium, selenium, and copper. However, testing is recommended, so only the supplements you need in the proper amounts are taken.
Probiotics- Leaky gut syndrome is a common cause of hypothyroidism. Probiotics are a proven treatment for leaky gut and a risk factor for Hashimoto’s.
Tumeric- Taking turmeric daily may help reduce inflammation and reduce the risks of clinical hypothyroidism.
Vitamin B12- People over 50 are commonly deficient in B12, plus under-treated hypothyroidism combined with a vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of stroke.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids- These healthy fats are primarily in fish, fish oil supplements, and nuts. The anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting acids are beneficial for those who have autoimmune thyroid disease.
If you take Biotin for better hair, skin, and nails, you should not take it for a few days before checking your TSH levels. This is because Biotin may make your TSH levels appear lower than it is.
Your Thyroid Needs Your Help
It’s no wonder you feel the way you do!
But, I have good news! You can fix this!
Will it be easy? No, not going to lie!
But if you want your life back, you need to make some changes. Some changes are as easy as changing the vegetable oil you use. Another change I made was to drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Lemon water helps the liver clear out toxins and improves T4 to T3 conversion. Other changes will be more complex, and keep in mind that what works for some may not work for you. There are many causes of thyroid dysfunction, such as menopause, but supporting and caring for your thyroid will only make your life better including losing weight with hypothyroidism.
One way to get the support you need from the medical community is to find a functional medicine doctor to test for deficiencies you may have and adjust medications if needed. In addition, they focus on whole-body wellness and finding the root cause of your thyroid dysfunction. Also, following a thyroid healing diet eases symptoms and relieves inflammation allowing healing throughout the body. Another plus of focusing on whole-body wellness is a stronger immune system, which lessens the chances of developing another autoimmune disease.