Underactive thyroid? Check! Weight gain? Check! Weight loss? Nope! If you are a thyroid patient being treated for hypothyroidism and are struggling to lose body weight, you are not alone. 4.6 percent of Americans have hypothyroidism, and many are in the same boat as you, struggling with undesirable weight gain.
You may have thought that getting the hypothyroidism diagnosed and treated would fix everything- but it didn’t. The weight is still hanging on, and you may even find yourself gaining more of it! Consequently, this can lead to a hopeless and frustrating cycle that makes attaining your body composition goals seem impossible.
Meeting Your Weight Goals is Not Impossible!
Let’s break this all down so you can get a better idea of what’s happening, why it’s happening, and what you can do about it.
The Thyroid Gland: Small but Mighty!
This small butterfly-shaped gland is located on the lower front of your neck. As a gland, it secretes hormones, including T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). These act on every cell in your body to regulate body temperature, metabolism, and growth and development. They also affect:
- Your heart
- Nervous system functions
- Menstrual cycles
- Muscle strength
- Cholesterol levels
Thyroid problems are common, particularly among women. Thyroid conditions can show up as something as simple as a goiter or as complex and life-threatening as cancer.
What Does Thyroid Health Have to Do with Weight Loss?
Weight gain or the inability to lose weight is a common struggle for people with hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism= too little hormone to meet the body’s needs, so the body functions slow. Common causes of an underactive thyroid include:
- Autoimmune disease
- Radiation treatments
- Treatments for hyperthyroidism
- Certain medications
- Surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid
Hypothyroidism is treated with daily thyroid hormone pills to replace the amount of hormone your body is no longer producing. Even when on a course of treatment, they usually only lose a modest amount of weight. Why?
There is a correlation between thyroid hormones and factors directly affecting energy expenditure, such as fat tissue, other hormones, and the brain. Clinicians haven’t quite cracked it yet, but they are certain that there is a link between obesity and hypothyroidism.
Barriers of Thyroid Health and Weight Loss
So, you’re on your thyroid medication. Why are you still gaining and not losing weight?
Your Thyroid Treatment Isn’t Doing the Trick
Most doctors treat people with hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone replacement medication to restore thyroid hormone levels back to the “reference range.” This range is a set of values that determine what is normal for a defined healthy population. When you fall within the TSH reference range, your thyroid function is considered functioning clinically “normal,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is optimal for you. You can still experience symptoms even if you fall in the “normal” range.
Low Metabolic Set Point Caused by Hypothyroidism
Metabolism is the process that converts the food you eat into energy. For example, your metabolism is like a thermostat. It maintains your body fat percentage by slowing down or speeding up to maintain a certain range. Hypothyroidism can lead to a chronically slower metabolism. When that happens, the body adjusts, decreases your metabolic set point, and because fewer calories are needed to maintain your weight, it’s harder to lose it.
Other Thyroid Hormones You May Be Taking
The most common treatment used for hypothyroidism is synthetic T4 hormone, aka levothyroxine. T4 is not the only thyroid hormone that affects your metabolism.
Triiodothyronine (T3) is also involved with metabolism. T3 delivers oxygen and energy at the cellular level. It is produced by the thyroid and through the conversion of T4 to T3. If your T3 levels are low, then you may have a lower resting metabolic rate. If that’s the case, you have to eat less and exercise more to maintain your current weight or lose fat. Some people have a genetic predisposition and have an increased need for T3. If you are one of these people, then you may benefit from a T4/T3 combination therapy, such as levothyroxine plus liothyronine (synthetic T3).
But wait! There’s more! There is a transportation hormone called Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG) that carries T3 and T4 through your bloodstream to your cells. If your TBG levels are out of whack, your thyroid hormones cannot get to your cells efficiently, which gets us back into metabolic problems.
People with hypothyroidism tend to be insulin resistant. Insulin helps your body absorb the excess sugar in your blood to protect your body from high glucose levels. It also stores sugar to use for energy when you need it.
For instance, if your insulin levels remain chronically elevated, your body becomes insulin resistant. This means you need more insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Elevated insulin causes weight gain, even if you eat fewer calories because it makes your cells better at storing fat and increases cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods.
Leptin regulates metabolism and appetite. Suppose your hypothalamus becomes unresponsive to chronically high levels of leptin. In that case, your brain thinks the body is in a state of starvation, which means it’s going to slow down your metabolism and decrease your metabolic set point. But there’s more! Your appetite is going to increase as well! Do you see a cycle starting here? Now you are chronically hungry, but your body isn’t using stored fat. Evidently, this is a recipe for weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
Now You Have the Knowledge, Let’s Take Action!
Is your motivation lagging because you’re working your butt off and eating all the right things at the right times, but the weight is sticking around? Here are four action steps that you may not have tried yet.
- Get your thyroid tested. You may need to go on medication if you aren’t already or adjust your current medication and supplement with T3 to get to optimal thyroid levels.
- Optimize your thyroid medication with levothyroxine.
- Get tested for insulin and leptin resistance.
- Explore our metabolism protocols and contact us for a consultation.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
Are you suffering from symptoms of Hypothyroidism? Need to know more about thyroid health and weight loss? Contact us for a consultation.
Ready to boost your metabolism and burn fat? Explore our protocols!