Struggling to Lose Weight? Your Thyroid Might be to Blame
There are so many reasons you can’t get rid of those extra pounds. One of the most common ones is inflammation. Another cause could be your thyroid. A lot of adults have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism...and they don’t even know it. And if you’re a woman, there’s a high chance you might have thyroid disease because women are 5 to 10 times more likely than men to develop thyroid issues
That’s a startling figure! I know so many patients who have lived with a thyroid disease for so long. In fact, up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are undiagnosed! That’s because the symptoms don’t appear too extreme on the surface, especially to your doctor. But it could be destroying your daily life and your health. And when you live your life undiagnosed, you don’t know how to treat it. You accept it as “normal” and “just deal with it.” Therefore, you’ll never feel energy, lose all that unexpected weight, and feel happy.
What is a Thyroid and How Does it Function in Your Body?
The thyroid is a little, butterfly-shaped gland located just below your Adam’s apple. Don’t be fooled-- this small gland has the power to impact nearly ALL your other organs. It produces thyroid hormones (TH) that regulates your metabolism, heartbeat, body temperature, cholesterol levels, nervous system, and SO much more. You can see how important this little gland is and how your body functions day-to- day.
Conditions like stress, autoimmune disease, viral infections, toxins, nutritional deficiencies, and even pregnancy can make your thyroid produce too much or too little TH. Which isn’t what you want...and what causes all the symptoms of thyroid disease. Because your thyroid has so much responsibility, any malfunction will change ALL these parts of your body we talked about.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid produces too little TH. When you don’t have enough TH, you’ll experience:
- Unexpected weight gain (so if you can’t lose this weight, it’s not your fault!)
- Tiredness, no matter how much you rest or sleep
- Sensitivity to cold
- Depression, sadness, or fluctuating moods
- Brain fog and poor memory
- High cholesterol
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid-- this is where you can feel it on your neck)
- Irregular or heavier periods
- Dry, scaly skin
- Loss of sex drive
- Thin, brittle hair and nails
An autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s for short) is the leading cause of hypothyroidism. With Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid. And just like hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s usually goes undiagnosed. If you have hypothyroidism, should you take Synthroid or Levothroid?
These are the most common prescriptions for treating the disorder. As a naturopathic doctor, I recommend the natural route-- someone who could help you figure out what triggers your symptoms and inflammation...someone who knows how to design a diet that eliminates these triggers, rather than relying too much on prescriptions.
What is hyperthyroidism?
As you might have guessed, hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid produces too much TH. That means your metabolism is in overdrive, which causes:
- Weight loss
- Mood swings
- Nervousness or irritability
- Fast or irregular heart rate (and palpitations)
- Heat intolerance and increased perspiration
- Changes in appetite
- An enlarged thyroid gland
- Bulging eyes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle weakness
- Shaky hand tremors
- Frequent bowel movements
- Loss of sex drive
- Changes in menstrual cycle
Just like hypothyroidism, the leading cause of hyperthyroidism is also an autoimmune disorder-- called Grave’s disease. It’s more common among women and before you’re 40 years old. If your eyes are swelling, go see your doctor. You could be the 30% of those with Grave’s who have Grave’s ophthalmopathy. This is inflammation that makes your eyes bulge, and can possibly give you vision problems.
Now, it may be no surprise to you the most common treatment for hyperthyroidism are medications, beta-blockers, and radioactive iodine. And in the most extreme cases, there’s the ever-invasive thyroid surgery (ouch!) to remove some or even the entire thyroid. But you don’t have to resort to that.
How to lose weight with thyroid problems?
An anti-inflammatory, thyroid supporting diet.
To keep your thyroid under control, you want to start by eating anti-inflammatory foods, and eliminate foods that cause inflammation. The top inflammation food culprits are gluten, processed foods, refined sugar, and caffeine. These are all the foods you’ll want to avoid if you want to heal your thyroid disease. And if you have an overactive thyroid, be careful about eating raw cruciferous vegetables... such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and brussel sprouts.
The reason is, when eaten raw and in large amounts, these veggies can block thyroid production--and aggravate your overactive thyroid. But don’t write them off completely! You can still steam these vegetables and still reap their health benefits without impacting your thyroid. What you can write off is unfermented soy-- it has the same thyroid-blocking effect and should be avoided completely. In addition to grains and some raw vegetables, you’ll want to avoid common allergens such as eggs, nuts, and nightshades (tomatoes, onions, eggplant).
If you’re allergic to any of these, they’ll cause inflammation in your body. So either eliminate them or get tested for allergies. Don’t ignore iodine and make sure you have healthy iodine levels. Iodine deficiency is sometimes seen in older women over 30 years old in the US. In some parts of the world, it’s actually the leading cause of thyroid issues. You don’t want too much-- an excess AND a shortage of iodine can give you problems.
So, talk to your doctor about whether iodine is an issue for you or not. Finally, avoid overexposure to pesticides, heavy metals, household molds, and chemicals found in cleaners and hygiene products. Environmental toxins like these can interfere with your thyroid function. The best part about this anti-inflammatory diet is it doesn’t stop at healing your diet. There are SO many more benefits.
What are the benefits of an anti-inflammatory diet?
I talk a LOT about eliminating gluten, processed foods, and sugar from your diet. It’s all part of my Bone Broth Diet and my 80/20 plan and it’s fabulous for losing weight! Turns out, a lot of the same principles of this meal plan also supports your thyroid. It gets rid of inflammation and keeps your thyroid from wreaking havoc on your health. Loading your diet with leafy greens, organic proteins, omega-3 fats and vitamin D puts your thyroid symptoms under control AND makes you look and feel absolutely amazing.
And if you supplement your diet with selenium and vitamin B12, make sure you consult your doctor first. Plus, bone broth is a huge part of the Bone Broth Diet and the 80/20 plan (and so many other of my diet programs) and is known to fight inflammation and heal your gut. And remember how your gut is roughly 80% of your immune system? There’s a connection here. If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system is out of whack. And bone broth can help you heal your gut to help treat your thyroid disease.
And it tastes phenomenal, too! The best part is, because bone broth fights inflammation, it makes it easier for you to lose weight. As you know, inflammation stops you from dropping the pounds. So if you tackle inflammation by healing your gut, you’ll enjoy a ton of other benefits...like getting rid of stubborn fat, sustained energy, and smooth, wrinkle-free skin. Personally, I’ll take healthy eating and bone broth over prescription drugs any day.
Exercise to help lose weight with thyroid problems? - h3
Remember, regular exercise helps boost your mood, keep your weight under control, and boost your metabolism. You’ll find it’s a gift for dealing with any of the symptoms we talked about. Also, keep track of what triggers any of your symptoms. Maybe it’s a toxic co-worker causing you stress, your Facebook newsfeed filled with depressing news, or eggplants that make you feel bloated.
Whatever it is (and EVERYONE is different!), get in tune with your body and know exactly what it needs-- and what it doesn’t need. If you only take away one thing now, make it his: you can heal your thyroid by changing your lifestyle. You don’t have to resort to medications or-- even worse-- surgery. Knowing what to eat, situations to avoid, and how often to exercise can make all the difference in letting your thyroid control you versus you taking control of your life.
Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!