Maintaining a healthy body weight is often an issue for those suffering from hypothyroidism. Because January is Thyroid Awareness Month there is no better time to make a New Year’s resolution to support your thyroid with healthy habits. Losing weight is usually at the top of everyone’s New Year’s list, but for those with hypothyroidism that task can seem insurmountable. Hypothyroidism has a significant impact on one’s weight in several ways. Understanding these contributors, acting to resolve them, and altering lifestyle can help your weight loss and thyroid goals become reality.
How is Hypothyroidism Inhibiting Weight Loss?
Being well-informed of the impact that hypothyroidism has on weight management is a critical step in both treating the condition and maintaining a healthy weight.
Hypothyroidism and Metabolism:
One’s metabolism plays an important part in dictating the amount of energy consumed, or calories burned, on a daily basis. This has a significant effect on one’s overall weight. Fluctuations in basal metabolic rate, or BMR, regulates how much energy one takes in compared to the amount of energy burned or stored. Previously, it was believed that changes in thyroid hormone levels had a direct correlation and impact on BMR, and therefore weight management. This is only partially true. Yes, thyroid hormone influences the metabolism, meaning that people with low levels of thyroid hormone (common in those with hypothyroidism) see a drop in metabolic function. However, there are other factors including medications such as antidepressants, synthetic hormone replacement, and diabetes medications that can inhibit metabolic efficacy.
Knowing the Difference: T3 and Reverse T3:
Assuming the thyroid is healthy, the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) is converted into the active form of thyroid hormone (T3) which promotes metabolic activity. However, the body also has a safety measure to inhibit an overactive metabolism, through the conversion of T4 into Reverse T3. This hormone blocks active thyroid hormone in order to reduce metabolic rate. This is a perfectly healthy action if the two (Reverse T3 and T3) are kept in balance. Unfortunately, particularly for those with hypothyroidism, this is not always the case. If T4 is regularly and improperly converted into either T3 or Reverse T3, one’s metabolism can become either dangerously overactive (hyperthyroidism) or dangerously underactive (hypothyroidism). Those with hypothyroidism can experience excessive levels of Reverse T3, inhibiting weight loss.
Leptin and Weight Management:
The thyroid assists in managing nearly all hormones in the body, including leptin. This hormone produced in fat cells assists in regulating body weight. It does so by informing the rest of the body if continuing to eat at present is necessary to maintain caloric balance. Research has shown that leptin signaling tends to be dysfunctional in overweight individuals who have difficulty with weight loss. Leptin coordinates with the thyroid to regulate one’s metabolism.
An increased leptin level normally notifies the thyroid that additional thyroid hormone needs to be produced to increase metabolic burning of calories. However, it is common for those with hypothyroidism to experience leptin resistance in addition to improper conversion of T4 to T3. Overweight individuals tend to experience leptin resistance because excess fat equates to greater leptin production. Normally, elevated levels let the hypothalamus know that one doesn’t need more food. But if leptin is consistently overproduced, the body builds up a resistance, meaning that it doesn’t respond to normal leptin levels. This can cause inadequate production of thyroid hormone leading to, along with a slew of other issues, reduced metabolism and difficulty losing weight.
Breaking the Cycle
Although weight loss and hypothyroidism are an incredibly frustrating and challenging combination, it is possible to overcome it. The first hurdle is understanding the condition. The second, is acting on and adopting new habits that help reduce weight and support better thyroid health. The following changes can be a good place to start in achieving the goals of losing weight and managing hypothyroidism.
Inflammation is a major contributor to weight gain. Unfortunately, many aren’t aware of how many inflammatory agents they regularly consume. Reducing intake of foods such as gluten, dairy products, artificial sweeteners, soy, and processed or fast foods can significantly reduce inflammation and promote weight loss.
Over-consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugars may also lead to insulin resistance, which makes it increasingly difficult for the body to maintain proper blood sugar levels. Improperly maintained blood sugar can impact the thyroid and lead to diabetes.
Avoiding high-glycemic carbohydrates such as pizza, rice, pasta, potatoes, sugary cereals, and corn can be particularly beneficial for those with hypothyroidism as they are at greater risk of insulin resistance. Look to fulfill the body’s sugar craving by eating more fruits and veggies, many of which have the bonus of containing beneficial anti-oxidants.
Anti-inflammatories and other dietary supplements can be greatly beneficial in reducing inflammation and balancing nutrient levels throughout the body. Some particularly beneficial supplements include vitamin D, turmeric, and glutathione. Multivitamins can also assist in keeping one’s nutrient levels balanced while following a new diet. To ensure that the body has all the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs to function, incorporating dietary supplements can help. It is always best to speak with a physician before starting a supplement routine to know what works best for one’s unique situation.
Get Enough Sleep:
This may be the easiest New Year’s goal to set but may not in fact be the easiest to keep. Even though getting adequate sleep is critical for proper health and weight loss, many people don’t get enough of it. If one requires more motivation to sleep more, a study was conducted that showed women who slept 5 hours a night exhibited a 32% greater chance of major weight gain (33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to achieve levels of obesity within the 16-year period of the study. This data was shown in contrast to participants who slept for 7 hours each night. Keep in mind, some people may require up to 9 hours of sleep per night to feel their best. Allowing the body to rest and properly reset its internal systems can help malfunctioning areas resolve their issues.
Keep the Goals, Get Rid of the Weight
Now that you have a better understanding of the impact of hypothyroidism in regards to weight management it’s time to act. Pursuing more information on thyroid health and maintenance may provide more than ways to help lose weight, but also achieve better quality of life. Even though hypothyroidism is a complex and frustrating condition, don’t let it keep you from your health goals. In celebration of the New Year and greater thyroid awareness, use these lifestyle suggestions to set yourself on the path for weight loss and improved thyroid health.