Slow Down: The Effects of Hypothyroidism
If you are stuck to your couch like glue, there may not be a lot of mystery about a bit of weight gain. But what could be the cause if you are maintaining an active lifestyle and eating right, yet you still find yourself gaining weight? The cause of otherwise unexpected weight gain could be a problem with your thyroid gland.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Your thyroid gland is a small, but critically important, part of your endocrine system. With its role in regulating levels of several hormones, your thyroid can affect everything from body weight and heart rate to body temperature.
More than 5% of the overall adult population in the United States has some form of hypothyroidism, though the numbers of people who are undiagnosed may be higher. Women are more than 10 times more likely to have issues with an underactive thyroid than men. Life events such as pregnancy and menopause are risk factors that significantly increase a woman’s chance of thyroid disease.
The most common cause of low thyroid function is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. People with this autoimmune condition suffer from low thyroid hormone levels as their immune system begins mistakenly attacking their thyroid.
Another common, but preventable cause of an insufficiently active thyroid is iodine deficiency. Though relatively rare in the developed world, a diet lacking in this important nutrient can leave you prone to poor thyroid health.
More serious than iodine deficiency or Hashimoto’s disease is the risk of thyroid cancer. This form of cancer is often treatable, but can still be deadly. A history of other cancers, radiation treatment or exposure, or some medications can all make you more prone to this potentially lethal thyroid condition.
The Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Possible weight gain is not the only symptom associated with below average thyroid hormone levels. Since the hormones regulated by your thyroid have an effect on processes throughout your body, everything from skin health to heart issues and digestive functioning could be brought on by thyroid issues. A few of the other signs to look for include the following:
- low energy levels
- changes in body temperature
- hair loss
- dry skin
- heart problems
How Much Weight do You Gain with Hypothyroidism?
It is important to know that hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, but typically it is not a large amount of body mass. Most people diagnosed with hypothyroidism will only gain 5-10 pounds, though some people, especially women, can gain more.
While thyroid problems can affect your metabolism, which may make it harder to control your weight, if you are gaining a significant amount of weight there may be another cause. Thyroid disorders can be linked to obesity, but they are not typically the only cause of large amounts of weight gain.
How much weight you gain from hypothyroidism will also be affected by factors such as your age, your basal metabolic rate (BMR), and your normal level of physical activity. Dietary factors can also influence the rate you gain or lose weight, as well as how long it takes to treat your condition. With thyroid issues, establishing the right level of synthetic hormones to reestablish your BMR can take some time, during which your weight can still fluctuate.
Can Hypothyroidism Cause Rapid Weight Gain?
Since the weight gain caused by hypothyroidism is often made up of fluid retention as well as additional body fat, it is possible the weight gain could appear to happen faster than your caloric intake would support. Typically weight gain from lower-than-average thyroid function will not come on suddenly, and it is typically paired with other symptoms that indicate something may be wrong on a hormonal level.
It is important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have concerns that your thyroid may not be functioning normally. Blood tests can give you a good idea of whether your thyroid activity is within a normal range, but this test alone may not give you an idea of the cause. Your doctor will likely refer you on to an endocrinologist to provide you a more accurate diagnosis of what might be wrong. From there, you will be presented with treatment options to get your thyroid function back in line.
Treating Hypothyropid Weight Gain
For most people who have gained weight due to thyroid issues, the first step in returning to your baseline weight is making sure your thyroid is functioning properly again. Thyroid stimulating hormones such as levothyroxine can help get your metabolic rate back up to normal, though this will not usually result in weight loss on its own. You will likely need to change your diet and exercise routines to lose any weight you gained.
If you have gained weight due to hypothyroidism, there are a few things you can do to help manage your weight going forward. These recommendations fall generally in line with those made for all causes of weight loss. Pursuing general wellness, eating healthy, avoiding stress, and cutting out alcohol are all recommended steps to regain your baseline weight. A few of the most common recommendations include:
- reduce alcohol intake
- go gluten-free
- maintain high levels of physical activity
- eat nutrient dense foods
- reduce your intake of refined carbs and sugars.
Hypothyroidism and Weight Loss
At True You Weight Loss, we know that everyone who walks through our door has a different journey with obesity. Finding freedom from excess body weight means getting the most accurate picture possible of what could be contributing to your weight gain. This means identifying common lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, and stress, but it also involves making sure you are not suffering from other known causes of weight gain.
Bariatric surgery for weight loss can be incredibly effective when it comes to helping people lose large amounts of body mass, but the stress placed on the body by this kind of procedure is significant. Any factors affecting hormone production and metabolic performance need to be examined carefully due to the severe caloric restriction that results from a traditional bariatric surgery.
Thankfully, there are other, less invasive procedures on the market today, such as endoscopic sleeve gastroplasty (or ESG), that can provide nearly the same benefits as gastric bypass surgery without some of the more serious side effects. By exposing the body to less trauma from surgery and making fewer changes to the digestive tract, ESG can lessen the chances of complications due to the rerouting of the digestive tract made during a traditional gastric bypass.
Of course, not everyone who is struggling with obesity is a good candidate for gastric bypass or even ESG. In some cases reversible, minimally invasive procedures such as gastric balloons can prove effective in helping people lose weight. For others, medication such as the FDA approved Wegovy weight loss medication can help get the results you are looking for.
If you have been struggling to achieve the weight loss results you want, the most important thing is not the particular procedure or diet plan you choose, but the team you have behind you to help you find the freedom you are looking for. At True You, we have the experience and expertise to help you through the many challenging decisions on the path to the healthy weight you are seeking.
If you are ready to take the next step toward finding freedom from excess body weight, request a consultation with True You Weight Loss today.