An undiagnosed low thyroid – a hypothyroid or even a borderline hypothyroid condition can make it very difficult to lose weight. Even when you are aware you’re dealing with hypothyroidism, after a high TSH test, weight loss can be challenging.
Hypothyroidism, particularly when it has gone undiagnosed for a significant period, is often coupled with adrenal fatigue, which can add to interference with thyroid hormone’s function in your body.
Signs of a combined thyroid/adrenal problem can include:
- Low tolerance for stress
- Mood swings after eating carbs (hypoglycaemia)
- Tiredness, combined with issues sleeping
- Unusual sleep cycles (wakeful at night, tired in the morning)
- Low blood pressure
- Chronic allergies
- “Knocked out” by unusual exertion or jet lag
- Poor resistance to respiratory infections
Thyroid Dysfunction Blocks Weight Loss
When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, your metabolism can slow down, which in itself leads to weight gain. You may feel tired or achy, and tend to be less active. Sometimes when we’re tired we eat – and we often choose sugar or other carb-laden treats to try to make ourselves feel better or perk up.
All of this, of course, is a recipe for weight gain, NOT loss. And even patients with hyperthyroid issues can have weight gain problems…
While you may need drugs to help with thyroid-related symptoms, those too can actually cause weight gain (as can other prescription medicines) unless you work closely with your doctor. However, you can begin losing weight, even before your thyroid issues are corrected. In fact, with the right thyroid weight loss diet, your thyroid can actually be supported in regaining more normal function.
Want to Lose Weight, Even With Thyroid Issues?
Mary Shomon, a patient advocate who works with hundreds of thyroid experts, and author of Thyroid Diet Revolution, recommends that you try going gluten free. If you’ve tried to lose weight and thyroid issues are a factor, or you’ve plateaued in your weight loss, swapping out “white carbs” for fiber-rich gluten free choices such as quinoa and sweet potatoes can help you get the weight loss results you’ve been hoping for.
Shomon says “The healthier your thyroid, the faster your metabolism – and the easier it is to get lean!” Shomon explains that gluten is a wheat protein that is so similar in shape to thyroid hormone that it can “enter and block the body’s receptors for thyroid hormone.” When the gluten is removed from your diet, your thyroid has a better chance of functioning efficiently.
While giving up gluten may seem overwhelming at first glance, ask yourself if you could handle it for just four to six weeks. You’ll find that there are plenty of gluten-free alternatives to your favorite foods, and you won’t be deprived if you go gluten-free. In six weeks, if you feel better and the weight is coming off… well, then the choice of whether to continue is all yours. At least at that point you’ll know if wheat gluten is part of your previous weight gain/weight loss challenges.
Exercise Helps, When You Can Handle It
Strength training also helps, since a pound of muscle burns up to 60 calories per day (versus the 6-10 calories/day burnt by a pound of fat). Realistically, however, working out four times per week with weights might be beyond you when you’re dealing with the exhaustion that can accompany a thyroid condition, at least initially.
Add Water and Fiber
Water and Fiber definitely help, and that’s an easier change to make. Start by drinking just a couple of extra glasses of water per day – one before breakfast and one before lunch. Work your way up to at least 8 cups per day.
To increase fiber, you can choose fiber-rich foods, and/or add a supplement such as Psyllium or Guar gum. Many Americans are consuming less than 10 grams of fiber per day, so start slow and work your way up. This gives your digestive system time to adjust.
Target intake of fiber in grams per day is:
- Women up to age 50 – 25
- Men up to age 50 – 38
- Women over age 50 – 21
- Men over age 50 – 30
If you’re taking thyroid medicine, be sure to take it at least an hour before eating in the morning so that your absorption isn’t affected. High fiber diets can change the dosage requirements of your medicine, so make change in consultation with your doctor. If you’re in Hawaii, my practice specializes in medical weight loss. Book a free consultation and we’ll discuss how you can achieve your weight loss goals.