Understanding how your thyroid function supports or impairs weight loss can be important, particularly if you are struggling to lose weight even though you are making healthy lifestyle choices. This is an area where medical weight loss under a doctor’s supervision can really help you overcome the physical challenges in your way.
Too Little Thyroid Hormone Impedes Weight Loss
Your thyroid is a gland in your neck that produces hormones that are responsible for controlling aspects of your metabolic function. If your thyroid is not producing enough of the correct hormones to signal your brain, it’s known as hypothyroidism. The results can be:
- Metabolic rate reduced by up to 25%
- Poor metabolism of sugars
- Reduced fat breakdown
- Reduced insulin sensitivity
All of these can make it difficult to lose weight, even if you are otherwise making the right choices.
Too Much Thyroid Hormone Is Dangerous
Too much thyroid signalling is also a problem – a delicate balance must be maintained. While thyroid hormones can be administered by prescription, too much would trigger:
- Increased heart rate
- Increased fat loss
- Increased metabolism
- Increased muscle burning
- Improved expression of genes important to sugar (glucose) metabolism
These symptoms can occur on their own, without excessive prescription thyroid medication. This combination of symptoms may be diagnosed as hyperthyroidism.
While some of these symptoms may sound like a good thing from a weight loss perspective, they’re dangerous, since the heart is stressed, insulin sensitivity can be impaired, and too much muscle can be burned, which makes it harder to keep the weight off long term.
Keeping Your Thyroid Healthy
There are things you can do to support healthy activity in your thyroid. The most important is to make sure you get adequate iodine in your diet. Iodine is present in several forms. When it occurs as a salt, it is referred to as iodide.
Choosing iodine-rich foods can be helpful. Most table salt in the US and Canada is iodized, so it is a source of iodine. If you’re getting a half-teaspoon of iodized salt every day, you’re probably meeting your minimum requirements for iodine. In regions such as Europe where salt isn’t iodized, up to 52% of the population has insufficient iodine intake.
In regions where the soil is iodine-depleted, the risk of iodine deficiency is increased for people who consume foods from those areas.
If you’re on a low-salt diet or choosing sea salt for its rich minerals, you’ll need to be careful to increase the iodine-containing foods in your diet. Most people will aim for about 300 mcg of iodide per day. Somewhat more can be fine – the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 1100 mcg of iodide daily as a maximum intake.
Pregnant women require higher levels of iodine – consult your doctor.
Vitamin D is also associated with thyroid dysfunction, and obese people typically have lower levels of vitamin D. Inflammation can also reduce your body’s utilization of vitamin D, and inflammation is commonly associated with obesity. If you are struggling to lose weight, it may be appropriate to have your vitamin D levels tested, and to consult your doctor about vitamin D supplement dosage.
Iodine-Rich Foods And Other Sources
- Seaweed (content varies according to type and location harvested)
- Dairy products
- Grain products
- Fish and shrimp
- Fruits and vegetables (limited amount)
- Iodized salt
- Seaweed or iodine supplements
Your doctor can test you for thyroid function and help you optimize for healthy weight loss.