Thyroid and Weight Loss – Can Thyroid Problems Promote Weight Loss?

By Summer Banks on Dec 07, 2017

The topics of both weight loss and obesity are everywhere. For an increasing number of patients, your issue may have more to do with your thyroid and weight loss problems than improper gym form or nutrition.

Consumers are constantly bombarded with everything from celebrities selling diet systems to research findings on the devastating impact of chronic disease related to unhealthy weight gain.

However, what can you do when you’re doing everything right to lose weight but your scale numbers keep going up?

What is Connection Between the Thyroid and Weight Loss?

When looking at weight loss and your thyroid, hormones can either speed up or slow down actions in your body, as well as have the potential to impact every organ and almost every cell in the body. One area of great concern for those with thyroid and weight loss challenges is the impact these hormones have on your overall metabolism.

Metabolism is how your body takes the food and drinks you consume and either burns their calories as energy or stores them away for the future as fat. If you have a condition where too little of these thyroid hormones are produced, metabolism slows down and weight gain often occurs.

If too much of these hormones are produced, metabolism may be too high, resulting in unplanned weight loss. “Cutting out coffee and caffeine is crucial to healing your thyroid because of the connection between your thyroid, gut and adrenals. While it’s my clients’ least favorite thing to cut out of their diet initially, by the end of the week, when they have more energy than they’ve had in years and their symptoms begin disappearing, they are always happy they made that simple change in their lives.” states Jen Wittman, Holistic Health Expert, Author & Thyroid Coach

Bottom Line: The hormones produced by your thyroid gland play an important role in homeostasis within the body. Too much or too little hormone production can cause unwanted changes in metabolism resulting in unplanned weight loss or weight gain.

Endocrine System

Endocrine System

Thyroid and weight loss issues start in the endocrine system. This important system makes up the various glands in your body that regularly pump hormones into the bloodstream to help maintain homeostasis or balance.

Hormones are molecules produced by various endocrine glands that elicit a response in the body based on stimuli that cause them to be released. Endocrine glands include structures like the pituitary, gonads and adrenal glands, but of special importance is the relationship between weight loss and your thyroid gland.

The Thyroid Gland

The thyroid gland has two main functions in the human body, calcium regulation and metabolic regulation. For calcium balance, the thyroid gland depends on the hormone calcitonin, which regulates calcium metabolism, or how quickly calcium is removed from the bloodstream.

When looking at the thyroid and weight loss problems, it’s the thyroid’s production of hormones like thyroxine [T4] and triiodothyronine [T3] that need attention as they control the metabolic processes in the cells that can lead to weight loss or weight gain.

Bottom Line: Thyroid balance and weight loss begins and ends with the endocrine system, a complex group of glands responsible for hormone production and regulation.

Hormonal Imbalance

With much of the body’s ability to maintain homeostasis resting on the endocrine system, any imbalance of hormone production can cause changes internally and externally to both the look and function of your body.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism

Various conditions and symptoms can develop based on your thyroid balance and weight loss. One of the most common of these conditions is hypothyroidism.

Overview

Hypothyroidism and low thyroid and weight loss may be the culprit when you’re doing everything right to lose weight but can’t seem to lose any pounds on the scale.

Hypothyroidism is an under-active thyroid gland that can’t keep up with the hormone production necessary to maintain an active metabolism and homeostasis. It’s different than a weight loss plateau in that nothing you do seems to have a long-term positive impact on your weight.

Cause

Internationally, the most common cause of hypothyroidism is a lack of iodine in the diet.

However, many food manufacturers in the United States supplement salt with iodine, making the condition less common in the states.

As such, the majority of cases in the U.S. are caused by either an autoimmune disease like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or some form of physical damage to the gland.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Swelling in the legs
  • Depression
  • Forgetfulness
  • A decrease in perspiration
  • Muscle cramping
  • Blurred vision
  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation
  • Mood swings

Impacts On Weight

One of the primary problems seen with under-active glands is hypothyroid and weight loss problems combined. Since the thyroid is producing fewer thyroid hormones, metabolism in the body is slowed down, resulting in fewer calories that are consumed being burned and used as energy.

Unfortunately, a slower metabolism makes it easier to gain weight.

Treatments

The most common treatment for hypothyroidism is hormone replacement. Synthetic thyroxine pills contain a substance similar to the T4 thyroid hormone which can over time restore balance in the body.

After starting thyroid medication and weight loss, how long it takes to see results varies depending on each individual’s metabolism.

Bottom Line: Having low thyroid and weight loss complications due to this condition is common and in many cases can be controlled by hormone replacement medications.

Hyperthyroidism

Hyperthyroidism

Overview

Hyperthyroidism is the opposite of hypothyroidism and develops with an over-active thyroid that produces more hormones than the body needs to maintain balance. [1]

Cause

The majority of hyperthyroidism cases are caused by Graves’ disease, a condition in which antibodies in the blood turn on the thyroid causing damage that makes the gland grow and overproduce hormones.

In fact, statistics from the American Thyroid Association suggest that as many as 70 percent of cases can be attributed to this disease. The condition is often passed down through genetics, especially among women.

Symptoms

Symptoms of this condition include increased appetite, sweating, irregular or rapid heartbeat, nervousness, anxiety, tremors, difficulty sleeping, thinning skin and brittle hair.

How It Impacts Weight

An overactive thyroid and weight loss are often connected as too much thyroid hormone speeds up your metabolism causing more calories to be burned as energy.

Weight loss will often occur suddenly without any changes to your diet or exercise routine.

Treatments

Treatment for hyperthyroidism involves medications that partially block the thyroid’s ability to make new hormones called antithyroid agents.

The most common of these medications is methimazole (Tapazole) with propylthiouracil used less often due to its potential side effects.

Regarding thyroid medication and weight loss how long you’ll have to wait before your regular weight returns will vary.

Radioactive iodine may also be used to destroy thyroid cells to lower hormone production as well as beta-adrenergic blocking agents which can lessen the effect thyroid hormones have on the body.

In severe cases, surgical removal of part of the gland may be recommended.

Bottom Line: Hyperthyroidism is generally caused by a genetic condition known as Grave’s Disease. Anti-thyroid agents and other medications lessen or block the production and effects of thyroid hormones.

Thyroid Conditions

Additional Thyroid Conditions

Overview

While hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are the most common issues regarding the thyroid gland, goiters and certain infections can also cause thyroid and weight loss issues.

Cause

Goiters are growths in the thyroid gland that develop either in relation to Grave’s disease or due to adenomas caused by benign or cancerous tumors.

Outside the United States, goiters may also form due to a lack of iodine in the diet.

Thyroid infections, or thyroiditis, develop due to immune deficiencies or viral infections. They may also develop post pregnancy known as postpartum thyroiditis.

Symptoms

The symptoms of goiters and thyroiditis vary depending on whether they result in an increase in hormone production or a decrease in production.

Postpartum thyroiditis can cause both, with an initial increase in production followed by a drop into hypothyroidism.

Only your doctor can determine the exact cause of your thyroid and weight loss changes.

Impacts On Weight

Like hyperthyroidism, both goiters and thyroiditis can cause varying levels of unexplained weight loss where your weight continues to drop even without changing the number of calories consumed or burned while exercising. They can also cause weight gain if the condition decreases hormone output.

Treatments

The treatment for growth and infections vary depending on their cause.

As these conditions often form in relation to hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, treating those conditions often also treats the goiter or infection.

Bottom Line: Infections or growths involving the thyroid can result in either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, with impacts to both the thyroid and associated weight loss or gain.

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Thyroid Function Test

Many symptoms of both hyper and hypothyroidism overlapping with a multitude of other diseases and conditions.

It’s important to get a thyroid function test to ensure a correct diagnosis and treatment. [2]

TSH

A blood test is typical when diagnosing thyroid function and looks for certain markers or abnormalities in each sample.

The most common item tested for is thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH levels tell doctors whether or not the thyroid is broken or failing. Low TSH levels denote hyperthyroidism.

T3 Tests

T3 tests are requested when a doctor suspects hyperthyroidism.

High levels of T3 hormones suggest the thyroid is over-producing and needs treatment to better regulate or stop the hormone’s production.

T4 Tests

A T4 test not only helps a doctor diagnose a thyroid condition but it can also determine why the thyroid is malfunctioning.

For example, a low T4 test mixed with a high TSH test gives clues to a thyroid disease causing hypothyroidism while an elevated T4 and a low TSH test point to hyperthyroidism.

Thyroid Antibody Test

As mentioned earlier, hyperthyroidism can be caused by your immune system targeting the thyroid like it would a virus or other invasive organism.

A thyroid antibody test looks at positive anti-thyroid peroxidase and anti-thyroglobulin antibodies. If these antibodies are present in a patient with an over-active thyroid, autoimmune thyroid disease may be the diagnosis.

If the antibodies are present in a patient with an under-active thyroid, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a likely diagnosis. [3]

Bottom Line: Your doctor may use a combination of tests using a blood sample to determine whether your thyroid is over or under active, as well as to diagnose the disease or conditions causing the change in function.

Thyroid Medications

Removing the Thyroid

In some rare cases, your doctor may recommend the complete removal of the thyroid gland. This is usually reserved for four main instances.

The main reason is if your doctor suspects a nodule on gland is cancerous. [4]

Second, it may be removed if you’ve already been diagnosed with cancer as part of your treatment plan.

Third, removal might be recommended if a goiter is impacting other important structures causing difficulty breathing or swallowing. Finally, the gland may be removed if it’s releasing toxic levels of thyroid hormone.

Impact on Weight Loss

The connection between thyroid removal and weight loss is clear in that less thyroid hormone will be produced in the body.

Less of these hormones means a slower metabolism. Moreover, a slow metabolism makes it more challenging to maintain or lose weight.

Bottom Line: All or part of the thyroid gland may need to be removed in serious health conditions where leaving it in the body causes greater side effects than removing it, with a confirmed correlation between thyroid removal and weight loss problems.

Underactive Thyroid

Thyroid Diet

When it comes to developing a hypothyroid and weight loss diet, it’s important to work with your doctor.

Restricting diet may help with hypothyroid and weight loss.

However, too much restriction can rob the body of necessary nutrients for overall health and wellness.

Bottom Line: A hypothyroid and weight loss diet developed in partnership with your doctor can help combat weight gain.

Thyroid and Weight Loss Supplements

When looking at thyroid medication and weight loss how long you have to wait to see results is a common concern.

Results vary based on individual attributes ranging from what caused the abnormalities and the severity of the condition, to your current weight, activity level, diet, and overall health.

What’s most important is following your doctor’s instructions on how to take the medication, as too little of the medication may fail to treat your symptoms, while too much in the case of hypothyroidism can accidentally lead to symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Bottom Line: The weight loss results of starting medications for thyroid issues vary depending on factors ranging from condition severity to your overall individual health level.

Your doctor may recommend thyroid and weight loss supplements to help combat underactive thyroid and weight loss issues. [5]

Do not take thyroid supplements without consulting your doctor first.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

One common supplement on the thyroid and weight loss supplements list is conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA.

CLA may help combat weight gain by targeting enzymes that help in fat storage, inhibiting fat cells from expanding.

Green Coffee Extract

Green coffee extract may also help prevent weight gain due to thyroid issues.

This weight loss supplement is extracted from green coffee beans, but it’s the chlorogenic acid that provides weight loss benefits.

This supplement may help counteract thyroid weight gain by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and increasing the metabolism of fat and calories.

Green Tea

Green tea can also naturally boost the body’s fat-burning potential through both caffeine and antioxidants called catechins.

Caffeine provides a slight boost to your metabolism. While catechins like epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) amplify these benefits by also helping to increase how well your body burns calories.

Bottom Line: Thyroid and weight loss supplements can be helpful in combating weight gain.

Thyroid Hormones

Weight Loss Surgery

Patients can experience a positive relationship between the thyroid and weight loss surgery, which leads many individuals to bariatric surgery when unable to lose weight on their own. [6]

Weight loss surgery help counteract weight gain due to thyroid-related slowed metabolism.

Moreover, studies from the Department of General Surgery, Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic have shown that patients who lost weight after the surgery also had improved hormone levels. [7]

Bottom Line: Studies show a positive connection between thyroid and weight loss surgery.

The Bottom Line and Weight Loss

The endocrine system is often overlooked when it comes to developing diets and other healthy habits.

The importance plays an essential role in maintaining homeostasis and health in the body.

Luckily, continued advances in medicine and supplements paint a positive future for thyroid and weight loss.

About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.