Thyroid and weight loss

How to Lose Weight With Hypothyroidism?

Are you living with Hypothyroidism? About 42 million people in India are living with a Thyroid disorder. To lose weight- a balanced diet, control portions and a good workout can do wonders for people. But when you have hypothyroidism, the under active thyroid gland plays a major role. When you develop hypothyroidism, your metabolism slows down. Your calories start to stick, and your start gaining weight. People suffer from the inability to lose weight.

In this article, we help you to understand the science behind it, along with guidelines to manage and prevent it for long run.

Did you know how the thyroid gland works?

  1. Thyroid gland, being a part of the endocrine system, is the only gland that absorbs iodine from food and uses it to make two hormones (T3 and T4).
  2. The crucial function of T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4 (Thyroxine) is to break down calories, produce energy and boosts metabolism when released into bloodstream.
  3. And it is important, two of the above shouldn’t be either too low or either too high.Above all, two glands in our brain -the hypothalamus and pituitary works a major role in maintaining the balance of T3 and T4.

Now to understand better about thyroid and weight in detail and how it leads to hypothyroidism if it not controlled.

Thyroid and Weight!

By now it is clear that the thyroid sends hormones in the blood to regulate our metabolism. But when you don’t make enough of these hormones, it slow downs and puts the brakes on body functions. Due to which you can feel-

  • Cold
  • Fatigued
  • Bloated
  • Depressed

And you might put on few kilos.

It is not necessary that if you are gaining weight, you are hypothyroid. Though it’s true that people who are suffering from hypothyroidism gain lot of weight before they come to know about. But it’s not always the only reason! Experience fatigue makes it harder to have energy to eat well and exercise properly.

Following tips will help you understand how to lose or manage weight with hypothyroidism.

How to lose weight with hypothyroidism?

  1. The reduced levels of thyroid hormone hamper body’s ability to burn calories at a normal rate. This makes shedding excess weight difficult but NOT impossible.

  2. Losing weight can be tricky for someone suffering from hypothyroidism. Here’s why:Hypothyroidism causes fat build-up, which leads to insulin resistance in the body, leading up to weight gain and susceptibility to diabetes.

  3. The most effective way of losing weight would be a combination of diet and exercise to regulate metabolism and burn calories.

Here are some basic thyroid diet and exercise do’s and don’ts.

Diet

  1. DOs

  • Emphasis on balanced food- The diet for a hypothyroid patient should be nutritionally balanced to aid in recovery from nutritional deficiencies like selenium and iodine, which hamper thyroid functioning in the body.

  • Eat complex crabs- Complex contains fibres which will keep you full without having much and stop you from overeating.Therefore it is essential to include whole cereals, vegetables, whole pulses in your diet.

  • Add Selenium and iodine. Iodine plays an important role in synthesis of the thyroid hormone and Selenium helps in recycling of iodine by the body. Natural sources of selenium and iodine include seafood, Brazil nuts, eggs, tuna, salmon, sunflower seeds and plants grown in sodium rich soil etc.

  • Other nutrients that boost thyroid functions like Zinc, Riboflavin, Niacin, and vitamin E, are available in abundance in green leafy vegetables, fruits, nuts and whole cereals.

2. DON’Ts

  • Restrict foods with high glycemic index, such as corn, white bread, refined flour, muffins, cakes, rich desserts etc. because these cause excess glucose in the blood, which gets converted into fat.

  • Goitrogens are substances that suppress the functioning of the thyroid gland by interfering and blocking enzymes that allow thyroid to use iodine. This leads to enlargement of the thyroid (goitre) gland because the gland starts producing more cells to counter the deficit. The goitrogens-rich foods should not be avoided completely as they provide a lot of nutrition too.

Note: Simply watch out for the portion size and whether it’s heated or not because heat deactivates goitrogenic compounds. Some goitrogen-rich foods are soya and its products, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, cauliflower, radishes, turnips, spinach, strawberry, peaches, pears, peanuts etc.

You might also notice excessive water retention in your body. Here’s how you control it-

  • Avoid salted nuts, salted crackers, pickles, sauces, salt preserved foods etc.

  • Have plain salad without salt.

  • Avoid soft drinks because carbonation in soft drinks leads to water retention.

  • Avoid fried food because fried food takes longer to digest and makes you feel heavy and bloated.

  • Eat slowly to help digest your food better.

  • Drink 10-12 glasses of water in a day.

  • Exercise daily for more than 30 min because a normal body starts losing weight after 20 minutes of exercise, whereas a body with hypothyroidism takes longer.

  • Go for brisk walk for at least 15 min after each meal.

  • Include fruits and beverages like coconut water, plain lemon water etc. in your diet.Read more to know about health benefits of coconut water.

  • Avoid having raw vegetables like broccoli, cabbage etc.

More Tips for Weight Management

  1. Avoid stress because it leads to unhealthy food choices and overeating.

  • Reactions to stress are controlled by the adrenal glands, which are already overworked and under-functioning in hypothyroid patients.

  • Stress also increases cortisol levels, which increases hunger, thereby affecting the insulin levels.

  1. Focus on Deep breathing exercises

  • It can help you take in more oxygen and release more carbon dioxide with each breath.

  • Will also help with weight loss, stress reduction, and relaxation.

  1. Reduce the use of stimulants like coffee, Red Bull to conquer your fatigue.

  • Hypothyroidism makes the adrenal glands susceptible to overwork and burnout.

  • The adrenal glands can only take so much stimulation before they begin to under-function. Weaning off of stimulants, including coffee, soda and tea, can help the adrenal gland function at a normal pace without any pressure.

1 day sample diet plan for hypothyroid patients

Breakfast ➤ Vegetable Poha, 1 glass of buttermilk/Milk, 5 soaked almonds

Mid Morning➤ Bowl of fruit chaat

Lunch ➤ Bowl of salad + Dal+ some seasonal cooked vegetables + whole wheat chapati

Evening Snack ➤ Sprout chaat/ Fruit with curd

Dinner ➤ Bowl of soup/salad + bowl of vegetables +whole wheat chapati

Helpful Exercises

Exercise and diet go hand in hand to manage weight for a hypothyroid patient. Here are a few benefits of working out during hypothyroidism:

1) Fights water retention- Exercise helps you by sweating out the excess water from your body because when you exercise your body’s BMR goes up means body temperature raises.

2) While doing exercise your body starts burning extra calories, (which under normal circumstances your body is storing) resulting in weight loss.

3) Exercise promotes better sleep patterns- because when you exercise your body secretes happy hormones that keep stress away throughout the day and helps you sleep better at night because of decreased stress level.

Things To Implement

  • Start with a 15 minute workout routine (a combination of cardio) to help increase the blood circulation in the body and prepare it for strengthening exercises like knee pushups, lying superman, Russian twist, burpees, jumping jacks, etc. Finish your regimen with stretching exercises to cool down your body and avoid muscle injury.
  • One key factor when burning excess calories is to concentrate on strengthening exercises because muscles burn more calories than the same amount of fat. Hence, building lean muscles will help in losing more weight even when you are not exercising.
  • Along with the balanced diet, regular exercising not only helps in building strength, but also increases the metabolism and improves insulin sensitivity. All that you need is proper guidance from an expert regarding thyroid diet and exercise to achieve your weight loss target and manage hypothyroidism.

Sample Exercises

Warm up

Strengthen Exercises

Stretching exercise

High Front Kick, Toe touch stretch

Russian twist, Knee pushups, Lying superman, Frog sit ups, Leg lift with chair

Calf stretch, Thigh stretch, Hamstring stretch, Shoulder stretch, Triceps stretch

It’s a fact that thyroid patients face difficulty in losing weight, due to their subnormal metabolism but there are no short cuts to weight loss. One has to be patient and focused towards the goal.

Not only is belly fat unattractive but it may be a sign of poor health. Even if your overall weight is within the range of normal, an increasing amount of visceral fat — the fat which surrounds your internal organs and causes a widening of the waist — may contribute to very serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. For women, especially those who are post-menopausal, tummy fat is usually associated with a decreasing level of estrogen.

Yet, many women fear their widening waist line may be caused by a thyroid problem.

What Is The Thyroid?

In the base of the neck, just above the collarbone, is a butterfly-shaped gland. The thyroid is part of the endocrine system of glands, and as such, it secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream instead of into ducts. The hormones secreted by the thyroid regulate the rates of different activities in your body. This gland, then, is your body’s metronome and helps set the tempo of the heart beat and how quickly the body burns calories. Both of these activities are central to your metabolism and define not only how you feel physically but also how likely you are to gain weight.

When the thyroid is too active, a condition known as hyperthyroidism, your thyroid produces more hormones than necessary. Hyperthyroidism speeds the heart and raises the metabolism, causing a person to lose weight. An additional issue is sensitivity to heat; people with this disorder often become overheated very quickly.

The exact opposite occurs when the thyroid gland is not active enough. A sluggish thyroid does not create enough hormones, and this is referred to as hypothyroidism. People with this condition gain weight easily, often feel fatigue, and find cold temperatures problematic.

Women, especially those who are post-menopausal, are overwhelmingly more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men; in fact, they are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with the disorder. Although this condition may not cause symptoms in the earliest stages, untreated hypothyroidism and the disruption it causes to the body’s chemical processes may contribute, over time, to a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility, and heart disease. Aside from strict health concerns, many who have a hypothyroid condition worry about the weight gain, in particular, belly fat. Yet, is the thyroid really responsible for gain in this area of the body?

One study, though it focuses on thyroid cancer, may provide some evidence.

Adult Weight Changes

Concerned with a dramatic rise in the prevalence of thyroid cancer over the past 30 years, a group of researchers wondered if the similarly increasing rate of obesity during the same period might be perhaps linked to it in some way — if not responsible for thyroid cancer. To determine if some association between the two existed, the researchers compared body fat distribution and weight change with thyroid cancer risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. This large prospective study of U.S. men and women was conducted by the National Institutes of Health in collaboration with AARP, an organization for people over the age of 50, in order to better understand the link between diet, health, and death.

Having analyzed the data for 334,907 participants who were between the ages of 50 and 71 and resided in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, North Carolina, Louisiana, and metropolitan Atlanta and Detroit, the researchers found that a waist circumference above ‘normal’ (greater than 40.2 inches in men and greater than 34.6 inches in women) predicted increased risk of thyroid cancer for both men and women. With men, though, this relationship between belly fat and cancer appeared to be stronger than for women. The researchers also discovered that a weight gain of 22 lbs. or more between the ages of 18 to 35 was related to an increased risk of thyroid cancer when compared to those whose weight remained consistent. Overall, the researchers found a slightly stronger association for waist circumference and weight change with thyroid cancer risk in men compared to women.

Does a cancerous thyroid cause an expanding waistline? The link between the two certainly exists but whether the damaged thyroid brings about belly weight gain or vice versa is unclear.

All doctors agree that hypothyroidism will cause weight gain overall, but proof that a thyroid condition will specifically cause belly fat remains inconclusive.

Diagnosis

A doctor diagnoses hypothyroidism based on the results of blood tests that measure the level of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in your blood. Produced by the pituitary gland, TSH signals the thyroid gland to produce and release hormones. Often, a doctor will also measure the level of the thyroid hormone thyroxine and compare that with the level of TSH: A low level of thyroxine and high level of TSH often points to hypothyroidism.

A condition referred to as ‘myxedema,’ in which fluid accumulates in the tissues and often gives the appearance of excessive fat, is a result of severe thyroid problems. Myxedema, although uncommon, can be life-threatening and needs to be treated immediately. Hashimoto’s disease is also a very common cause of hypothyroidism; in the case of Hashimoto’s, the immune system creates antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. Again, this is serious and must be treated.

Patients with hypothyroidism are generally prescribed oral medication, the synthetic thyroid hormone levothyroxine, to restore adequate hormone levels as well as to reverse the symptoms. According to Mayo Clinic, when used at an appropriate dosage, levothyroxine causes virtually no side effects. Natural cures may be helpful, but doctors warn that they may not do enough in a case where the thyroid is truly functioning improperly.

Natural Cures

Nevertheless, according to Dr. Oz, eating more of the following foods that are rich in iodine may help you boost your thyroid function:

  • Low-fat cheese
  • Cow’s milk
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat ice cream
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Saltwater fish
  • Seaweed (including kelp, dulce, nori)
  • Shellfish
  • Soy sauce

Source: Kitahara CM, Platz EA, Park Y, Hollenbeck AR, Schatzkin A, de Gonzalez AB. Body fat distribution, weight change during adulthood, and thyroid cancer risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. International Journal of Cancer. 2012.

I’m Gaining Weight: Is It My Thyroid?

A Look at Hypothyroidism

It’s a small gland – but it makes a major impact on your body. See how an underactive thyroid can be one reason why you’re gaining weight.

The Link Between Thyroid and Your Weight

The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of your neck. This gland is responsible for producing, storing and secreting thyroid hormone, an essential hormone for the function of virtually all parts of your body. Reduced production of thyroid hormone can be temporary, but when it is permanent, the result is called hypothyroidism.

Approximately 4.6% of people in the U.S. ages 12 and older have some degree of hypothyroidism, the vast majority falling into what is known as “subclinical” or mild hypothyroidism. Mild hypothyroidism is typically asymptomatic but can progress to overt hypothyroidism. “Hypothyroidism from any cause results in a decrease in energy metabolism, or the basal metabolic rate. Patients often experience a modest amount of weight gain prior to diagnosis because of this metabolic slowing,” explains Northwestern Medicine Endocrinologist Eve D. Bloomgarden, MD. Other symptoms depend on the severity of hypothyroidism but commonly include fatigue, constipation, muscle aches and feeling cold. And while this can lead to weight gain for some – that is only a small part of the big picture.

It’s such a common disorder, and I see a lot of misinformation about it, which can be very harmful. — Eve D. Bloomgarden, MD

Dr. Bloomgarden cautions that the vast majority of weight gain is not thyroid-related, as the thyroid is only one small contributor to the regulation of body weight. “Weight is influenced by many contributors, and unfortunately it’s never as simple as ‘just the thyroid’,” she says. “Importantly, once the hypothyroidism is treated with thyroid hormone, the basal metabolic rate returns to normal, and the weight also returns to normal. If it does not, I work with my patients to address other causes of weight gain, in particular focusing on getting adequate sleep, making healthy food choices and exercising.”

Getting the Right Diagnosis

Hypothyroidism is more likely to develop in women, and a personal history or family history of thyroid issues can increase your risk. To accurately test for hypothyroidism, a blood test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is used. Even small changes in your thyroid hormone levels (T4 and T3) will cause very big changes in TSH secretion. “The TSH test is really accurate and is the appropriate test for 99% of cases. Other lab tests for thyroid function are supplemental, and may not be clinically relevant or appropriate,” adds Dr. Bloomgarden.

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, your physician will work with you to find the appropriate treatment. The most frequently used treatment for hypothyroidism is replacing the hormone with a substitute, known as levothyroxine (LT4). This is a precursor to the active hormone and seeks to replicate the hormones your body is failing to produce properly. “Your body does not care if you make or take thyroid hormone,” adds Dr Bloomgarden.

Causes of hypothyroidism can include:

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. The most common cause of hypothyroidism, this is an autoimmune disorder that damages your thyroid function. Your body’s white blood cells and antibodies attack the thyroid gland. This leads to chronic inflammation, rendering the gland impaired.
  • Thyroid removal. Certain conditions may require surgery to remove all or part of the thyroid gland.
  • Radiation therapy. During radiation therapy for head and neck cancers, the beams may damage the thyroid gland and surrounding tissues. As a result, several types of thyroid problems may develop, including hypothyroidism.

Symptoms of an underactive thyroid can be nonspecific or reflect other issues. You may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Thinning hair
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin

Managing Thyroid Issues

There are plenty of other reasons why your thyroid can be easily misunderstood. “It’s such a common disorder, and I see a lot of misinformation about it, which can be very harmful,” says Dr. Bloomgarden. She suggests speaking with your physician to create a personalized plan that meets your own unique needs. She also recommends against taking any supplements or following any fad diets for your thyroid, as these are not backed up by science and have the potential for harm.

If you are gaining weight and experiencing additional symptoms, Dr. Bloomgarden suggests speaking with your primary care physician to see if a TSH blood test is appropriate. While weight gain may not always be explained by your thyroid, this test will help you eliminate it as the cause or, alternatively, start appropriate treatment to manage hypothyroidism.

If you have a thyroid disorder, it should be treated using evidence-based guidelines and prescription medication, says Dr. Bloomgarden. “I want my patients to feel well and not let thyroid disease define them. A lot of people feel terrible, and as soon as we get them on a monitored medication, they feel much better, and they are no longer victim to a swinging metabolism.”

Additionally you can modify lifestyle factors by reducing stress, incorporating physical activity into your routine and adopting a healthy diet.

Your Hypothyroidism Diet Plan: Eat This, Not That

Hypothyroidism treatment typically starts with taking replacement thyroid hormone, but it doesn’t end there. You also need to watch what you eat. Sticking to a healthy diet can prevent the weight gain that often comes with having an underactive thyroid. Avoiding certain foods can help your replacement thyroid hormone work as well as it should.

Here’s a look at some foods to add to or remove from your hypothyroidism diet plan.

What to eat

There is no specific hypothyroidism diet. Eating a low-fat diet with a good balance of fruits, vegetables, lean protein (fish, poultry, lean meat), dairy, and whole grains is a good strategy for everyone to follow.

You also want to balance your calorie intake. Portion control is essential to preventing weight gain. Hypothyroidism slows your metabolism, and you can put on a few pounds unless you burn off more calories than you take in each day. Talk to your doctor or work with a dietitian to figure out how many calories you should eat each day, and what foods will help you feel your best.

What to limit or avoid

Hypothyroidism does come with a few dietary restrictions. First, you’ll want to avoid high-fat, processed, and sugary foods that can contribute to weight gain. Also limit salt to no more than 2,300 milligrams daily. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which is already a risk when your thyroid is underactive.

Here are a few foods to limit or avoid, because they can affect how well your thyroid gland or your thyroid replacement hormone works.

Iodine

Your thyroid needs iodine to make its hormones. Though your body doesn’t make this element, it’s found in a variety of foods, including iodized table salt, cheese, fish, and ice cream. If you eat a normal diet, you shouldn’t become deficient in iodine.

Yet you don’t want to eat too much, either. Taking iodine supplements or eating too many foods that contain iron can lead to hyperthyroidism — an overactive thyroid gland. Also avoid supplements that contain kelp, a type of seaweed that’s high in iodine.

Soy

Soy-based foods like tofu and soybean flour are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in nutrients. However, they also contain the female hormone estrogen, which could interfere with your body’s absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone.

Though you don’t need to stop eating soy entirely, your doctor might recommend that you limit the amount you eat, or adjust when you eat it. Wait at least four hours after taking your hypothyroidism medicine before consuming any soy foods.

Fiber

Too much fiber can interfere with the absorption of your thyroid hormone medicine. Current dietary recommendations call for 25 grams of fiber daily for women, and 38 grams for men. Ask your doctor or dietitian how much you should eat each day.

Don’t stop eating fiber entirely — it’s found in healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grain breads and cereals. Just don’t overdo it. And wait a few hours after taking your thyroid medicine before you eat high-fiber foods.

Cruciferous vegetables

Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage are part of the cruciferous family of vegetables. These vegetables are high in fiber and vitamins, and they may help protect against cancer and other diseases. Cruciferous vegetables have been linked to hypothyroidism — but only when eaten in very large amounts. If you make them just one part of a wide variety of vegetables in your diet, they shouldn’t be a problem.

Alcohol

Alcohol doesn’t interact with levothyroxine, but if you drink too much, it can damage your liver. Because your liver breaks down drugs like thyroid hormone to remove them from your body, alcohol-induced liver damage could lead to too much levothyroxine in your system. Check with your doctor to see whether it’s safe for you to have alcohol, and how much you can drink.

Gluten

Gluten — the protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley — doesn’t directly affect thyroid function. Yet some people with autoimmune hypothyroidism also have celiac disease, a condition in which their immune system mistakenly attacks their small intestine after they eat gluten.

If you have symptoms like abdominal bloating, stomachache, diarrhea, and vomiting after you eat foods containing gluten, see your doctor for a celiac blood test. Eliminating gluten from your diet should relieve these symptoms.

Iron and calcium

Both of these minerals can interfere with the absorption of your thyroid hormone medicine. While foods containing iron and calcium are safe to eat, avoid them in supplement form.

Planning your diet

When you have a chronic condition like hypothyroidism, don’t try to navigate your diet alone. Start with a visit to your doctor, who can help you identify which foods might cause interactions or other problems with your thyroid medicine. Then work with a dietitian, who can help you develop a diet that’s both healthy and thyroid friendly.

DIET PLAN FOR HYPOTHYROIDISM

Hypothyroidism is a metabolic disorder. The thyroid gland regulates the metabolism of the body and it is indirectly related to body weight. In hypothyroidism, the production of the thyroid hormone decreases and the body’s metabolism decreases leading to weight gain. It also causes fluid retention which may lead to added weight. Losing weight with hypothyroidism is a challenging task. All those with hypothyroid and weight loss on their mind go for a very low-calorie diet and this may further lower the body’s metabolism. It may worsen the problem and hence a correct approach is needed.

Factors contributing to thyroid dysfunction

  • Living in or around mountainous regions
  • High consumption of goitrogens (Foods interfering in thyroid gland function)
  • Genetic factors or lifestyle factors

Symptoms and effects of Hypothyroidism

  • Hypothyroidism slows down the body’s metabolism. This causes weight gain as a major side-effect for an individual
  • Constipation, hair loss, dry skin, fatigue and changes in menstrual cycle are its other accompanying side effects

Dietary and Lifestyle Management of Hypothyroidism

Increase your metabolism: The key for thyroid and weight loss is increasing your metabolism. Here are some tips on how you can do that.

  • Have 5-6 mini meals: Help in reducing the sugar spikes and balances the blood sugar level. Small frequent meals keep the digestive system on the go and helps in burning more involuntary calories and prevents the storage of fat.
  • Green tea: Drinking green tea will increase the metabolic rate and energy levels. It will also help in decreasing the stress levels and will give you the most needed energy kick.
  • Warm water and lemon: A glass of warm water and lemon early in the morning and after your main meals will help you in keeping the metabolism rate up throughout the day.
  • Increase your activity: Hypothyroidism causes slowing down of metabolism.Increasing the activity levels through exercise will not only help in increasing metabolism but also in losing weight. Increase your activity levels by including a 30-45 minutes exercise session, be it walking, yoga, tai chi, swimming, cycling or a gym workout. Take the stairs every time you have to climb up or down.

Increase your water and fiber intake: Hypothyroidism can cause chronic constipation, water retention, and edema. Increasing water and fiber intake will help in regularizing bowel movements. Increased water consumption will also help in flushing out your lymphatic system, further helping water retention problems.

Increase selenium intake: To supplement selenium in your diet, include bran, whole wheat, tuna, onions and tomatoes in your diet.

Increase iodine intake: Increasing iodine intake will help in improving thyroid functions. Eat iodized salt. If your doctor advises, go in for iodine supplements as well.

Follow a balanced and nutritious diet: Diet can be the first line of defense to tackle hypothyroidism.

  • Foods to eat: Include a lot of carrots, whole grain cereals, avocado, apricots, fish, asparagus, olive oil, and sunflower seeds.
  • Foods to avoid: Eat less of broccoli, Lima beans, cabbage, peanuts, sweet potato, mustard, kale, kohlrabi, linseed and soy products. These foods may interfere with iodine uptake in the body. Don’t cut these foods out completely, just keep these to a minimum.

A healthy lifestyle and correct diet since the very beginning is the solution to every weight-related problems, including thyroid and weight loss. Thus, correcting the underlying condition while monitoring your diet, eating the right things and avoiding what’s wrong and exercising are the key ingredients.

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Early physical signs your thyroid medication dose needs adjusting

The strength and power of your thyroid changes over time: it fluctuates with the change of seasons, it gets weaker as you age, and it increases or decreases hormone production as you gain or lose weight or if you are under more stress than usual.

The thyroid, even a Hashimoto’s thyroid, can be a pretty amazing organ. It takes cues from your entire body and processes the information to try to give you an optimal dose of hormones. By contrast, taking medication is not that highly sophisticated.

People usually take the same medication dose on a daily basis and expect that their body is always in an average zone. More often than not, we don’t modify medication immediately as our weight changes, seasons change, or anything else happens to or affects our bodies.

As a result, you can have a mismatch between the medication dose you were prescribed and what your body currently needs.

Being chronically under or overactive, or rapidly swinging between the two states, can have long-lasting effects on your body.

Here are some ways your body is telling you that your medication needs to be adjusted:

1. You feel pumped

Is your heartbeat stronger than usual, and perhaps irregular? Your breathing is shallower and quicker and your digestion is faster? Perhaps you have lost weight without any effort? You cannot sleep through the night, and you sweat more than usual?

An excess amount of thyroid hormones trigger all of these effects. If this happens to you, talk to your doctor.

2. Your digestion feels out of order

While constipation might be a sign of a lack of hormones, diarrhea might happen with an excess amount of thyroid hormones.

Digestion is tightly connected to the immune system, however, and it might not be that inadequate hormone levels are the reason for your current digestive issues.

It might be that your immune system reacts to foods you have eaten, stress you are exposed to, or a lack of vitamin D. Whatever it is, if your gut is upset, the medication you take will not be absorbed properly, meaning less of it will end up in your bloodstream and be available to the different organs, causing more symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

3. You feel like you are about to get a cold

A drop in thyroid hormones might trigger cold-like symptoms: sudden shivers, cold hands and feet, or a swollen throat. Thyroid hormones help maintain body temperature, and you might need them when transitioning between the warm and cold areas. Swollen throat happens because the thyroid might try to overcompensate for the lack of hormones.

4. You experience brain fog

Although the brain needs only a low amount of thyroid hormones, T3 and T4 are indeed necessary for proper brain function: in particular, for memory and focus.

The brain is the first to feel even the slightest change in thyroid hormones.

5. Your muscles have a life of their own

Muscle twitching, cramping, and pain can be a sign of both too much and too little thyroid hormones. It can be a sign that your electrolytes, mainly calcium and sodium, are out of balance.

If you feel sudden and intense muscle pain when you have not done any strenuous physical activity, it might be because your thyroid activity has changed, and with that making of not only T4, but also the calcium hormone calcitonin.

6. You’re gaining weight

Weight gain is one of the signs your metabolism might not be working properly. Thyroid hormones are key regulators of metabolism and how bodies use the food we eat, which is why weight gain is one of the early signs of thyroid distress.

Weight gain might occur because of excessive stress, starvation diets, lack of physical activity in winter months, or an increase in calorie intake.

If you eat a regular diet, exercise regularly, and are still gaining weight, the thyroid might indeed be the culprit.

Stay on top of your underactive thyroid symptoms

Track your symptoms and your lifestyle in the free to use BOOST Thyroid app. Observe trends in your health. Seeing how your health changes over weeks and months will help when talking to your doctor about your experiences with thyroid medication.

BEFORE: 170

AFTER: 122

I was only 9 years old when I realized I was big. I watched my athletic brother and sister score runs and goals while I kept packing pounds onto my small frame. I would hide food in my room, scared that anyone in my family would see me eating, and I started to dislike my body more with every bite. Years later, at 16, a routine blood test revealed that I had hypothyroidism. The doctors didn’t really explain to me then what I know now: I have an underactive thyroid gland that doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone to keep my body running normally. They prescribed me synthroid, a hormone that can help normalize thyroid production, and I’ve been on it ever since. For me, and some of the 12 percent of women who also have hypothyroidism, that meant a slowed metabolism, low energy levels, and at my lowest points, depression and thoughts of self-harm.

For years, I let my condition convince me that I just couldn’t lose weight. I resolved that I would never feel happy in my own body because it was fighting me at every turn. But at just 4’11, when I saw the scale hit 170, I knew I couldn’t let it win anymore. It was time to start fighting back. It was time to feel healthy, confident, and happy for the first time since I can remember.

THE CHANGE

For over a decade, my weight yo-yoed. I got pregnant with my first son when I was 21, and I gained 35 pounds. After he was born, the weight stayed on. I lost 10 pounds before my wedding two years later, but my weight hovered between 150 and 160 for almost eight more years. At my height, that range was considered obese, my doctors told me.

Every time I started working out and eating better, I’d stick with it for a while and lose about 10 pounds. But I always found an excuse to stop, and I always put the weight right back on. When my husband was deployed, I was parenting by myself, so how could I possibly find time to exercise (or make anything other than cereal) with two young boys and a full time job? When we moved every few years to a new military base, I was uncomfortable seeing new people at the gym, so how could I work out if I was scared to be seen? When Canada winters rolled around every year, my progress halted. When I was missing my husband or feeling more depressed than usual, I gave up.

If all of those excuses weren’t enough to stop me, this one was: I am hypothyroid.

I told myself that my body just couldn’t lose weight, and I resolved that I’d live at an uncomfortable 150 pounds forever. That was until gallstones attacked my gallbladder in 2015. At the time, it was a painful, miserable experience, but giving up greasy, fatty foods so that I didn’t have another attack helped me get to 136 pounds. That number, despite everything, showed me that I could lose weight. It wasn’t my thyroid stopping me, it was my mind. I knew I could succeed, I just didn’t know how.

While scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw a post for a weight loss accountability Facebook group. I’ve never been a very social person, but I knew if I wanted to really lose weight this time, I had to have people to encourage me. I clicked join.

I took my measurements and photos of my body from all angles. I posted them on the page, introducing myself and sharing parts of my long battle with my weight. This time, I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t going to quit.

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Thirty minutes a day. That’s it. For 30 minutes, I would do a workout video from the 21-Day Fix program at home. I had started the program before, but could never complete it. This time, though, I had my accountability group waiting to see my “sweaty selfie” for the day. I was waiting to see their selfies, too. I knew that I couldn’t let them down.

The workouts were nowhere near easy—they even made my husband, an active member of the military, break a good sweat. There were jump squats, planks, burpees, and pushups. When I wanted to give up, I had the trainer on the screen encouraging me, a whole group online that I didn’t want to disappoint, and, for the first time, a mindset that told me I could really do it this time. Even after 21 days straight of workouts, a victory I had never achieved before, I wasn’t finished. I switched to P90X, and I’ve been doing different high-intensity at-home workouts ever since. (Torch fat, get fit, and look and feel great with Women’s Health’s All in 18 DVD!)

THE FOOD

Along with those daily sweaty selfies, my accountability group leader asked us to post pictures of everything we ate on the page. Yes, everything. My days of serving cereal for dinner ended when the posting began.

I’ve never really been much of a chef, so it was great to see photos and recipes of other people’s lean proteins and surprisingly tasty-looking vegetables on the Facebook page. I even got my whole family, 9- and 12-year-old boys included, to try spaghetti squash. It was a hit.

Learn the RIGHT way to make spaghetti squash:

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I still let myself eat one higher-carb food every day—whether it’s a small serving of ice cream on a family movie night or exactly 18 potato chips for a salty snack. Slowly but surely, food started to become something I enjoyed, not something I needed to hide behind. The girl who used to smuggle food into her bedroom was finally free.

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Staying motivated to lose weight is hard enough for women with perfectly healthy thyroids, but when yours is slowing your progress and sucking your energy, it’s not so easy to be positive all of the time. While I saw other people in my group losing five to 10 pounds per month, I was only losing three to four, even though we were all following the same plan. It didn’t seem fair that I could work just as hard as someone else, but only get half of the results. When I had the same doubts that always led me to quit before, I shoved them out. I told myself that although my hypothyroidism would make weight loss harder, it wouldn’t make it impossible. I was stronger than the antibodies attacking my thyroid and slowing my metabolism. I reminded myself of that every day.

When my hypothyroidism did slow me down, I never let it stop me like I did before. Just last April, I started to feel depressed again as my energy started depleting. It got to the point where my husband had to drive me to work because I couldn’t find the strength. I had thoughts of harming myself, and I knew that wasn’t me.

I went to my doctor, who tested my thyroid levels and said she wasn’t surprised I was feeling so down. She increased my synthroid dosage, and I was back to my daily workouts, steady weight loss, and sweaty selfies in no time.

THE REWARD

About 30 inches and 50 pounds of weight loss is nothing compared to what I’ve gained since joining the accountability group. Now I can run around with my energetic sons. I can post photos of my progress online without asking myself if I should delete them seconds later. I can spend time working out with my husband, and our relationship has never been better.

I never thought I would feel this good about myself. For the first time, I’m starting to like what I see in the mirror, and I’m loving how I feel.

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You are strong enough to lose the weight you want to lose, but you don’t have to do it yourself. If I hadn’t joined the group, I probably would have thrown in the towel before reaching my weight loss goals—just like I had so many times before. If you’re ready to stop giving up, surround yourself with people, in person or online, who will keep you going. After seeing for myself what a community of supporters can do, I’ve started up my own accountability group. Now I’m the one checking those sweaty selfies, liking those meal pictures, and helping my members stay motivated.

To the women in my group, and around the world, trying to lose weight with hypothyroidism, remember that your mind is your most powerful tool. It might take you longer to reach your weight loss goals, but if you’re ready to stay committed, get ready to love the body you always thought was fighting you.

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