Does Hypothyroidism Cause Weight Gain?

The relationship between Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain

A few yeas ago, I was having lunch with a dear friend and she commented on the fact that I was picking at my food. I mentioned that I had been experiencing a gradual loss of appetite. As an experienced nurse, my friend asked me if I ever had my thyroid level tested. She indicated that hypothyroidism causes weight gain. Simply put, hypothyroidism is defined as having low level of thyroid hormones. Our thyroid glands release hormones that play a role in regulating our metabolism. Therefore when the level of hormones produced by the thyroid glands is low, that slows down our metabolism. With a slow metabolism we don’t burn calories and energy as quickly we would want to.

Conversely, hyperthyroidism – the production of a high level of hormones by the thyroid glands, results in a faster metabolism and that cause weight loss.

So, if your goal is to gain weight, what do you need to know about your thyroid glands and the level of hormones they are producing?

Thyroid glandsWhat is the role of thyroid glands?

Thyroid glands are located in the lower front of the neck. They produce, store and secrete thyroid hormones which ensure that all parts of our body function properly. They also regulate our metabolism, heart, brain, digestive system, muscle control, and bone maintenance.

Should you aim for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a disorder that can cause weight gain. An underactive thyroid should not be part of your weight gain plan. If you’re diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you should follow the treatment recommended by your physician. If it goes untreated, hypothyroidism can cause  many health problems, such as heart disease, infertility,obesity, and joint pain.

The American Thyroid Association states ” Thus, the relationship between metabolic rates, energy balance, and weight changes is very complex. There are many other hormones (besides thyroid hormone), proteins, and other chemicals that are very important for controlling energy expenditure, food intake, and body weight. Because all of these substances interact with the parts of the brain and body that control energy expenditure and energy intake, we cannot predict the effect of altering only one of these factors (such as thyroid hormone) on body weight as a whole. As a consequence, at this time, we are unable to predict the effect of changing thyroid state on any individual’s body weight.”

What are the signs of hypothyroidism?

Signs of Hypothyroidism

The symptoms of hypothyroidism can be related to many other health or medical conditions. Below is a partial list of signs of potential hypothyroidism. Consult your physician if you experience any of the symptoms beow or if you are concerned about your thyroid hormone levels.

  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
  • Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
  • Thinning hair
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory
  • Enlarged thyroid gland (goiter)

Health impact of hypothyroidism on the body

Hypothyroidism can have tremendous impact on our body. It can effect our mental as well as physical being.  The effects range from depression, fatigue, difficulty sleeping, heart attack, gallstones, constipation, heartburn to dry skin, menstrual changes, and weak muscles, to cite just a few.

To avoid any of these effects, be sure to contact your physician to be tested if you’re experiencing any symptom. The signs can vary by individual.  Your physician will order a blood test to determine any thyroid gland issues, low or high hormone level, that you may have.

How can you change your diet if you have hypothyroidism?

While you are on your weight gain, if you’ve been diagnose with hypothyroidism and you are gaining weight as a result, it becomes even more important to adjust your diet. You don’t want to rely on a disorder to gain weight. Iodine plays an important role in the proper function of the thyroid glands. Therefore, a balanced diet of beans, lean proteins, and whole grains is in order. Additionally, fruits and colorful vegetables should be part your diet as well.

You will need to pay attention to your fiber intake as well as soy intake since too much soy and fiber may hinder hormone absorption.

If you take vitamin supplements and minerals either as part of your regular diet or for weight gain, it’s recommended to share these with your physician. Certain supplements such as calcium and iron may affect the effectiveness of your thyroid medication.

Recommended Foods

As part of your treatment, consider adjusting your diet to include:

  • Vegetables- mainly brussel sprouts, kale and arugula, bok choy, cauliflower, collard greens, mustard greens, broccoli
  • Fruits – including oranges, berries, tomatoes, berries, and the like
  • Fish – seafood in general
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Non-caffeinated beverages
  • Gluten-free seeds and grains

If you have been diagnosed with the opposite condition, hyperthyroidism, you would avoid too much salt, foods containing caffeine, foods rich in selenium such as tuna, shrimp, rice, cottage cheese, baked beans, oatmeal, spinach, etc.

Should you have your thyroid hormone levels checked?Thyroid gland

Absolutely.  Especially if you have tried many weight gain programs and have been unsuccessful in gaining and maintaining your ideal weight. It’s always a good idea to rule out all potential causes of your weight management issues so you can get on the path for success. As you continue your weight gain journey, you can increase the consumption of these healthy foods as they are low in calories. Remember to always add exercise to any regimen to gain or lose weight.  See my previous post on how to gain weight fast and naturally for an action plan for your weight gain journey.

Leave us a comment below if you find this article helpful or if you’d like to share anything on this topic.

To your health,

Danielle W., Ph.D.

Disclaimer: This article does not intend to provide medical advice.  Consult your medical professional to discuss any health-related issues you may have.


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