Weight gain and hypothyroidism have long been linked, though the cause of this link remains unclear. Weight gain remains one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism and often leads many people to a diagnosis of thyroid disease. The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the back of your neck. It’s responsible for producing, storing, and secreting several hormones, essential for the function of virtually all parts of your body. Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid permanently produces less thyroid hormone than your body needs.
How are Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain Associated?
Although the exact biochemical causes of weight gain and hypothyroidism aren’t completely clear, there several mechanisms that may explain the weight gain associated with hypothyroidism.
The two most active thyroid hormones, thyroxine, and triiodothyronine, circulate in the body, and they affect your metabolism through their interaction with:
- Fat cells
Thyroid hormones help break down fat and help the pancreas and liver use stored energy. The hypothalamus regulates the amount of thyroid hormone in the brain and decreases the amount of thyrotropin regulating hormone (TRH) secretion.
If you have decreased thyroid hormones, all of the actions described above can be disrupted. Along with symptoms of low energy, your body holds on to calories and stores them as fat instead of being metabolized.
Managing Your Weight with Hypothyroidism
Losing weight can be very challenging when you have hypothyroidism. Many people think that weight will just start falling off when they start taking thyroid hormone replacement medications. While treatment can help you lose some of the weight you’ve gained, it also takes planning, hard work, diet, exercise, and getting enough sleep to shed a number of pounds.
An optimal diet is rich in lean proteins and fruits and vegetables and minimizes simple carbohydrates and sugars. A meal plan for hypothyroidism can help you keep your calories in check.
You also should avoid goitrogenic foods, which can disrupt your thyroid production. If you’re struggling with losing weight, working with a nutritionist to find a plan that works for you can be very helpful.
Regular exercise can help you lose weight. Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise and two sessions of muscle-building per week. People with hypothyroidism may have to go beyond those recommendations to lose weight.
Sleep deprivation is strongly linked with weight gain, and that association is clear whether you have thyroid disease or not. Getting enough restorative sleep regularly can help prevent weight gain and help you keep weight off.
To ensure that you’re setting yourself up for a good night’s sleep, try to avoid having caffeine too late in the day, avoid eating for at least two hours before going to bed, and go to bed at the same time every night. Also try to avoid social media, news, and other screen-related activities before going to bed as they can cause stress.
Learn More About Hypothyroidism from Baptist Health
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