We hear all the time at our clinic in Kingston that our clients are having trouble losing weight because they have a thyroid issue. A low thyroid hormone level, or hypothyroidism, is becoming more common especially in women around menopause (is this you?). Let’s dive deep into what this means and why it happens
What is the thyroid?
The thyroid is a small gland at the base of the neck that releases hormones, specifically T3 and T4. We talk about the thyroid most when we talk about weight gain or lose, although it does have many other functions not just weight changes. It plays a large role in your breathing and helps regulate the amount of blood your body can pump through your body. But those are topics for another time.
When we think about having a thyroid issue, it means that it’s not doing its job. These issues happen in one of two ways – hyperthyroidism (too much hormones) and hypothyroidism (too little hormone). In these cases, there is an issue with the amount of thyroid hormone your body is regulating into the blood stream.
Hypothyroidism is more common that hyperthyroidism. In hyperthyroidism, our metabolism can go through the roof causing us to feel restless and have trouble sleeping.
With hypothyroidism, this is when your body isn’t secreting enough of its hormone. This causes a drop in metabolism. This is most common in women after menopause or temporarily after pregnancy.
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Feeling tired and fatigues
- Slow heart rate
- Intolerance to cold
- Unexplained weight gain.
What causes it?
Hypothyroidism has two main causes. One is an autoimmune disease where the body creates anti-bodies and attacks its own tissues. The one associated with hypothyroidism is called Hashimotos thyroiditis. The second most common cause is a radiation injury. This generally occurs when radiation is being used to treat cancers in the head and neck region. Over the last couple of years however, we have been seeing individuals who have neither of these still presenting with hypothyroidism. Weight gain can be a way that our thyroid hormone goes low (which can make it even harder to lose the weight if you’ve gained it – check out our article here). So I think we will start to see more coming out about this in the future.
Is it treatable?
The simple answer is yes it is. If you go to your doctor for a blood test of your thyroid levels, he or she can treat you often with medications. Levothyroxine is one of the most commonly prescribed. These medications are essentially a synthetic version of the hormone your thyroid creates. Through medication, proper nutrition and moderate to intense exercise, the weight gain that was associated with hypothyroid can be lost. But it isn’t a magic pill like some people think.
The biggest point to remember is that your metabolism can be managed and if you think you may have hypothyroidism, contact your doctor and see about getting a blood test.