You step on the scale confident that you’ve lost weight, only to step off it again with a rush of disappointment. That red marker barely moved and you can’t figure out what went wrong. You feel like giving up at this point. You may wonder, Will I ever lose weight?
The Function of a Healthy Thyroid
The thyroid gland produces hormones T4 (tetraiodothyronine) and T3 (triiodothyronine).Both regulate metabolism which determines your heart rate, blood pressure and weight. Thyroid hormones also affect the production of a key stomach hormone, gastrin which aids in proper food digestion.
Millions of Americans have some form of thyroid dysfunction. Among that number, many haven’t even been diagnosed.
When the thyroid does not produce enough T4, your body can no longer metabolize food groups efficiently; this is because hypothyroidism often slows down your metabolism and alters how food is digested in your stomach. The result is typically weight gain, one of several symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.
How to Lose Weight with an Underactive Thyroid
There is no known prevention or cure for hypothyroidism but it can be successfully managed. Losing weight when you have an underactive thyroid can be done successfully by consistently following key steps over time. This article covers the 7 fundamental steps required to successfully lose weight with an underactive thyroid:
1. Find the Right Thyroid Medication
Doctors often prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone (Levothyroxine), Synthroid, Armour, or other T4 medication to treat patients with hypothyroidism. These types of medications act as thyroid hormone substitutes when your body fails to produce adequate thyroid hormone on its own. However, it will take time for your doctor to determine the right dosage of thyroid medication that works best for you.
For example, functional medicine physician Dr. Westin Childs only prescribes T4 medicine to patients sensitive to medications containing T3—but the majority of his patients tend to respond better with a medication containing both T4 and T3 hormone.
Furthermore, a study released by the NIH revealed that many patients preferred taking DTE instead of L-T₄., gained more energy, and lost slightly more weight when they took a medication (dessicated thyroid extract or DTE) containing a combination of T4 and T3.
It’s important for you to correct your hormone levels as quickly as possible in order to alleviate your symptoms and maximize weight loss. Once you find a thyroid medicine that is well tolerated and is of the right dosage, you can take your medicine according to your doctor’s recommendations.
Interestingly, a randomized double-blind crossover trial study reported in a 2010 Archives of Internal Medicine article strongly suggests that patients who took their thyroid medication at bedtime experienced improvement with their hormone levels and symptoms as opposed to when they took their medication in the morning. This was because:
- Patients could avoid foods, drugs, and supplements that thwarted thyroid medication absorption.
- Patients not getting optimal thyroid drug absorption during the day could get better results at night.
- They didn’t have to worry about when to eat breakfast
2. Cut Back on Refined Starches and Sugary Carbs
Carbohydrates are often described as the “enemy” of weight loss. But that’s not an accurate statement. Rather, it’s the highly-processed, high-sugar content carbs that provide no nutritional value and cause weight gain with regular consumption. Limiting junk foods, such as chips, cookies, donuts, most cereals, sugary drinks, including certain juices, alcohol, and even many “healthy” gluten-free packaged products will help you stay on track when trying to reach your weight loss goals.
2. Eat More Vegetables and Protein
The most filling and/or nutrient-dense foods are found in the vegetable and protein groups. Vegetables and protein, should make up the majority of your plate when you have an underactive thyroid. Consuming proteins on a regular basis satisfies your hunger cravings and is more filling compared to both fat and carbs.
Overall, high protein foods reduce your daily caloric intake as well as constant thoughts about food by 60 percent! High protein foods include eggs, seafood, nuts, legumes (beans) meat and dairy. High proteins also provide adequate nutrients to build muscle which can give you the stamina necessary to follow a consistent exercise program.
People with hypothyroidism often experience vitamin and mineral deficiency and poor nutrient absorption. Regularly eating vegetables (particularly mushrooms, green leafy vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower) will provide you with most of the micronutrients, minerals, and vitamins you need.
Vegetables are also a great source of fiber which feeds healthy gut bacteria and keeps your colon in good working order. It’s recommended that the portion of vegetables you eat should cover about 50 percent of your plate, proteins 25 percent, and carbs such as pastas, rice, or potatoes about 25 percent.
3. Avoid Foods that Inhibit Absorption
There’s a few precautions when taking certain medications, certain supplements as well as eating high fiber and soy rich diets when you have an underactive thyroid. All of these can interfere with Levothyroxine absorption. Foods to avoid while taking thyroxine medication include:
- Cottonseed meal
- Soybean flour
Avoid taking iron and calcium supplements, multivitamins with iron, magnesium or aluminum-containing antacids, calcium supplements, certain ulcer drugs (e.g. sucralfate, Carafate) certain cholesterol-lowering drugs(containing colestipol, Colestid; and cholestyramine, Prevalite.)
4.Eat Foods Containing Iodine, Selenium and Zinc
There are three minerals that you especially need to consume when you have an underactive thyroid, iodine, selenium and zinc.
Iodine is an essential mineral needed by the body to make thyroid hormones which in turn help control metabolism and other vital functions. Eat iodine rich foods such as:
- Himalayan Crystal Salt
Selenium is a mineral that plays a direct role in thyroid function. In fact, the thyroid contains the highest level of selenium (per gram of tissue) than all other organs in your body.The body needs selenium to recycle iodine, so it’s important to eat foods that contain a high source of it including:
- Brazil nuts
Thyroid hormones are also closely interconnected with the mineral zinc, which is responsible for regulating Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH). Foods high in zinc are:
5.Exercise Regularly Each Week
Your exercise regimen is usually the first thing you’ll want to scratch off your list when you’re not feeling well. Your metabolism is slower than normal, and dieting alone doesn’t seem to be as effective at shedding all of your extra pounds. Unfortunately, this creates a bigger problem when trying to lose weight. As mentioned earlier, you need to consistently burn more calories than you eat.
When you take the right type of thyroid medicine in the proper dosage and add the necessary nutrients to your diet, you’ll start to feel better and become more energized. As you gain more energy, you’ll soon discover that engaging in regular exercise on a weekly basis becomes easier which will jumpstart your metabolism. Walk regularly (up to 10,000 steps or 60 minutes daily) or lift weights (at the level you’re most comfortable) with if walking is an issue.
Being active not only helps you to burn more calories, but it also helps you gain strength, agility, and improved mobility. Resistance training is another form of exercise that burns extra calories and builds lean muscle. Building lean muscle is an important aspect when you want to lose weight because it speeds up your metabolism and strengthens your immunity.
6: Eliminate Suspect Trigger Foods
Many disorders, including obesity seem to occur as a result of chronic cellular inflammation. Eliminating certain foods in the diet is one way to possibly reduce inflammation before it causes serious issues to your health. Inflammation of the thyroid or thyroiditis causes the thyroid to leak excess thyroid hormones.
Long term thyroiditis creates a vicious cycle of excess thyroid hormone leakage and eventually nonproduction of thyroid hormones altogether. The common symptoms associated with thyroiditis include unexplained weight gain and tiredness.
Temporary steps taken to avoid consumption of various foods thought to trigger an inflammatory response within the body is known as Autoimmune Protocol (AIP).
Foods commonly removed from the diet include legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy, grains, nightshade vegetables, specific meats, and foods with dyes are believed to cause inflammation in the intestinal tract. It takes time for the body to recover from inflammation. However, restricting your diet using a specific food protocol for too long can create other medical problems depending on:
- What type of drugs you’re currently taking
- If you risk losing essential nutrients in the process.
If you have Hashimoto’s disease, following the AIP could alleviate your symptoms if following the other steps aren’t effective.
7: Drink More Water
Aside from eating nutritious food, drinking water helps the body stay hydrated and flushes out toxins. The latter is especially beneficial since the buildup of toxins from various sources (food, air, chemical, tap water) can cause chronic inflammation.
As your system is exposed to more toxins, the body must work harder to remove them from your skin, liver, kidneys, spleen, and lymphatic system. The body fights against this invasion of excess toxins by encapsulating or storing them within fat cells.
The good news is that excess toxins generally can be removed out of the body by simply drinking more water. Research suggests that drinking water can play a vital role in weight loss, especially if you drink water before a meal; this action will help you eat less food which in turn will help you to burn more calories.
The standard recommendation for drinking water is to consume eight glasses of water a day. A portion of water intake can come from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, like cucumbers, watermelons, peaches, grapefruit, oranges, and radishes. Voiding dark urine is a huge indicator that your urine is too concentrated and that your kidneys need a little extra help to work at peak performance.
The best type of water to drink to remove toxins from the body should be filtered water because tap water often contains pathogens and chemicals such as fluoride, chlorine (Dioxin), and bromine which can cause greater harm to an underactive thyroid.
There are several symptoms that may develop in hypothyroidism, but the most typical symptoms include fatigue and unexplained weight gain which eventually leads to obesity and even heart disease.
The causes of hypothyroidism can be congenital, or it may develop from thyroid dysfunction, radiation exposure, disease of the pituitary gland, injury, medications, surgery, or a lack of iodine in the diet. In the United States, hypothyroidism is most commonly caused by the autoimmune disorder Hashimoto’s disease. More than 200,000 cases of Hashimoto’s disease are reported every year.
Reducing consumption of empty calorie carbs will prevent the urge to snack all day (especially late at night) which happens when the body doesn’t get enough nutrients it needs for energy in the daytime. On the other hand, eating dense calorie foods keeps you full longer and helps to stabilize your sugar levels.
Adding foods containing selenium and zinc into your diet can also promote a balanced metabolism and improve your thyroid’s function, including thyroid hormone production.
There is a popular misconception that weight loss and muscle definition are achieved best through intense, sweat-dripping workouts. To the contrary, it’s really not necessary to engage in these types of workouts to achieve your weight loss goals. Research shows that regular low-intensity exercise such as regular long walks are just as effective for achieving weight loss.
It’s important to remember that hypothyroidism affects everyone differently. One patient may experience very different symptoms than you do. When you have a sluggish thyroid, you may often experience fatigue which makes it difficult to commit to regular activity. Taking thyroid medication that works the best for you can provide noticeable relief from your symptoms. Moreover,there are a few key factors that will help anyone with hypothyroidism:
- Proper digestion makes minerals and nutrients more accessible to the body.
- When gut balance is healthy, the colon can absorb more nutrients and eliminate toxins and food waste more efficiently as you lose weight.
- Make sure to maintain regular visits with your practitioner.
- Monitor your test results to get on the right thyroid treatment plan.
- Once you make necessary changes in your life, you can lose weight easier and keep it off.
- Significant weight loss occurs when more calories are burned rather than stored.
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- How to Lose Weight With an Underactive Thyroid: 7 Simple Steps