Thyroid disorders are often banded around as a theory as to why we may struggle with weight gain, or simply struggle to control fluctuations. And if you’ve struggled with your weight for a long time, at some point it’s quite likely you’ve pointed the finger of suspicion at your own thyroid.
Perhaps you follow all the healthy diet and exercise advice religiously, but still find yourself stuck in a plateau. Or perhaps your body just seems hell bent on holding onto every morsel of fat you eat, despite the fact you see skinny people stuffing themselves with chips all around you, while you munch on megre portions of lettuce leaves.
It’s easy to see then why you may begin to wonder what the heck’s going on with your thyroid.
But a faulty thyroid isn’t something that’s always easy to identify and very few of us are actually aware of the true symptoms of a thyroid disorder. In this article, we look at what causes thyroid disorders, key symptoms to look out for, and the recommended treatment options.
How does your thyroid work?
Your thyroid gland is located in your neck. It’s responsible for producing key hormones involved in metabolism. These hormones are called triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) and they control how well your body is able to convert nutrients into energy.
This includes the burning of stored fat, which is an essential component of weight loss. The hormones do this by influencing how fast or slow different chemical reactions happen in the organs, which affects how they utilise oxygen, create proteins involved in digestion, and interact with other hormones.
Common thyroid problems
Having a thyroid problem can affect the production of these influential hormones, which then has a knock-on effect in different areas of the metabolism. Some problems result in too much thyroid hormone being produced whereas others result in too little. These are known as;
- Hypothyroidism – where the gland produces less thyroid hormone than normal
- Hyperthyroidism – where the gland produces too much thyroid hormone
Hypothyroidism is sometimes referred to as an underactive thyroid and it can cause you to gain weight. Because you’re not making enough hormones for your metabolism to function optimally, your body is unable to process and excrete nutrients as well as it should. Your metabolism slows down and your body hangs on to fat, water, and salt. Over time this can lead to noticeable changes in body shape, even if you’re eating healthily and exercising regularly.
Symptoms of an underactive thyroid
The most common symptoms of an underactive thyroid are weight gain, tiredness, and feeling depressed. The tricky thing about these signs is that they’re very similar to those related to other conditions too. This can make it difficult to identify an underactive thyroid, as many people put the symptoms down to other things that are happening in their life. They also tend to develop quite slowly so you may not immediately notice them.
If you are experiencing the symptoms below then it’s worth seeing your doctor and asking to be tested for an underactive thyroid;
- weight gain
- tiredness or fatigue
- depression or low mood
- dry hair and skin
- feeling more sensitive to the cold
- aching muscles
All of these symptoms can affect your daily life, but weight gain can be especially frustrating for some people. If you’ve been working hard to eat healthily and work out regularly, it can be disheartening if your weight continues to increase. It may feel like all of your efforts are futile when you’re not seeing the rewards equal your effort.
This happens because your thyroid isn’t producing enough of the hormones that are involved in fat metabolism. Without sufficient hormone levels, the body is unable to process fat so it gets stored instead of being used as fuel. This is what causes the weight gain despite your best efforts to address it.
Who is most affected by thyroid problems?
Anyone can experience thyroid problems, however, they’re around 50 times more common in women than men. It’s thought that female hormones like oestrogen may play a role in triggering it, although the exact mechanism isn’t known for certain. Women are most likely to have thyroid problems around the menopause in their late 40s or early 50s, possibly due to hormonal changes that take place around this time.
It’s also common for thyroid trouble to be hereditary. Your genetic makeup can make you more likely to experience an underactive thyroid, so if you’re related to someone who has had a thyroid problem, then you are more likely to have one yourself.
How to find out if you have a thyroid problem
If you think you may have a thyroid problem, then it’s best to visit your doctor. They can run blood tests and analyse the levels of different thyroid hormones in your system. This will highlight whether you have an underactive thyroid and may get to the root of what’s causing your weight gain. You’ll usually receive the results in 7-10 days and the doctor will then guide you on the best course of action from there.
If you’re diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, then the preferred treatment is thyroxine. This is a synthetic form of the main thyroid hormone that’s found in the body. Taking this will rebalance your hormone levels and enable your metabolism to function at its best again.
What if the results show you don’t have a thyroid problem?
For many people, being diagnosed with a thyroid problem can actually be a positive thing. It gives them answers to questions they’ve had about why they’re gaining weight and feeling tired, and also enables them to take steps to address it. But if it turns out you don’t have a thyroid problem, then what are your options?
If you’re struggling with your weight, there could be a number of other factors at play. For most people, weight gain is caused by an energy imbalance. Consuming more calories than you burn will gradually lead to the excess energy being stored as fat and glycogen. In this situation, decreasing your calorie intake and increasing your physical activity levels is the healthiest way to approach weight loss.
Thyroid problems & weight gain
Thyroid problems can be a frustrating cause of weight gain. If you’re following a healthy diet and exercising consistently but still aren’t seeing results, then look at whether any of the symptoms above apply to you. If you think that your weight gain is being caused by excess calories, then increasing your vegetable and lean protein intake can help, along with an appetite suppressant supplement like PhenQ.
PhenQ will actively help reduce your cravings for food and increase fat burning too. Whatever the cause of your weight gain, being proactive about solutions will help you take control of the situation and see results faster.
Do you have any experience with thyroid issues? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.