The Real Reason You Can’t Lose Weight with Hypothyroidism
Inside: Can Hypothyroidism cause weight gain? The relation between Hypothyroidism weight gain and Mitochondria. Effective Thyroid weight gain solutions.
Weight gain is a big problem in people with hypothyroidism. This is probably the number one complaint that females have after being diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
The worst part is that even after treatment with levothyroxine several females are not able to lose weight.
Weight loss becomes challenging for these patients and they suffer miserably. The majority of the time hypothyroidism causes weight gain around the stomach area and that’s difficult to lose this weight around waistline.
There are several diets that have become popular to help people to lose weight, but most of the time they don’t work when hypothyroidism causes weight gain.
What we realize is that the weight gain in hypothyroidism is much more complicated than what we thought before.
Can Hypothyroidism Cause Weight Gain?
Yes, hypothyroidism can cause weight gain, but the real question is why does hypothyroidism cause weight gain.
Initially, the thought was that the weight gain in hypothyroidism was because of the slowing of the BMR. BMR which is a basic metabolic rate is the rate at which your body is expending energy when you are at rest.
According to this theory, the thyroid hormone controls your BMR. So when there is a deficiency of thyroid hormone it causes to lower your BMR. This lowered BMR leads to less energy expenditure in our body and the excess energy is stored in our body as fat.
But if this theory was correct then as soon as patients were started on thyroid hormone replacement they will lose weight. But in reality that doesn’t happen.
Several patients even after starting the thyroid hormone medication find it difficult to lose weight with thyroid dysfunction.
And the only question they have is how to lose this thyroid weight gain.
For this, we need to understand what is the real cause which is causing the weight gain and is there a fix for it.
Hypothyroidism Weight Gain and Mitochondria
The real cause of hypothyroidism weight gain is — this weight gain is because of small organelle in your body called mitochondria.
This mitochondrion is responsible for producing energy in your body and also regulates several metabolic processes.
It was initially thought that the thyroid hormone affects the functioning of mitochondria and this affects the metabolic rate and thus causing weight gain.
But in reality, the mitochondrial dysfunction in people with thyroid problems happens earlier than the hypothyroidism.
What this means is that — first, mitochondrial destruction happens and then later on thyroid gland destruction happens.
Why and How does Mitochondrial Destruction Happen
Mitochondria as we discussed before is your energy power house.
It consumes fuel and converts into energy to power our whole body. Now mitochondria are very efficient machine and it can consume glucose or fatty acids and break them down to produce energy in the form of ATP.
During this energy production process, there are some waste products that are also formed which are called Reaction oxygen species ( ROS ).
In people with thyroid dysfunction, this mitochondrial machinery starts to break down and which causes metabolic dysfunction. This metabolic dysfunction is the reason people start to gain weight.
Now let us understand why does mitochondrial destruction happen.
So the underlying process that causes destruction of mitochondria is inflammation.
The inflammation inside our body causes mitochondrial destruction. It is well known now in the medical community that patients with a thyroid disorder have a high level of inflammation markers present.
So this underlying inflammation first destroys your mitochondria and then destroys your thyroid gland.
Destruction of the thyroid gland further slows down the mitochondria. So you see its a vicious cycle which forms and makes it very challenging for people to lose weight.
What Causes Inflammation
We now know that inflammation is the root cause of thyroid disorder.
The most common thyroid disorder in today’s world is Hashimoto’s disease. Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition and the hallmark of this disease is inflammation.
Here antibodies in your body start destroying your own thyroid gland and ultimately causes hypothyroidism.
But what causes this inflammation in our body is important to understand.
1. Sugar and High Carbs: We can produce energy by utilizing two kinds of fuel, one is glucose and the other is fatty acids. In primitive times our mitochondria maintained a balance in energy production by utilizing both glucose and fatty acids for energy production.
As sometimes we had glucose available to burn as fuel when we would have fruits, grains or other carbs to eat. Other times we would use fat stored in our body for energy production, this was the time when we didn’t have carbohydrates as the fuel.
Since the modem lifestyle came, our diets are predominantly loaded with carbohydrates. This carb-loading gives excess glucose to our system. Mitochondria work overtime to metabolize this glucose in our body and in turn, get overburdened.
Now with any machine working overtime, it starts wearing down. Also using fat as fuel doesn’t happen anymore so we keep collecting fat all the time. Burning fat as fuel has many benefits as it generates chemical signals which make your body more resistant to weight gain.
But with no fat burning now those signals don’t happen and we continue to gain weight. So the exposure to high carb food over several years set the stage for creating inflammation in our body and mitochondrial destruction.
2. Stress: Stress is an important trigger for inflammation. This stress can be emotional, physical, mental, chemical, psychological anything. When your body senses there is something that is dangerous it produces chemicals and secretes hormones in excess like cortisol.
These hormones in acute times are protective but when your body continues to produce these signals day in and day out then this leads to inflammation.
Again our modern-day times have made our life so stressful. We are constantly under pressure either from work, or juggling between multiple roles, or financial challenges.
This constant pressure from all these issues builds up and leads to inflammation.
3. Food: Except for sugar there are other foods that can cause inflammation. With modern agriculture coming into place, we modified our food rapidly.
With GMO food coming into the market we have a totally new species of food that our body doesn’t recognize.
When our body doesn’t recognize this newly modified food, then it produces antibodies against it. These antibodies again lead to inflammation and cause mitochondrial destruction.
The main culprit in this scenario are foods like gluten, dairy, soy, corn which have been heavily modified.
4. Excess Reactive Oxygen Species ( ROS ): As I mentioned above when mitochondria are working to produce energy the byproduct is these ROS. Our body has a mechanism to deal with these ROS in a safe manner in regular circumstances.
But when our mitochondria are overworking and stressed the production of ROS is far more than what our body can handle.
These ROS, in turn, starts producing inflammation and also simultaneously destroy our own mitochondria. In fact, there is a theory that excess production of these ROS is the reason for early aging.
5. Toxins: Our world today is filled with different kinds of toxins. Every day we are introducing a new toxin into our environment. Our body is not able to handle all these toxins effectively and when they accumulate in our body they start an inflammatory response.
Most of these toxins stay in our body so they continue to keep the fire of inflammation and thus mitochondrial destruction continues.
Thyroid Weight Gain Solutions
At least now we understand that weight gain in the thyroid is not just because of thyroid hormone deficiency, it’s much more than that. So we need to devise a strategy for thyroid weight gain.
Its the underlying inflammation and mitochondrial destruction which is slowing down our whole metabolic system.
So can you speed up your thyroid to lose weight? Certainly yes we can speed up your whole body to recover from all this damage which has happened and this will in turn help to lose weight.
1. Diet: As I mentioned before there are several weight-loss diets out there and they might work for some time. But what they don’t remember is that diet is just one piece to this whole puzzle. So from a diet perspective, I will encourage you to eliminate all simple carbs from your diet and also sugars from your diet as much as possible.
Eliminate gluten and dairy again as much as possible. Focus on eating more vegetables, clean protein, and good fat in your diet. Add lots of fiber-containing food like whole grains, chia, flax seeds. Drink green tea on a daily basis at least 2-3 cups.
Also, eat lots of turmeric and ginger, they reduce inflammation and can be helpful. focus on reducing carbohydrate-rich foods and introduce more protein and good fat-containing food.
2. Intermittent Fasting: This can be a game-changer for a lot of people. Intermittent fasting gives you that metabolic flexibility which is lost for us.
Remember we use carb as fuel all the time and don’t use fatty acids as fuel at all.
And not able to burn fat as fuel causes us not to lose weight. So this intermittent fasting creates an environment in our body that forces mitochondria to burn fats to produce ketones.
And these ketones are chemical mediators that signal our body to lose weight.
So intermittent fasting is a very important aspect of weight loss. Try doing 16:8 protocol. Where you fast for 16 hours and eat for an 8-hour window.
3. Exercise: Exercise is an important aspect which along with other things mentioned here reduces inflammation, and also recharges mitochondria. So as we spoke before that in thyroid dysfunction, the mitochondria in our body are tired, exhausted, and also damaged.
The single factor which can help to regenerate mitochondria is exercise. What is the best exercise for thyroid patients? The best exercise is a mix of cardio and strength training.
Even better if you can add interval training. But start from basics like walking outdoors and then increase your exercise routine slowly.
4. Stress Reduction: This is my favorite part of the inflammation killer. A simple few minutes in your day of deep breathing or meditation can help your immune system so much.
Several studies have shown that meditation can reduce inflammation. These simple techniques have helped several of my patients who were not able to lose weight before.
5. Sleep: Sleep is another important part of this puzzle. Most of us are deficient in good quality sleep. This can impact our health especially our chances of weight loss significantly.
Melatonin is an important hormone that is produced by our body when it’s dark. Melatonin has so many beneficial health benefits and one of them is weight loss.
Actually, there was a research study was done which showed melatonin supplementation can help with weight loss by improving mitochondrial function. So sleep is very important in that aspect.
6. Supplements: There are tons of supplements in the market to lose weight. And it’s very difficult to recommend all the supplements to everyone. Few supplements which I find useful in this journey are
- Coq10, Alpha lipoic acid- To help regenerate mitochondria and remove ROS . A good combination supplement is called Mitothera.
- Chromium- For improving insulin sensitivity
- Glutathione- For detox and also is shown to improve weight loss
- Taurine – Improves your body’s ability to burn fat.
- A good multivitamin.
I think other nutrients you can get from food if you do a good job with it. So now you understand why you are not losing weight in a thyroid condition. It is not just a deficiency of thyroid hormone it is much more than that. It is complicated and that’s the reason if you want to be successful with this weight loss then you need to follow certain things to make it happen. If you follow the above program than most people will be able to lose weight.
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Dr. Anshul Gupta MD is Board-Certified Family Medicine Physician, with advanced certification in Functional Medicine, Peptide therapy and also Fellowship trained in Integrative Medicine.Know More