Does this seem familiar? Feeling terribly tired and gaining weight despite not changing your health behaviours or meal sizes? Could it be you have an underlying thyroid condition and if so, what are you able to do to help manage your symptoms?
Dieting isn't the answer
If you are diagnosed with an underactive thyroid, or even subclinical hypothyroidism, the good news is that it can be supported and normalised with an appropriate “thyroid support plan” that not only targets thyroid function but also the nervous system and liver as well. The impact of stress, not surprisingly also affects how well our thyroid functions.
Your thyroid impacts cholesterol synthesis, keeps your metabolism turning over and prevents the accumulation of excess body fat, salt and water. An underactive thyroid will slow down your metabolism, causing your body to burn off drastically fewer calories, feel lethargic, and retain water, thereby causing excessive weight gain and cellulite, and a number of other symptoms that are unwelcome and certainly unwanted. The driver of all these functions is your level of active thyroid hormone. Your thyroid gland normally generates the inactive type of thyroid hormone called T4 (thyroxine) and this is afterwards converted to the active type, T3 (also called triiodotyrosine), which acts in different organs of the body including the liver and kidneys. Hypothyroidism occurs when the synthesis of thyroid hormones is compromised.
Could I be at risk of a thyroid condition?
Women are much more likely than men to develop hypothyroidism and it is recommended that adults, particularly women, have a blood test to detect thyroid problems every five years starting at age 35. You may need more regular testing if you have been pregnant or have delivered a baby within the past six months, have had a thyroid problem before or family history of thyroid disease, or have other autoimmune diseases including Sjögren’s syndrome, pernicious anaemia, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus. Getting tested helps uncover thyroid problems – especially subclinical problems where a person has no apparent symptoms. If diagnosed with a thyroid condition, you should undergo have your thyroid function tested every 10-12 weeks or earlier if symptoms worsen.
Certain other factors can increase your chances of developing weight issues due to thyroid dysregulation. These include:
- Stress – raised cortisol levels that occur with chronic stress results in an imbalance in the creation of active thyroid hormone (T3) and reverse T3 (rT3; an inactive thyroid hormones that reduces general T3 action), thyroid dysregulation and autoimmune illnesses.
- Thyroiditis which can occur more commonly after pregnancy.
- Not getting enough iodine or selenium from your diet. Australia has soil that is low in both these minerals and it is common to see deficiencies in the general population.
- Your liver plays a role in conversion of inactive to active thyroid hormone, so poor liver function can contribute to metabolic issues to do with thyroid function.
- If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), these hormonal imbalances may increase the risk of thyroid dysfunction.
- Autoimmune disease.
Maintaining positive health behaviours can be tricky to negotiate in a busy world but if you have an underlying thyroid issue, feeling tired and low, it can be even more so. Ask your health care practitioner if this is something you should consider testing for today.