When the thyroid and metabolism are working properly the body is capable of converting food into energy and putting it to use as effectively as possible. But if the thyroid is under-performing, not only does one’s metabolism suffer, but so does the rest of the body. Because the thyroid regulates the production of energy for all cells in the body as well as the hormone levels throughout, it is of paramount importance that the thyroid is considered when treating weight issues.
Connecting the Dots
Obesity is becoming a global concern, but it is particularly relevant in the United States. At the end of the 20th century close to one-third of adults in the U.S. were classified as obese. Although there are many correlations between underactive thyroid, hyperthyroidism, and weight management, widespread recognition is still lacking.
The DanThyr study points to the correlation of thyroid function and one’s weight. This research showed that, among a cross-sectional population of 4,082 participants, thyroid function, even that which was considered within “normal” ranges, could contribute in determining a population’s body weight. A connection was shown between even minor upward shifts of serum TSH levels and the occurrence of obesity among individuals. This data suggests that those whose thyroid levels fall below the standard range are more likely to experience weight gain, obesity, and an inability to lose weight. Conversely, it was also suggested that through required optimization of thyroid levels one could lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight.
Thyroid and the Three T’s
The thyroid is in charge of maintaining, monitoring and producing thyroid hormone. T4, produced by the thyroid, is converted into either T3 or Reverse T3. Conversion of T4 into T3 is critical for healthy metabolism. Those who are unable to efficiently convert T4 to T3 can suffer a drop of nearly 40% in T3 levels. As the active form of the hormone, a drop of this degree greatly hinders energy production in the cells, hampers cell growth, and reduces metabolism. This hormone is one of the more important players in keeping the metabolic rate up. In order to maintain a healthy metabolism, it is important that levels of all three of these hormones are in the appropriate ranges and effectively transferring to cells.
Why Does Eating less not Work?
Simply eating less or reducing caloric intake is a common suggestion given to those who are gaining unwanted weight. When put into action this can work for those who are overeating, but for those who have hypothyroidism it can be a fruitless and frustrating venture. Those suffering from thyroid conditions can aggressively gain weight at a rate of one to two pounds a week even when following a proper diet.
Recklessly reducing one’s caloric intake can be dangerous in a number of ways. Eating too few calories can result in poor nourishment, resulting in a lack of minerals and vitamins that the body needs to construct and replace cells in the body. Alternatively, the body may begin cannibalizing muscle in order to fuel the body, ultimately harming its metabolism because muscle is a primary source for burning calories. However, perhaps most detrimental is repeated adherence to a temporary, or crash diet, resulting in chronic dieting.
Chronic Dieting – Repetitiously utilizing diets that aren’t right for your body can damage your metabolism and leave a lasting effect. Proper diet does not always mean reducing your caloric intake, but it always involves making sure you are getting the nutritional value that’s right for your body from the food you eat.
It has been shown that that those who have chronically dieted tend to have a basal metabolic rate that is 20-40% lower than expected. With a drop of that severity, in order to simply maintain current weight, one would have to cut 500-1000 calories from their diet. In the long term this sort of change is incredibly challenging to maintain. Additionally, chronic dieters have commonly shown a decrease of up to 50% in active T3 levels. This drop in T3 accounts for the experienced metabolic inadequacy.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see metabolic rate and thyroid levels stay at their reduced state even when these individuals return to their normalized diet. This is because the body adapts to starvation mode and the thyroid reduces metabolic rate in order to retain as much energy as possible. A study in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism showed that after a month (25 days to be exact) of following a calorie restrictive diet patients saw a great reduction in T4 to T3 conversion, including a 50% reduction of overall T3. This loss of T3 could lead to an inability to lose weight or to easily regain the weight they lost. To alleviate this, the physiological condition of the thyroid must be treated as opposed to solely prescribing exercise and diet.
How Does Someone with a Thyroid Condition Lose Weight?
Although it can be overwhelming battling a thyroid condition as well as trying to lose weight there are tools available that remove the guess work and support your weight loss and health goals. The Holtorf Medical Group is offering Dr. Nancy Evans’ “Stop the Weight Program”. This 8-week course provides information on diet and nutrition, healthy and easy recipes, and an online community where one can pose questions and comments to be answered by Dr. Evans. Her explanation of the various factors and systems, not just diet, regarding weight gain including the thyroid, adrenals, and mitochondria, gives you the clarity to move forward and make the right changes for you. If you can’t seem to lose excess weight, or if you’re interested in adopting habits that promote healthy living and lifelong health, join us in the “Stop the Weight Program.”