Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
It is a well known fact that untreated hypothyroidism causes moderate weight gain, in fact some patients report weight gain that is in excess of moderate. I use the term moderate however, because most medical sources state it that way and they also suggest that weight gain with untreated hypothyroidism will usually result in no more than 20lb of weight gain. Regardless of the actual amount of weight gain, which in my opinion varies among individual patients and depends upon how severe their untreated hypothyroidism is, it does indeed cause weight gain! This is due to the fact that with hypothyroid conditions, the rate of our bodily metabolism is slowed down. We burn less energy when the metabolism is not running at a normal rate. They also refer to this as hypo-metabolism, which can have additional causes other than hypothyroidism.
Now when we look at patients who are being treated for hypothyroidism, we still hear them report gaining weight more easily and having difficulty losing weight. There are no medical research studies on the subject of weight gain in patients being treated for hypothyroidism that I am aware of but the number of patients attesting to this problem in articles and on forums is significant. I personally can also attest to the fact that I too gain weight more easily and have a harder time losing weight, despite being adequately and even optimally treated for my hypothyroidism.
I’m not sure we will ever have a firm medical explanation as to why this happens but it could possibly be that thyroid hormone being administered from the outside (hormone therapy), whether it is the natural or synthetic form, is slightly less effective in regulating our metabolism than our own hormone is. This is certainly just a theory but in my opinion, is a reasonable one that should be given some consideration by those in the medical profession.
Another theory that I believe should be considered, is the possibility that “thyroid autoimmunity” that is present in most cases of hypothyroidism, may also play a factor in weight control. It may be that thyroid antibodies also affect our metabolism, to a very small degree but significant enough to affect our body’s ability to burn calories and turn fat into energy. I do know that “insulin resistance” is more common in treated hypothyroid patients and the description I just gave, fits this condition. I can also attest to being a hypothyroid patient with co-morbid insulin resistance.
Treated hypothyroid patients must work harder than people without thyroid disease, to lose weight and to keep their weight under control. While there are many diet plans out there, I feel the same principles apply in weight loss, no matter which diet plan you may try. The principles include eating healthier, which would consist of eating more fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains, cutting back and eliminating refined sugars from your diet, eating less and exercising more. These principles can be wrapped together in many different packages and called by many different diet-plan names but they are the principles that work and you simply add discipline to that plan, to make it work.
Weight gain and difficulty losing weight is a challenge to treated hypothyroid patients but one they can accomplish with effort.