According to the American Thyroid Association, 20 million Americans have some sort of thyroid disease and up to 60% of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition. In Europe, there are over 4 million cases reported in Greece and Italy alone (1). With rising cases of thyroid disease, it is no wonder that more and more people are finding it difficult to lose weight and regain their health.
Instead of defining what hypothyroidism is and what causes this chronic disease (which, by the way, is highly argued and complex), let’s look at how hypothyroidism can derail your weight loss efforts.
1 – Decreases the functioning of the intestine
Thyroid hormones like T4 (the storage form of thyroid hormone) and T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone), decrease inflammation and increase functioning of the digestive track. There have been animal studies reported that suggest that thyroid hormones decrease the formation of stress ulcers. (2) Why is this relevant? If there is some dysfunction with the production or metabolism of thyroid hormones, it is very likely that the digestive tract will be affected. If the digestive tract is inflamed, is infected, or not working properly overall, it causes further damage to thyroid function. This, therefore, creates a vicious cycle. Decreased thyroid hormones cause an inflamed gut, and an inflamed gut further exacerbates thyroid issues. Overall, if your gut doesn’t absorb vital nutrients, the cells cannot metabolize and weight loss is hindered.
2 – Increases stress hormones and causes adrenal fatigue
For the many that do not even know they have a thyroid problem or their thyroid issue is not sufficiently treated, stress hormones are hard at work. Because there is an imbalance caused by hypothyroidism, the body automatically thinks that it is under stress. In response to this, the adrenal glands release increased amounts of cortisol and epinephrine. These hormones are ok in a fight or flight situation, but can wreak havoc when they are consistently released. Studies have shown that chronically increased levels of cortisol are associated with diabetes, weight gain, immune system suppression, gastrointestinal issues, cardiovascular disease, infertility, chronic fatigue syndrome, and insomnia. (3)
3 – Causes sleepless nights
Because stress hormones are consistently at work, many have trouble sleeping. Remember that the stress hormones prepare you for running or fighting, so this keeps you very alert and awake. The problem here is that if you do not sleep well, this again can hinder metabolism and ultimately weight loss. Research shows that if you are sleep deprived, you burn less calories throughout the day. (4) In other words, the less you sleep, the more your metabolism will slow down. Lack of sleep also affects hormones which are responsible for appetite regulation. This means that you are more likely to eat more (and burn less).
What can you do to boost metabolism when you have hypothyroidism?
1. Heal your gutBecause of all the processed foods, pollutants, and stress we are exposed to, everyone can benefit from cleansing their intestine. Read our article on ‘leaky gut’ to learn how to do this.
2. Decrease the amount of stress hormones by A – finding a good functional medicine doctor to regulate thyroid functionMany may fair better on a bio-identical hormone (dessicated thyroid) rather than on Synthroid. B – avoid sugar (except from fruits), grains, unfermented soy products, and processed foods that will further exacerbate stress hormone production.
3. Use magnesium, sugar, and salt to help balance your sleep patternsRub some magnesium oil on your arms, legs, and stomach before you go to sleep. If you wake up in the middle of the night, have some fresh juice with a pinch of sea salt added to it. DO NOT gulp this down, simply take a few sips. The sugar from the juice decreases cortisol and the salt decreases the epinephrine. Also, it is important to go to sleep between the hours of 10-11pm. There is a natural surge of cortisol after this which could make you lose your sleep. It is important to stick to a specific sleep schedule in order to follow the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Make sure to avoid bright lights and screens at night. If you are unable to do this, limit your screen time and do not fall asleep with the television. This again causes surges in stress hormones that help you to stay awake, NOT to sleep.
All of the above will help your body to become more balanced. With balance, comes a more efficient metabolism. With a more efficient metabolism comes weight loss. Weight loss is NOT just about calories in versus calories out as once thought. It’s about finding balance and healing our bodies in order for our bodies to work more efficiently for us.
2. Konyucu, A. et al, Effects of thyroid hormone on stress ulcer formation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12269922
3. Aronson, Dina, It’s role in stress, inflammation, and indications for Diet Therapy (2009) http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
4. Benedict C. et al, Acute sleep deprivation reduces energy expenditure in healthy men. Am J Clin Nutr June 2011. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/93/6/1229.abstract?sid=ee6e80cd-d844-4103-ade3-82d9b41b9357