The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in your throat, produces hormones that regulate many bodily functions, including metabolism. So, when your thyroid gland becomes underactive (medically known as hypothyroidism) and secretes fewer hormones than normal, it affects your metabolism rate and your body burns fewer calories. This causes weight gain.
Unexplained weight gain, without any changes in diet or physical activity, is one of the main symptoms of hypothyroidism.
A 2008 study published in the Saudi Medical Journal reports that overall thyroid dysfunction was more common in overweight people with varying degree of significance. However, further studies are needed to find out the exact cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and hypothyroidism.
Along with excess weight gain, other common symptoms of an underactive thyroid are dry skin, muscle soreness, brittle hair, constant fatigue, frequent tiredness, poor appetite, menstrual problems, high cholesterol levels, constipation, indigestion, poor concentration, poor memory and increased sensitivity to cold.
It may be hard to lose weight when your metabolism slows down, but there are things you can do. First of all, you need to treat the problem with hormone replacement and make certain lifestyle changes.
Here are some ways to lose weight with an underactive thyroid.
1. Take Thyroid Medication
When suffering from hypothyroidism, it is important to take thyroid medication as directed by your physician. This will help keep the thyroid hormones in your body at normal levels. Once the thyroid levels are controlled, it will automatically assist in your weight loss goal.
Without keeping your thyroid levels up, weight loss is not only difficult but may be impossible for many.
Thyroid medicine should be taken on an empty stomach first thing in the morning with plenty of water. After taking the medicine, wait an hour before eating your breakfast.
At the same time, do not take any other medications for at least 30 minutes after taking thyroid medication.
2. Avoid Simple Carbohydrates and Sugars
If you have hypothyroidism, it is important to follow a moderate- to low-carbohydrate diet that focuses on complex carbohydrates. At the same time, avoid simple carbohydrates and sugars that simply add to your calorie intake.
When trying to lose weight, the main focus should be eating fewer calories than you can burn off easily. The slow metabolism resulting from hypothyroidism can make burning calories very difficult. However, you must not excessively reduce your calories, as it can lead to a stress response in the body that also results in deceased thyroid hormone production.
Try to eat complex carbohydrates to reduce the production of cytokines, which are tiny proteins that can influence inflammation in the body.
Keep a food journal to keep track of your daily caloric intake and to make sure you are eating a well-balanced diet.
3. Keep Moving
Exercise is probably one of the best ways to lose some weight, even for people suffering from hypothyroidism.
Exercise speeds up the metabolism rate, thus helping you overcome the effects of hypothyroidism. Exercise also provides the much-needed strength and mobility.
Low-intensity, prolonged exercise like a daily brisk walk of 45 to 60 minutes is enough. But it is important to do it on a regular basis.
Along with this, strength-training and light weight exercises should be done twice a week for 30 minutes. These exercises are highly beneficial, especially if mobility is an issue for you.
4. Switch to Coconut Oil for Cooking
Another simple way to lose weight with hypothyroidism is the regular use of coconut oil.
First of all, the healthy medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil stimulate thyroid hormone production to keep the gland functioning normally. Plus, it promotes weight loss and reduces cholesterol levels, two common issues related to an underactive thyroid.
In addition, the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil easily enter into the mitochondria – the cells’ energy-burning powerhouses – and from here the fats are converted to energy. This in turn gives a boost to your metabolism.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of Nutrition highlights the satiating effect of medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) when compared with long-chain triglycerides (LCT). MCT also facilitates weight loss.
Another study published in Lipids in 2012 highlighted the positive effect of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity.
Replace your regular cooking oil with extra-virgin coconut oil. You can also eat 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin coconut oil daily by adding it to your milk, tea, hot chocolate or smoothie.
Note: Do not consume more than 3 tablespoons of coconut oil a day
5. Opt for Healthy Nut Snacks
Small, frequent meals is a must if you have an underactive thyroid to give your metabolism a boost and support weight loss. A main component of a healthy diet plan is healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snacks.
Nuts make a healthy choice, due to the presence of selenium in them. Selenium is an important mineral for proper thyroid functioning. It protects the thyroid from inflammatory by-products of hormone production.
A 2002 study published in Thyroid reports that adequate selenium nutrition supports efficient thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism, and protects the thyroid gland against damage from excessive iodine exposure.
Another 2015 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism notes that a low selenium level is associated with an increased risk of thyroid disease. Moreover, increased selenium intake may reduce this risk.
The best source of selenium is Brazil nuts. A 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that consuming just two Brazil nuts daily is effective for increasing selenium status.
Along with Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and eggs are good snacks containing selenium.
6. Take Fish Oil Supplements
Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which your body does not produce and must get from food to improve the functionality of your underactive thyroid.
Omega-3 fatty acids also improve the body’s ability to metabolize fat and prevent its accumulation. It is beneficial in reducing the belly fat called visceral fat, which is linked to a number of health issues, including high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar.
A 2010 study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests that fatty acids enhance thyroid hormone signaling in the liver and affect hepatic-lipid metabolism.
These fatty acids also help decrease inflammation, increase immunity and may affect gene expression.
Before taking a fish oil supplement, talk to your doctor about how much you should take. Do not take more than 3 grams a day.
7. Try Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar may also help deal with hypothyroidism and weight gain.
Apple cider vinegar helps regulate thyroid hormones. It also aids detoxification and improves metabolism, which in turn facilitates weight loss.
A 2009 study published in Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry reports that daily intake of vinegar leads to lower body weight, body mass index, visceral fat area, waist circumference and serum triglyceride levels.
- Add 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water.
- Mix in a little raw honey.
- Drink this solution twice daily on a regular basis.