Food plays a vital role in treating most health disorders. For example, thyroid malfunction comes with several issues like excessive weight gain and, in some cases, weight loss too. Lifestyle corrections and helpful weight loss tips with foods for the thyroid can help one control weight gain. It is also the other way round. However, dietary modifications and lifestyle changes need to go hand in hand with supervision from a doctor who knows your specific case history.
What You Need to Know About Thyroid
The thyroid is a small gland located on the front of your neck, below Adam’s apple. It secretes hormones— triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). An optimum amount of thyroid hormones control the release of energy. Therefore, a drop in thyroid hormones may cause lower energy levels. It makes you weak and exhausted.
Thyroid and Its Types
The thyroid synthesises hormones that regulate the normal functioning of your body. When the synthesis is affected, it results in Thyroid disease. It is a collective term for a series of disorders resulting from impaired synthesis of thyroid hormones. There are two main types of thyroid disease. Both types result from other health issues which affect the thyroid.
Types of Thyroid diseases are:
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid secretes significantly less or insufficient thyroid hormone. It slows down your metabolic activities. It inhibits the release of energy resulting in fatigue. As a result, weight gain, hair loss, slow heart rate occurs.
Disorders that can cause hypothyroidism include:
Thyroiditis is a swelling of your thyroid gland. Thyroiditis can lower the number of hormones your thyroid produces.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune disorder when your body cells themselves damage the thyroid. It is a genetic disorder.
Postpartum thyroiditis occurs after childbirth and is a rare condition and is temporary. It regresses in a few months post-childbirth. It happens due to hormonal imbalances during pregnancy.
Iodine deficiency affects a large segment of the population globally. It is an essential element for thyroid hormone synthesis.
A non-functioning thyroid gland: It is a deformity present by birth. It is a severe disorder. If untreated, it may impair both physical and mental growth.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition that is caused due to an overly active thyroid gland that produces excessive amounts of thyroxine. It accelerates the body’s metabolism resulting in rapid weight loss, irregular heartbeat, sweating and irritability.
Disorders that can cause hyperthyroidism include:
Graves’ disease: It is an autoimmune disorder where your body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland and speeds up various functions of your body.
Hyperfunctioning thyroid nodules: This is an unusual growth of thyroid cells near the thyroid gland that causes muscle weakness, pain in the neck and even increases the chances of throat cancer.
Thyroiditis: Inflammation and swelling of your thyroid gland generally caused after pregnancy. The inflammation leads to leakage of stored thyroid hormone into your bloodstream.
What Causes Weight Gain in Hypothyroidism?
The thyroid hormones regulate your metabolic activities. When your thyroid synthesises less hormone, metabolism reduces. It interrupts the burning of calories and results in weight gain. The weight gain depends on the extent of hypothyroidism.
The weight gain in hypothyroidism is due to fat and fluid accumulation. Study shows that an underactive thyroid impairs kidney function. Subsequently, it prevents or delays the elimination of toxins and fluid.
What Causes Weight Loss in Hyperthyroidism?
Due to the abnormal levels of thyroid hormones, metabolic activities increase. That is, your body burns more calories even at rest. Thus weight loss occurs in hyperthyroidism.
Weight Loss Tips for Thyroid Patients
Hypothyroidism is a disorder when your body fails to secrete the required levels of thyroid hormones. The thyroid regulates metabolic function primarily. Therefore, it may be challenging to lose weight for people with hypothyroidism. However, certain factors effectively help lose weight naturally. It includes a healthy, nutritious, well-balanced diet, controlled portion sizes, routine workout, and medications. Inadequate treatment may restrict your weight loss.
Foods for Weight Loss in Thyroid
Here are some best food categories and small changes that may help you lose weight.
1. High Fibre Diet
A high fibre diet leads to weight loss due to its significant benefits. It makes you fuller and satiated for a longer duration. Thus it prevents you from overeating or bingeing on unhealthy snacks.
2. Small Frequent Meals
Smaller more frequent meals that are healthy and nutritious help weight loss significantly. Replace large three meals with small meals throughout the day. This dietary pattern slows digestive function.
3. Complex Carbohydrates and Sugar
Complex or whole-grain carbohydrate foods contain vital nutrients. It includes vitamins, minerals, and fibre providing satiety and energy. Complex carbohydrates and natural sugars instead of refined products help. Complex carbohydrates in recommended quantities do not lead to weight gain. Thus they are recommended for weight loss. Starchy vegetables and legumes are rich in complex carbohydrates and natural sugars. Refined sugars and products have no nutrients.
Additionally, a study states that replacing simple carbs with complex carbohydrates lowers the synthesis of cytokines. They are proteins that initiate inflammation in your body.
4. Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Inflammation is a significant issue with thyroid disorders. Hypothyroidism causes abnormal protein deposits in tissue, resulting in inflammation, joint pains, and restricted mobility. Inflammation causes weight gain. Joint aches and limited movements prevent you from exercising or workouts. As a result, weight gain becomes inevitable.
Tomatoes, turmeric, ginger and leafy green vegetables have anti-inflammatory properties. For example, ginger is rich in potassium and magnesium. They help fight inflammation. Curcumin is a compound in turmeric with anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that curcumin also prevents the accumulation of body fat.
5. Optimum Calorie Intake
Your diet should be within the optimum calorie level specified by a nutritionist when you have thyroid disease. For example, a low-calorie diet may trigger a stress response that causes a drop in thyroid hormone T3 synthesis. This further causes body swelling or inflammation, which prevents weight loss.
6. Healthy Fats
Your body can balance the hormones with a balanced and nutritious diet. Healthy fat is the backbone of hormone synthesis. Omega three fatty acid-containing fish, flaxseeds, clarified whole butter eggs and likewise may be ideal. Moreover, it also helps to maintain good cholesterol levels. On the other hand, persistent hypothyroidism may imbalance your fat levels. An imbalance in fat levels leads to obesity or weight gain. It also initiates various diseases.
This element is vital for the healthy functioning of the thyroid and stimulates the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Iodine deficiency is a major cause of thyroid disorder. Iodine helps prevent thyroid diseases that result in weight gain. Research states that iodine has potential benefits to aid weight loss in thyroid patients. For example, seafood, especially tuna, cod, and shrimps, are rich in iodine. Eggs, dairy products, iodised salt, and beans are other sources of iodine.
8. Foods Rich in Antioxidants
Antioxidants prevent radical cell injury, which initiates thyroid diseases, weight gain, obesity, diabetes, etc. Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Apples, blueberries, cranberries and avocados are rich sources of antioxidants. Some metallic toxins like mercury in your body may prevent iodine absorption. Iodine is essential for thyroid function. The antioxidants in apples, berries and other citrus fruits help to detoxify your body.
9. Protein-Rich Foods
A high protein diet contains selenium, especially fish and meats. A study found that selenium enhances the biomarkers of hypothyroidism. Biomarkers are compounds that indicate the presence of certain diseases. Moreover, it helps to overcome muscle weakness due to hypothyroidism. They help strengthen your muscles and bones. Fish, legumes, eggs, and meat are protein-rich foods.
Water helps in the smooth functioning of your body in all aspects. Incidentally, it makes you feel fuller and curbs your appetite. The right amount also prevents water retention and improves digestion, and is essential to burn off calories. All these contribute to weight loss.
Weight Loss in Thyroid: Foods to Avoid
Hypothyroidism may be challenging to manage due to various reasons. For instance, the food you eat can interfere with your thyroid medication. Some nutrients help with the smooth functioning of the thyroid. However, some nutrients inhibit the absorption of thyroid medications. Moreover, it is better to avoid inflammatory foods when targeting weight loss. Eliminating them from our diet promotes healthy weight loss. Here are a few foods that need to be avoided or limited during the treatment.
Soy and Tofu Products
Isoflavone is a compound in soy that may cause a potential negative impact on your thyroid. Some researchers believe that too much soy may increase a person’s risk for hypothyroidism. In addition, a study states that soy interferes with your ability to absorb thyroid medication.
People with hypothyroidism should limit their gluten consumption. Gluten is a protein present in certain processed and refined food grains like wheat, barley, rye, etc. Gluten inhibits the absorption of thyroid medications. Moreover, gluten may worsen the symptoms in people with coeliac diseases or Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Abdominal disorders are common symptoms of hypothyroidism. Study shows that a gluten-free diet has shown positive effects on thyroid treatment.
If you include gluten in your diet, ensure whole-grain varieties. The dense fibre and nutrients may help to minimise the symptoms.
Fried and Fatty Foods
Unhealthy fats are abundant in fried and fatty foods. They disrupt the absorption of thyroid medications. Moreover, fats may also limit the synthesis of thyroid hormones. Additionally, certain high-fat foods are known to trigger weight gain and obesity. Therefore, avoid fried foods, mayonnaise, margarine and other fat laden foods.
Lemon balm and bugleweed are the main herbs that interact with thyroid hormones and medications. It may also suppress the synthesis of thyroid hormones. As a result, it further slows down metabolism.
Cruciferous vegetables are a collective term for a specific group of vegetables. It includes broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale. Though they are dense in fibre, they may interfere with the synthesis of thyroid hormones, triggering hypothyroidism. It also interrupts the iodine absorption by the thyroid. Iodine is essential for thyroid function.
Intake of caffeine can block thyroid hormone drug absorption. Studies show that those taking their thyroid drugs with coffee had abnormal thyroid levels. Therefore it is advisable to avoid coffee until you recover.
According to a study, alcohol consumption affects thyroid hormone levels and synthesis. As a result, alcohol suppresses your body to use thyroid hormones efficiently. Subsequently, it impacts metabolism, including weight gain. Therefore, it is better to cut out alcohol entirely if you suffer from thyroid diseases.
Sugar has excess calories and lacks nutrients. A study shows that sugar results in obesity and inflammation. Inflammation leads to weight gain. Therefore it is recommended to avoid sugary foods as much as possible.
Exercise and Physical Activity for Weight Loss
Exercises and workouts benefit everyone in general. However, it is specifically essential for thyroid cases. It is effective with a healthy diet to enhance weight loss. Exercise burns calories and helps to shed weight. Moreover, exercise stimulates the synthesis of endorphins. They are hormones with antidepressant properties. It also boosts your mood and prevents anxiety. An underactive thyroid may cause anxiety, depression and mood swings.
Pain and swelling in your joints and muscles are common in thyroid diseases. Therefore low-impact exercise may be recommended. It avoids pressure on the joints. Low impact exercises include walking, swimming and water aerobics. Study shows brisk walking helps burn your calories. A daily routine of half an hour of brisk walking may burn around 150 calories daily. Check with your doctor before you begin any workout regimen.
Other Tips for Weight Loss in Thyroid
Apart from diet and exercise, you may try these tips to expedite weight loss. These include:
1. Time-Restricted Eating
Time-restricted or intermittent fasting may help weight loss. Studies show that time-restricted eating is an effective way to lose weight. However, it would help if you chose a particular duration for eating. The intermittent eating should end at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. There should be a gap of 12-16 hours between your last and first meal.
If you have any other health concerns, you may consult your doctor before trying intermittent fasting.
2. Stress Management Technique
A study states that stress induces hypothyroidism. During stress, the cortisol hormone releases into your bloodstream. In turn, this stress hormone can inhibit the synthesis of Thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH). Relieving anxiety may normalise your hormones and metabolism. In addition, meditation and breathing techniques help alleviate your stress levels.
Here are some practical ways to relieve stress.
Sleep is another stress reliever. Study shows 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is an effective way to relieve stress.
Insufficient sleep induces stress. Stress enhances cortisol levels, which, in turn, suppresses your thyroid hormones resulting in weight gain. A Study shows sufficient sleep has helped healthy weight loss in overweight individuals.
Exercise helps to prevent thyroid diseases. It is also effective to relieve stress. A regular well-scheduled exercise regime helps to lower stress, anxiety and depression. It also boosts your energy levels. Additionally, it helps maintain a healthy weight.
The diet and exercises are never a replacement for your thyroid medications. However, they may accelerate weight loss due to hypothyroidism. Additionally, it also helps to reduce the symptoms of thyroid diseases. Therefore a strict adherence to your medications is highly recommended.
Risk Factors of Weight Gain in Thyroid
Weight gain causes multiple disorders. When combined with hypothyroidism, it isn’t easy to lose weight. Thyroid disorders themselves imbalance various systems of your body that results in risk factors which include:
About 8 out of 10 diabetic people are overweight or obese. Diabetes is the abnormal blood glucose or sugar level in your body. High blood sugar may also cause heart disease, stroke, and other health disorders.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension is when blood circulates along blood vessels with an abnormal force. Obesity or being overweight exerts pressure on the heart and causes high blood pressure. High Blood pressure also causes heart attack, stroke, and kidney diseases, leading to fatal consequences.
Metabolic syndrome is a collective term for a series of disorders or conditions. These conditions include abnormally high blood pressure, glucose, triglyceride or bad cholesterol. In addition, low levels of HDL or good cholesterol and excess deposits of fat around your waist are part of metabolic syndrome.
These conditions may increase the chances of life-threatening diseases like cardiac disease, Diabetes, and Stroke.
Osteoarthritis is a bone disorder that causes pain, swelling, and restricted movements in joints. Obesity and weight gain exert pressure on joints. In addition, it increases your chance of osteoarthritis and makes your bones fragile. Finally, it makes you susceptible to injury and prone to fracture.
Moreover, high levels of thyroid hormones stimulate the action of bone-resorbing cells and cause bone loss. This repeated process of abnormal bone loss over time causes osteoporosis. In addition, hypothyroidism slows down your bone’s metabolism, thus affecting bone health.
Obesity raises renal blood pressure. Blood pressure in the blood vessels of the kidneys is called renal blood pressure. Renal pressure prevents the elimination of toxins and salts from your body. It also results in water retention. Physical compression of the kidneys occurs due to the fat layer deposits in the abdomen. It happens due to abnormal abdomen weight or visceral obesity and increases the risk of kidney disease.
A woman with a thyroid may have hormonal imbalances. As a result, it can create fertility issues that prevent one from conceiving. In addition, overweight pregnant ladies have a greater chance of diabetes and hypertension. Hypertension in pregnancy can also result in preterm childbirth.
Preventive Measures to Avoid Weight Gain in Thyroid
A well balanced and nutritious diet helps. It includes fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. They are high in fibre, low calories and healthy fat, respectively. Regular workouts and exercises enhance your metabolism. It also burns fats and calories and reduces body weight. However, always take the thyroid drugs as prescribed.
Some thyroid-related drugs prompt weight gain. You may check with your doctor to rule out such adverse effects. In addition, a complete and uninterrupted sleep for 8 hours regularly helps to prevent obesity.
Thyroid Related Issues: Self Diagnosis
Suppose you experience any symptoms like fatigue, sleeplessness or sudden weight gain. In that case, you may want to examine yourself to rule out thyroid issues with this simple test. First, however, consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
- Stand before a mirror.
- Concentrate on the lower front of your neck, just below the voice box (larynx) and collar bones. It is the exact location of your thyroid.
- Tip your head backwards
- Drink water
- Observe any protrusions in this region when you swallow. If you find any, consult your doctor. It may be thyroid enlargement.
Weight loss is often challenging for many. However, individuals with thyroid problems find it all the more challenging. When the thyroid functions normally, the body responds to dieting and workouts. However, in the case of thyroid malfunction, the synthesis of hormones is impacted.
Hypothyroidism slows down metabolism, which impacts overall health. Consequently, weight gain happens, which is a symptom of hypothyroidism. In addition, weight gain increases the risk of various diseases. Nonetheless, medications and a nutritious diet, workout, and lifestyle modifications effectively help lose weight.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Can walking reduce thyroid?
A. No, walking does not reduce thyroid or reverse the condition. However, walking helps to reduce the symptoms of thyroid diseases. In addition, walking helps to reduce excess weight, which is associated with the thyroid.
Q. Which fruit is good for the thyroid?
A. Apples, avocados, blueberries are suitable for the thyroid, and they are a rich source of antioxidants. They help prevent and reduce the symptoms of thyroid. They also help in the detoxification of your body.
Q. How do I balance my thyroid?
A healthy and balanced diet including healthy fat, dietary fibres, low sugar helps. Avoid gluten, caffeine, and cruciferous vegetables. Regular exercise along with medications helps to balance your thyroid.
Q. Does ginger affect my thyroid function?
A. Yes, ginger helps fight inflammation which is a major cause of thyroid. Also, ginger is rich in potassium and magnesium. They have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation results in weight gain in hypothyroidism.
Q. What herbs should I avoid in hypothyroidism?
A. Avoid bugleweed and lemon balm in hypothyroidism as they interrupt the action of thyroid hormones and medicines. It also suppresses hormone synthesis.
Q. Is fasting required for thyroid tests?
A. No fasting is not necessary before a thyroid function test. However, fasting may impact Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels. Fasting results in higher TSH levels compared to a non-fasting report.
Q. Can a thyroid woman get pregnant?
A. Indeed, a woman with thyroid issues can get pregnant. However, thyroid abnormalities may result in hormonal imbalances, impact the reproductive system, and make pregnancy challenging.
Q. Does thyroid cause hair loss?
A. Yes, thyroid issues may cause loss of hair. In extreme cases, your hair may appear sparse. However, hair growth is possible after recovery from a thyroid disorder.
Q. How can I check my thyroid at home?
A. Hold the mirror in your hand, focusing on the lower front area of your neck just below the larynx or voice box. Drink water while concentrating on this region. Watch for any bulge while swallowing. Protrusion or bulging may indicate thyroid enlargement.
Q. Can thyroid cause weak legs?
A. Yes, the thyroid may cause weak legs, a common symptom. It may be around hips too. Muscle stiffness cramps are other symptoms.