When I talk with women suffering with unexpected weight gain, often one of the first questions I am asked is “Is it my thyroid?”
Sometimes, my answer is “yes” — after all, our thyroid hormones play a huge role in regulating our metabolism and how we use nutrients.
And research shows that even small changes to the thyroid function can cause weight gain. In fact, many women who have been told their thyroid test results are “normal” may still have a reduced thyroid function (subclinical hypothyroidism) that’s enough to cause weight gain and other bothersome symptoms.
At the Women to Women clinic, I work with women suffering from a wide range of thyroid issues — from those just starting to suspect they have a thyroid problem to those already taking medication. And I tell each and every one of them how they can benefit from natural thyroid support and a holistic approach that considers thyroid function as part of overall hormonal balance. With that in mind, let’s learn how thyroid weight gain occurs and what options you have to rebalance your thyroid health.
Thyroid Weight Gain
Unexpected weight gain and difficulty losing weight may be one of the first noticeable signals that you’re struggling with hypothyroidism (a sluggish thyroid) or subclinical hypothyroidism. Many women tell me about their frustration with gaining five pounds every year and not being able to figure out why!
Reduced thyroid function may be the result of the thyroid’s impaired ability to produce hormones, or the body may have difficulty using the thyroid hormones. Either way, problems with your thyroid hormones may cause the rate at which you use nutrients (your metabolic rate) to slow down.
Women are especially prone to thyroid issues because the thyroid is linked to other systems that affect weight — including the proper functioning of our neurotransmitters, reproductive hormones, and adrenal glands.
Thyroid Issues Affect Women of All Ages
While we see women of all ages with thyroid issues, there are times in your life when your hormones fluctuate more and when the development of thyroid issues may be even more likely:
- If you experience PMS
- When you’re pregnant
- During perimenopause and menopause
- With chronic stress that affects the adrenals
What Can You Do About Thyroid Weight Gain?
So is this something you simply have to live with? Absolutely not! Making good nutrition and supplementation a consistent part of your life is the most effective way to support your thyroid. Consistency is so important! As women, many of us spend much of our lives dieting — sometimes in a yo-yo cycle of feasting or fasting. This is one example of how we may decrease our metabolic rate and put stress on other hormone systems — which leads to weight gain.
Here are my top tips for eating to support your thyroid:
- Choose whole foods for optimal nutrition and a high quality multivitamin-mineral supplement. Iodine and selenium are the most important thyroid supporters, but you also need zinc, iron, and copper.
- Eat your meals and snacks at regular times, and be sure to eat breakfast within an hour of waking. Missing meals or snacks can stress your thyroid.
- Include protein at every meal, as well as fiber for breakfast and lunch. Remember that good sources of fiber include fruits and vegetables, not just grains.
- Completely eliminate gluten, sugar/sweeteners, alcohol, and junk food. These ingredients can interfere with healthy thyroid function.
- Learn which foods contain thyroid-suppressing compounds known as goitrogens — including cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower. Always steam or cook these vegetables to reduce or eliminate the goitrogens.
Your Opportunity to Take Action
At my practice, we know that symptoms are your body’s way of signaling that it needs help. So if you start seeing unexpected weight gain and believe it may be related to your thyroid, listen to your body and take action based on how you feel, rather than a test result.
For many women, a balance of good nutrition, supplemental nutrients, and phytotherapy is the true support their thyroid needs to increase metabolic functioning and lose weight. I’ve also seen that an optimal diet is critical to prevent additional symptoms from progressing, as well as to promote overall thyroid — and body — health.