If you are constantly fatigued and gaining weight despite having a strict caloric intake and an exercise regimen, then you might need to get your thyroid checked.
Thyroid disorders remain clinically undiagnosed for a long time. According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE), almost 30 million Americans suffer from thyroid disorders, of which about half remain undiagnosed.
What is thyroid?
Thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck and it is the regulator of many bodily functions including the metabolism. Thyroid produces thyroid hormones that are formed with the help of iodine and proteins, and these hormones, in turn, carry out the functions.
In certain diseases, the production of thyroid hormones can be altered—increased or decreased. In either scenario, the metabolic processes or the balance of the body is greatly disturbed. The right diagnosis through blood tests and clinical symptoms should be made before treatment can be started.
Thyroid dysfunction leading to weight gain:
When thyroid under-produces the thyroid hormone, due to any reason, a state called hypothyroidism ensues. This entails a long list of signs and symptoms that can sometimes be mistaken for other diseases or an isolated symptom. For this reason, hypothyroidism remains underdiagnosed in most parts of the world.
One of the earliest signs of under-functioning thyroid is weight gain. Because of its effect on metabolism, normal thyroid hormone levels maintain weight and burn off calories. When the level of these hormones goes down, the body does not burn off calories as quickly and the result is weight gain.
Usually, the weight gain is not extreme, mostly between the ranges of 5-10 pounds, but it is high enough to affect self-esteem. However, the amount of weight gain depends on how under-functioning the thyroid is, the less the thyroid hormone produced, the higher the weight gain. Additionally, it must be remembered that most of the weight is from fluid buildup from the effects of thyroid on kidney and very little is due to fat buildup.
New research suggests that there could also be a link between obesity and thyroid, i.e., obesity could the cause of hypothyroidism, rather than the other way round.
This novel view indicates that thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that are produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, could be affected secondary to obesity. The link between the two conditions could be the hormone leptin produced by the fat cells.
How to manage the weight in thyroid dysfunction?
For an individual with thyroid dysfunction who is battling weight gain, lifestyle and diet modification is crucial. Firstly, you should get checked by a professional endocrinologist, who may or may not prescribe supplemental thyroid hormones.
Secondly, you must remember that taking these hormones will only help you if you follow dietary modifications, and will not help you shed the weight you have already put on. The extra hormones will only fulfil the thyroid hormone requirement of the body, and will not act as a weight loss pill.
A sensible diet and exercise regimen must be followed by all those suffering from thyroid disorders. Some researchers have found that with appropriate weight loss, the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level comes down on its own, which goes up during hypothyroidism. Moreover, with natural weight loss, there is also a decrease in the inflammatory processes in the body, which help the thyroid to function better.
Adopt a new diet:
A sensible diet with adequate caloric restriction—and not a crash diet—will help in subtracting calories from your diet you don’t need. In a crash diet, instead of helping you lose weight, the body hoards calories and you end up gaining weight. Crash diets and extremely strict caloric restrictions have a negative impact on the metabolic rate of the body.
Additionally, you should set a safe weight loss goal for a week, which should amount to 1 or 2 pounds per week. This weight loss goal is not only healthier, but also more sustainable for you in the long run. Eating about 1000 calories lesser than normally required calories (for your age and weight) would cause you to shed two pounds in a week.
Centre your meals on filling calories, like vegetable and fruits, even soups. Opt for more protein rich food than high-carb diet, so that you feel fuller for longer. A good source of lean protein is fish; even tofu and poultry are good alternatives.
Another essential component of weight loss and managing hypothyroidism is exercise. Regular exercise can help condition your body to fat burning and prevent weight gain. For losing weight, you need total workout minutes of 300 per week.
If you exercise 5 days a week, this amounts to an hour of aerobic exercise like jogging or cycling. However, you don’t have to do them at a stretch, you can break this time down to 20 or 30-minute segments.
Pick an exercise routine that you love—jogging, cycling, running, or even playing a sport. Start easing into this activity and gradually increase your pace. Stick to a routine that works for you, and trust the process patiently. You will soon start seeing changes in your health, energy levels and even the weight scale if you are sincere in your efforts.
Before making big changes to your dietary and lifestyle regimen, consult your doctor so that they can guide and monitor you. If you are suffering from a thyroid disorder, then get treatment from top endocrinologists in your city.
Book an appointment with a top endocrinologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT professional for your concerns.