“I can’t lose weight because I have thyroid problems”.
You have probably heard this complaint time and time again from others. Although some may eye roll this comment and chalk it up as an “excuse” to getting healthy, your friends are actually not wrong. It’s estimated that nearly 12% of Americans will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime which can lead to excessive weight loss or gain. In fact, more than half (60%) of folks with thyroid disease are unaware they even have an issue. Although the exact cause of disease formation is unknown, the thyroid has a profound impact on our body’s metabolism which can cause a slew of problems if not managed.
Facts About the Thyroid
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located at the front of the neck. Although small, this gland affects nearly all organs throughout the body. The thyroid gland plays a role in almost all body functions namely regulating nutrient metabolism, aiding in brain development, and managing body temperature. The hormones secreted from the thyroid gland are also essential for proper heart and nervous system function that relate to normal cholesterol and blood calcium levels.
Thyroid disfunction is primarily found in the female population particularly for those who are going through menopause. The most common type of thyroid disease is hypothyroidism, otherwise known as underactive thyroid function. Here in the United States, the main culprit of underactive thyroid is an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s. The body will mistake its own tissues as an invader and will attack until the organ is destroyed. With the breakdown of the thyroid, it will lose its ability to release essential hormones that will slow metabolism causing weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, and brittle hair.
Lifestyle treatment of Hashimoto’s varies for everyone effected. Some can find easy treatment options, while others must work a little harder. The priority is to get the thyroid disease under control with medications and lab values. From there, people with underactive thyroid can move onto tactics to help reduce weight gain.
Because hormone fluctuations can be uncontrollable even with medications, it is imperative to focus on developing and maintaining healthy habits rather than the number on the scale. Think of how food can support a healthy lifestyle despite the number of diseases that can be associated with thyroid disease such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Developing healthy habits to support treatment include a balanced diet full of nutrient-dense foods. Fruits and vegetables are essential for vitamins and minerals. Choosing lean meats and heart healthy fats are important to control cholesterol levels. Emphasis should also be put on beverages by consuming water and low-fat milk throughout the day, while limiting sugar sweetened drinks like pop and sweetened teas. A healthy diet and active lifestyle are important to weight and disease management for those effected by thyroid disease.
Continue reading January 2022 Newsletter: Exercise and Thyroid Health