Weight Loss with Hashimoto's or Hypothyroidism
Can I Lose Weight with Thyroid Disease?
If you suffer from Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroiditis or hypothyroidism, you may be having trouble losing weight. You may also be cycling between weight loss and weight gain, which can lead to binge dieting and frustration.
I've written this guide to help people who may be dealing with this issue, to tell you what worked for me (I have Hashimoto's), and to give you hope that your weight can be ok after this diagnosis, even if you opt for surgery or ablation.
Become Your Number One Advocate
You need to become informed about your diagnosis. Join thyroid forums, read books about thyroid disease (I've listed a few good ones along the sides here), and ask your doctor questions.
Gone are the days when the doctor was always right. The internet makes it possible to access all kinds of information and to ask respected professionals in the field for their advice.
Joining forums allows you to form a virtual network of people with the same questions, good answers, and a lot of moral support.
When I was diagnosed, I spent hours at the About.com thyroid forum . This forum is moderated by Mary Shomon, an expert on thyroid disease and author of the books in the sidebar.
Get an Endocrinologist as your Doctor
When dealing with thyroid issues, it is best to see an endocrinologist. These doctors specialize in glandular disorders and are more likely to base their treatment plans on how you feel rather than on your blood test results.
While general practitioners can do a good job with thyroid disease management, they are more likely to check your TSH, prescribe the recommended dose of artificial thyroid replacement and send you on your way.
A good endocrinologist will ask you how you feel, will schedule blood tests with you whenever you feel "off," and will not suggest that your sudden weight gain is a result of your pathological laziness.
Make Sure Your Doctor Follows the New TSH Standards
The acceptable levels for TSH have changed. Make sure your doctor follows the new standards by asking the following questions:
"What do you feel is the acceptable TSH range?"
"What is my TSH? Do you feel that I should feel comfortable at this level?"
The new standard for TSH is between .3 and 3. The higher your number gets, the more hypothyroid you are (this may seem counter-intuitive). The old standard was .3 to 5. Many women are very uncomfortable and unhealthy above a 3 and seem to do best between 1 and 2. Some do better at even lower numbers.
Get medicated so that your thyroid levels are in an acceptable range. This will help you lose weight.
Try To Keep Your Thyroid Level Stable
This is easier said than done, in many cases. If your doctor suggests surgery, you may want to do that. Having the thyroid removed will give you a stable base for thyroid hormone supplementation.
Radioactive ablation is a little more tricky because the thyroid may die off slowly over time, resulting in a slow decrease of thyroid hormone production and the need for constant blood tests and medication adjustment.
If you're a Hashimoto's patient, you know that stress affects autoimmune diseases. Try to relax and get enough sleep. Stay healthy.
Develop a Steady Exercise Program
Thyroid patients have a hard time with exercise programs because of chronic fatigue and thyroid-related joint pain. Thyroid patients may also have upper-extremity muscle weakness (thighs and upper arms) which makes working out tougher.
It's important to develop an exercise plan that won't burn you out, put more stress on you and your thyroid, or hurt your joints.
My exercise plan, for example, includes walking my dog 40 minutes in the morning and then 40 minutes again in the evening. Occasionally, I lift weights.
Walking is ideal because the weight-bearing aspect of it also protects against bone loss, a side effect of thyroid disease. Wearing a pedometer is a simple way of maintaining a good walking habit. 10,000 steps a day is ideal for health, and equals roughly 5 miles of walking.
The key to a successful workout plan is to make it realistic for you and the state of your health.
Consider extra supplementation
Some people need to a T3 supplement (Cytomel is a popular one) as well as the regularly-provided T4 from thyroid medication (synthroid, levoxyl, etc). Many who "just don't feel right" on just T4 medications feel improvement when starting T3 as well. Some do best with natural thyroid such as that found in the T3 / T4 combo medication Armour, which is made of porcine thyroid.
Vitamin D deficiency is common in the U.S., even in individuals who spend a lot of time outside or who drink Vitamin D milk. It is very common in thyroid patients. Vitamin D deficiency is connected to metabolic syndrome (involving weight gain and diabetes). My doctor just tested me for this and found out I was deficient. I had been gaining weight. Vitamin D is easy to supplement, but I would advise that you get a test for a deficiency before supplementing.
If you feel burnt out and exhausted, it may help to take adrenal support supplements to keep your adrenal glands from burning out.
Real Food Makes You Healthy
Eat Real Foods
Eat whole grains, real fats, and healthy protein. Avoid processed stuff that comes in frozen boxes or in cans (exceptions being frozen or canned vegetables or fruit).
Read ingredient lists and see if any ingredients are unpronounceable or unintelligible. Don't eat those.
Eat foods with fat. Low-fat foods usually include more sugar, more non-nutritive chemicals, and higher amounts of carbohydrates.
Real fats and real foods will keep you feeling full longer. Your body won't have intense cravings because it will be getting real nutrition. You'll eat less and feel more satisfied.
I read a quote saying that America is a nation of starving fat people. The quote is blunt, but it does suggest that Americans are eating many non-nutritive foods in an attempt to lose weight. This results in no weight loss and an unhealthy body.
Eat real foods.
What is your Hypothyroidism Like?
Other Useful Links
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- Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome - what are the causes and how can you prevent developing it. Some helpful tips and links to keep you healthy.