Hypothyroidism (an under active thyroid gland) is a common medical condition, affecting 35% of the female and 10% of the male population. The struggle is very personal to me as I battled feeling off for years before being diagnosed, my symptoms being written off as age-related. At the time I was 38. If you have been told your thyroid is normal and still have the symptoms below, double check to be sure the correct tests were performed.
The major symptoms are:
Weight gain - inability to lose weight despite reduction of caloric intake and exercise
Depression, mental fogginess, poor memory, difficulty in concentration
Loss of the outer half of the eyebrows
Effective treatment consists of both thyroid hormone supplementation and simultaneous dietary changes for both the elimination of symptoms and weight loss.
Thyroid function and body weight
The thyroid gland produces hormones that control a person’s metabolism, which is the way in which the body burns calories to provide cellular energy. When thyroid hormone levels are low, calories are not burned effectively, resulting in weight gain, even when very few calories are consumed. One will feel as though everyone around us eats normally, whereas we eat very little and yet continue to gain weight. Water retention will be high. Treatment with thyroid hormone increases metabolic rate, increasing the amount of calories that are are burned, resulting in weight loss.
However, in most cases treatment with thyroid hormone alone cannot entirely correct metabolic problems and relieve symptoms. Simultaneous nutrition therapy is required to maximize weight reduction and, most importantly, eliminate many of the troublesome symptoms that plague people having low thyroid gland function.
A frequent cause of low thyroid function occurs when the body becomes “allergic” to its own thyroid gland. The immune system mistakingly forms antibodies against its own normal thyroid tissue, killing off the thyroid-hormone-producing cells, resulting in low thyroid function. This situation is called autoimmune or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Antithyroid antibodies rarely disappear, but with life long treatment of a combination of thyroid medication and dietary modifications, symptomatic relief and the maintenance of a healthy body weight can be achieved.
When antithyroid antibodies are present, digestive issues, such as acid reflux (gerds), irritablebowel syndrome and celiac disease are common. The many foods which provoke gastrointestinal symptoms actually stimulate the immune system to attack the thyroid gland, making symptoms more intense and preventing adequate responses to medical therapy. In cases of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a strict gluten and GMO free plant based diet is recommended to relieve both gastrointestinal and hypothyroid symptoms. Such diets are not easy to follow, but compliance is more likely to be successful with ongoing nutritional support and guidance.
If any of this sounds or feels familiar, I recommend you reach out to my endocrinologist, Dr Minisha Sood (she absolutely changed my life). She will work with you remotely or will meet with you in person if you live in or near NYC.