It's really no surprise that it's often difficult to lose weight with hypothyroidism. A host of complications accompany the disease, including metabolic set point, changes in brain chemistry, and insulin resistance. This article addresses some of the most important issues you need to investigate when trying to lose weight
Are You Undertreated?
Your disease must be under optimal treatment for your body to be able to respond to weight loss efforts. In partnership with your physician, you may want to:
- Ensure that your TSH is between 1 and 2.
- Consider taking supplemental T3.
- Verify that your diet and supplements do not interfere with hormone absorption.
Some noted physicians believe that in people with a chronic weight problem, the body puts up only modest metabolic resistance to weight gain. If you continue to take in more calories than you burn, the metabolic resistance loses strength, and your body then establishes a new, higher weight set point. This is probably the mysterious factor at play when we see someone who apparently eats even more than we do, but maintains a lower weight level, or conversely, the person who swears they don't eat that much, but gains weight, or stays heavier. A slow, steady approach to dieting helps to minimize these effects. Also, a key way to increase metabolism is through exercise.
Changes in Brain Chemistry
Hunger is intricately tied to your brain chemistry. But this system can be dramatically altered by several factors, all of which can be present in chronic thyroid disease:
- Your metabolism is too slow for the appetite level set by your brain.
- Your body is under stress, which interferes with the neurotransmitter functions, and is known to reduce the release of serotonin.
Insulin Resistance and Thyroid Disease
Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas. When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates (which make up the majority of most of our diets), your body converts the carbohydrates into simple sugars. These sugars enter the blood, becoming "blood sugar." Your pancreas then releases insulin to stimulate the cells to take in the blood sugar and store it as an energy reserve, returning blood sugar levels to a normal level.
Current theory claims that sugars and starches are far easily broken down than in our more prehistoric past, and today, many of us simply do not need and cannot process the amounts of carbohydrates that are considered "normal" by current dietary standards. For an estimated 25% of the population, eating what appears to be a "normal amount" of carbohydrates in fact raises blood sugar to excessive levels, which creates a condition known as insulin resistance.
Insulin resistence also prevents your body from using its stored fat for energy. Hence, your insulin response to excess carbohydrates causes you to gain weight, or creates a situation in which you cannot lose weight. It seems likely that hypothyroidism, with its penchant for slowing down everything else in our systems right down to our cells, slows down our body's ability to process carbohydrates and our cell's ability to absorb blood sugar, mirroring the effects of, or creating insulin resistance.
How to Lose Weight and Fight Insulin Resistance
For people who are insulin resistant, one of the only effective method to lose weight is by eating a low fat, low carbohydrate, protein sufficient diet. This means that in addition to the usual restrictions of a low-fat diet, you also need to seriously limit intake of sugar and starches, cutting back on pasta, rice, potatoes, white flour breads, cereal, corn, peas, sweet potatoes, desserts, dairy products, meats, and fruit with a high sugar content.
Finally, according to Jean-Pierre Despres, PhD, Professor of Medicine and Physical Education and Director of the Lipid Research Center at Laval University Hospital in Quebec, "Exercise is probably the best medication on the market to treat insulin resistance syndrome." Dr. Despres discusses insulin resistance at the American Diabetes Association homepage. "Our studies show that low intensity, prolonged exercise -- such as a daily brisk walk of 45 minutes to an hour -- will substantially reduce insulin levels," says Dr. Despres. So, it's clear that we all need to get moving!!