Could your thyroid be the cause of your weight gain?
Even Alice is shocked at this one!
The thyroid gland is the largest of several glands in your endocrine system. It sits below your voice box wrapped around your trachea. One of the jobs of the thyroid hormone is to convert iodine from your diet into thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) the hormones responsible for most metabolic functions in your body such as heart rate, how quickly you burn calories, digestion, and temperature control. Your thyroid can also influence neurotransmitters in the brain altering your moods, appetite, behaviour and emotions. Your thyroid produces hormones that stimulate every tissue in your body to produce proteins and increase the amount of oxygen used by your cells… very important hormones!As far as weight management is concerned the thyroid gland can play havoc with your ability to keep to your desired weight and lose any extra kilos. In its role of controlling metabolism, the chemical activity that occurs in your cells, thyroid hormones influence the amount of oxygen used by the body over a certain amount of time, otherwise known as your BMR (basal metabolic rate). What this means is that if you have an under functioning thyroid with less than optimal levels of thyroid hormone production it will affect your BMR negatively and your basal metabolic rate will be low. Likewise if your thyroid overproduces thyroid hormone your BMR is positively affected and your basal metabolic rate will rise.
Now, here’s the interesting part – Differences in BMR are linked with changes in energy balance (energy balance being the net result of calories in to the body v’s calories used by the body). When BMR is high it influences the rate at which energy is burned and the end result is weight loss, However when BMR is low and sluggish energy consumption is low and this can result in WEIGHT GAIN or an inability to lose weight. Low thyroid function slows the body’s ability to burn fat and this can inhibit weight loss even with ample exercise.
A simple equation is:
Thyroid hormone level changes = changes in BMR = changes in energy balance = changes in body weight.
Neurotransmitters in the brain influence our moods and emotions. When your thyroid is not producing enough T3 hormone, neurotransmitters that regulate substances such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and GABA are affected, and this can contribute to emotions leading to depression, forgetfulness, and irritability, and energy changes and ultimately weight loss problems. More on that another time.Low thyroid hormone, via its effect on the metabolism, also affects glucose levels to the brain where it is needed for energy. When glucose levels to the brain are low it can result in ‘brain fog’, light headedness and fatigue, which can ultimately lead to over eating or eating the wrong foods, weight gains and difficult weight management. And to make matters worse the body then kicks in to overdrive and compensates via an overproduction of the hormone cortisol which contributes to the belly tyre around our middles…but more about that another day.
The catch here is that no matter how hard you try to lose weight if your thyroid is letting you down it is just not going to work. In fact further reductions in calories will only suppress an already low BMR making weight loss even harder to achieve. The point to all this is that weight management is not always as simple as counting calories and exercising and this is where an holistic program tailored to meet you and your body’s needs and circumstances may be the key to achieving your weight loss goals.