Try to google it and you will get multiple tips how to lose weight with hypothyroidism: cut on carbs, exercise, stay hydrated. It would work but with well-functioning thyroid and adrenals, not with underactive thyroid. Actually, restrictive diet and strenuous workouts can make your thyroid even worse.
Can thyroid medication help you lose weight?
Not always. Some people will recommend to take thyroid medications but as you can imagine, as a natural health advocate, I am always searching for root-cause of the problem, rather than taking a magic pill as it won’t solve your problem long term. Most often, the prescribed thyroid medication is levothyroxine – synthetic form of T4 which is inactive hormone. If you are not converting well T4 to T3 you may still struggle with thyroid symptoms and weight gain with addition of side effects of the medication.
Why it’s so dificult to lose weight with low thyroid?
Thyroid plays huge role in how your body uses energy and how your organs function. If your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism will be sluggish too. It means you will be burning fat and energy much slower no matter how much you eat or exercise.
How to lose weight with hypothyroidism?
It may surprise you but instead of cutting on calories dramatically and doing HIIT or other strenuous exercises, I would recommend something completely opposite. Let me explain why. Thyroid issues like hypothyroidism or subclinical hypothyroidism almost never occur on their own. It’s usually a result of other ongoing problems and imbalances in your body.
- Too much oestrogen and not enough progesterone
- Adrenal fatigue
- Excess cortisol
- Vitamin and mineral insufficiencies.
- Gut and digestive issues
- Liver issues
- Inflammation (omega ratio 6:3 imbalance, toxins, parasites, viruses, food intolerances etc)
Restrictive diet, fasting and excess exercise may put extra stress on your thyroid, adrenals and slow down your thyroid even more! Cutting calories can not only decrease your T3 levels but also increases reverse T3 which knocks out T3 receptors and block T3 activity. In terms of diet, I would never go below 1500kcal and in terms of workouts try more gentle forms of exercise up to 45-60min per session: vinyasa yoga, jogging, weight lifting, climbing, cycling. Nevertheless, sorting out your thyroid first is one of the first and best steps you could take for weight loss and your overall health.
How to lose weight with hypothyroidism?
Well, there is no one fits all answer to this as it really depends what is causing you low thyroid. There are so many reasons, from not enough building blocks like tyrosine and iodine to other mineral and vitamin deficiencies, T3 to T4 conversion problem, increase reverse T3 production, T3 cell receptor resistance, suboptimal adrenal function or even liver and gut issues as they play significant role in thyroid hormone production too.
However, there are some general nutritional and lifestyle changes that you should consider if you want to improve your thyroid health but don’t know where to start.
Nutrients that can improve your thyroid:
- Iodine rich foods: iodine is one of the major building blocks of thyroid hormones. The main problem nowadays is that if you are not consuming seaweed or certain sea fish you are not able to provide your minimum daily iodine intake which is 150mcg. If you exercise your requirements increases as you can lose iodine with sweat. Although, consuming fish each day is not great idea as most fish is highly contaminated with mercury.
- Tyrosine rich foods – together with iodine they make up thyroid hormone.
- Zinc and copper rich foods
- Selenium rich foods like brazil nuts (only if the country of origin is Brazil as the soil in Europe and other part of the worlds are fairly low in selenium). Selenium, apart from zinc and copper is one of the main co-factor in T4 to T3 conversion.
- Vitamin A rich foods and Vitamin D – these are necessary for optimal T3 receptors function and getting your hormones inside to the cell.
Other thyroid friendly foods:
- Reduce high glycaemic, high carbohydrate foods, Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas to handle blood sugar elevations after consumption of carbohydrates and can inhibit T4 to T3 hormone conversion.
- Healthy polyunsaturated fat sources like fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds. Use them as well as healthy monounsaturated fats from avocado and olive oil and some saturated fats like butter or coconut.
- Organic foods – if you can buy organic fruits and vegetables as they are richer in trace minerals essential for thyroid production and activation. Also, they are less contaminated with pesticides. Pesticides increase your toxic load and can impair hormone production, detoxification and destroy your gut lining. There is strong correlation between healthy gut and optimal hormonal balance. Here you can find the most contaminated fruits and vegetables in UK
Foods that can inhibit thyroid function:
- Avoid goitrogen rich foods (raw). Cooking decreases amount of goitrogens which can inhibit thyroid hormone production.
- Avoid excess soy products. Apart from the fact that post soy products are GMO, soy also have been shown to inhibit the conversion of thyroid hormones. This only goes for soy products that are non-fermented. Fermented soy products such as miso and tempeh are well tolerated.
- Avoid cooking with polyunsaturated vegetable oils like corn, soy, rapeseed or sunflower oil. These were shown to inhibit thyroid function. Using them at high temperatures also is toxic because they can easily become trans fats and increase free radicals that damage your cells.
- Avoid excess oestrogen, especially xenoestrogens from environment (plastics bottles, birth control pills and hormone replacement therapies). Oestrogen increases the protein that binds to thyroid hormone leaving excess thyroid hormone bound to protein which is inactive until it becomes unbound.
Also, check out my other post on ‘healthy’ foods that are harming your thyroid here