The Power Of Your Thyroid

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. This gland may be small, but the thyroid oversees a wide range of bodily functions. By secreting hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), the body’s cells work more efficiently. The body can therefore have a properly functioning metabolism, energy production, and cell reproduction. Other secondary functions include managing heart rate, digestion, and bone health. Creating too much or too little of the hormone can lead to unpleasant complications. One possible issue may be weight gain caused by hypothyroidism. Identifying and treating hypothyroidism is critical to one’s long-term health.


Understanding hypothyroidism

Hyperthyroidism is a common condition that occurs when the gland fails to produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid depends on signals from the pituitary gland in the brain to create enough T3 and T4 hormones. Chemical imbalances, certain diseases, growths, or external triggers may cause the thyroid gland to lose function. The pituitary gland attempts to signal the thyroid, but the gland fails to receive the signals, slowing down hormone production. The thyroid eventually becomes underactive, creating symptoms like reduced metabolism, fatigue, sensitivity to cold, and mood swings.

The weight of hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism can often lead to unexplained weight gain, which can happen in several ways. The thyroid's primary function is to regulate metabolism, which is the body's ability to convert food into energy. Since there is insufficient thyroid hormone, metabolism slows. The body burns fewer calories. The body also burns fewer calories at rest, known as the basal metabolic rate (BMR). Digestion also slows down, leading to more bloating, constipation, and subsequent weight gain. Some people also experience weight gain from fluid retention in the hands and feet. Weight gain is just 1 of many symptoms caused by hypothyroidism, which can be an unpleasant experience. Statistics show that 5% of American adults have hypothyroidism, and up to 20 million have some thyroid condition.

Diagnosing your condition

Hypothyroidism can be difficult to catch at first, as the symptoms can be related to other conditions. However, if weight gain does not respond to diet and exercise, there may be an underlying issue. Hypothyroidism can only be diagnosed by a medical professional using blood tests to determine the presence of thyroid hormones. Along with T3 and T4, the test detects thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels secreted by the pituitary gland. The doctor may perform a physical examination to look for goiter, an enlarged thyroid gland, or other symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.

What are your next steps?

Treatment of hypothyroidism often involves hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to supplement missing thyroid hormones. The doctor will adjust the medication dose based on the body's response to treatment. In many cases, hypothyroidism requires continuous therapy and can even be a lifelong issue. Finding and treating the underlying cause of hypothyroidism, such as a preexisting medical condition, is also crucial. Along with medication, doctors will recommend lifestyle changes to improve hormone function. Establishing a healthy diet and exercise while reducing alcohol consumption manages weight and hormones. Studies show that supplements like iodine, vitamin D, zinc, magnesium, and B-complex help with thyroid function.

Finally, addressing your underactive thyroid

An underactive thyroid is no laughing matter. While not life-threatening, the resulting unpleasant symptoms can lead to a poor quality of life. The excess weight can impact the physical, mental, and social areas of one's life. The accompanying issues, like joint pain, temperature sensitivities, and depression, can worsen the effects of weight gain. Doctors recommend taking action as soon as possible to avoid any additional challenges. Early intervention for an underactive thyroid improves weight management and quality of life.