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Thyroid Gland and Weight Management


Why Your Thyroid effects your Metabolism and Weight Management

I’ve lost count on how many patients with weight gain come into my office certain they have thyroid disease. When all else fails in a person’s attempt to control their weight, often they default back to their Thyroid as the cause. While the Thyroid gland has a great involvement in both metabolism and weight control, there are many other contributors as well. However, we will attempt to connect the Thyroid gland to your metabolism and weight management herein.

A Thyroid gland, what is it?

Your body’s endocrine system is a group of glands (pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, ovaries and testes) that secrete different hormones (growth hormone, thyroid hormone, insulin, estrogen and testosterone) that regulate your bodily functions (metabolism, growth, development and reproduction).

It so happens that the thyroid gland is the largest gland in the endocrine system. This organ sits roughly in the middle of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple in men. And when your doctor places a hand on the front of your neck and asks you to swallow, they are doing so to feel your thyroid gland for swelling or irregularities.

What does it do?

Your healthy thyroid gland will produce three hormones: Thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3) and Calcitonin. The T4 and T3 are what most people think of as “thyroid hormones.” These hormones function in a major role in your metabolism and in energy regulation in the body. T4 and T3 are made in the thyroid gland from iodine (a trace mineral) and tyrosine (an amino acid).

After T4 and T3 are made by your body, they are released into blood circulation. The release is triggered from a part of your brain called the pituitary that makes a substance called Thyroid Releasing Hormone (TRH). TRH tells the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones.

The hormones released into your bloodstream from the Thyroid gland act with almost every kind of cell in your body. And in almost all cases, to increase cellular activity or your metabolism. Too much or too little thyroid hormone will have an impact on your body.

Thyroid and diseases.

Three major areas of disease of the Thyroid.

Hyperthyroidism (overactive) – body makes too many of the thyroid hormones

Hypothyroidism (underactive) – body makes too little of the thyroid hormones

Growths – benign cysts, nodules or cancers.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists says 27 million Americans have an over or underactive thyroid gland. Thyroid disease is much more common in women. One reason for this gender imbalance is the strong association between pregnancy and thyroid disease. Approximately 18% of pregnant women will develop a post-partum thyroid problem. Approximately 25% of those will have a permanent problem.

Thyroid disease is also strongly linked to diabetes. Diabetics are approximately three to five times more likely to develop thyroid disease.

Hypothyroidism, metabolism and obesity

The thyroid hormones of T3-T4 control the metabolism in your body. If there is not enough hormone, metabolic functions slow. The most common causes of hypothyroidism are autoimmune failure (Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis) surgical removal of the gland. Removal is usually done for thyroid cancer. Outside of the United States, hypothyroidism is often caused by a lack of iodine. Not enough iodine to make thyroid hormones means the body cannot produce those hormones.

Since thyroid hormone are important to all the cells of the body, symptoms can appear very general and may often be seen as vague in mild cases.

The symptoms of hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) can include:

Constipation, Fatigue (sleepy), Forgetfulness, Weight gain, Moodiness-Depression-irritable, Muscle cramping- achiness, Weakness, Decreased perspiration, blood pressure changes, Higher cholesterol levels, leg swelling, Blurred vision, cold temp sensitivity, Hoarse voice, Coarse, dry hair and skin, Hair loss.

Should I get my thyroid checked?

There is enough evidence for substantially undiagnosed thyroid disease in obesity, that if you are overweight or obese, it is probably a good idea to have your thyroid checked with your annual labs. This is even truer if you are female or know that you have insulin resistance or diabetes, because of the increased risk.

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