Are you’re eating healthy and working out six days a week, but still can’t lose weight? In fact, you’re flabbergasted because you gained more weight instead? Finding it difficult to climax or give it your partner, if you know what I mean? Are you losing hair, feeling tired and depressed? Can’t poop despite eating tons of fibers?
Chances are that you may be suffering from hypothyroidism. The above symptoms we just mentioned are some of the telltale symptoms of hypothyroidism, or in other words, an underactive thyroid.
According to statistics, 1-2% of the population worldwide suffers from hypothyroidism 1. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) website, about 4.6% of the U.S. population ages 12 and above are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. That’s around 5 people out of 100. (Source: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/hypothyroidism). In India, it is estimated that about 42 million people have hypothyroidism, which is a thyroid disorder. Hypothyroidism is a common thyroid disorder and if left untreated or unmanaged can have potentially devastating health consequences.
What is Hypothyroidism?
In layman terms, Hypothyroidism is a medical condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. Hormones released by the thyroid gland are vital for the body’s overall function as these hormones are essential for growth, reproduction, neuronal development, and metabolism
When you develop hypothyroidism, your overall metabolism decreases, you don’t burn off many calories, and you start gaining weight. Consequently, people can’t lose weight despite diet controls and exercises. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
Hypothyroidism has many symptoms that can vary from person to person. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include
- Weight gain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Dry skin
- Dry, thinning hair
- Decreased sweating
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
- Fertility problems
- Slower heart rate
- Low libido
Hypothyroidism symptoms may vary from person to person. Furthermore, hypothyroidism develops gradually, so most people won’t even notice the symptoms for months or even years. Hypothyroidism also affects women more than men. Some of the mentioned symptoms especially fatigue and weight gain are ambiguous and affects people even if they don’t have a thyroid problem.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
Primary causes of hypothyroidism include:
- Hashimoto’s disease
- Thyroiditis (Inflammation of the thyroid gland)
- Congenital hypothyroidism (hypothyroidism at birth)
- Surgical removal or partial removal of the thyroid gland
- Radiation treatment of the thyroid
- Iodine deficiency
How Do You Differentiate Between Hypothyroidism And Hyperthyroidism?
The two main hormones produced by the thyroid gland are T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). The thyroid gland can produce more hormones than the body requires or no hormones at all. If the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, the situation is known as hypothyroidism. On the other hand, if the thyroid gland is producing excess hormones, it is called hyperthyroidism. The main cause of hyperthyroidism is Grave’s disease. Hyperthyroidism is also associated with swollen thyroid or nodules on the thyroid gland.
We already mentioned the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism. Now, here are the symptoms of an overactive thyroid gland or hyperthyroidism. The symptoms include:
- Hair loss
- Hair thinning
- Unexplained weight loss
- Excessive sweating
- Irregular or racing heartbeat
- Flushed/itchy skin
If you’re diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, it’s important you seek medical attention as soon as possible. If left untreated, your bone density will decrease, and develop irregular heartbeats which can ultimately result in a stroke.
Can Hypothyroidism Affect My Metabolism
Most assume that people are obese or overweight because they eat too many calories, don’t exercise, and live a sedentary lifestyle/ It’s true to some extent, I won’t argue there, but that’s just half of the story. You’ll find people eating healthy and spending hours exercising and doing all sorts of stuff to shed excess weight, only to be disappointed.
Here’s the thing—metabolism. The hormones released by your thyroid gland are responsible for controlling the speed of your metabolism. The faster your metabolism is, the more calories you’ll burn when you’re resting.
A person with hypothyroidism has less thyroid hormone in their bloodstream, which means that his or her metabolism rate will be slower. As a result, the person will feel tired most of the time. Less thyroid hormone also increases the blood cholesterol levels. This makes it difficult for people with hypothyroidism to lose weight despite a good diet and strenuous exercises. Furthermore, maintaining weight is also challenging for people with hypothyroidism.
So, what should be done? Many suggest that a hypothyroid diet can be helpful. But a hypothyroidism diet will not treat the condition; instead, it will help you cope with it. However, there is a silver lining here: if you regularly take a right combination of medications and nutrients, it will restore the normal functions of the thyroid and minimize the symptoms.
Why Is Hypothyroidism Less Common in Men?
It appears that when it comes to hypothyroidism, women have the upper hand. We already mentioned that hypothyroidism is more common in women than in men. In fact, women are 8-10 times more likely to have hypothyroidism than men. What is the reason behind it? After all, some of the common symptoms of thyroid disorder are weight gain, hair loss, lethargy, constipation, depression, low libido, erectile dysfunction are more commonly associated with men.
According to Mario Skugor, MD, an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s because 80 percent of hypothyroidism is caused by autoimmune disease. “Autoimmune diseases are more common in women. If I knew why autoimmune diseases are more common in women, I would win the Nobel Prize,” says Skugor.
The autoimmune disease that causes hypothyroidism in women and men is primarily Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis degrades the body’s immune system by attacking the thyroid gland. It’s estimated that around 14 million Americans are affected with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and among them only two million are men.
“Other causes of hypothyroidism in men include damage to the thyroid or removal of the thyroid during surgery for thyroid tumors, and treatments for an overactive thyroid that result in an underactive thyroid.”
“Graves” disease is a cause of hyperthyroidism that may require treatments that leave a person with hypothyroidism. Graves disease is also more common in women,” said Dr. Skugor.
Here is a link to know from experts on how Hypothyroidism can affect males.
Hypothyroidism Can Affect Men’s Sex Life
Less interested in sex? Having trouble getting it “up”? No morning erections? Having a hard time maintaining your erection? Maybe you have hypothyroidism.
Studies have found that hypothyroidism can affect the hypothalamus or pituitary gland, which can disrupt the production of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone. This can lead to symptoms such as:
- Low libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Difficulty maintaining an erection
- Reduced frequency of morning erections
- premature or delayed ejaculation
Some quarters think that it’s not hypothyroidism that is to cause for men for less action between the sheets. They think it is the low level of testosterone as the reason. But according to Dr. Deena Adimoolam, M.D., a spokesperson for Endocrine Society’s Hormone Health Network, that is not the case. Dr. Adimoolam argues that she didn’t notice a reduced level of testosterone in men with hypothyroidism.
So, if low levels of testosterone aren’t to be blamed for your floundering sex life, what is?
According to Leonard Wartofsky, M.D., a professor of medicine at Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, it’s the brain function, energy levels, and the overall wellbeing of the person.
“It’s all about brain function and energy level, and an. If you feel lousy, all you want to do is lie down and feel better. You’re just not going to be that interested in sex,” says Dr. Wartofsky. “It’s kind of like depression. You just feel lousy. Testosterone is not the only thing governing your interests,” he explains.
So, if you aren’t feeling randy even after your partner parades in front of you wearing that sexy lingerie you bought or can’t maintain your stiffy while doing it, get checked for hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroid Diet – What To Eat And What Not To Eat
“A guy’s gotta eat what he wants.” Well, that doesn’t work if you’re living with hypothyroidism. As we said earlier, eating the right foods and taking some specific nutrients or supplements will improve thyroid health and minimize the illnesses associated with hypothyroidism.
Essential Nutrients For A Hypothyroid Diet
- Let’s start with iodine. This mineral is essential to produce thyroid hormones. Usually, people with iodine deficiency suffer from hypothyroidism. Taking iodized table salt to meals and cooking food with iodized salt is a good way to increase your iodine intake.
- Selenium is another essential mineral that helps to activate thyroid hormones. Selenium is also an antioxidant which protects the thyroid from free radicals damage done. Selenium-rich foods include tuna, sardines, eggs, and legumes. But, don’t take selenium supplements in excess as it can be toxic, according to doctors.
- Finally, we have Zinc, which similarly like Selenium helps to activate thyroid hormones. Zinc also regulates the thyroid gland on how many thyroid hormones to release. You can find zinc in foods like oysters, beef, chicken, and shellfish.
Now let’s talk about what kinds of foods you should eat if you’ve hypothyroidism.
Foods You Should Be Eating
There is a misconception that people with hypothyroidism or other forms of thyroid disorders have a limited menu, which is not true. There are plenty of foods that are ideal for a hypothyroid diet. Just make sure your diet has all the three important nutrients, iodine, zinc, and selenium.
- For starters, eggs are a good choice. Egg yolks contain high amounts of selenium and iodine. The egg whites are rich in protein, which helps in mitigating the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
- Chicken, beef, and lamb meat are also great options.
- Eat tuna, salmon, shrimps, and other fishes as well as various kinds of seafood.
- Eat almost all vegetables as much as you can.
- Fruits are essential for an ideal hypothyroid diet. Eat fruits rich in antioxidants like oranges, berries, and bananas.
- Avoid grains and seeds with gluten. Instead of gluten-free grains and seeds like rice, chia seeds, flax seeds, quinoa, and buckwheat.
- If you like dairy products, stick to yogurt and milk.
- Drink plenty of water and stay away from caffeinated beverages like tea or coffee.
All of these foods are filling, low in calories, and prevents you from gaining weight.
Now that we’ve listed the food you can eat, here’s the list of food you shouldn’t eat.
Foods To Avoid
- Processed food items like cookies, cakes, hot dogs, etc
- Foods containing gluten like barley, rye, and wheat.
- Foods with goitrogens. Goitrogens interfere with the normal function of the thyroid. These include soy-based foods, cauliflower, spinach, broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, peaches, strawberries, peanuts and pine nuts.
6 Tips To Lose Weight With A Hypothyroid Diet
Healthy foods, healthy portion size, and regular exercise are key factors to losing weight. However, losing weight is difficult if you’ve hypothyroidism, you’re thyroid gland isn’t functioning as it is expected.
Kelly Austin, ND, of Prime Wellness Clinic in San Diego, California, says, “It’s difficult for someone with hypothyroidism to lose or maintain a healthy weight because T3, the active thyroid hormone, is low. T3 is a powerful hormone that regulates the body’s metabolism.”
So, to improve your health and lose weight, it’s important to get proper treatment for hypothyroidism. However, by making some simple dietary and lifestyle changes, you can speed up your weight loss.
Below are six strategies to lose weight if you’re living with hypothyroidism:
1. Go Gluten-Free
Tina Beaudoin, ND, president of the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors says if people with hypothyroidism avoid gluten-free food, they can lose weight faster. Gluten is high in goitrogens, a compound that disrupts thyroid function and iodine uptake. “When people with hypothyroidism cut out gluten and add integrative support, their antibodies steadily decrease in the majority of cases,” Dr. Beaudoin says.
2. Curb Simple Carbs And Sugars
If you’ve hypothyroidism, it’s not that you can’t have any carbs or sugars. Dr. Austin recommends a moderate-to low-carbohydrate diet that includes complex carbohydrates like starchy vegetables and legumes. She also asks cutting out on simple sugars like sodas and candies. According to Harvard Medical School, increasing the intake of complex carbohydrates and avoiding simple carbs may lower cytokines production, which is a protein that can cause inflammation in the body.
3. Eat More Anti-Inflammatory Foods
According to Dr. Austin, anti-inflammatory foods ease joint aches, pains, and depression. You may recall these are all common symptoms of hypothyroidism. Anti-inflammatory foods also improve the immune system. “An anti-inflammatory diet can help calm the immune system and excessive inflammation,” Dr. Beaudoin says. So, eat fatty fish, nuts, fruits, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, and olive oil. All of these foods have anti-inflammatory properties.
4. Eat Small Meals But Frequently
We have already mentioned that people with hypothyroidism have a slow digestive function. So, eating small, yet frequent meals is beneficial. Dr. Beaudoin says. “Eating smaller, more frequent meals with balanced macronutrients — quality proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats — supports balanced blood sugar and helps avoid the highs and lows of oversized, highly processed meals.”
5. Exercise Regularly
Losing weight for people with hypothyroidism is no easy task. Leonor Corsino, MD, an endocrinologist at the Duke Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery in Durham, North Carolina says to burn the maximum amount of calories one should complement a healthy diet with regular exercise. However, this depends on the person’s capability. “If a person is terribly fatigued, exercise can further suppress hypothyroidism. If a person has properly managed their hypothyroid and has the energy, exercise is encouraged,” Dr. Austin.
6. Take Thyroid Medication Accordingly
Dr. Corsino recommends taking thyroid medication on an empty stomach every morning with plenty of water. Wait at least 30 – 60 minutes before eating your breakfast. Don’t take thyroid medication with other medicines. If you don’t notice any considerable improvements in your thyroid gland or thyroid hormone levels, consult your doctor.