Our weight fluctuates goes up and down, and we’re used to that. Sometimes you put on a few pounds and lose them later. Different factors contribute to weight gain in women, especially in menopause. Sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and slow metabolism are just some potential causes that make you overweight. Weight loss isn’t a mission impossible, with a few simple lifestyle tweaks you can slim down. However, hypothyroid women may find it more difficult to lose weight. Does that mean hypothyroid ladies in menopause can’t lose weight? Of course not! This article will help you understand your condition and show how to lose weight during menopause and hypothyroidism.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is a disorder wherein the gland does not produce sufficient amounts of hormones that are necessary for proper metabolism. The butterfly-shaped gland produces two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Besides their role in metabolism, thyroid hormones are involved in cholesterol levels, weight, menstrual cycle, brain development, breathing, heart and nervous system functions, muscle strength, body temperature, among other things.
According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of the US population will develop a thyroid disorder in their lifetime and about 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. That being said, 60% of those with thyroid disorder are not even aware of their condition. Women are five to eight times more likely to develop a thyroid-related problem than men. Moreover, one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in her lifetime.
What Causes Hypothyroidism?
As mentioned above, hypothyroidism occurs when the gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. The condition has several causes including the following:
- Hashimoto’s disease – An autoimmune condition and the most common cause of hypothyroidism. In this disease, the immune system attacks a person’s thyroid, causes inflammation, and hinders hormone production
- Thyroiditis – An inflammation of thyroid that causes stored hormone to leak out of the gland. At first, this leads to excessively high concentration of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism), but within a few months the gland becomes underactive.
- Surgical removal of a part or whole thyroid – A surgeon may remove a portion or entire thyroid gland due to thyroid cancer, a large goiter, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid nodules.
- Radiation treatment of the thyroid – A common treatment for hyperthyroidism, radioactive iodine, gradually destroys thyroid cells.
- Medications – Medications that contribute to hypothyroidism include amiodarone (heart medicine), interferon alpha (cancer medicine), lithium (bipolar disorder medicine)
Hypothyroidism and Menopause
Before we discuss how to lose weight during menopause and hypothyroidism, it is important to clarify the link between the two. Both hypothyroidism and menopause share some symptoms such as fatigue, problems with memory and concentration, changes in body weight, and many others. A study whose findings were published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that out of 350 menopausal women, 21 had hypothyroidism. Their menopause-like symptoms improved with adequate treatment for this thyroid disorder. These findings suggest that hypothyroidism plays a role in the severity of menopausal symptoms.
The Journal of Thyroid Research published a peer-reviewed study which discovered that estrogen levels affect thyroid function and may contribute to thyroid disorders. Although more research on this topic is necessary, it’s safe to say that estrogen plays a role in thyroid health too. Since levels of estrogen drop in menopause, the thyroid functioning can experience some difficulties too.
Can you Lose Weight if you have Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism may aggravate symptoms of menopause including weight gain. After all, this thyroid disorder is indicated by slow metabolism and as you already know metabolism plays a big role in successful weight loss. While it may seem like a lost cause, bear in mind that it is possible to lose weight if you have hypothyroidism. You just have to make some wise choices. Below, you can see different things you can do to lose weight even if you have hypothyroidism.
Take your medications regularly
Hypothyroidism management revolves around the regular intake of medications prescribed by your doctor. It is of huge importance to see your doctor regularly. Dosages of these medications are adapted to the patient’s condition and severity of the disorder and chances are high your doctor may alter the daily dose on several occasions. Normalizing thyroid hormone levels will improve your metabolism and allow you to lose weight more successful. One thing you should never do is to change medication dosages on your own or simply stop taking them because you don’t think you need them.
Reduce intake of sugars and carbs
Refined carbs and sugars are major contributors to weight gain as it is. These food items have little to no nutritional value, but bring many health risks your way. If you have hypothyroidism, you may find yourself craving junk food and sweets. This happens due to a decrease in a neurotransmitter called serotonin which is responsible for pleasure.
Bearing in mind that carbohydrates raise serotonin levels, craving them is the body’s effort to restore the balance. That being said, in hypothyroid patients metabolism is slow and these extra calories are easily stored into fat. This leads to overweight, obesity, cardiovascular risks, among other things. Therefore, to support your weight loss efforts, strive to reduce or completely avoid intake of added sugars and refined carbs.
Even though we’d like to lose without exercising, the truth is that physical activity is pivotal for successful weight loss and its maintenance. The key to losing weight and preventing the yo-yo effect is to couple exercise and well-balanced diet. Not only will physical activity help you deal with common symptoms of menopause, but it will also help you manage hypothyroidism.
Evidence shows that regular workouts are associated with lower levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and increased production of T3 and T4 in hypothyroid patients. Scientists explain that every hypothyroid patient should do regular exercise along thyroxine replacement to improve the function of this gland.
You don’t have to spend hours exercising because too much exercise isn’t a good thing either. Strive for 30 minutes of regular training. It’s a reasonable and achievable goal even for the busiest ladies. Also, you don’t even have to train in the gym if you don’t like that type of the setting. Run, jog, exercise at home while watching TV, work out in your backyard, take part in some sports activity, options are endless. The point here is to exercise regularly and increase your activity levels.
Other things to do
- Increase water intake
- Base your meals around protein and vegetables
- Increase intake of fruits
- Consume sufficient amounts of zinc and selenium
- Take regular walks
- Get enough sleep
- Eat more anti-inflammatory foods
- Keep a food diary, check it regularly, and identify your strengths and weaknesses i.e. things in your diet that you can change
Hypothyroidism is a common disorder where production of thyroid problems is insufficient. The disorder can aggravate symptoms of menopause. At the same time, studies showed that estrogen plays a role in thyroid function too. A common symptom of both menopause and hypothyroidism is weight gain, but you can slim even if it seems impossible. This article showed you how to lose weight during menopause and hypothyroidism and it revolves around the regular intake of medication, working out, and adapting your diet to reduce inflammation and support metabolism. It’s useful to consult your doctor and ask about useful tips to lose weight too.