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You Asked: Thyroid Problems and Weight Gain

While weight gain can most often be attributed to eating more calories than you are expending, there can also be some kind of hormonal imbalance at play. Recently a reader asked if thyroid problems can cause weight gain, and while the short answer is yes I have done a bit of research to provide a little more information on a rather complicated system (human biology is pretty amazing!!!).

Hormones produced by the thyroid influence how quickly or slowly you burn energy, aka your metabolism. If you don't produce enough hormones you have what is known as hypothyroidism and your metabolism slows way down. This condition can also cause lethargy, reduced appetite and brittle nails. While hypothyroidism is rarely the only culprit in weight gain it can be a contributing factor.

Having your thyroid hormone levels checked is relatively easy and merely requires a blood test - and you don't even need to fast before having your blood drawn. The test measures the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels in your blood. If the level is above 5 IU/liter, your body is trying to stimulate an under-performing thyroid.

If you think you are experiencing thyroid problems make an appointment to discuss the issue with your primary care physician.


Join The Conversation
scoutdog scoutdog 9 years
as i recently discovered, some lower level thyroid problems may not show up on the TSH blood tests. one newer test is to use a basal thermometer for 10 days. if your temperatures are consistently below 97.0, you are likely dealing with a thyroid issue. I have a low-level thyroid problem (also called "subclinical hypothyroidism") that I am now beginning medication to treat. I encourage other people who suspect they may have this problem to do their own self-test before going to the doctor. You will be armed with your own knowledge as well as theirs. It certainly helped me.
ragus ragus 9 years
If you had a normal Thyroid and took medication you'd have hypothyroid, it would be very dangerous....its not for weight loss it causes Rapid heart beats, Greatly increased body temperatures, Chest pain, Shortness of breath, Anxiety and irritability, Disorientation, Increased sweating, Weakness and can lead to Heart failure
PrissyLilBadAss PrissyLilBadAss 10 years
My sister has hypothyroidism to the point that her thyroid really doesn't produce any hormones. She had radiation therapy for Hodgekins and it killed her thyroid. She's been on meds for it for the past 11 years which really compensate for her inactive thyroid. She can eat nothing but fast food and NEVER gain a pound. The synthetic TSH she's on really does its job!
vsakakeeny vsakakeeny 10 years
Wow. I've been testing twice but each time the levels have come out normal. I'm going to ask for the test that Rocketgirl mentioned. It's not so much the weight (though it is that as well) but it's knowing that something is not right and no one helping me find out what.
ALSW ALSW 10 years
My husband has hypothyroidism and he's on medication, but it definitely explained his weight gain. He gained 25 pounds in about a month and a half!
rocketgirl rocketgirl 10 years
Inducing hypothyroidism to lose weight would cause the symptoms of hypothyroidism to appear. It's not something that's recommended since the ailments caused by hypothyroidism can be worse than overweight.
Vannuccia Vannuccia 10 years
Thanks for posting this. I'm finally going for a blood test this Wednesday to find out if I suffer from this after a while of suspecting that I might have it (but you know how doctors always know best :) ).
ksffaw ksffaw 10 years
Thanks for this. I was recently diagnosed for hypothyroidism and I HIGHLY recommend anyone who is planning to have children to get your blood level checked before you start trying. Any thyroid issues can be dangerous to the fetus and can increase complications with the pregnancy. After starting to take the medication, it's amazing to see the difference in my energy levels, hair texture and weight. I was working out like a fiend and eating less but no weight loss. I guess it's one of the most under diagnosed conditions.
tifygodess24 tifygodess24 10 years
Im going to go to WebMd and see what I can find,......
tifygodess24 tifygodess24 10 years
Yeah I wondered the same thing colormesticky , say your tests are fine but you have a sluggish metabolism and have a hard time losing weight why cant they give the meds for hypothyriodism for a brief amount of time. Would it even work I wonder?
lovekailua lovekailua 10 years doctor said i had a "goiter" but it was nothing to worry about. i wish i had health insurance and could get checked out again. my ex-boss had this hyper problem i think and she always forgot her meds.
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
What if you didn't have hypothyroidism but you still took the medication? Would it be like Ephedra and you'd lose a bunch of weight from upping your metabolism even though you didn't need to?
BeautyXRush BeautyXRush 10 years
I have Hyperthyroidism so I lose weight, but this is very informitive. Thanks.
rocketgirl rocketgirl 10 years
I am hypothyroid as well, but my TSH level says I'm "normal." I finally convinced my doctor to check my T3 and T4 levels, and now I'm on medication that has helped my symptoms immensely. No more itchy eyes, panic attacks, muscle aches, stomach's strange what just one hormonal imbalance can do. If you think you have a thyroid problem, keep pushing for the right tests; it is definitely worth it.
ArmoAngel ArmoAngel 10 years
Fit- thanks for putting this up! I have hypothyroidism and hav to take medication everyday to keep my thyroid hormones floating in my body. It really does effect your metabolism. If I forget to take my medication for a week or so, I can easily gain 5 lbs, or if my medication is increased I can lose weight easily. I don't know if it is that sensitive for other people, but for me its always been like that. I'm really glad you put this blog up! Thanks! Angela*
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