Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and the struggle with obesity

With the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, almost all those affected experience unwanted weight gain. But obesity does not have to be the end of the road for Hashimoto, because weight loss is also possible with this disease.

Many sufferers who have only recently been diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis are often very surprised that they continue to gain weight, even though they may be eating healthily and not overeating.

Anyone who then thinks of a diet and perhaps sticks with it to the end quickly comes to the conclusion that it is probably of little or no use. Because the few pounds you lose this way are actually not really weight loss.

In addition, it is precisely these diets that make the pounds tumble a little at first, only to then quickly make a difference. But if you suffer from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it’s probably even more frustrating than it brings a healthy person to the brink of despair. Because the reasons for your almost uncontrollable weight gain are primarily to be found in your illness.

What are the typical symptoms of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

Before you delve deeper into how you can keep your weight at a good level, you should know what symptoms are typical of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Because under certain circumstances, these characteristics are not all developed to the same extent in you or do not come to the fore as much, while other sufferers suffer very severely from the symptoms of the autoimmune disease.

You also need to know that the onset of the disease tends to creep into your life. This means that you may not initially associate some of the symptoms with your thyroid.

In addition, it is often typical that at the onset of the autoimmune disease, an overactive thyroid gland first occurs. A lot of thyroid hormones are actually produced, or more hormones get into the blood due to the decomposing thyroid gland, which is why the following symptoms can occur at the beginning:

  • Frequent and unexplained rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • High blood pressure
  • Frequent and profuse sweating for no apparent reason
  • Disturbed sleep rhythm
  • Shaking hands
  • Inner unrest
  • nervousness
  • Easy irritability and aggressive moods
  • Increased weight loss despite a healthy appetite
  • Frequent indigestion and/or diarrhea
  • Irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding in women

The initial hyperfunction of your thyroid is responsible for the fact that your metabolism is quite rapid, which is why it is also possible to lose a lot of weight without your intervention.

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Only as the disease progresses does Hashimoto’s thyroiditis cause your thyroid to become underactive. Then not so many thyroid hormones are produced when the thyroid gland becomes smaller and smaller and is no longer able to cover the hormone requirements.

This transition actually happens unnoticed and ends with your thyroid gland almost completely stopping hormone production. At this point at the latest, you will notice the following symptoms, among others:

  • General constipation
  • Uncontrollable weight gain despite a healthy and normal diet
  • Inability to lose or maintain weight
  • Frequent chills and intolerance to heat
  • Damp hands, night sweats, cold sweats
  • Inner restlessness and uncontrollably shaking hands
  • Constant signs of fatigue and almost chronic weakness
  • Depressive mood swings
  • Frequent listlessness
  • Severe insomnia

Why do you gain weight in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis?

Between each flare-up of autoimmune disease, you will have periods when your thyroid is producing reasonably adequate hormones. However, this may not have a significant impact on your overweight in the advanced stage. So you generally have the disadvantage that you gain weight with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis without wanting it or being able to control it.

The reason can be traced back to the fact that the active thyroid hormone fT3 is simply no longer produced in you or in insufficient quantities. If the thyroid gland is healthy, then this hormone has an active effect on your metabolism so that it is accelerated. In addition, this same hormone controls your energy consumption, fat burning and the excretion of cholesterol and heat generation in your body.

But if the hormone production stops because you are suffering from an underactive thyroid gland due to Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, then your energy consumption is reduced. In fact, if you have this autoimmune disease, you are bound to gain weight because you usually continue to eat normally, even though your body is using a lot less energy.

Even with the healthiest diet, this will eventually lead to your body fat increasing. Your body will automatically store unused energy in your fat deposits.

Tip: That is why you should start adding hormones as soon as possible after the diagnosis , because your metabolism is reduced by around 10 to 15 percent if your thyroid gland is underactive.

What do you need to consider before you plan to lose weight?

First of all, it would actually be important that you find the right setting for your thyroid hormone together with your doctor. Because only then can you cushion the minimized metabolism and counteract the increase.

This is the right place to start before attempting any dietary change. You can change your eating habits in advance. After all, eating healthier never hurt anyone.

The TSH value as well as the fT3 value and fT4 value are always taken as a basis for the correct adjustment of your thyroid hormone . The following reference values ​​for healthy adults should only serve as a guide:

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Hormonebezeichnung reference value
TSH 0,4 bis 2,0 µU/ml
fT3 2 to 4.4 pg/ml
fT4 0.93 to 1.70 ng/dl

Note: These reference values ​​may differ slightly depending on the laboratory. The reference values ​​can also fluctuate within a day, especially your TSH value. This is usually lowest in the afternoon before rising again in the evening and at night.

Also, talk to your doctor before you start your individual weight loss program. Because it would mean an additional burden for you and your body if your hormone therapy or your thyroid hormones are not yet optimally adjusted.

I emphasize individually because there is no panacea for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis when it comes to losing weight. Here I can recommend you in the first place: Keep a food diary.

First of all, analyze yourself and your life situation and consider what eating habits you had, for example, when you were still doing well or when you were still in the phase when your thyroid gland was still producing a lot of hormones.

With regard to your diet , you should make sure that you completely eliminate industrial sugar from your diet. It’s also healthier if your gut is causing you problems with Candida . You should also gradually reduce the number of calories. Because if you reduce too quickly and get into the so-called starvation metabolism, you create a new blockage with which you simply cannot lose weight.

How can you lose weight despite having an autoimmune disease?

If you want to lose weight, it is generally healthiest to avoid carbohydrates. It’s no different if you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Especially since it won’t do you any good if, for example, you only eat half or go through any crash diets. So your motto should be: Watch your diet!

Because when you eat too many of the wrong carbohydrates, your already minimized metabolism slows down. When I talk about good and bad carbohydrates here, I mean foods or foods that give you enough energy in the short or long term. Often the less good carbohydrates are hidden behind products that taste sweet. But even here, not everyone is the same.

If you are aiming for weight loss, you should therefore pay attention to the carbohydrates you eat. A diet in which you only eat whole foods not only keeps you full for a longer period of time, but also gives your body far less sugar.

In addition, you should consider the following things in your diet:

  • Eat as many vegetables and fruits as possible
  • reduce carbohydrates
  • Reduce unhealthy fats
  • Eat more protein
  • Eat a maximum of 3 meals a day
  • Avoid sweets and snacks
  • Remove juices and sweet soft drinks from the menu
  • Instead, drink plenty of herbal teas and water
  • Try 16/8 intermittent fasting
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In addition, it is of course also important for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis to get enough exercise in the fresh air, because sport is still the best way to activate the metabolism. Here I can only recommend: Try it at slightly cooler temperatures. You may be wondering why now – I will explain it to you:

The human organism is equipped with a metabolically active organ, which is also called the active brown fat. Normally and in healthy people, this brown fat ensures that the body is kept at normal temperature. That means it warms the body when the ambient temperature is cold. Thus, many energies are burned, which logically makes it easier to lose weight. 

However, autoimmune diseases have the disadvantage that the activity of brown fat is blocked by the thyroid disease. You can tell, for example, by the fact that you freeze more and more quickly. But here you can help a little by activating the brown fat with the help of cold stimuli.

Ways you can apply cold stimuli to your body to activate brown fat:

  • Stay occasionally and temporarily in cool rooms that have a room temperature of only 16°C
  • Take a bike ride in cold weather
  • Go for a swim in the cold water
  • Long walks in cool weather

Contrast showers can also be an approach to boosting a halfway normal activity of the brown fat.

Increased cortisol levels caused by stress are the main fattening factors

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis itself creates physical stress in the body. The resulting lack of sleep, constant preoccupation with the disease and various concomitant diseases do the rest. Not to mention the everyday stress at work, family and private life. And if that weren’t enough, we also stress ourselves every day with unhealthy nutrition and excessive coffee and sugar consumption.

The crux of stress is that it raises cortisol levels, which in turn leads to elevated blood sugar levels. This would be enough to cause a steadily increasing body weight, but a high cortisol level also causes a disturbed fat metabolism or inhibits the breakdown of fat.

In order to increase the previous disaster a little, too high cortisol also inhibits the TSH. So if you are already underactive with your free thyroid hormones fT3 and fT4, TSH cannot rise to signal that more hormones should be produced. This leads to a stronger hypofunction of the thyroid gland and also ensures a reduced metabolism and increasing weight.

Conclusion

It is also possible to lose weight and lose weight with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. However, this is much more difficult than is the case with healthy people.

Sport alone is usually not enough and must be combined with a change in diet, stress reduction and, above all, a proper thyroid setting with appropriate hormones in order to achieve acceptable success.

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