Are you sure it's the thyroid?

Every second person in Hungary struggles with weight problems, but only a maximum of 1 in 100 people has hypothyroidism, and this can be detected with a simple blood test. About half of patients with hypothyroidism experience weight gain with decreased appetite, which is an average of 3 kg. According to Dr. Éva Bajnok, an obesitologist at the Duna Medical Center, a 10% increase in body weight can no longer be attributed solely to the thyroid gland.
Are you sure it's the thyroid?

"Many people think that they have gained weight because of an underactive thyroid gland. In most cases, excessive caloric intake and little exercise are behind obesity and an unfavorable body composition. However, many conditions and medications can also cause weight gain, such as chronic stress, hormone imbalances caused by lack of sleep, sleep apnea syndrome ("night snoring"), certain antidepressants, antihistamines, sulfonylureas, and beta blockers. Some rare congenital genetic disorders and diseases affecting the brain can also be associated with obesity. It is surprising, but much more common is some psychological origin (such as stress eating or reward) or a rheumatological deviation that hinders movement. In the majority of cases, the goal can be reached by exploring the differences detailed above with long-term adherence to an individually designed diet and exercise therapy and, where appropriate, with medication or surgical intervention," draws attention to Dr. Éva Bajnok.

Thyroid hormones affect almost every cell in the body, so they can influence body weight and body composition in several ways. They regulate basic metabolism, oxygen consumption, our ability to generate heat and the so-called spontaneous motor activity. They also affect fluid and salt balance and the functioning of muscles and joints.

The signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism develop slowly and are quite common: weakness, fatigue, sleepiness and memory impairment are typical, but the disease can also be indicated if we are constantly cold, constipated, have dry skin, thinning hair and nails. they break, our eyebrows thin, our voice is hoarse or deep. Muscle pain or stiffness, painful, stiff, swollen joints can also indicate hypothyroidism, but menstrual disorders, decreased libido and infertility, slower heart rate, increased blood pressure, suffocation, mood disorders, enlarged thyroid gland, higher cholesterol levels, and anemia can also occur. In the long term, more frequent occurrence of heart and vascular diseases or deterioration of the existing ones, increased bone fragility may also occur.

The list is long and it does not include weight gain, which many people have already heard or read about. In half of the patients suffering from hypothyroidism, weight gain with reduced appetite can be noticed, but the average amount is only 3 kg. The disease is significantly more common in women, which is why the resulting extra weight is more likely to be explained. However, you should also know that a significant 10% increase in body weight cannot be blamed solely on the thyroid gland.

Only 10-15% of obesity is caused by a so-called secondary cause, which cannot be explained by lifestyle, such as hormonal imbalance. The leading endocrine cause of thyroid disease is insulin overproduction and resistance (e.g. diabetes), low sex hormone production (e.g. menopause). Very rarely, excess cortisol production and growth hormone deficiency can also be the cause of overweight. Stress and inadequate sleep can actually be traced back to hormonal disorders - even if we can't prove this with a blood test.

There is drug therapy for hypothyroidism, which can be prescribed by a specialist and adjusted after a few simple tests. The underfunctioning is caused by a lack of the thyroxine hormone, which is replaced with treatment. At the beginning of the therapy, a regular review is important, as it may take time to adjust the hormone level to the right level, and later on, an annual checkup is sufficient.

The question arises, if the hypofunction goes away, will the body weight be restored? Unfortunately, the answer is not in all cases. The main reason for this is that the significant increase in body weight is not caused by underfunctioning of the thyroid gland, so its adjustment does not automatically lead to a return of body weight. A persistent diet and exercise are necessary for this, as in all other cases. Moreover, after adequate replacement of thyroid hormone, muscle weakness may persist for months, which negatively affects physical performance for a while.

In addition to medication, it is also worth paying attention to what we eat. There is no specific thyroid diet, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Raw cabbage, canola, soy, carrots and nuts inhibit the absorption of iodine, so it is recommended to reduce their consumption. Needless to say, based on this, the cabbage soup cure is not the best choice for regulating body weight. What we can do, however, is the consumption of sea fish and an adequate intake of 2-3 liters of fluid, and to avoid constipation associated with underactivity, a daily intake of 35 grams of fiber is recommended.

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