Do You Have a Low Thyroid Causing Problems Losing Weight?

Low thyroid causes weight gain. Often termed,” under-active thyroid” or hypothyroidism  it is  often the cause of unexpected  weight gain. The greater the degree of hypothyroidism (low thyroid function), the greater is the weight gain. This is all due to the fact that the thyroid gland regulates our basal metabolism. If there is an  actual an excess fat accumulation as well as sodium and water retention.
As an endocrinologist, Dr Lipman has treated thousands of individuals with high and low thyroid problems. Many complicated by extreme weight gain.

Up to 300 million people worldwide suffer from an under-active thyroid or hypothyroidism. In the US, 4.6% of the population (about 5 out of every 100 people) suffers from low thyroid. Mounting scientific research links low thyroid function to stubborn weight loss resistance and countless other serious health conditions.

What Function Does the Thyroid Gland Play in Metabolism?

The thyroid gland is a  butterfly-shaped gland located in the center of the neck. Your thyroid produces two vital metabolism-regulating hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both are controlled by your pituitary gland through the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).Thyroid Gland

The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine, found in many foods, and convert it into thyroid hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid cells are the only cells in the body which can absorb iodine. These cells combine iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T3 and T4. T3 and T4 are then released into the blood stream and are transported throughout the body where they control metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy.

Low Thyroid Function and Weight Gain in Women (and men)

Ten times more women than men have an under-active thyroid. It typically starts between the ages of 40 and 50, along with the other hormonal changes occurring at this stage in a woman’s life. More and more women start experiencing the three most common hypothyroid symptoms (weight gain, fatigue/depression, and skin changes) as they reach these ages. The most common problem is to differentiate these symptoms, which are shared by many other diseases, from the true hypothyroid state. When all three of the symptoms occur together, it’s easy. However, more often than not, only 1 or 2 symptoms may be present at a time. For borderline hypothyroid cases, often none of the symptoms are present except for the inability to lose weight.

Symptoms Associated with Low Thyroid Function

Here are the many symptoms associated with a low thyroid gland function. Note the significant overlap with other medical problems, often making the diagnosis difficult. Unfortunately many of these signs and symptoms overlap with serious as well as more common symptoms such as anxiety, depression, muscle cramps, swelling. For this reason, only a thyroid blood test can tell you your thyroid status.

Hypothyroidism Symptoms

What Blood Tests are Used to Indicate Thyroid Status?

Thyroid weight gain is typically evaluated by the TSH test. TSH is the key hormone for diagnosing hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. If the results of the TSH test are abnormal, one or more additional tests are needed to help determine the cause of the problem.

Thyroid Weight Gain and TSH Test

This blood test is the most sensitive test of thyroid function available. The TSH test can detect TSH blood levels as low as 0.01 mIU/L. The normal range for TSH is between 0.3 and 4.5 mIU/L, although the range may vary slightly from one laboratory to another. Between 3 to 4.0  is borderline and 4.5 or higher is indicative of low thyroid function. The higher the TSH the lower the thyroid!

The TSH test is based on the way TSH and thyroid hormones work together. Normally, the pituitary boosts TSH production when thyroid hormone levels in the blood are low. The thyroid responds by making more hormone. Then, when the body has enough thyroid hormone circulating in the blood, TSH output drops. The cycle repeats continuously to maintain a healthy level of thyroid hormone in the body. The TSH test measures the amount of TSH being secreted by the pituitary. In people whose thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, the pituitary shuts down TSH production, leading to low or even undetectable TSH levels in the blood. An abnormally low TSH level suggests too much thyroid hormone(high T4 and T3) hyperthyroidism. In people whose thyroid is not functioning normally and produces too little thyroid hormone, the thyroid cannot respond normally to TSH by producing thyroid hormone. As a result, the pituitary keeps making TSH, trying to get the thyroid to respond.

An abnormally high TSH level( above 4.5)  suggests low thyroid function- hypothyroidism and possible weight gain.

T4 Tests in Low and High Thyroid Conditions

T4 is the principal thyroid hormone.  The normal range for total T4 is 4.5 to 12.6  (µg/dL), although again, the range may vary slightly from one laboratory to another. Elevated total T4  suggests hyperthyroidism, and low total T4  points to  hypothyroidism.  Some conditions such as pregnancy or the use of oral contraceptives alters the levels of T4 and T3. In those cases one needs to use the TSH test only.  Steroids and chronic disease may actually lower the T4 again use the TSH.

T3 is Not a Good Test for Thyroid Weight Gain

Only about 20 percent of the T3 circulating in the blood comes from the thyroid gland, while all of the circulating T4 comes from the thyroid. The remaining 80 percent of circulating T3 comes from various cells all over the body where T4 is converted to T3. T3 is far more active than T4 .   The normal FT3 range is about 0.2 to 0.5 ng/dL. The T3 test is not useful in diagnosing hypothyroidism because levels are not reduced until the hypothyroidism is severe.

Imaging Tests in Thyroid Disease

A physician may use one or a combination of imaging tests, such as an ultrasound of the thyroid, a computerized tomography (CT) scan, or nuclear medicine tests, to diagnose and find the cause of thyroid disorders. Thyroid imaging is reviewed in the National Institutes of Health report on thyroid disease.

What to Do If You Suspect Low Thyroid Function Causing Your Weight Gain

Reviewing the table of symptoms above you will see there are many symptoms suggesting a low thyroid state. Many overlap with other diseases. Since thyroid disease is often genetic, the first step is reviewing your family history. More common in females than males, any women with unexplained weight gain and a family history of hypothyroidism needs a TSH test. The  is simple and definitive. If your symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss and dry skin you should obtain a TSH test. If you have difficulty losing weight on a low carb/low calorie diet you also need a TSH test. Treatment of hypothyroidism involves simply taking thyroid hormone in the form of cytomel and/or synthroid.