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Thyroid Troubles: How Your Thyroid Health Could Be Affecting Your Weight

thyroid weightloss well-being Apr 14, 2023
 Written by Natasha Arabian & reviewed by Lara Frendjian


Which options below do you think follow the ending of this sentence: “People with thyroid problems…”?

a) Always gain weight

b) Lose weight, but can gain it back rapidly

c) Can’t lose weight

d) A and C

e) None of the above

The correct answer is E. However, if you chose a different answer, you are likely not the only one. Among women, an estimated 40% over age 40 do not know the function of the thyroid, let alone the diseases associated with the thyroid (1). This is especially alarming because women are more prone to thyroid problems (9). But fear not! 

In this brief article, I will explain what the thyroid is, what its function is, what HYPOthyroidism is, what HYPERthyroidism is, and lastly, the relationship between the thyroid and weight. 

What is the thyroid? What is its function?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck and is crucial in regulating the body’s metabolism. It produces hormones, specifically triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), that regulate the body’s metabolic rate, which is the rate at which the body uses energy (2).

Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) regulates both the synthesis and release of thyroid hormones. The synthesis of these hormones requires iodine, copper, and magnesium, vitamins C & A, which we obtain from our food (2) (12) (13) (14) (15).;

Later on, I will recommend foods containing these nutrients to help regulate the production & conversion of thyroid hormones.

What is HYPOthyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones to meet the body’s needs.

In women, the risk of developing hypothyroidism increases with age and during pregnancy, the postpartum period, and menopause (3). So what can cause hypothyroidism, you may be wondering?

There may be multiple reasons; however, nutrient deficiencies, underlying autoimmune disorders, genetics, undergoing radiation treatment, and using certain medications (7) may be at fault. The leading cause, however, is iodine deficiency (3).

So, what does this have to do with weight gain?

When the thyroid gland is not producing enough hormones, the body’s metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain. This is because the body burns fewer calories and stores more fat, leading to an increase in body weight. Hypothyroidism can also lead to a decrease in muscle mass, which can further contribute to weight gain (10).

The connection between the thyroid and weight gain can be further complicated by other factors such as diet and exercise. For individuals with hypothyroidism, it is important to maintain a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients. In addition, regular exercise can help increase metabolism and burn more calories. However, for individuals with severe hypothyroidism, simply making dietary and lifestyle changes may not be enough to prevent weight gain.

What is HYPERthyroidism?

On another note, what is HYPERthyroidism? Hyperthyroidism, you guessed it, is the opposite of hypothyroidism. It is when the thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of hormones (Specifically the hormone thyroxine T4). 

The T4 hormone affects various physiological processes, including heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (4). 

An overactive thyroid can cause weight loss due to increased metabolism. This can lead to rapid weight loss, increased appetite, and other symptoms such as nervousness and sweating (3). 

Weight gain can also occur in some individuals with hyperthyroidism. This can happen because an overactive thyroid can cause muscle wasting and increased body fat. The loss of muscle mass can decrease the metabolic rate, leading to weight gain. Some medications for hyperthyroidism can also contribute to weight gain (6).

It's important to note that many factors can affect weight, and having an imbalanced thyroid is just one of them. Left untreated, hyperthyroidism can lead to several complications, including heart problems, osteoporosis, and emotional instability (4).

How does one get hyperthyroidism?

Graves’ disease (immune system disorder that results in the overproduction of thyroid hormones) (9), Genetics, eating too many iodine-rich or iodine-fortified foods in your diet, inflammation of the thyroid due to viral infections, some medicines, or after pregnancy (5).

What are some symptoms of hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism?

Many people experience thyroid issues, and they don't even know it. A diagnosis is important because the thyroid may affect every system in your body. Knowing the symptoms may be useful in knowing where to start addressing the issue. 



  • fatigue (3)
  • weight gain (3)
  • alteration in cognition (3)
  • mood swings (3)
  • infertility (9)
  • menstrual abnormalities (9)
  • hair loss (3)
  • dry skin (9)


  • rapid weight loss (10)
  • anxiety (10)
  • insomnia (10)
  • diarrhea (10)
  • heart palpitations (6)
  • rapid pulse (6)
  • sweating (6)

Lara’s foods recommendations that are good for healthy thyroid function:

Foods high in iodine (essential in the regulation of thyroid hormones). The estimated average requirement of iodine for women between 31- 50 is 95 µg/day (8)

→ Seafood (fish, shrimp, seaweed etc.)

→ Dairy products

→ Beef liver

Foods High in Copper

→ Beef liver

→ Oysters

→ Cashews

High in Magnesium

→ Hemp hearts

→ Greens (Spinach, Swiss Chard, Beet Greens (cooked))

→ Pumpkin Seeds

Foods High in Retinol (Vitamin A)

→ Beef liver

→ Dairy products

→ Eggs


Ginger (may relieve hypothyroid symptoms) (11)


The reason why so many women may struggle with weight loss due to their thyroid health is because the symptoms don't show up overnight. They develop so gradually that it's easy to confuse them with other conditions, such as perimenopause, premenstrual syndrome, depression or everyday stress - so they tend to go undiagnosed. They can even be mistakenly attributed to a lack of sleep or exercise (6). 

If you think you may be experiencing difficulty losing weight and would like further support with your health, connect with me!


(1) Can a 'sluggish' thyroid make you overweight? Tufts University Diet & Nutrition Letter 1995 04;13(2):4. 

(2) F. H. Martini, J. L. Nath, E. F. Bartholomew. Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology, 11th edition. Published by Pearson (July 15th 2020) - Copyright © 2018 

(3) D. Dunn, C. Turner. Hypothyroidism in Women, Nursing for Women's Health, Volume 20, Issue 1, 2016, Pages 93-98, ISSN 1751-4851, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nwh.2015.12.002

(4) D. S. Ross, H. B. Burch, D. S. Cooper, M. C. Greenlee, P. Laurberg, A. L. Maia, S. A. Rivkees, M. Samuels, J. A. Sosa, M. N. Stan, M. A. Walter. 2016 American Thyroid Association guidelines for diagnosis and management of hyperthyroidism and other causes of thyrotoxicosis. Thyroid. 2016;26(10):1343-1421. PMID: 27521067 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27521067/.    

(5) PennMedicine. Last reviewed 2022. Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid). https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/hyperthyroidism-overactive-thyroid  

(6) Shomon M. Gaining weight? Joe Weider's Shape 2000 11;20(3):56-58. https://www.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/195308371/7497AE864A864A4CPQ/36?accountid=13631 

(7) Maxwell C, Volpe SL. Effect of Zinc Supplementation on Thyroid Hormone Function: A Case Study of Two College Females. Ann Nutr Metab 2007 06;51(2):188-94. https://www.proquest.com/pqrl/docview/232078761/7497AE864A864A4CPQ/43?accountid=13631 

(8) National Institute of Health. Last reviewed 2022. Iodine Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iodine-HealthProfessional/?print=1 

(9) Gietka-Czernel M. The thyroid gland in postmenopausal women: physiology and diseases. Prz Menopauzalny. 2017 Jun;16(2):33-37. doi: 10.5114/pm.2017.68588. Epub 2017 Jun 30. PMID: 28721126; PMCID: PMC5509968. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5509968/ 

(10) Marandino C. Thyroid control. Better Nutrition 2001 07;63(7):1. 

(11) Ashraf H, Heydari M, Shams M, Zarshenas MM, Tavakoli A, Sayadi M. Efficacy of Ginger Supplementation in Relieving Persistent Hypothyroid Symptoms in Patients with Controlled Primary Hypothyroidism: A Pilot Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Evidence - Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2022;2022. 

(12) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0946672X16300773

(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6028657/

(14) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24601693/

(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9592814/

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