Can You Lose Weight if You Have Hypothyroidism?

Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2021
Hypothyroidism and weight
Weight loss with hypothyroidism is possible; however, losing weight with a thyroid disease requires a strict diet plan, exercise and monitoring your hormones.

Yes, weight loss is possible even with a thyroid disease, but it does take the right approach. This approach includes the evaluation of your hormones, including those beyond your thyroid, and consistently making the right diet choices. By evaluating, diagnosing, and treating any imbalances, you will be able to lose weight and keep it off.

Hypothyroidism is a common endocrine disorder in which the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. It can cause several symptoms, such as tiredness, a poor ability to tolerate cold, reproductive problems and weight gain.

To lose weight while controlling hypothyroidism, consider the following dietary recommendations:

Foods to avoid

  • Sugary diet, caffeine and refined carbohydrates
    • Such foods can trigger low levels of inflammation in your body, resulting in stress.
    • Reducing or even eliminating these items may minimize pressure on an underactive thyroid.
  • Energy bars and genetically modified organism (GMO) foods
    • The preservatives, additives and chemicals in energy bars may upset the delicate neurohormonal balance controlling homeostasis (body’s internal environment).
  • Gluten
    • For those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (where the body produces antibodies to attack the thyroid) along with celiac disease (gluten intolerance), cutting back on gluten-containing foods, such as wheat, rye and oats, may help bring down your antibody levels.
  • Soy
    • Soy in the form of milk, chips or tofu is often known to hinder the production of thyroid hormones.
  • Cruciferous vegetables
    • Though highly nutritious (cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.), these items may interfere in the thyroid hormone production process to some extent, especially if consumed raw.
    • You may continue to eat these items cooked but in moderation and avoid eating them raw.

Foods to include

  • Whole-grain-based carbohydrates and non-starchy vegetables
    • They provide energy and the feeling of fullness.
    • They do not trigger inflammatory or autoimmune responses.
  • Protein-rich foods
    • Includes fish, legumes, eggs (especially egg whites), quinoa, nuts and nut butter.
    • These help build your muscle mass and combat muscle weakness brought on by hypothyroidism.
  • Healthy fat foods
    • Oily fish, flaxseeds, extra virgin olive oil and avocados will help balance your lipid levels, which may run askew in the case of long-standing hypothyroidism.
  • Consume enough nutrients
    • Having an inadequate supply of nutrients can worsen thyroid symptoms because the immune system may be compromised.
    • Three nutrients (selenium, zinc and iodine) support your thyroid function, so ensure your diet plan includes enough selenium and zinc, which can come from nuts, fruits and whole grains.
  • Reintroduce healthy bacteria
    • Probiotics can help rebalance your gut microbiome.
    • An imbalanced gut microbiome (dysbiosis) is often touted as a reason for metabolic imbalances, including thyroid and polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD).

Example of a diet plan for hypothyroidism

Portion size depends on age, gender, physical activity and the presence of other medical conditions, which can be best discussed with your doctor. However, here is an example of what a healthy diet plan for hypothyroidism could look like:

  • Breakfast
    • Ideally, a healthy breakfast should provide more than 25 percent of the daily nutritional requirement.
    • Should consist of fresh fruit, cereals, low-fat dairy products and protein sources (eggs).
  • Lunch
    • Should include whole grains, vegetables, lean protein and fruits.
  • Dinner
    • Should include vegetables, whole grains, millets, seafood or any other source of lean protein and fruits.
  • Snacking
    • If you enjoy snacking in between meals, you should consume baked snacks and dry fruits.
    • Avoid eating deep-fried foods.

Also adopt an exercise routine to lose weight

Additionally, strictly following an exercise regimen along with your healthy eating habits is a must. However, do not expect a huge reduction in your weight in a short time.

People with hypothyroidism may often benefit from resistance training, such as lifting weights, bars and dumbbells. These exercises help to increase muscle mass, preserve bone weight and improve metabolism. Check your calorie intake and plan an exercise regime accordingly by discussing it with your doctor.

Why do people with underactive thyroid gain weight?

People struggle to lose weight with hypothyroidism due to several reasons, such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Slow metabolism
  • Low mood
  • Altered bowels
  • Inappropriate thyroxine dose

Most people try several diets and lose some weight, only to regain all the weight lost and much more. As they gain more weight, the thyroxine requirement goes up. To effectively manage both hypothyroidism and weight loss, a comprehensive approach is required.

What are the treatment options for hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism can be treated with artificial synthetic pills used as an alternative to maintain normal levels of thyroid hormones in the blood.

Treatment options may include:

  • Levothyroxine (T4)
    • The first-line treatment for hypothyroidism.
    • You will start at a lower dose, and then your dosage will increase or decrease depending on your blood test results and symptoms.
  • Liothyronine (T3)
    • A thyroid hormone that some patients require when T4 fails to resolve all the symptoms of hypothyroidism.
    • It can only be initiated by an endocrinologist.
  • Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT)
    • A thyroid medication that was used until levothyroxine was produced.
    • Some people have unresolved symptoms while on levothyroxine and liothyronine. NDT has been shown to improve their symptoms.
  • Thyroidectomy
    • A procedure for removing part or all of the thyroid gland.
    • Usually done when there are benign or cancerous nodules, it can also be performed for an uncontrolled overactive thyroid gland.

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Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2021
References
Ellis RR. Hypothyroidism and Your Weight. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/women/features/hypothyroidism-and-weight

Sanyal D, Raychaudhuri M. Hypothyroidism and Obesity: An Intriguing Link. Indian J Endocrinol Metab. 2016;20(4):554-557. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4911848/

Cleveland Clinic. Hypothyroidism. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12120-hypothyroidism