Weight gain is one of the first symptoms of hypothyroidism and indicates that the endocrine system is experiencing issues.
Can you lose weight when you have hypothyroidism? Yes, you can lose weight with hypothyroidism through lifestyle changes in diet, eating patterns, stress, and workouts.
As many as 60% of people with thyroid disease don’t know they have one. If you gain weight with no explanation, consider asking a healthcare professional about thyroid issues.
If you live in Colorado and want to work with the PrimeHealth team, schedule your consultation using this link.
1. Eliminate Sugar
One simple way to lose weight fast with hypothyroidism is to cut out sugar.
Avoid sugar at all costs in your hypothyroidism diet plan for weight loss.
Additionally, simple carbohydrates break down into sugar, or glucose. That’s why sweet, bread-based treats and empty carbs like chips and cookies aren’t on your new meal plan.
2. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods
We’ve made a list of foods to eat and avoid, but the bottom line is that foods that feed inflammation need to be removed from your meals. Clearing up inflammation through diet can help your thyroid function properly.
At PrimeHealth, we recommend following the Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) diet to those diagnosed with hypothyroidism (especially when autoimmunity is a trigger) for between 1-6 months.
Eating this way has two main advantages:
- The AIP diet is designed to eliminate inflammatory foods that can trigger the root causes of hypothyroidism (called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
- The AIP diet incorporates all anti-inflammatory healthy foods that encourage weight loss.
What to Eat
Best foods for losing weight with hypothyroidism:
- Lean proteins:
- Seafood (especially fish, rich in healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids)
- Fermented non-dairies:
- Apple cider vinegar
- Non-nightshade veggies
- Cruciferous vegetables (like kale and brussels sprouts)
- Sulfur-rich veggies (like garlic and onions)
- Herbs like rosemary and turmeric
- Collagen and bone broth
- Green tea
- Olive oil
- Arrowroot starch
- Small amounts of honey, maple syrup, fruits, and monk fruit
What To Avoid
Avoid inflammatory foods when you have an underactive thyroid, contributing to weight gain. If you have hypothyroidism and excess weight retention, eliminate these foods from your diet:
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Dried fruits
- Beans/legumes (because of the potential allergen lectin)
- All nightshade vegetables
- Vegetable oils
- Alternative sweeteners
- Processed Foods
A favorite alcohol alternative of ours is Feel Free, a plant-based tonic that provides improved mood, sustained energy, and decreased anxiety, without the negatives of alcohol. 40% OFF your first order with code primehealth40.
3. Intermittent Fasting
To stabilize your weight (or lose more), you may want to try time-restricted eating (also called intermittent fasting or IMF).
Here are the basics:
- Choose a specified time window in your day during which you’ll eat.
- The end of this window should be no fewer than 2 hours before bedtime, which will protect you from blood sugar spikes while sleeping.
- There should be at least 12 hours between the last bite of food one day and your first bite the next day.
- Extending your fasting window to 14 or even 16 hours may even be more beneficial when trying to lose weight.
If you suffer from hypoglycemia or diabetes and cannot increase your fasting window safely, talk to your doctor before starting this kind of eating plan. Women also need to consider the impact of fasting on menstrual cycles, so talk to your healthcare provider if you notice a significant change.
4. Stress Relief
Stress is a leading contributor to an underactive thyroid. Relieving stress can lead to a normal balance in your hormone levels. If your thyroid is normalized, your metabolism will speed up again.
And outside of hypothyroidism, stress has been linked to obesity in general. This is primarily due to exposure to excessive amounts of cortisol over time.
Here are some practical ways to relieve stress:
- Sleep. A full 8 hours of high-quality sleep is essential for stress relief.
- Turn off technology before bed. Cutting out blue light exposure an hour before bedtime can improve your sleep quality. You can do this by using software that blocks blue light, like f.lux and iristech.
- Use blue light-blocking glasses. We also encourage everyone to use blue light-blocking glasses after sunset if using any electronic devices, which helps to reduce cortisol production. Use code PRIMEHEALTH for 10% off of our favorite blue light-blocking glasses at Ra Optics.
- Meditate. Practicing meditation is another way to alleviate your stress and decrease excessive cortisol production.
- Go outside. Spending time outdoors, especially in primarily green locations, can lower your stress and cortisol levels.
Reducing your stress levels is one of the best ways to lose weight with hypothyroidism without medication.
We recommend regular exercise for thyroid patients to lose weight.
Physical therapists and endocrinologists alike suggest low-impact cardio exercise, especially to start out. Consult with a doctor before engaging in higher-intensity strength training.
Aim to exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
Exercise is a fantastic natural treatment for hypothyroidism, helping to:
- Relieve depression
- Increase energy levels
- Boost self-esteem
- Reduce joint pain
- Increase muscle mass
- Improve insulin resistance
- Lose unwanted weight
- Maintain healthy weight
How much weight should you lose with hypothyroidism? Determine your healthy weight by starting with a normal BMI range for your height. Every person is different, so seek medical advice from your doctor about exactly how much weight you should try to lose.
Here are the best natural dietary supplements to lessen the severity of your hypothyroidism, promote healthy metabolism, and promote hypothyroidism-related weight loss:
- Iodine is essential to healthy thyroid function. Iodine deficiency is the leading cause of goiters, a thyroid disorder. Iodine is important in preventing autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s, that lead to hypothyroidism. Recent research reveals iodine’s weight loss potential in thyroid patients.
- Gut healing herbs and probiotics help remove inflammatory microbes and promote “good” bacteria, essential to gut health. Gut health is closely linked to your immune system, which is closely related to your thyroid health. Improved thyroid function means better metabolism. Improving your gut health is also linked to weight loss.
- Selenium is found in fish and muscle meats. As a supplement, researchers found that selenium improved biomarkers of hypothyroidism. Selenium also improves mood, which can relieve stress. Both stress relief and improved thyroid function speed up your metabolism.
- Glutathione is the most abundant antioxidant in the human body. In supplement form, glutathione fights oxidative stress that leads to inflammation. 2018 research reveals that glutathione promotes weight loss in certain obese individuals.
- Curcumin, the primary component in turmeric, fights inflammation and promotes heart health. Animal studies show that curcumin also regulates body fat.
Consult a healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant with hypothyroidism. Your nutritional needs may be different during this time.
At PrimeHealth, your dietary and supplement plan is always personalized to your needs and personal labs from blood tests.
For medical-grade, 3rd party tested supplements see our online store.
Why Hypothyroidism Causes Weight Gain
It’s hard to lose weight with hypothyroidism. When your thyroid gland isn’t producing enough thyroid hormones, your metabolism slows down.
But it’s more than just your metabolism (metabolic rate) slowing — several factors lead to weight gain during hypothyroidism.
An underactive thyroid doesn’t secrete enough T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine) hormones. T3 and T4 regulate metabolic processes at the cellular level, and limited T3/T4 production slows your overall metabolism.
Metabolism is how fast your cells turn nutrients into energy. The slower the process, the fewer calories you burn at rest and during activity. With a slow metabolism, more stored calories turn to fat tissue.
Weight gain can be a vicious cycle. Once you have put on weight due to slow metabolism, it can be more difficult to:
- Exercise the proper amount (2 ½ hours per week for most people)
- Get motivated to work out or adhere to a diet
- Move around as much as you used to during the day (also called “accidental exercise”)
Hypothyroidism leads to fatigue. Fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of an underactive thyroid, as your cells need thyroid hormones to make energy.
Fatigue leads to less physical activity, which can lead to weight gain.
Everyone experiences some fatigue, but hypothyroidism causes chronic fatigue. Treating your thyroid condition, getting enough high-quality sleep, and eating well can decrease fatigue and make your weight loss goals come true.
Weak, Achy, or Stiff Muscles and Joints
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include weak and aching muscles, joint pain and stiffness, and potentially even carpal tunnel syndrome. This can make it feel even harder to exercise.
Ask anyone with chronic joint pain: Staying active is a massive struggle.
Although over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can relieve pain, they come with all sorts of side effects. Fortunately, there are many natural ways to reduce hypothyroidism-related joint and muscle swelling so you can get moving again.
Thyroid hormone replacement, thyroid medication (like levothyroxine,) though it can also cause side effects), or anti-inflammatory supplements (like curcumin) can treat the root causes of joint and muscle swelling.
When your joints and muscles feel good, physical activity and a healthier weight are easier to achieve.
Another symptom of hypothyroidism is depression. Depression causes a lack of motivation to do anything, including exercise. This lack of exercise can lead to weight gain.
Many experts link hypothyroidism and depression by citing similar symptoms. Others claim hypothyroidism directly causes depression.
Most interestingly, if hypothyroidism is misdiagnosed as a mood disorder, the lithium medication that’s often prescribed can make thyroid problems worse. Effective diagnosis should include measuring thyroid hormone levels, as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels.
Isolation fuels depression, as does the indoors. If you find yourself in a depressive state, try spending time with loved ones and enjoying the outdoors.
The AIP diet may also help improve your mood.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when attempting to lose weight with hypothyroidism.
Not only does hypothyroidism directly cause weight gain, but the other symptoms contribute to bodyweight outside the normal range.
However, there’s hope with these natural tips to change your eating habits, relieve stress, exercise regularly, and use natural supplements.
Here at PrimeHealth, we have years of experience with hypothyroidism and weight loss. We focus on each patient as an individual and take the time you need to lose your unwanted weight from hypothyroidism.
At PrimeHealth in Denver, Colorado, we focus on disease prevention, from group medical visits to personalized healthcare. We’d love to offer you a free consultation; schedule your conversation today!
- Bovi, A. P. D., Di Michele, L., Laino, G., & Vajro, P. (2017). Obesity and Obesity Related Diseases, Sugar Consumption and Bad Oral Health: A Fatal Epidemic Mixtures: The Pediatric and Odontologist Point of View. Translational Medicine@ UniSa, 16, 11.
- Della Corte, K. W., Perrar, I., Penczynski, K. J., Schwingshackl, L., Herder, C., & Buyken, A. E. (2018). Effect of dietary sugar intake on biomarkers of subclinical inflammation: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. Nutrients, 10(5), 606.
- Freed, D. L. (1999). Do dietary lectins cause disease?: The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment.
- Gabel, K., Hoddy, K. K., Haggerty, N., Song, J., Kroeger, C. M., Trepanowski, J. F., … & Varady, K. A. (2018). Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study. Nutrition and healthy aging, 4(4), 345-353. Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6004924/
- Chaix, A., Zarrinpar, A., Miu, P., & Panda, S. (2014). Time-restricted feeding is a preventative and therapeutic intervention against diverse nutritional challenges. Cell metabolism, 20(6), 991-1005.
- Olivares, E. L., Silva-Almeida, C., Pestana, F. M., Sonoda-Côrtes, R., Araujo, I. G., Rodrigues, N. C., … & Rocha, F. F. (2012). Social stress-induced hypothyroidism is attenuated by antidepressant treatment in rats. Neuropharmacology, 62(1), 446-456.
- van der Valk, E. S., Savas, M., & van Rossum, E. F. (2018). Stress and Obesity: Are There More Susceptible Individuals?. Current obesity reports, 7(2), 193-203.
- Hirotsu, C., Tufik, S., & Andersen, M. L. (2015). Interactions between sleep, stress, and metabolism: From physiological to pathological conditions. Sleep Science, 8(3), 143-152.
- Hatori, M., Gronfier, C., Van Gelder, R. N., Bernstein, P. S., Carreras, J., Panda, S., … & Furukawa, T. (2017). Global rise of potential health hazards caused by blue light-induced circadian disruption in modern aging societies. npj Aging and Mechanisms of Disease, 3(1), 1-3.
- Thompson, C. W., Roe, J., Aspinall, P., Mitchell, R., Clow, A., & Miller, D. (2012). More green space is linked to less stress in deprived communities: Evidence from salivary cortisol patterns. Landscape and urban planning, 105(3), 221-229.
- Duntas, L. H. (2015). The role of iodine and selenium in autoimmune thyroiditis. Hormone and Metabolic Research, 47(10), 721-726.
- Lopez, Y., Franco, C., Cepeda, A., & Vázquez, B. (2018). Constant iodine intake through the diet could improve hypothyroidism treatment: a case report. Journal of physiology and biochemistry, 74(1), 189-193.
- Brusaferro, A., Cozzali, R., Orabona, C., Biscarini, A., Farinelli, E., Cavalli, E., … & Esposito, S. (2018). Is it time to use probiotics to prevent or treat obesity?. Nutrients, 10(11), 1613.
- Toulis, K. A., Anastasilakis, A. D., Tzellos, T. G., Goulis, D. G., & Kouvelas, D. (2010). Selenium supplementation in the treatment of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: a systematic review and a meta-analysis. Thyroid, 20(10), 1163-1173.
- Goutzourelas, N., Orfanou, M., Charizanis, I., Leon, G., Spandidos, D. A., & Kouretas, D. (2018). GSH levels affect weight loss in individuals with metabolic syndrome and obesity following dietary therapy. Experimental and therapeutic medicine, 16(2), 635-642.
- Miyazawa, T., Nakagawa, K., Kim, S. H., Thomas, M. J., Paul, L., Zingg, J. M., … & Azzi, A. (2018). Curcumin and piperine supplementation of obese mice under caloric restriction modulates body fat and interleukin-1β. Nutrition & metabolism, 15(1), 12.
- Chakrabarti, S. (2011). Thyroid functions and bipolar affective disorder. Journal of thyroid research, 2011.
- Lakhan, S. E., & Vieira, K. F. (2008). Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutrition journal, 7(1), 2.