Signs Your Thyroid Is Making You Gain Weight

Woman holding scale

Signs Your Thyroid Is Making You Gain Weight


Going up a couple of pant sizes is one of the top symptoms of hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism, also called an underactive thyroid, is a condition in which your metabolism-running thyroid gland does not make enough thyroid hormones to meet your body's needs.

Hypothyroidism is also much more common than you would think, the metabolic disease affects 4.6% of the U.S. population and millions of people are currently hypothyroid and don't know it.

There are many symptoms of hypothyroidism, and weight gain is one of the most common.

Patients with hypothyroidism will have a generalized slowing of their metabolism and reduction in their basal metabolic rate (or BMR) which can lead to changes in the way their body expends energy. Now, with a lower metabolic rate, people can gain excess weight eating a similar diet. Some of this may be excess fat, but there may also be fluid retention. So, even if you are diligently dieting and working out, you may still gain weight if you have hypothyroidism.

Because early symptoms of the disease are varied and can imitate the symptoms of everyday life, millions of cases of thyroid disease remain undiagnosed or are mistaken for other disorders. If you have recently gained weight, it may be worth coming in for an appointment here at Palmetto Endocrinology to see if you also have any of the symptoms.

Your thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your neck. It secretes two all-important hormones that control major bodily functions (including how you use energy, regulate body temperature, and digest food) and organs (including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and skin).

But with hypothyroidism, your body can have normal to low thyroxine hormone levels and elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. These high TSH levels are a result of an overworked pituitary gland that is trying to elevate the hormone levels in an inadequately responsive thyroid.

Many things can put you at risk for hypothyroidism, from genetic predispositions to an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis (a condition that occurs in 80 percent of those with hypothyroidism in which the immune system attacks the thyroid). Fortunately, when you come in to see us at Palmetto Endocrinology, we can screen your thyroid with a simple blood test, and thyroid trouble can often be fixed with the right prescription.


Here are some of the symptoms of an underactive thyroid


You're Always Tired

Having trouble staying awake even after a full night's sleep? Tiredness, constant fatigue, sleepiness, and lack of energy are issues associated with many conditions, but they're strongly linked with hypothyroidism. When it comes down to it, too little thyroid hormone flowing through your blood means your cells aren't getting that "get going" signal, leading you to feel sluggish. Your hypothyroidism may have tricked you into thinking you don't have enough energy for exercise, but actually, by increasing your physical activity, you can help counter fatigue and improve energy levels.


Your Muscles Feel Sore All The Time

We know exercise is a crucial component in reaching your body goals, but it shouldn't be leaving you constantly seeking out a warm bath. If your muscles don't seem to be recovering even on your days off, this might be explained by a thyroid problem. Your thyroid gland secretes hormones that control your metabolism—the body's way of converting the food you eat into fuel. Fewer metabolism-controlling hormones mean a slower metabolism and a disruption in how your body burns energy, which can affect how your muscles feel.


You Keep Forgetting Things

You know you had something to do today, but you just cannot remember what it is. Sure, there's sleep deprivation, stress, and aging to blame, but your overall cognitive functioning takes a hit when your thyroid is out of whack. Too little thyroid hormone may cause forgetfulness and poor memory. Because the hormone deficiency slows everything down, neurological functions will also take a toll after some time.


You Have High Cholesterol Levels

Even though your primary care doctor doesn't typically look for thyroid problems during your check-ups, he or she will often measure your cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol levels can put you at risk of getting heart disease, but they also might be indicative of a thyroid problem.


You've Lost Interest In Sex

Having little or no desire for sex is a side effect of a thyroid disorder. Because of the connection between thyroid function and adrenal glands—the organs that control your "fight or flight" response as well as sexual hormones like testosterone—via the shared hypothalamus and pituitary gland regulators, low levels of thyroid hormone also result in low levels of sex hormones.

While too little thyroid hormone could be a contributor to a low libido, the cumulative impact of other hypothyroidism symptoms, such as weight gain, depression, low energy, and body aches, may also play a part.


You Feel Down

While it might not be a primary symptom, feeling particularly down in the dumps can be a debilitating side effect of hypothyroidism. With an underactive thyroid turning many body functions down to low, it's not surprising that your mood might sink too.


Your Skin Feels Dry

You've bought the face creams, the masks, and the moisturizing lotions, but nothing seems to work. It turns out, dry and itchy skin can be a symptom of hypothyroidism. The change in skin texture and appearance is due to reduced circulation as a result of low thyroid function. A reduction in circulation can cause skin cells to receive one-fourth to one-fifth the normal blood supply, leaving them wrinkled and cracked. Also, a slowed metabolism (caused by too little thyroid hormone production), can reduce sweating. Without the moisture from sweating, skin can quickly become dry and flaky. If just your skin is dry, you could have eczema, but if it is compounded with brittle nails, poor wound healing, and hair loss, you should be checked by your primary care doctor. Or, you can call us directly at Palmetto Endocrinology to make an appointment.


You're Having Digestive Problems

We know constipation is an embarrassing topic that no one likes to discuss, but if you can't boot your bowel issues, it might be time to call up your primary care doctor. Without enough of the metabolism-controlling thyroid hormone, many of your body's functions slow down. One of these functions is the action of the digestive tract, which will start to slow down. Hypothyroidism can weaken the contraction of the muscles that line your digestive tract, causing stool to move too slowly through the intestine. Your primary care doctor can refer you to us to make a definite diagnosis of your condition.


You're Constantly Wearing 5 Layers

If you are still wearing your winter coat when it's 60 degrees and sunny, you might be suffering from hypothyroidism. It might be easy to adjust the temperature in your house or car, but patients who have hypothyroidism struggle to regulate the temperature in their bodies. Because the thyroid gland controls your body temperature, when hypothyroidism patients' bodies make too little thyroid hormone, body temperature tends to decrease because less energy is being burned by downstream cell targets. Less energy compounded with slow metabolism equals less heat.


So, to conclude July’s blog, don’t go through life feeling that something is not right with your body. Make an appointment and come in to see us so that we can help.

Joseph W. Mathews, MD, FACP, FACE, ECNU, CCD Joseph Mathews, MD, FACP, FACE, ECNU, CCD Joseph W. Mathews M.D., a board certified Endocrinologist and Medical Director of Palmetto Endocrinology, was born and raised in South Carolina. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Biology from the College of Charleston, Cum Laude. He then achieved his M.D. at the Medical University of South Carolina where he also completed his residency in Internal Medicine and a Fellowship in Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. Dr. Mathews is also a Fellow of both the American College of Endocrinology and the American College of Physicians, holds an Endocrine Certification in Neck Ultrasound (ECNU) and is a Certified Clinical Densitometrist (CCD). He has extensive experience performing ultrasound guided fine needle aspiration biopsies. His practice includes a range of specializations including prescribing and fitting patients with insulin pumps. Dr. Mathews' practice has drawn patients from out of state to benefit from his expertise in thyroid disorders, diabetes, cortisol problems and their Endocrine disorders.

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