Is Thyroid Function the Root Cause of Many Health Problems, including Weight Gain?
When it comes to health problems, the old adage “work smarter, not harder” can serve as helpful advice. It is easy to think more time at the gym is the silver bullet for losing excessive weight. While exercise is important, it may not always be the only thing needed to heal bigger problems. One common health issue that impacts roughly 10 million people in the U.S. is hypothyroidism, a problem caused when the thyroid fails to produce enough thyroid hormones. The inverse is hyperthyroidism, a less common but no less serious issue that arises when the thyroid is over producing thyroid hormones.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located within the neck, just above the collarbone. It is an endocrine gland, which produce hormones. According to the National Library of Medicine, “Thyroid hormones control the rate of many activities in your body. These include how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. All of these activities are your body’s metabolism.”
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, constipation, dry skin, weight gain, puffy face, hoarseness, muscle aches, thinning hair, depression, and impaired memory, according to Mayo Clinic. While there are some overlapping symptoms, hyperthyroidism is marked by unintentional weight loss, rapid or irregular heartbeat, increased appetite, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, excessive sweating and insomnia, among others.
Thyroid medication may be helpful in the healing process, but fixing the root cause is even more critical. Identifying those core problems can be a tricky endeavor, as there are many different reasons why thyroid health can decline.
In an article for MindBodyGreen, Whitney Crouch, RDN, CLT, an integrative registered dietitian who helps women recover their health from thyroid-related issues, shared four basic focus areas to focus on as part of the healing process:
- Gut health: In order to stay symptom-free, I prioritize my gut health by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, avoiding or limiting antibiotics when possible, and running a comprehensive stool test at least once a year.
- Rest: Being a type-A businesswoman and mother of two makes rest both equally important and challenging for me. Since I find sitting still nearly impossible, I’ve learned to take “active rest” (i.e., sitting next to my husband when the kids go to sleep or reading the latest scientific findings in natural medicine).
- Sleep: While everyone thrives on a different schedule, getting at least seven (but ideally up to nine) hours of sleep each night is what I aim for.
- Movement: Squeezing in exercises can be hard for those of us on busy schedules, but there are hacks to make micro-movements throughout the day more attainable. Taking breaks from work to engage in a few minutes for gentle stretching, converting your desk into a standing one, or going for a walk midday can make all the difference.
Identifying issues based on symptoms alone can be tricky, so be sure you’ve properly diagnosed the problem before putting together a plan. Hair mineral analysis tests can also help shine a light on some of the imbalance that triggers many of these core problems.
It’s important to remember that not all health problems can be solved by working out harder and eating fewer calories. Popping the hood and checking out the health of your thyroid may not bring immediate results, but it could lead to long-term breakthrough – a much more important goal worth pursuing.