Your thyroid gland does some heavy-lifting: The hormones it produces help to regulate your heart rate, keep your skin healthy, and keep your metabolism at the right speed.

When you develop hypothyroid (the thyroid slows down), you can experience:

  • Loss of energy,
  • Dried out skin
  • Aching joints
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Depression

If your thyroid starts working overtime (hyperthyroidism) and secretes excess hormones, then you can experience rapid heartbeat, disturbed sleep, and rapid weight loss.

Hypothyroid is More Common

A majority of people suffering thyroid disease (about 80%) have hypothyroidism.

When symptoms become severe enough that you’re driven to see a doctor, the first things you’ll be asked is if any of your relatives have a slow thyroid because thyroid disease can run in families. The risk of hypothyroid also increases with; advancing age, being female – hypothyroid is many times more common in women, or already having an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or type I diabetes.

Hypothyroidism Risk and Age

The overall risk of suffering from hypothyroidism is highest for women over fifty, and the odds of developing this disorder only increase as you get older. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most frequently seen form of hypothyroidism: It’s an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system begins attacking the thyroid. This is an inherited condition that affects over 10 million US residents (mostly women) and may be undiagnosed for years.

People dealing with hypothyroidism may not consider that their thyroid levels are too low because the symptoms seem like the things we usually associate with getting older, like:

  • Hair and skin changes
  • Forgetfulness
  • Constipation
  • Sore muscles
  • Lack of energy

Hypothyroidism may also cause a decline in mental function and be an undiagnosed cause of depression in people 50 years and older.

Hypothyroid and Pregnancy

The increased demands on your body during pregnancy frequently place increased demands on the thyroid gland.

According to one study, 85% of women who are pregnant and taking thyroid hormone replacement needed to increase their regular dose by an average of 47% during their pregnancy. When hypothyroidism does occur during pregnancy, it’s usually because of Hashimoto’s disease which affects close to 5 out of every 1,000 women who are pregnant.

Undiagnosed hypothyroidism carries an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm deliveries, preeclampsia, and a dangerous rise in the mother’s blood pressure during the later stages of pregnancy. It may even affect fetal brain development and rate of growth.

There is a higher risk of thyroiditis and hypothyroidism in women who’ve been pregnant in the last six months.

This is What Happens Next if You’re Diagnosed with Hypothyroid

Diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism can be challenging for your doctor, especially when your thyroid hormone levels test near the borderline-normal range.

In the majority of cases, a hormone level between 4 and 10 is the accepted range for a doctor to start treatment. But, when patients are still experiencing symptoms with a low-normal hormone level of 3, physicians must deal with the question of whether or not to prescribe medication.

This is a tricky question because thyroid hormone replacement therapy isn’t just a matter of taking a pill that can immediately cure your symptoms. Adjusting the dosage for just the right amount of hormone replacement medication to maintain optimum levels is a delicate balancing act.

Low Thyroid in Men

Most of the work published today focuses on the ways hypothyroidism affects women. Men are generally excluded from discussion, and the challenges hypothyroidism presents men aren’t often considered.

Worse, it can be tough for men to communicate the physical changes that impact things like their sexuality and healthy brain function. Complicating matters is the fact that thyroid conditions are typically under-diagnosed and often completely missed by routine medical testing, leaving men to suffer silently.

Almost all men today have heard how low-testosterone (low T) can affect their health thanks to the many TV commercials and print ads peppering the media. What most aren’t aware of, however, is that the symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to those of a low thyroid. Additionally, low thyroid hormone levels can actually reduce men’s testosterone levels. Many patients, who are being treated for low-t, have an underlying thyroid condition that hasn’t been diagnosed.

Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism in men are:

  • Decreased testosterone levels
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Decrease in sex drive
  • High cholesterol
  • Reduced ability to deal with stress
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Balding
  • Fatigue and reduced energy

Untreated or Under-Treated Hypothyroid Can Make Weight Loss Impossible

For most people dealing with a slow thyroid, not being treated or not receiving enough treatment can make losing weight an almost impossible feat regardless of any diet or exercise changes.

The most important thing is that your hypothyroidism gets diagnosed as soon as possible. The longer you wait to get diagnosed with hypothyroidism, the greater the weight you can gain. During the process of becoming hypothyroid, even before your hormone levels are at the point that warrants immediate treatment – your metabolism could significantly slow down. So, you’ll begin burning fewer calories each day and putting on more fat.
Hypothyroidism will also make you feel more tired and more achy. A combination that makes it much less likely that you’ll exercise, also slowing your metabolism. Of course, when you feel listless, you’re more likely to eat starchy or sugar-laden foods for energy.

If you suspect that your symptoms indicate a thyroid problem, see your doctor right away, and educate yourself about both the diagnosis and treatment process.

What if I’ve had My Thyroid Removed or Treated for Cancer?

Bear in mind that most people who’ve had their thyroid surgically removed of or have needed a course of radioactive iodine (RAI) treatment will become hypothyroid. But there is often a delay between these procedures and the start of thyroid hormone replacement medication, potentially leaving you in a state of hypothyroid for an extended period. Discuss a plan with your doctor for routine thyroid testing after the surgery or RAI so that hormone replacement treatment can start as soon it becomes evident that you’re hypothyroid.

The 4 Best Ways to Lose Weight When You’re Hypothyroid

Hypothyroid, as we’ve already discussed, makes it very hard to maintain a healthy weight – but there are effective ways to lose weight if you’re dealing with this condition:

Drink More Water

Water will help your metabolism to work more efficiently, and it can help reduce your appetite, prevent water retention, relieve bloating, and even ease constipation and aid digestion.

Eat More Fiber

Getting a healthy amount of fiber is a basic tactic you can use as a thyroid patient who wants to drop weight. Fiber has many benefits for sufferers of hypothyroidism trying to lose weight, and it you can get it from food or supplements.

Make Sure That You Sleep Enough

A critical factor for losing weight is getting enough quality sleep. Many studies have established a link between sleep deprivation and a slowed metabolism leading to weight gain.

Boost Your Metabolism with Exercise

Restricting calories or overhauling your diet often isn’t enough for the hypothyroid to lose weight. It will slow your metabolism, which means you can gain weight even when eating fewer calories, making it almost impossible to cut enough calories to lose a significant amount of weight. One of the most effective things you can do to speed your metabolism is to exercise.

Exercise can make your metabolism function more efficiently by burning calories and fat, moderating your blood sugar level, and encouraging the release of weight-loss promoting hormones like growth hormone.

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George Citroner

GW Citroner is a Hudson Valley, NY based writer whose work has appeared in over 20 publications and on an incredible range of Health & Wellness topics.

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