Around 5 out of 100 Americans have hypothyroidism. Learn more about the relationship between untreated hypothyroidism and weight gain.

In the United States, 4.6% of the population age 12 and over has hypothyroidism. Still, many people with hypothyroidism don’t receive treatment for it.

Weight changes are one of the most notable physical shifts associated with thyroid problems. You deserve to know how hypothyroidism affects your weight.

Here’s what you should know about hypothyroidism and weight gain:

Untreated Hypothyroidism 101

First, let’s get some terms straight: Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that’s located on the front of your neck.

Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces too few hormones. The term “underactive thyroid” also refers to this health condition.

Hypothyroidism in women is more common than it is in men. However, it’s still possible for a person of any gender to develop this condition.

How does hypothyroidism affect women? Well, hypothyroidism makes it harder for them to get pregnant. This is because an underactive thyroid upsets the hormone balance that causes ovulation. It also causes irregular or absent menstrual cycles.

In the beginning, most people don’t experience any of the classic symptoms that accompany hypothyroidism. Unfortunately, hallmark symptoms of hypothyroidism manifest in the form of dry skin, brittle hair (or hair loss), feelings of being cold, and more. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to significant health issues such as infertility and heart disease.

Weight gain is one of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism there is. In fact, hypothyroidism both promotes and directly causes weight gain in multiple ways:

Fluid Retention

In order to understand the relationship between an underactive thyroid and weight gain, you must understand how hypothyroidism affects your body. An underactive thyroid causes fluid retention and bloating. This results in a person carrying more water weight than people with healthy thyroids do.

Water weight refers to weight gain that’s caused by fluid retention. Hypothyroidism results in an excessive accumulation of water and salt in your system. This combination makes you bloat.

If you’re struggling with weight loss and thyroid problems, try drinking more water. This will help your body get rid of the water weight. You should have 8 glasses of water or more each day.

Drinking water will also help you with this next issue:

Slow Metabolism

Your thyroid plays a critical role in regulating your metabolism. Hypothyroidism slows down your metabolism. People with slower metabolisms burn fewer calories.

People with hypothyroidism tend to have a lower BMR (basal metabolic rate) than people with healthy thyroids do. Your BMR measures how many calories your body needs to perform basic functions like breathing, sleeping, etc. Slow metabolisms burn fewer calories.

Fewer calories burned translates into more weight gain. The longer hypothyroidism goes untreated, the slower one’s metabolism becomes.

In order to increase your metabolism, get a prescription for thyroid medicine from your doctor. However, please note that thyroid medication alone won’t make the extra weight disappear.

Drinking more water will also speed up your metabolism.

Goitrogenic Foods

Improve the effectiveness of your thyroid medication by being mindful of goitrogenic foods. Goitrogenic foods are foods that inhibit the synthesis of thyroid hormones, causing your thyroid gland to enlarge. (When your thyroid abnormally enlarges, it’s called a goitre.)

Warning: Many raw vegetables that people consider to be traditionally healthy are goitrogenic. Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, and Brussel sprouts are only a few of the goitrogenic foods there are. Fortunately, cooking these foods decreases their goitrogenic content.

Research goitrogenic foods, identify which ones you eat, and replace them with healthier alternatives. Healthy fruits are especially rich in nutrients and flavour.

Fatigue

When your thyroid hormones and metabolism get out of whack, your energy levels suffer. That’s why fatigue is another common symptom of hypothyroidism.

Fatigue is defined by a lack of energy and motivation. It’s harder to lead an active lifestyle when you feel weak and sluggish. In that state, the mere idea of moving around is tiring.

However, one of the best weight loss tips for thyroid patients is to exercise frequently. Working out improves your energy levels. Sure, it might seem impossible at first, but eventually, your workouts will make you feel more energized.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should get 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. This evens out to 30 minutes of walking daily for 5 days a week.

Warning: These exercise guidelines might not result in weight loss. Weight loss is harder to achieve with an underactive thyroid. Many people with hypothyroidism need to work at for an hour daily to lose weight.

Pro-tip: Fit in 2 muscle-building sessions each week. Then you’d really be benefitting your health.

Sleep

Fatigue makes you feel sleepy. Still, many patients with hypothyroidism report poor sleep quality as one of their symptoms. When taking naps only makes you feel more tired, there’s a good chance your thyroid has something to do with it.

Research indicates that there’s a clear connection between sleep deprivation and weight gain. Studies agree that more sleep deprivation leads to more weight gain.

Thyroid problems aside, lack of sleep messes with hormones that regulate your appetite. Sleep deprivation reduces leptin, a hormone that suppresses your appetite and helps your body expend energy. You also produce more ghrelin (a hormone that encourages appetite) when you don’t sleep enough.

These hormonal reactions make thyroid-related fatigue even worse. That’s why it’s so important for people with hypothyroid issues to establish a healthy sleep schedule.

Make sure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Give yourself a bedtime to establish a routine. Your energy levels will be better off because of it.

Power Up Your Thyroid

Out of all people with thyroid problems, 60% are unaware of it. Untreated hypothyroidism can contribute to health problems like miscarriages and heart failure.

Only a doctor can identify your thyroid issues for sure. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Start off your weight loss journey right—discover your weight loss type now. It’ll teach you a lot about how to shed pounds.