Debunking the myth: Do you think your weight gain is due to hypothyroidism? Read to find out

While hypothyroidism can contribute to weight gain, it is not solely responsible for significant increases in body weight.

ByChetana Belagere

Published Jun 02, 2024 | 7:00 AMUpdatedJun 02, 2024 | 11:22 AM

Thyroid

When 42-year-old Yashoda was diagnosed with hypothyroidism last year, she was relieved to finally have an explanation for her constant fatigue and sudden weight gain.

She, like many others, believed her underactive thyroid was the primary culprit behind the extra 15 kilograms she had gained over the past year.

However, a recent post by Dr Sunita Sayammagaru, a leading endocrinologist and diabetologist from Hyderabad, on X challenges this common belief, offering a new perspective on the relationship between hypothyroidism and weight gain.

A common misconception is that hypothyroidism leads to weight gain and people present that as the primary cause of their weight issues. This neglect can also lead to other metabolic health problems, warn doctors.

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Does hypothyrodism lead to weight gain?

Dr Swetha Adarsh, a nutritionist from Bengaluru, explained Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, is when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones.

These hormones are crucial for regulating the body’s metabolism, which affects various bodily functions. One of the common symptoms associated with hypothyroidism is weight gain. Hence there is a direct relationship with weight gain.

“There is studied reference where people with hypothyroidism can gain up to 2-4 kgs of weight in a month’s time due to fluctuating or the decreased amount of hormones and metabolism is altered,” she added.

However, the extent of this weight gain is often misunderstood.

According to Dr Sunita Sayammagaru, a prominent endocrinologist, “Hypothyroidism by itself doesn’t cause weight gain beyond 4-5 kgs.”

This suggests that while hypothyroidism can contribute to weight gain, it is not solely responsible for significant increases in body weight.

Role of TSH

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) levels are a critical factor in diagnosing and managing hypothyroidism.

Treatment typically involves thyroid hormone replacement therapy, which helps normalise TSH levels and restores metabolic functions.

Dr Sayammagaru emphasises that once TSH levels are normalised, the body’s metabolism should also return to normal.

Therefore, persistent weight gain or difficulty losing weight may not be directly attributable to the thyroid condition once treatment is effective.

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Weight gain in hypothyroidism patients

Dr Swetha Adarsh said there is either too much metabolism, causing the person to eat too much food and hence gain weight, or it could be due to eating habits and the type of food they consume when hungry.

Dr Sayammagaru stresses the importance of considering other factors that may contribute to weight gain. These include dietary habits, physical activity and lifestyle factors.

Unhealthy dietary habits, such as consuming high-calorie and processed foods, can lead to weight gain.

A sedentary lifestyle, characterised by little to no physical activity, can significantly impact weight.

Lifestyle factors such as stress, poor sleep, and other issues can also play a role in weight management.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

To better understand the overall impact of hypothyroidism, it is essential to recognise its other symptoms, which include:

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Cold intolerance
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Constipation
  • Depression and memory problems
  • Menstrual irregularities in women

Also Read: What every woman needs to know about common gynaecological issues

Treatment and weight management

The primary treatment for hypothyroidism is thyroid hormone replacement therapy, typically using levothyroxine. This treatment aims to bring TSH levels within the normal range, thereby stabilizing metabolism.

However, effective weight management requires a comprehensive approach.

This includes incorporating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, engaging in both cardiovascular and strength-training activities and managing stress, ensuring adequate sleep, and maintaining a consistent daily routine.

What foods should be avoided?

Meanwhile, Dr Shweta explained that strong-flavoured foods can trigger hypothyroidism in patients.

Hence, the raw form of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower must be avoided. Instead, they should be cooked thoroughly.

Also, metabolic health coach Shashikant Iyengar told South First that those with hypothyroidism must avoid soya beans as they contain goitrogens. He said many of them have gluten sensitivity.

“All sugary and ultra-processed foods must be avoided as insulin resistance may be associated with hypothyroidism. Also, excessive alcohol must be avoided,” he added.

Meanwhile, Dr Shweta said nuts like walnuts, pistachios, and figs should be avoided, adding that caffeine must also be avoided in thyroid patients.

(Edited by Shauqueen Mizaj)