Hyperthyroidism and Weight Gain
The thyroid is an endocrine gland which is typically located in the front part of the neck. The thyroid’s role in the body is to produce multiple thyroid hormones, which get secreted into the blood, and then transported to all the tissues of the body. Thyroid hormones function by helping regulate energy use, staying warm, and keeping the heart, muscles, brain, and other body organs performing well.
It has been understood for quite some time that there is a complex and delicate relationship between thyroid disease, metabolism and weight issues. In cases of people with a condition knowns as Hypothyroidism, the thyroid is under-active, which often leads to some weight gain.
The cause of weight increase in people who have hypothyroidism is complex, however and isn’t directly related to the accumulation of excess fat. Weight that is gained in individuals with Hypothyroidism is actually related to the way the body accumulates salt and water. Interestingly, excessive weight increase is not common with hypothyroidism. Generally, 5-10 pounds of extra body weight may be related to issues with the thryoid, depending on the extremity of the condition. And if there is significant weight gain in a person with Hypothyroidism, likely there are other contributing causes.
Since a lot of the weight increase for people with hypothyroidism is actually accumulation in the body of salt and water, once the hypothyroidism gets treated, usually there will be at lease some small weight loss. Treatment of the condition of hypothyroidism by using thyroid hormone can usually help the individual return a person’s body weight to a weight similar to what it was before the development of the hypothyroidism. As weeight gain can have many different causes and is usually something that develops over an extended period of time, it is not uncommon to find that a large amount of weight loss does NOT occur after a successful hypothyroidism treatment. So, if all of the actual symptoms related to the hypothyroidism (besides the weight gain) are resolved with treatment for hypothyroidism, it is likely that the weight gain was NOT due only to the thyroid issues.
Also, interestingly, once the hypothyroidism has stabilized after treatment, and the levels of thyroid hormone return to normal, then weight loss and gain patterns should be similar to those in people who don’t have any thyroid issues.
There has been some experimentation in the past with using thyroid hormones as an actual weight loss treatment. But, elevating levels of thyroid hormone is not likely to have a dramatic or significant effect on weight changes. Some studies have suggested that use of extra thyroid hormone can result in more weight loss than often happens just from dieting, but this treatment has risks of very negative side effects and consequences such as bone loss, heart problems, and loss of muscle protein. Additionally, one the treatment stops, the weight usually is regained.
Consult with your physician if you have any concerns about hyperthyroidism and weight gain or loss.