Dr Sly Nedic provides insight on how an underactive thyroid could be responsible for your body expanding.
Hypothyroidism is a common condition where the thyroid doesn’t create and release enough thyroid hormone into your bloodstream. This makes your metabolism slow down. Also called underactive thyroid, hypothyroidism can make you feel tired, gain weight and be unable to tolerate cold temperatures1
The most common form of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. Conventional medicine is equipped to provide relief, however, many patients still remain symptomatic – even after using prescribed medications and attaining recommended treatment targets.
This is what makes hypothyroidism such a complex condition – and one that requires an integrative medical approach to address the cause of autoimmunity and equilibrate the immune system.
Thyroid’s many, various facets
A deficiency in thyroid hormones not only causes a myriad of symptoms but is also difficult to identify as it affects many organs and tissues that are seemingly unrelated to each other. Additionally, thyroid hormones are used by every cell in the body to regulate the metabolism and body weight by controlling the burning of fat for energy and heat.
In integrative medicine, we like to describe underactive thyroid as having “many faces” i.e. it presents as a collection of different and outwardly disjointed symptoms that are often seen and treated separately by various medical specialities.
Below are some examples:
- Weight gain and inability to lose weight (despite following a strict diet and rigorous exercise routine that has been addressed by dietitians or aesthetic doctors)
- Fatigue that is at its worst in the morning and does not abate with rest or sleep (even after being addressed by GP)
- Depression and anxiety that shows no signs of improvement, regardless of the anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication prescribed by the psychiatrist
- Muscle aches and stiffness, feeling sluggish, and “living life in slow-motion” (again, addressed by GP)
- Menstrual irregularities, heavy, prolonged and/or painful menstrual periods, as well as a low libido (treated by gynaecologists). *Side note with regards to point 5: while T3 hormone is essential for a healthy luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, it can contribute to infertility if not sufficient.
- Constipation and detoxification issues lead to a higher toxic load. T3 hormone is essential for healthy Phase 2 liver detoxification, which supports detoxification of xenoestrogens (this is addressed by gastroenterologists)
- Dry and scaly skin, hair loss and thinning of the hair and eyebrow (addressed by aesthetic doctors or dermatologists)
- High LDL cholesterol (treated by GP’s and cardiologists)
- Increased sensitivity to cold, and swelling of the feet and ankles (often ignored symptoms)
Frequent mistakes that thyroid patients make in an attempt to lose weight
Weight gain and stubborn fat are some of the most common symptoms of an underactive thyroid.
The first mistake patients make when trying to lose a few kilos is that they decrease their caloric intake and portion size.
This is counter-productive, as a low-calorie diet suppresses thyroid function by facilitating the conversion of T4 thyroid hormone into Reverse T3 thyroid hormone (which, in turn, further slows an already sluggish metabolism).
Now, for most patients who are desperately trying to lose weight, they more often than not fall victim to fad foods, seven-day juice trials and bogus 500-calorie a day diet (amongst other alternative weight loss trends).
Yet the problem with these regimens is that they not do not account for the toxins present in an overweight body – and are therefore inefficient at detoxifying these harmful substances.
Not only that, the presence of these toxins further compromise weight loss by decreasing thyroid hormone production, increasing Reverse T3, and perpetuating autoimmunity.
The troubles with thyroid…
Thyroid patients often see excessive weight as an isolated problem and are poorly informed on the role of thyroid hormones and how these correlate to their symptoms (ultimately leaving patients feeling deflated).
And because their blood results are often normalised with medications, their ongoing struggle with the battle of the bulge is often undermined. So, the big question here is: how can depressed and tired patients win this war?
Knowledge is power
Knowing and understanding the causes of an underactive thyroid (and Hashimoto thyroiditis) is the first step in eliminating it.
A list of common factors can be seen below:
- Being female (influenced by first period, post-pregnancy, menopause, oestrogen dominance)
- Family history (several genes are identified, including CTLA4 gene, HLA, thyroglobulin gene)
- Stress and adrenal fatigue
- Iodine deficiency due to bromide and fluoride environmental toxicity
- Concomitant autoimmune disease
- Potential immune triggers (such as viruses, bacterial, parasitic and yeast infections, environmental radiation, pollution, heavy metal exposure, pesticides and xenobiotics)
- Leaky gut with different food sensitivities and intolerances (gluten, dairy, GMO soy, nuts, nightshades, chronic alcohol use and increased intake of processed food)
- Goitrogenic food
When one considers all of the above, it is clear that conventionally prescribing only T4 thyroid drugs will not cure the problem.
In fact, many of these patients are convinced that if their blood results are normal, their hypothyroidism is cured! It’s only when the persistence of their symptoms is pointed out that they realise it’s not.
How thyroid can work against you
The thyroid gland produces the less active form of the hormone T4 that needs to be converted into a more active form T3. The challenge here is that a person needs to be perfectly healthy for this to happen (although this is not the case in autoimmune Hashimoto Thyroiditis).
Meanwhile, low iodine, selenium, iron, zinc, vitamin A, B2, B12 and B6 will decrease this conversion, while high levels of mercury and aluminium block it. Furthermore, abnormal cortisol levels due to stress, vitamin D deficiency, estrogen dominance (birth control pill) and high antibody titres all stimulate the conversion to Reverse T3 – which ultimately blocks the activity of the T3 hormone as well.
Lastly, when T4 medication is given to these unhealthy patients, the conversion into an active T3 form is compromised – thus causing many of the symptoms to persist.
The solution to weight problem in hypothyroid patients
The only way to address weight issues in these patients is to find and eliminate the underlying causes.
Hypothyroidism is a complicated and stubborn condition – one which requires a comprehensive integrative medical approach that incorporates lifestyle and dietary interventions, as well as detoxification, stress control, and hormonal balance for a successful outcome.
Underactive thyroid with the inability to lose weight doesn’t have to be an ongoing condition.
Resources: www. 8thsense.co.za
1https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/12120-hypothyroidism. Cleveland Clinic: Hypothyroidism
Written by Dr Sly Nedic – MBChB (Bel)
- Founder of 8th Sense Medi-Spa, Sandton www.8thsense.co.za
- Board-certified doctor of WOSAAM (World Organisation of Society of Anti-Ageing Medicine)
- Member of IHS (International Hormone Society)
- Member of A4M (American Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine)
- Faculty member of Preventive Genetics- Laboratories Reunis, Luxembourg
A2 Disclaimer: This article is published for information purposes only, nor should it be regarded as a replacement for sound medical advice.
This article was written by Dr Sly Nedic and edited by the A2 team EXCLUSIVELY for the A2 Aesthetic & Anti-Ageing Magazine Summer Edition (Dec 2021-Mar 2022. Issue39).
A2 Magazine prints only four magazines each year – reporting seasonally on everything you need and want to know about aesthetics, anti-ageing, integrative medicine, quality and medical skincare, cosmetic dentistry and cosmetic surgery in South Africa – where to go, who to see, what to expect, something new and so much more! Never miss an edition – click here for more info about where you can buy the print and/or digital copy of A2 Magazine (including back copies). To make use of our content for re-publishing, kindly contact us for approval email@example.com