Updated 22 September 2018
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck no bigger than a buckeye butterfly. But this glands hormone also influences other hormone producing glands which have much to do with our weight and other important metabolic interactions and bodily functions. Just because these glands are small, does not mean they are insignificant.
It is seen through patient and animal research that hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid gland) can cause many types of problems: weight gain, depression, sluggishness, fatigue, bad mood, unhealthy appearance, impotence, water retention that adds to excess weight and cellulite, pear-shaped figure, infertility, PMS, hardening of the arteries, cystic breasts/ovaries (including breast/ovary cancer), irritability, bad complexion, puffiness under the chin, forgetfulness, irritability, apathy, dry skin, intolerance to cold, enlargement of the thyroid and unhealthy hair, nails and teeth.
If you have hypothyroidism to the degree where one quarter of the thyroid hormone thyroxin is produced, you may also suffer from chronic fatigue. On the opposite end of the spectrum, hyperthyroidism causes an overactive thyroid gland condition that has the opposite effect on the body’s metabolism. The hyper condition speeds up the metabolic process, causing underweight and hyperactive tendencies.
A more serious disorder from an under-active thyroid is a goiter (swelling in the neck area). This occurs because the thyroids enlarge to compensate for lack of iodine in the diet. However, a goiter can occur, even if you’re not iodine deficient. This swelling or enlargement of the thyroid glands is also known as Graves Disease. Regardless of whether you have a hypo/hyper thyroid condition, both conditions untreated can become a life threatening situation.
Before I get more into the meat of the matter let’s first understand what trace mineral stimulates the thyroids hormone thyroxin secretion. A very important mineral is iodine. There’s also another one needed that works with iodine to manufacture the thyroxin hormone. And that mineral is Tyrosine, an amino acid. Luckily Tyrosine can be consumed through many types of high-protein foods such as chicken, milk, cheese, beans, bananas, soy products, peanuts, almonds, fish, turkey, etc. Iodine, along with tyrosine is required to produce a normalized balance of the thyroxin hormone to stabilize our caloric burning furnace.
There is a TSH (Thyroid-Stimulation Hormone) test that tells a treating physician if your thyroid is producing proper amounts of thyroxin hormone to keep your metabolic system balanced. The test determines if your thyroid is working correctly through reading TSH levels in the blood. This stimulator hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. So as the pituitary gland slows down within the metabolic system it releases more TSH to signal speeding up the thyroids production of thyroxin. This test can determine proper levels of TSH hormone in the blood. The TSH hormone release is directly related to many interconnecting metabolic processes. If all other metabolic processes are working correctly, the thyroid hormone release stimulated by TSH should normalize all metabolic functions which impact weight loss/gain and mitigate other disorders. But if too little, or too much TSH is produced than the test will show ranges from under/over active and normal thyroid gland.
Normal TSH test scores will be between 0.4 and 2.5. A low score of 0-0.4 is hyperthyroidism. And if the score is between 2.5 and 4, this means there is risk for hypothyroidism. Anything higher can lead to a major health concern. Many doctors will resist treating patients until they hit a 10. This is basically due to the delicate balance and interactions these hormones and chemical exchange relationships have on the entire metabolic system. Nevertheless, if your measurement is at 4 or above, or below 2.5, you should discuss a treatment course with your medical specialist.
Although your thyroid only requires a hundred thousandth of a percentage of your body weight in iodine (150 micrograms daily – the best sources of iodine comes from seaweed, onions, seafood and salt); without it the thyroid cannot function. If you don’t have enough of this mineral, you gain weight. But if you get enough of it in your diet, adding more through supplementation will do absolutely no good because the glands function is balanced, or better known as normalized effect. That is, if your thyroid is functioning normal, iodine will not help because the thyroid is already normalized and functioning correctly.
If you must take an iodine supplement for an underactive thyroid, kelp is the best organic source. It appears to have the best normalizing effect on the thyroid gland. However, if your iodine dose is incorrect, it is possible to supplement with too much, or too little. Some of the symptoms of iodine over supplementation include: Severe acme, become underweight, emotional imbalances, hyper-activity, mental and emotional instability, negative effects on thyroid glands, skin irregularities (welts on arms/face, rough skin) and problems with focus, or spaced out feelings.
Getting enough iodine in the diet should not be a problem since we get it in our everyday table salt, processed and fast foods and through its presence in crop fertilizers. However, the key issue with our iodine in our everyday diet is, most of us do not get organic iodine (e.g., seaweed, kelp. Homeopathic doctors have prescribed kelp, vinegar, B6 and a lecithin diet for treatment of obesity and other types of preventative disorders for years. The diet is also beneficial to brain tissue, sensory nerves and spinal cord.
However the normalizing effect of iodine benefits for an overweight problem gets lost in translation within the market place for those desperate to lose weight. That is, consumers are lead to believe if iodine is good for the thyroid, than more is better whether you need it or not. But there could be nothing further from the truth. There is another way to look at this statistically. Eighty percent of all thyroid cases are diagnosed as the hypo-type. But this percentage does not equate to eighty percent of those that are obese have a thyroid problem.
Let’s also not forget those who choose not to exercise, or eat healthy diets, but have healthy thyroids with plenty of iodine in the diet. They will not lose more weight by increasing iodine intake. Also, 8 times out of 10 thyroid disorder diagnosis are more prominent in women than men. And as a natural progression of aging, increased risk of thyroid disease occurs naturally. And if you have an autoimmune disorder, type 1 diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis your at higher risk for thyroid disease. These diseases and other factors are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diagnosing whether or not your thyroid needs stimulation to help you manage your weight.
If you do supplement your diet with iodine, it is important to understand it is also important to get enough vitamin A as well. Vitamin A allows the thyroid gland to absorb the iodine. If absorption of iodine through the gland does not occur optimally, then the production of thyroxin will occur relative to the glands absorption rate. Recall, with reduced thyroxin hormone production, you have a lower BMR that does not help your weight loss and overall health goals.
One last point I’d like to touch on regarding a hyper-thyroid condition. There are many cases documented where speeding up the thyroids function will cause weight loss. But there are also cases where speeding up the thyroid function causes weight gain. You ask how this is possible. Because, by increasing the metabolic function, you also increase appetite. Here is another truth, for those that lost weight during hormone treatment, once the hyper-active treatment stopped the weight came back.
Therefore, it appears that thyroid treatment to treat obesity does not appear to be real useful in many obesity cases. This is why you should seek a treating physicians advisement to get help identifying the cause of your weight gain problem. If you are diagnosed with thyroid disease, then you’ll likely be prescribed a synthetic thyroxin to replace the hormone your thyroid can no longer produce.
By working with your doctor to adjust to the necessary doses, you’ll begin to look and feel better. In other cases some of you may need a combination of treatments to regulate, or lose body weight that include thyroxin prescription, diet and exercise. And in other weight loss/gain situations – relative to disease and disorder(s) diagnosis…
Varying medical treatment strategies may be necessary as opposed to thyroid treatment.The point being, your thyroid may not be the problem. It may be one of several other connecting hormone functions dependent on the thyroid hormone that has malfunctioned and needs treatment.
American Thyroid Association. Thyroid and Weight. 2005. http://www.thyroid.org/patients/brochures/Thyroid_and_Weight.pdf
Hastings, John. The Truth about the Thyroid. The Oprah Magazine. Jan 2009. http://www.oprah.com/health/The-Truth-About-the-Thyroid-and-Weight-Gain
Veracity Dani. How Iodine Accelerates Weight Loss by Supporting the Thyroid Gland. Natural News.com, June 25, 2005. http://www.naturalnews.com/008902.html
Woodard, Marc T. GH-Hormone Stimulator the Fountain of Youth Elixir? MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets! 23 February 2012. http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2012/02/23/exercise-is-the-anti-aging-hormonal-fix/
Woodard, Marc. Low Testosterone, another Man-Made Risky Fix? MirrorAthlete Fitness Secrets. January 22, 2012. http://www.mirrorathlete.org/2012/01/22/low-testosterone-another-man-made-risky-fix/
Author: Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, ARNG, CPT, RET. 2012-18 Copyright. All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Inc., www.mirrorathlete.org, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.