The Thyroid Gland and Weight Loss

The Thyroid Gland and Weight Loss

Maintaining a healthy body weight can be frustrating – trying to balance sensible eating with proper exercise is tricky. Unfortunately, some folks suffer from health conditions that can make losing weight very difficult. An underperforming thyroid gland is one such culprit.

The thyroid gland is an organ that sits at the base of the neck just above the collar bones. It is small, with a somewhat “bow tie” shape and very soft. It produces several hormones, including some classified as “thyroid hormones.” These thyroid hormones play a vital role in regulating the body’s metabolism. They affect cells and organs throughout the body and act by increasing the overall activity of most cells. This leads to an increase in the rate at which the cells function, consume fuel, and expend energy. Higher levels of thyroid hormones generally mean higher metabolism. Conversely, low levels of thyroid hormone inhibit metabolism. This is where weight gain occurs.

The thyroid gland itself is regulated by other hormones in the body. Each individual requires a normally functioning gland to maintain their specific metabolic requirements. There are several conditions that can lead to the gland underperforming. Among them are autoimmune diseases (e.g. Grave’s disease), tumors, certain medications, and following viral infections of the gland. Injury to the gland following pregnancy is also possible. In fact, females are more likely to suffer from an underperforming thyroid gland, or hypothyroidism, than males. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, intolerance to cold, hair loss, depression, muscle cramps, and abnormal menstrual cycles.

People with hypothyroidism would have difficulty regulating their weight until the thyroid hormone levels are made normal. This can be accomplished with medications or by treating the underlying cause. Assessment of the gland combines clinical evaluation with blood tests and sometimes imaging. If you suspect that you may be suffering from thyroid disease, discuss with your physician. Hope this helps!

 

This article is sponsored by Heart of Florida Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Seetahal is a board-certified general and bariatric surgeon. He has published over 20 scientific articles and book chapters. For questions related to surgical health, you can contact him at shiva.seetahal@heartofflorida.com, or call his office at 863-421-7626 to schedule an appointment.

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