Dr. Merril W. Edmonds describes the thyroid’s function as similar to a car’s cruise control. Just as the cruise control keeps the car at a constant speed without effort from the driver, the hormones released by the thyroid ensure that your body is functioning at a constant and correct speed.
The thyroid regulates the body’s metabolism. When the hormone level decreases, all the cells in your body become less active. Because the cells are less active, they need less energy to perform and thus more energy is stored in the form of body mass. In other words, you gain weight. This is a condition called hypothyroidism, and due to the wide variety of symptoms, it can often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The condition occurs in 1.5 to 2 percent of women and only 0.2 percent of men.
When hypothyroidism-related weight gain begins, you lose your ability to burn off or waste extra calories – that is, any calories your body does not need to maintain its normal functions. This is something most people with normal thyroid function are able to do. If someone has hypothyroidism, they can eat less than people with normal thyroid function and still gain more weight.
Once diagnosed, hypothyroidism can easily be treated by taking extra thyroid hormone in pill form. This will speed up the patient’s metabolism and help him/her lose weight, though the process is often still difficult. Taking the correct dosage is crucial, because too much thyroid hormone induces protein weight loss, which can result in heart problems and osteoporosis. Though it seems like a simple solution, thyroid hormone in pill form may not help indefinitely. After taking thyroid hormone for a long period of time, some people begin to gain weight again, even though thyroid hormones may be at the correct level.
The following symptoms may indicate hypothyroidism:
o Slowed speech and a hoarse voice. Sometimes the voice will deepen or break.
o Impaired memory, slowed reflexes, and general brain fog
o Migraine headaches
o Increased sensitivity to heat and cold
o Shortness of breath
o Puffy or swollen skin, especially in the face, hands, and feet
o Hair loss
o Brittle fingernails
o Decrease in libido
o Abnormal menstrual periods, sometimes coupled with infertility
o Unexplained weight gain, or weight gain in spite of diet and exercise
o Unexplained fatigue