Is Hashimoto’s Disease Making Me Gain Weight?

For people with Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism, losing weight can be difficult. If it seems like the numbers on the scale continue to rise despite your best efforts to drop the weight, you may begin to wonder if losing weight with a thyroid disorder is achievable.

Losing weight with Hashimoto's disease is possible by making a few lifestyle changes and working closely with your healthcare provider to manage your hypothyroidism.

Curious about clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Hashimoto's disease.

What is Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that can lead to an underactive thyroid, also known as ‘hypothyroidism’.¹ Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your neck. It's responsible for making hormones that help other systems in your body function properly, including your metabolism and heart rate.

When your thyroid doesn't work as it should, other areas of your body can be negatively impacted.

What causes Hashimoto's disease?

When you have Hashimoto's disease, your immune system makes antibodies to attack your thyroid gland. During this process, white blood cells build up in your thyroid, which inhibits the gland from making an adequate amount of hormone.

It's estimated that up to 5 in every 100 Americans have hypothyroidism. Like many other autoimmune disorders, no one knows what exactly causes Hashimoto's disease.

Some possible causes of Hashimoto's disease include:

  • Heredity

  • Stress

  • Radiation exposure

  • Vitamin D deficiency

  • Iodine-containing medications

What are the risk factors of Hashimoto's disease?

While the cause of Hashimoto's disease is unknown, certain factors could make you more likely to develop the condition. These include:

What are the complications of Hashimoto's disease?

Your body needs an adequate amount of thyroid hormones to work properly. Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism can lead to some serious health concerns, including:²

  • High cholesterol

  • High blood pressure

  • Mental health issues, such as depression

  • Pregnancy complications

  • Cardiovascular disease or heart failure

  • Myxedema

Outlook and prognosis for Hashimoto's disease

Your doctor can diagnose you with Hashimoto's disease after:

  • Taking a comprehensive medical history

  • Performing a physical exam

  • Examining blood work that measures your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels

If your TSH levels are abnormal, they will proceed with further blood tests including T3, T4, and thyroid antibodies.

If you are diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and your thyroid levels are abnormal, you'll have to take a synthetic thyroid hormone medication, such as levothyroxine, every day for the rest of your life to maintain an adequate amount of thyroid hormones to stay healthy.

Your doctor can create an individualized treatment plan based on your overall health, age, symptoms, current medications, and preferences.

Is my weight gain caused by Hashimoto's disease?

Gaining weight unintentionally or without making drastic changes to your diet or exercise routine is often one of the first signs that your thyroid isn't functioning properly.

It can be particularly challenging to lose weight when an underactive thyroid is preventing your metabolism from working as it should as well as causing other symptoms, such as:³

When you're tired, don't feel well, and are physically weak, it can be hard to lose weight. The good news is that it is possible to lose weight if you have Hashimoto's disease and/or hypothyroidism.

How to lose weight with Hashimoto's disease

The thought of losing weight after being diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease may seem like an impossible feat, but it doesn't have to be. With a positive attitude and a few lifestyle changes, you can achieve the weight loss you desire and optimize your general health.

Keep these tips in mind to lose weight with Hashimoto's disease.

Stick to a hypothyroidism diet

If you have a thyroid disorder, inflammation can make your symptoms worse. It's important to eliminate foods that cause inflammation and to consume foods that are naturally anti-inflammatory.

Foods to eat

The autoimmune paleo (AIP) diet⁴ is a great option for individuals striving to lose weight with Hashimoto's disease. It promotes anti-inflammatory foods, thereby helping to identify which foods can trigger your hypothyroidism symptoms.

When you follow the AIP diet, you're free to enjoy:

  • Lean proteins

  • Non-nightshade vegetables

  • Cruciferous vegetables (brassicas)

  • Sulfur-rich vegetables

  • Herbs

  • Green tea

  • Small amounts of maple syrup, honey, and fruits

Foods to avoid

If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and can't lose weight, it's a good idea to eliminate any potential food allergens that may be preventing you from doing so.

These include:

  • Refined (white) grains

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Dairy

  • Soy

  • Gluten

  • Beans

  • Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes

  • Vegetable oils

  • Coffee 

  • Alcohol

  • Refined sugar

Manage stress

Stress is one of the biggest factors contributing to hypothyroidism. Reducing stress could improve your thyroid hormone levels and potentially enable you to lose weight.

Keep these tips in mind to relieve stress and combat your hypothyroidism symptoms:

  • Spend more time outside

  • Prioritize sleep

  • Meditate

  • Make time for activities you enjoy

Exercise regularly

Staying active is an important factor for living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight, especially for people with hypothyroidism. As well as building muscle, exercising regularly can improve your mental health, help you feel energized, and reduce joint pain, all of which can help you stay motivated and drop the extra pounds.

You don't have to hit the gym every day to make exercising part of your routine. Aim to do something active for half an hour at least five days a week, such as walking, biking, or swimming.

When to see a doctor

Don't wait to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider if you experience one or more symptoms of Hashimoto's disease, such as:

  • Unintentional weight gain

  • Muscle weakness

  • Depression

  • Memory loss

  • An enlarged thyroid (goiter)

If you've been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and can't lose weight, your doctor can advise you on the best ways to maintain healthy thyroid levels, improve your energy levels, and effectively help in weight reduction.

The lowdown

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system attacks your thyroid gland. This can prevent your thyroid from producing enough hormones for your body to work as it should, a condition known as ‘hypothyroidism’.

While Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism can cause many symptoms, one of the most common is unintentional weight gain. Fortunately, losing weight with Hashimoto's disease is possible.

By sticking to an anti-inflammatory diet, managing stress, exercising regularly, and working closely with your doctor, you can achieve weight loss while managing your symptoms of Hashimoto's disease.

  1. Hashimoto’s disease | National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

  2. Hypothyroidism | American Thyroid Association

  3. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (Lymphocytic thyroiditis) | American Thyroid Association

  4. Integrative healthcare for the whole family | Mindd Foundation

Curious about clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

Researchers are studying thousands of new treatments and you could be a part of finding a cure while accessing the newest treatments for Hashimoto's disease.

Discover which clinical trials you are eligible for

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