How To Lose Weight With Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Losing weight may seem difficult for anyone carrying around a few extra pounds, but it can be even more daunting to those with Hashimoto's disease.

Because Hashimoto's disease can cause several symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and depression, losing weight with this condition isn't as simple as eating smaller portions.

Knowing how Hashimoto's disease works and its role in your metabolism can help make losing weight easier. 

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What does your thyroid do?

Your thyroid is a small gland shaped like a butterfly and is located at the front part of your neck. It is responsible for producing and releasing thyroid hormones, including triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4), which help other systems in your body function properly.

When your thyroid produces too little or too many hormones, other systems in your body may speed up or slow down, including your metabolism and heart rate. 

What is Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland. In many cases, your thyroid won’t be able to produce enough hormones as too many white blood cells from the immune system accumulate in the thyroid. When this happens, hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid, develops.

Symptoms of Hashimoto's disease

It's common for people with Hashimoto's disease to experience no symptoms at the onset. Over time, however, signs of hypothyroidism will develop.

Some of the common hypothyroidism symptoms include:

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it's crucial to make an appointment with your doctor sooner rather than later. While the symptoms could be attributed to something else, getting an early diagnosis is the best way to find the proper therapeutic approach. 

Risks of Hashimoto's disease

While no one knows exactly what causes your immune system to attack your thyroid,  certain lifestyle factors could make you more likely to develop Hashimoto's disease. These include:

Complications of Hashimoto's disease

Many people diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease will also develop hypothyroidism. When left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to many long-term complications that could jeopardize your well-being as well as your overall health, including:

  • High cholesterol

  • Cardiovascular concerns, including heart disease and heart failure

  • High blood pressure

  • Myxedema – a rare but life-threatening condition in which the systems in your body slow down significantly

Outlook & prognosis

Most people can effectively manage Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism by monitoring their hormone levels through routine blood tests and taking synthetic thyroid medication, such as levothyroxine, as needed.

However, it's important to note that Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism will not go away on their own. For this reason, seeking professional medical treatment for your symptoms of hypothyroidism is critical.

While death from Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism is rare, it is possible if left untreated.

Why is it hard to lose weight with Hashimoto's disease?

If you've ever tried to lose weight while dealing with Hashimoto's disease, you know how challenging it can be. Losing weight with Hashimoto's disease can be hard for several reasons, including:

  • A slower metabolism: When your thyroid stops producing an adequate amount of hormones, other systems in your body tend to slow down, including your metabolism. This means that you'll burn fewer calories than you would before while doing the same activities.

  • Less energy: Hashimoto's disease can also make you feel less energetic and more tired, making it difficult to maintain an active lifestyle.

  • Stress: When you don't feel right, your mental health can take a hit. As a result, you're less likely to feel motivated to work out and more likely to look for ways to cope, such as eating unhealthy foods.

What is the best thyroid diet for weight loss?

If you're looking for the best way to lose weight with Hashimoto's disease, there are a few things to keep in mind before jumping into a new diet:

  1. Know your lab levels: It's important to confirm with your healthcare provider that your TSH levels are within the normal range. A high TSH can mean your thyroxine (T4) is still too low, and your medication needs to be adjusted.

  2. Consider your medication: Talk to your doctor about the type of synthetic thyroid medication you're taking and if there are better alternatives that could meet your specific health and lifestyle needs.

  3. Aim to make a lifestyle change, not start a diet: You shouldn't be looking to try a trendy diet fad to drop excess weight. Instead, it's helpful to rethink how you use food to help you feel your best.

The truth is that most Americans consume a diet that contains high amounts of sugar and simple carbohydrates, also known as The Standard American Diet¹ (SAD).

Eating foods that lack vital nutrients, such as protein, makes losing weight difficult for someone without Hashimoto's disease, even more so for someone with it.

If you've been diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease and you want to lose weight, it's important to replace foods that are full of ingredients that will hold you back from reaching your goal and replace them with foods that will give you energy, make you feel full for longer, and give your body the nutrients that it craves.

Diets that could help you lose weight with Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism include:

Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet aims to include foods that were only available more than 2 million years ago during the Paleolithic Era, including meat, fish, and wild plants.

Because Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder, eating foods that can cause inflammation could worsen symptoms. Consuming foods that fight inflammation and help your body heal naturally can help you reduce your symptoms and feel better.

The traditional Paleo diet is essentially an elimination diet that intentionally takes away foods that many people are sensitive to in order to reduce inflammation,² including legumes, soy, and processed foods.

While there is debate about which foods were actually available to people who lived over 2 million years ago, the diet sticks with a few basic concepts:

  • High protein

  • Moderate amounts of unsaturated fats

  • High in fiber

  • Low carbohydrates

  • Low in sodium and refined sugars

Foods that are allowed in the Paleo Diet:

  • Lean meats

  • Fish

  • Shellfish

  • Eggs

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Fruits 

  • Vegetables

  • Olive oil

  • Coconut oil

Foods that are to be avoided in the Paleo Diet:

  • Refined grains and sugars

  • Whole grains

  • Dairy

  • Legumes

  • Cereals

  • White potatoes

  • Alcohol

  • Coffee 

  • Vegetable oils, such as canola

  • Processed foods

Autoimmune Paleo Diet (AIP)

 The AIP diet takes the concept of the Paleo diet a step further by eliminating even more foods that people with autoimmune diseases, including Hashimoto's disease, could be sensitive to, including:

  • Gluten

  • Grains

  • Dairy 

  • Eggs

  • Nightshades

  • Beans and legumes

  • Alcohol

  • Caffeine

  • All nuts and seeds

Foods that you're encouraged to eat more of include:

  • Organic vegetables (except nightshades and legumes)

  • Fermented foods

  • Grass-fed meats

  • Wild-caught fish

  • Low-glycemic organic fruits

  • Coconut

  • Sweet potatoes

If you're transitioning from a SAD, the AIP can seem daunting. However, it has been known to reduce common symptoms of Hashimoto's disease and hypothyroidism, including brain fog, fatigue, and, most importantly, weight gain.

Regardless of whether you're planning on sticking with a particular diet, such as the Paleo or AIP diet, reducing your intake of foods high in sugar and low in nutrients is a good start if you're trying to lose excess weight with Hashimoto's disease.

Instead of counting calories, aim to eat natural foods that will help you feel satisfied. Additionally, eating more lean protein and complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, can help you feel full for longer and increase your energy levels, making staying active easier.

What minerals can help your thyroid function well?

Even when you eliminate inflammatory foods, such as refined sugars, that could be contributing to your hypothyroidism symptoms and making it harder to lose weight, your body may still be lacking other minerals essential to maintain a healthy thyroid function. 

Two minerals that are particularly beneficial to your thyroid are selenium and zinc. 

Selenium

Your thyroid is where most of the selenium in your body is found. Along with helping your thyroid work as it should, selenium helps your body recycle iodine. Foods that can help you achieve an adequate amount of selenium (55 mcg for adults) include:

  • Brazil nuts

  • Tuna

  • Beef 

  • Chicken

  • Eggs

  • Legumes

  • Sardines

Zinc

Zinc helps your body produce thyroid hormones, and thyroid hormones help your body absorb zinc.³ Because of this, zinc deficiency is often a symptom of hypothyroidism.

Zinc deficiency is usually a result of diet-related issues, especially for vegetarians or those who have trouble absorbing it. Fortunately, incorporating an adequate amount of zinc (8mg per day for women and 11mg per day for men) into your diet isn't difficult.

Foods that can help you consume an adequate amount of zinc include:

  • Shellfish

  • Beef

  • Chicken

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Legumes

  • Eggs

  • Milk

  • Yogurt

How do your adrenals affect your weight?

Cortisol is a hormone that another type of endocrine gland, your adrenals,⁴ produce and release.

While cortisol is responsible for several important bodily functions, including regulating blood sugar and suppressing inflammation, it can play a role in your weight loss journey as it also controls your body's response to stress and your metabolism.

If your adrenals release too much cortisol, as in stressful situations, your appetite can be increased.⁵ On the other hand, if your adrenals don't produce enough cortisol, you can experience extreme fatigue.

If you are experiencing adrenal dysfunction along with Hashimoto's disease, it could be more difficult for you to lose weight until you manage your cortisol levels.

How much exercise should you get?

Many people think they have to go to the gym daily or do another form of demanding exercise regime in order to lose weight with Hashimoto's disease. This simply isn't true.

Working out more frequently or harder isn't always the right solution for people with an autoimmune disorder to reduce their body weight.

Keep these tips in mind to help you lose weight through exercise with Hashimoto's disease:⁶

Pay attention to your body

People with Hashimoto’s disease need to consider and overcome many factors when it comes to exercising, including fatigue, muscle weakness, and joint pain. Whenever you're trying a new workout routine or making changes to your current one, be sure to go slow, don't overdo it, and listen to your body when it tells you it has had enough.

Stick with heavy weights, low repetitions

Lifting more weight fewer times can help you build muscle and lose weight without getting burnt out or injured due to tiredness. But be careful not to skip steps. Start with light loads and talk to your trainer to have a proper progressive increase in training loads.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Also, called “burst training,” HIIT is a good option for those looking to lose weight with Hashimoto’s disease as it requires less time but is equally effective than many cardio exercises, such as running. It involves performing maximum effort exercises in short bursts (for about 30 seconds) with rest periods in between.

When just beginning, it’s best to start with HIIT exercises 1-2 days a week, then build up as you feel comfortable.

Rest when you need to

While you may be tempted to work out as much as possible to decrease the number on your weighing scale, don't. Taking rest days to let your body recuperate after going through the stress of exercising is also important.

Consistency is key 

Once you find a workout routine that works for you, stick to it. Exercising every day for a month, then never again, isn't an effective approach to achieve and maintain weight loss, especially with a life-long autoimmune disorder, such as Hashimoto's disease.

Choosing an activity that you enjoy doing, such as swimming, can help make staying active satisfying, making you more likely to keep doing it in the long term.

When to speak with your doctor

If your experience of losing weight with Hashimoto's disease has been unsuccessful, don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. They can perform tests that will check your thyroid levels, adrenals, and other hormones that could be inhibiting your ability to lose weight appropriately.

Be sure to prepare for your doctor's appointment in advance to ensure that your visit is as productive as possible.

Tips to help you prepare for your doctor's appointment include:

  • Write down your symptoms, when they started, and how frequently you experience them.

  • Write down the steps you've taken to lose weight in the past, including what diets and exercise routines you've tried.

  • Let your doctor know your family's medical history, the medications you're currently taking, and any other conditions you may have.

  • Write down your questions about your diagnosis, current treatment plan, and if other medications may help.

The lowdown

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes your immune system to attack your thyroid gland. This can lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism, including fatigue, depression, and weight gain.

 Losing weight with Hashimoto's disease is possible, but it may not be easy. Along with eating foods that reduce inflammation, it's important to consume more lean protein and vegetables to fight fatigue and help you stay energized.

Additionally, finding an exercise routine that works for you without making you feel more tired or putting too much strain on your muscles and joints is essential.

If you continue to struggle with weight loss and Hashimoto's disease, visit your doctor to ensure that your hormone levels are normal.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64


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