Although it seems like a cop-out, thyroid disease could be to blame for weight gain.

Many people look beyond their eating and exercise tendencies to explain weight gain. For some, any scapegoat will do, be it stress, a recent pregnancy or a prescription medication. No one wants to admit that lack of exercise or consumption of fatty foods is the main culprit.

However, when traditional weight-loss methods fail to work, a thyroid condition could be to blame. But is blaming your growing waistline on a medical condition really that spot on? It just may be.

Thyroid conditions are far more prevalent than previously suspected. According to The Thyroid Foundation of America, 4.1 million men and 8 million women have either hyper- or hypothyroidism.

To comprehend the severity of a thyroid condition and the symptoms that may ensue, it is important to first understand the overall function of the thyroid.

What is it?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the base of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple. Each “wing” or lobe of the thyroid lies on either side of your trachea, otherwise known as the windpipe. The purpose of the thyroid is to make, store and release thyroid hormones to help oxygen get into cells throughout the body. As a result, the thyroid is known as the master of metabolism. It works in conjunction with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus in the brain.

The main hormones produced by the thyroid are triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Once released by the thyroid, the T3 and T4 travel through the bloodstream to help cells convert oxygen and calories into energy.

When the thyroid produces too little hormone, you may suffer from a condition called hypothyroidism. This causes your body to slow down and weight gain. Depression, fatigue and a slow heartbeat may also result.

When the thyroid produces too much hormone, you may have a condition called hyperthyroidism. This results in your body speeding up and you may experience nervousness, accelerated heartbeat, palpitations and unexplained weight loss.

Because the function of the thyroid reaches all cells of the body when it isn’t operating properly, a number of conditions can arise.

If you can answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you may want to speak with your doctor about thyroid disease.

• Do you have a family member with a thyroid problem?
• Have you been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or are you frequently tired even after having slept several hours?
• Do you frequently feel cold in your hands and feet?
• Do you have swelling in the neck area?
• Are you overweight?
• Do you gain weight too easily?
• Does stress cause you to feel irritable too easily?
• Are you depressed, easily prone to depression, or feeling withdrawn?
• Are you losing hair, particularly around the outside portion of your eyebrows?


The most common form of treatment for thyroid conditions is thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

It is an effective treatment that simply replaces what your body cannot produce.

However, hormone therapy can tip the scales in the opposite direction with regard to hormone production. Therefore, a person who had hypothyroidism might have hyperthyroidism if too much medication is taken. That’s why routine monitoring and follow up by your doctor are necessary.

Discuss anything about your health that you find unusual. It may help your doctor determine if hormone therapy is needed and possibly help you avoid the serious or nuisance symptoms of thyroid disease.



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Revised: 09/24/13 10:20:24 -0400.