Thyroid health plays major role in weight

A person’s thyroid gland weighs less than one ounce yet possesses the power to affect weight gain by an average of 20 to 30 pounds if it is not functioning properly.

The small organ, which rests just in the nape of the neck, regulates nearly everything in a person’s body and should be an important factor for consideration when a person’s health is out of sync – particularly when it comes to weight gain, says Dr. Kimberly Bethel, a family physician with Trotwood Physician Center.

“The thyroid’s function is to regulate the metabolism of the body – how fast or slow things go,” says Bethel, who practices with Premier HealthNet. “It affects everything from the top of the head all the way down to the toes. And we know it affects a person’s weight. If you are a fast metabolizer you will burn more calories, or if you are slow metabolizer you’re going to gain weight.”

The thyroid hormone is one of six that can affect a person’s weight, she says. Other hormones that play a part include cortisol, insulin, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. A person whose thyroid production is not normal will be diagnosed with one of two thyroid conditions. Hyperthyroid is when the thyroid is producing too much hormone and results in weight loss. Hypothyroid is when the thyroid is not producing enough of the hormone and results in weight gain.

“Weight loss and weight gain is a strong symptom of thyroid disease, especially in this part of the country,” says Bethel. “Being the Midwest, we’re far away from iodine from salt water. This area was historically referred to as the thyroid goiter belt because of a lack of iodine in its natural resources, but thankfully an increase in awareness and introduction of iodine into our overall diet has helped change that.”

Iodine is an element needed for the production of thyroid hormone, according to the American Thyroid Association. Iodine is naturally present in soil and seawater. However, it also can be consumed through a proper diet including dairy products, seafood, meat, some breads and eggs. Iodine deficiency can lead to multiple thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism, the ATA says.

A person who has hypothyroidism will experience weight gain slowly over time. The amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats in a person’s daily diet can also play a role in how much weight they gain with hypothyroidism. However, hypothyroidism can cause a person to gain an average of 20 to 30 extra pounds on average, but can even go as high as 50 pounds, Bethel says.

Thyroid function is often the first thing a physician checks when a patient is experiencing unexplained weight gain or loss, because improper hormone production affects so much more than a person’s size. Thankfully, the disease is treatable although not curable. Once diagnosed, a patient is usually prescribed medication that brings their thyroid hormone levels back up to a healthy level.

“Treatment for an underactive thyroid will greatly increase a person’s metabolism, and help them burn off calories and lose the extra weight,” Bethel says. “It should also help them from gaining extra weight due to hypothyroidism in the future.”

For more information on rosacea or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/doctor.

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