There are many reasons for the difficulty in losing weight or shedding the belly fat including diet, lifestyle issues, and hormone imbalances including thyroid issues. And it isn’t necessarily just one cause – it can be a combination. But if it’s your thyroid that’s involved, it’s important to address it first. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism and if it’s out of balance, then it doesn’t matter what diet or exercise program you’re on or 'miracle' supplement– it won’t work.
Thyroid problems are very common. The American Thyroid Association estimates that 12% of the population will experience a thyroid issue at some time in their life. And Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is estimated to affect at least 1 in 10 women.
So, if you are finding it difficult to lose weight or belly fat it makes sense to determine if you are one of the millions of people with a thyroid problem. You can then start to identify the root causes and begin the healing.
3 Ways to Determine if it's your Thyroid to Blame
1. Blood Tests (Thyroid Panel)
One of the fastest ways of determining if your thyroid is involved is getting a blood test done. It’s called a thyroid panel and it should include a test for thyroid hormones (free T4, T3), TSH, and antibodies. Do not settle for just a test for TSH, which is the default for most GPs. By itself, it's a poor test to determine thyroiditis and it cannot determine the cause of thyroiditis. Measuring the levels of free T4 and free T3 give a much better picture of the functioning of your thyroid. If both T4 and T3 are low, this may be an indication of hypothyroidism. The root cause may be a nutritional deficiency, or less common, an issue with your pituitary gland. If T4 is normal, but T3 is low, this could indicate a problem with increased cortisol (which blocks the conversion of T4 to T3). If thyroid antibodies are high, this indicates that your immune system is the cause. Addressing an autoimmune cause to thyroiditis requires a different strategy. The focus needs to be on what is causing the immune system to react. In this case, the thyroid is just the innocent bystander.
It's also important to prepare properly for blood tests - see my article on how to ensure valid results here.
2. Address Your Stress
Stress will impact your thyroid function. It can be emotional or physical stress – anything that releases cortisol. Cortisol blocks the conversion of T4 to T3 so that even if your thyroid is producing enough hormone, its effect is being blocked. Most of the time, we can readily assess our stress levels. Have you checked your pulse rate or your blood pressure? Elevated levels may indicate increased stress levels. There are also functional tests that will provide a more in-depth assessment of your cortisol levels as well as some other hormones that can be directly affected by cortisol - the sex hormones. One such functional test is called the DUTCH test (Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones). You take urine samples throughout the day as your cortisol levels vary greatly throughout the day. The pattern of cortisol is as important as the level. This test measures all of your sex hormones as well as cortisol.
If you want to know more on ways of addressing your stress and increasing your resilience, read my article here.
3. Track Your Symptoms
This last method involves assessing the type and number of symptoms that you are currently experiencing. Your thyroid gland and resulting hormone levels are responsible for the regulation of your metabolism. An altered metabolism will affect every organ system in your body leading to the development of a number of diverse symptoms. These include: weight gain, chronic fatigue, depression/anxiety, muscle/joint pain, constipation, hair loss – especially the outer third of your eyebrow (a sign of Hashimoto’s), digestive issues such as bloating, food sensitivities, and more. If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, it's time to get a thyroid panel done.
I also suggest that you track your symptoms. It's important to become and stay attuned to your body. Tracking your symptoms is also a good way of assessing whether a healing strategy is working.
There are many ways of tracking your symptoms - I find that a phone app is one of the easiest and some, such as MySymptoms, can graph your progress for easy analysis.
To summarize, if you're having trouble losing the weight, look at your thyroid function first.
If you would like a free 20-minute consultation with me to discuss your health and your options for healing, just click the button below to book a time.