Have you ever heard women in their thirties and forties talking about their metabolism slowing down because of their age?
This is a common conversation when women have unexplained weight gain.
One of the possibilities for this unexplained weight gain can be an underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism.
If weight gain is accompanied by any of the follow symptoms it might be worth getting some lab work done to see if you are experiencing hypothyroidism:
- Feeling tired, fatigued or weak
- Not being able to tolerate cold
- Memory or concentration problems
- Heavy bleeding or long menstrual periods
- Pale or dry skin
- Thinning hair
Why do I bring up hypothyroidism as a potential explanation for weight gain? It has been an underdiagnosed condition in women. With proper diagnosis and treatment women can feel remarkably better in a few months.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland is not producing enough of thyroid hormones, T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine).
It can also occur if the thyroid gland is producing enough of the thyroid hormone however the body is not able to convert enough of the thyroid hormone from the inactive form to the active form T3 (triiodothyronine).
In both cases there is not enough of the active thyroid hormone in the body for the tissues to use to conduct normal thyroid functions in the body.
The most frequent thyroid hormone deficiency is a disease known as Hashimoto’s disease. This is a type of hypothyroidism that is caused when the body's immune system attacks the thyroid gland tissue. This can prevent the body from being able to produce the thyroid hormones T4 and T3.
Hashimoto’s is actually an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the thyroid gland, preventing it from creating normal levels of T4 and T3. Over time the lower levels create symptoms in the body consistent with hypothyroid disease.
In many cases these antibodies can also attach other organs causing decreased function of other organs or create other autoimmune diseases as well.
The standard treatment for Hashimoto’s is to give natural or synthetic thyroid hormone. This normally reduces or eliminates symptoms but it does not correct the autoimmune irregularities in the body.
To confirm Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibody test should be conducted in addition to the TSH blood test.
When I am considering hypothyroidism I always check to see if the underlying cause is autoimmune before I consider a treatment plan.
Identifying the underlying cause especially if it is an autoimmune disease can change the course of treatment and may alleviate the need for medication therapy for the rest of your life.
Consider looking at naturopathic options instead of, or in combination with, conventional treatments. You might be glad you did.
Dr. Dae's website: www.healthydaes.com
Dr. Dae's book: Daelicious! Recipes for Vibrant Living can be purchased @ www.healthydaes.com
Dr. Dae's Bio:
Dr. Daemon Jones is a Naturopathic Physician who maintains a holistic practice by treating patients all over the country using Skype and phone visits. She helps her patients harvest health and feel great, using a combination of safe and effective naturopathic and conventional methods.
"Hypothyroidism Symptoms in Women & Men." WebMD - Better information. Better health.. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
"Hypothyroidism: Symptoms - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2012.
Reviewed September 5, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith