Part 2: Hormones and Weight Gain - Thyroid



Why is it that your friend eats more than you do, doesn’t exercise nearly as much, but easily maintains lower weight? It may be that you have a slower metabolism than she or he does.


Metabolism is the process by which your body converts the food you eat into energy. It is essential to ensuring your body has sufficient energy to function while protecting you from starvation. Your metabolism works like a thermostat to maintain your body fat percentage – slowing down or speeding up to maintain a certain set point range. When your body senses you are in a state of “famine”; for example, if you consistently eat too few calories, it adjusts by decreasing your metabolic set point.


This means fewer calories are needed to maintain body weight, making weight loss more difficult.


The gland that controls your metabolism is the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland located low on the front of your neck. It secretes several hormones, primarily T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), that act on every cell throughout the body to regulate metabolism.  These hormones also affect breathing, heart and nervous system functions, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, cholesterol levels and your weight.




Your thyroid plays a part in many metabolic processes in the body. When the thyroid isn't working well the symptoms can manifest throughout the body. Some common symptoms are shown below.




If you have some or many of the symptoms listed above, you may have either hypothyroidism (slow thyroid function) or hyperthyroidism (a fast thyroid function). It is believed that one in eight women have hypothyroidism. Men are slightly less, but some believe this is because men aren't very good at going to the doctors and getting tested!




There are several causes of hypothyroidism or sub-clincial hypothyroidism. These include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies

  • 'Yo-yo' dieting and calorie restricted diets

  • Prolonged stress

  • Incorrect blood pH

  • Sluggish liver

  • Genetics

  • Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals from our environment such as fluoride (think of your toothpaste and drinking water), pesticides, and smoking

  • Oestrogen dominance (we'll discuss this in part three of hormones and weight loss)




To diagnose primary hypothyroidism, many doctors simply measure the amount of thyroid- stimulating hormone (TSH) being produced by the pituitary gland. High levels of TSH indicate that  the thyroid is not producing sufficient levels of thyroid hormone (mainly as thyroxine (T4) and  smaller amounts of triiodothyronine (T3)). However, measuring just TSH fails to diagnose secondary and tertiary hypothyroidism, thus leading to the following suggested blood testing if the TSH is normal and hypothyroidism is still suspected:

  • Free triiodothyronine (fT3)

  • Free levothyroxine (fT4)

  • Total T3

  • Total T4

  • Reverse T3


If you want to get these tests you will need to see a specialist who is trained in how interpret these blood markers and who also has the abilty to order them. General practice doctors unfortunately don't have the resources to order these tests.


The other option is having your thyroid tested with a Thyroflex, which is a non-invasive thyroid test that measures your Brachioradialis reflexometry (BR reflex) and resting metabolic rate. This test identifies whether your thyroid function is under active, over-active or within optimal range. The Thyroflex test is 98.5% accurate in diagnosing thyroid issues and is FDA certified.


Both of these tests I offer at my clinic, and as I like to say "test, don't guess".




The treatment strategies for the thyroid depends on what the cause is and where the blood markers lie for the various hormone markers listed above. But we can put in place some good basics foundations to look after our thyroid.


1. Feed it

To make thyroid hormones your body needs selenium, iodine, zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D and iron. Think seafood, sea salt, seaweed, eggs, orange veggies, butter, brazil nuts, oysters, beef, and lamb.


2. De-stress

Cortisol causes your body to make reverse T3 which is basically a lock on your cells that stops your active T3 (thyroid hormone) from getting into cells and doing its job. It is important that we reduce our stress levels


3. Find daily ways to detox

Help your body detoxify from chemical exposures (petrochemicals, PCBs, pesticides, and mercury) by using an infrared saunas, or by taking epsom salt baths. Adding chlorella, parsley, or coriander to your daily smoothie is also a good idea.


4. Look after your sex hormones

All hormones work together, so when one is out of balance then it is likely going to effect your thyroid. Oestrogen dominance is a key example of this. I will talk more about this in part three.


5. Supplementation

Depending on where you are on the scale of hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, dictate what supplements you should go on. If you are severely hypothyroid then you may need to go on thyroid hormone medication. However if you have sub-clincal hypothyroidism then you can improve your thyroid health with correct supplementation, herbs and lifestyle choices.

Your thyroid should be your BFF. Treat it well and it will look after you!


For a more personal discussion, feel free to book in to see me and we'll get you sorted together.


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Nutritionist Cambridge