When weight problems begin, you might suspect that the thyroid gland may be at fault. You may have noticed other symptoms, such as a fatigue, diminished sex drive, mood swings, constipation, dry skin, hair loss or feeling cold. But when you go to the doctor, you get a standard “TSH” test and are told everything is fine. As an endocrinologist, I’ve seen this many times. The truth is you still could have a thyroid problem.
Many of my patients have been told that the thyroid is not causing their weight problem because the TSH test is “normal.” But I’ve seen so many cases where the thyroid really was to blame. Once treated, these patients lose a lot of weight without a major change in their diet or exercise routine.
40% of overweight Americans have thyroid dysfunction. Without a diagnosis and treatment that includes the thyroid, many patients — who could be well on their way to better health — may have an unnecessarily slow metabolism. And that’s something no diet can cure.
The standard TSH test is reliable for diagnosing thyroid problems 80-90% of the time. If you are having symptoms of thyroid dysfunction (see this link for a list of symptoms) and have been told that everything is “normal” you may still have a thyroid problem.
The thyroid controls metabolism and therefore plays a major role in body weight regulation. Low thyroid, or hypothyroidism makes you gain weight or makes it difficult to lose weight even with vigorous exercise and the right diet. The thyroid helps maintain organ function, brain function, body temperature, sleep, energy level, sex drive, mood and so much more. It’s easy to overlook the effects of a dysfunctional thyroid gland because the symptoms can come on slowly and are often blamed on old age.
Thyroid disease can happen to anyone at any age but is more likely as you get older. It is the third most common disease in America and is estimated to affect more than 30 million Americans. Women are 10 times more likely to get thyroid disease than men. It is also more common when pregnant or in the year after having a baby. The immune system, stress, nutritional deficiencies, medications, exposure to radiation and toxins can damage the thyroid gland.
Undiagnosed thyroid dysfunction or improperly treated hypothyroidism is very common. If you are having persistent symptoms of an underactive thyroid and have been told everything is normal, my book Hormonal Balance (click for more info) can help you figure out if the thyroid is to blame and if so what you can do about it.