There are some organs in our body that produce and release specific substances, which are called glands. Such a gland is the thyroid. It is an endocrine gland, which stays inside the body and synthesizes thyroid hormone to release into the bloodstream.
The Link Between Thyroid And Weight Gain
Low thyroid function or hypothyroidism is one of the most common thyroid disorders that can cause weight gain suddenly. The prefix ‘hypo’ from hypothyroidism means under.
The thyroid is not producing enough t3 or t4 to maintain basic metabolic or bodily functions. This thyroid disorder can occur at any age but is more common with aged men and women.
What is thyroid?
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped tiny gland, located in the throat area. It is essential for life, and it plays an important role in brain growth as well as in regulating metabolism. It also influences energy consumption, body temperature, mood concentration, heart rate, nervous system function, digestive function, muscle tone, and fertility.
Shortage of thyroid hormone can disrupt menstrual cycles, causing heavy bleeding and issues with ovulation. Low thyroid hormone can also make it difficult for a woman to become pregnant. In men, sperm production is also dependent on thyroid function, so some male fertility issues may be linked to thyroid dysfunction.
How the thyroid works
The release of thyroid hormone is controlled by the pituitary gland. This, in turn, is controlled by the hypothalamus. At first, the pituitary gland sends thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH to the thyroid. then the thyroid produces t3 and t4 which are sent to various organs in the body.
The amount of TSH the pituitary gland releases is dependent on the amounts of t3 and t4 there are in the bloodstream. When there are high levels of t3 and t4 in the body, the pituitary slows the release of TSH. If there is too little t3 and t4 in the body the pituitary secretes more TSH to tell the thyroid to get going. It is important to have iodine in your diet to provide your body with enough t3 and t4 it needs to address issues with the low level of thyroid hormone in the body.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism
Apart from the unexplained weight gain, some of the other symptoms of a low thyroid function include –
- Slower metabolism
- Feeling cold
- Dry skin
- Dry hair
- Muscle cramps
- Slow heart rate
- Altered memory
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Loss of interest in activities
- Lack of energy
Poor diet and depression are often misdiagnosed as hypothyroidism, and vice versa.
A common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmunity. For some reason, the immune system mistakes the thyroid gland for some foreign pathogen that needs to be eliminated and destroyed. This disease is called Hashimoto’s disease. Hypothyroidism can also be caused by various kinds of medications, radiation therapy, or genetic abnormalities.
Luckily, there is a simple treatment to combat hypothyroidism. Since there are low levels of thyroid in the body of those who gained weight, the patients are usually given a replacement thyroid hormone. Unfortunately, this is not a permanent cure, so patients need to take this pill every day for the rest of their lives.
Getting to the right dosage can be challenging as well. It is associated with side effects, but after a maintenance dose, you can expect few to no side effects because you are simply replacing the hormone that is supposed to be found naturally in the body. Once started on thyroid medication, it is important to pay attention to your symptoms. Make sure to discuss these changes with your healthcare provider on a regular basis.