January is Thyroid Awareness Month, which aims to raise awareness about thyroid health as well as the prevention, management and cure of related diseases and disorders.
Thyroid disorders are almost always associated with weight. In fact, for many people who experience unexpected weight gain, the thyroid is often first looked to as a possible cause for concern. But why is this, and how can you identify potential problems?
What is the Thyroid Gland?
This important gland is a butterfly-shaped organ, located roughly in the middle of your neck, that produces the following hormones as part of your body’s pituitary system:
- Thyroxine (T4)
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
When most people think of “thyroid hormones,” they consider T3 and T4. These hormones significantly impact weight because they affect metabolism and energy regulation. When they are created, they are released by your thyroid gland and then circulated into your bloodstream — acting on almost every cell in your body to increase activity and metabolism.
Connecting Weight Gain and Your Thyroid
Believe it or not, thyroid disease is very common with an estimated 27 million Americans affected, according to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Though this gland can impact weight in many different ways, we’ll focus on problems with weight gain and weight-loss difficulty for the purpose of this blog post.
Hormones T3 and T4 are strongly associated with weight gain and difficulty losing weight because they control cellular metabolism. If you’re affected by a slow-functioning thyroid, there isn’t enough of these hormones in your bloodstream and your metabolism slows down. This issue is generally referred to as an under-active thyroid or hypothyroidism.
Checking for Problems
If you struggle with overweight and/or obesity, it’s no guarantee that issues with your thyroid are at play. However, there’s enough research evidence to support the advice that you should talk to your healthcare provider about the potential for underlying problems.
Your provider will either examine your most recent lab work or ask you to retake your annual labs so he or she can examine the results. Your labs will reveal your levels of TSH, T3, T4, thyroid antibodies and more that are in your bloodstream.
Once your provider assesses these results, he or she will determine if you have a potential disorder that may be affecting your weight. You might even be referred to an endocrinologist for further testing and treatment options.
For more information about thyroid disorders and weight management, visit a previous issue of the OAC’s Weight Matters Magazine by CLICKING HERE.