Can hyperthyroidism cause weight gain?

out of energy

Are you gaining weight instead of losing it?

Honestly, dieting is not my favorite activity and I’ve never been good at that particular sport. I am just not a serious “dieter” but I have never been seriously overweight either.  This, however, may not be the case for other people diagnosed with Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism.

Patients, diagnosed with Graves’ disease, thyrotoxicosis, or hyperactive thyroid typically don’t have any dieting issues, I mean regarding gaining weight. Quite the opposite: one of the symptoms of thyrotoxicosis/hyperthyroidism (induced by whatever reason) is the uncontrollable weight loss. They are typically skinny, with high metabolism, enhanced craving for food (different foods) and very active, particularly in sports and all kinds of other activities.  They’re nearly always hungry,  at least I used to be when I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism 10 years ago.  My friends often  joked with me that I am just wasting the food and I am so very lucky for not gaining weight at all. I would not go in details how I felt back then though…But in their eyes, I was fortunate..

Anyway, several thyrotoxicosis/ hyperthyroidism patients (including Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism, nodules etc.) recently reported precisely the opposite- gaining weight. Hyperthyroidism weight gain isn’t so rare nowadays, unfortunately. How this is happening though, if the metabolism is so accelerated due to the excessive release of endocrine/thyroid hormones in the blood? Why then many of us gain weight instead? For example:

“Hi, just wanted to find out what do you think about weight gain. When I first found out that I had a hyperthyroid I weighed a hundred and twenty lbs. Now, after about a year I can’t seem to loose any weight. I am up to one hundred fifty and I am sick of gaining more even though I work out like crazy. Doesn’t seem fair and I need some advice please!”

I receive numerous emails like this. And honestly, I can only guess why this is so…

Western medicine has no explanation about this phenomenon, because, in fact, there is no logic. But not everything is logical, right? Here are some of my ideas why this might be happening:

1. The clinical representation of the hyperthyroidism condition is different. “Clinical description” concerns the most typical symptoms, according to which the doctors determine their diagnosis (hopefully). For example, the classical clinical picture of celiac disease, which includes persistent diarrhea, has changed recently. Graves’ disease symptoms also can fluctuate; initially the patient can be diagnosed with certain symptoms that may change over time, become more or less serious, or new symptoms can appear and others to fade.

2. It is well known that the appetite of hyperthyroid patients increase dramatically and they eat more than usual. The problem is with the content and quality of the consumed foods. If a decade ago the foods were not so genetically modified and very close to “natural” or “organic” they can be easily discharged from the body, due to the increased metabolism. But in the past years it is well known that we consume foods that have no nutrients and are grossly genetically modified; they also contain a lot of processed sugars and artificial coloring, to name just a few of the substances causing troubles. The body, unrecognizing these materials as food, may store them, as it does with the aspartame. They are simply stocked in the body, regardless of the increased metabolism. This may dramatically cloud the clinical picture of hyperthyroidism and many people may remain undiagnosed due to this reason.

3. Medication: patients who are treated with medication (PTU or Methimazole) are still  considered hyperthyroid, and may be affected with this symptom because almost all anti-thyroid medications slow down the metabolism and block the thyroid hormone overproduction. To unknown irrational reasons some doctors may keep their patients on the same dosage anti-thyroid medication regardless of the fact that their thyroid tests are reading “normal” or even “hypo”. Probably just in case???

The other problem is that thyroid tests today (even the usual thyroid panel) may cost over $1500 (depending on insurance, deductibles, hormones tested,  etc.), which really shocks me, because just 10 years ago they cost $50-$60. I don’t really know what became so expensive to justify that dramatic increase. And if you are in acute hyperthyroidism state these tests should be performed every 4-6 weeks to adjust the medication, which it is very rarely done today by doctors because simply the insurance would not pay. That creates a risk for the patient to take medications that are not necessary or the dosage is not appropriate any more.

So, if you are gaining weight, regardless of the reason, these are my short and simple suggestions to control your weight:

vegetable-fairy1. Eat HEALTHY in order to help symptomatology of hyperthyroidism or Grave’s Disease. Try an elimination diet, or gluten free diet for that matter (more about that in the next post).

2. Try probiotics, they are known to enhance the “good bacteria” in  the intestines and to help the elimination of substances that no longer need to be present in your stomach.

3. Consume a lot of fibers, or foods containing fiber. Try cleansing the body with dieting, oil pulling or other methods.

4. Grow your own sprouts, and eat them of course, they are the best source for vitamins and minerals.

5. Drink plenty of water and herbal teas.

6.  Eat less meat, more green leafy vegetables (I am not saying you have to become vegetarian).

7. Exercise regularly. For example I try to swim twice a week, dance tango once, play volleyball and do meditation and yoga (to balance the active part). But I don’t have the palpitations now, so if you do, stick with yoga and meditation.

Of course, these are general suggestions, but if there isn’t anything else you can do or don’t know how, at least you can do your best.

And by the way, do you have any experience  with a similar problem? What food makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad, or loose/gain weight?

Share your thoughts and secrets with us- it may help other people as well!

If fact, I just finished the update of my book “Ultimate Diet Secrets for Graves’ Disease and Hyperthyroidism”, with the newest research on the subject, including the gluten free diet and carbohydrate diet for hyperthyroidism (that’s an old one from 1928), why you should use probiotics, new herbs found to help hyperthyroidism, etc.  So speaking, that’s what I have been doing the past two months…

So here we go:  (Click below on the book)  to get your own copy of the updated August, 2013 version).

Ultimate Diet Secrets for Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism

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13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dannielle on September 19, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Can you please tell me if you have an address that I could possibly send a check to to buy this diet book? I do not have any credit cards. I have gained over 120 pounds since April 2011!! I have lost 100 the year before I went on meds. As soon as I put medication in my mouth I started to gain again…..I have been on a 16-1700 calorie diet since April 2009 and my eating habits have not changed since I was diagnosed with Graves’ / Hyperthyroidism…It is so frustrating. People and doctors just look at me and think that I’m lying…I must be eating more…but i am NOT! I am pretty much at the end of my rope.

    thank you . Dannielle Pinard

    On Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 4:53 PM, My Blog About Graves’ Disease and

    Reply

    • Posted by sbankova on September 23, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      Hi Dannielle,

      I know how frustrating it could be to battle Graves’ Disease, especially if meds are having such an effect on you. I just sent you the address to your email address, please check your junk folder as well.

      Best regards,
      Svetla

      Reply

  2. I am one of those unlucky people who has gained weight with Graves and I mean, a lot of weight. It has been very depressing. I was gaining weight before I was ever diagnosed and in fact, I was first diagnosed with Hashimotos and then Graves. I have the antibodies for both. I have been on methimazole for 11 months, but have been taken off as my numbers have remained stable for 3 months. At this time, I have been diagnosed in remission. But I couldn’t take the weight gain anymore and finally decided to make an attempt to tackle that problem. I got onto a program online that is free and even offers an app for smart phones to use when out and about. It is called Sparkpeople.com and specifically works with your personal goals, health issues, etc. to help you determine calories in vs calories out. I have lost 16 pounds since March which is really slow, but any loss is better than gaining at this point!! I have found that I do better and lose faster if I eat a high fiber, low calorie breakfast and also, I seem to be doing better eating in between breakfast and lunch and between lunch and dinner – at 10 and 2. I am eating around 300 calories each for lunch and dinner, 200 for breakfast and then splitting the rest between snacks. Types of foods seem to make no difference at all as I have eliminated, experimented and had absolutely no change. I am finding that it all boils down to calories and just trying to eat as healthily as possible. It has been slow going but my goal is to lose a total of 50 lbs in 2 years. I have to be happy with as little as 1/4 lb every week or two. Changing my expectations has been a must. I’ve learned to relax with the very slow loss and to just be at peace with the fact that I’m not gaining weight. Relaxing, peace and contentment helps with my TED as an added bonus.

    Reply

  3. I am tired of being called fat inspite of having hyperthyroid actually my thyroid is under controll past 1 year but the doctor has told me to continue my medication trimicazole 5 mg once a day.But i have been putting on weight and havre graves I see double vision at times my years seem blocked dont know if that is because of thyroid i dont know what to do I am menapausing as well so am completely confused please help if u can

    Thanks & Warm Regards
    Lalita

    Reply

    • Posted by sbankova on September 23, 2013 at 1:53 pm

      Hi Lalita,

      double vision is usually associated with Thyroid Eye Disease, which is often a dear companion of Graves’ Disease. If your thyroid antibodies are out of the range, this definitely indicates Graves’ Disease and may not be related to menopause at all. Gaining weight may be related to your medication and your doctor has to power to change it with similar that doesn’t have such an effect on your weight. But healthy diet and exercise may definitely help in all cases, I hope.

      Svetla

      Reply

  4. It is interesting that clinical nutrition plays so important a role in the control of weight with the Grave’s Disease person. Endocrinology can do so much, functional medicine helps alot, supplementation can control the weight gain if an exercise programme and LOOK AT INSULIN RESISTANCE and Grave’s Disease – the 2 can follow hand-in-hand after even many years with GD!Keeping to a low glycaemic, high protein diet, eating every 3 hours (ie 2 extra small meals to keep both Inuslin and hypoglycaemia blood sugar stable is a must whether putting on/losing a great deal of weight.I am a clinical nutritionist!
    I have, thanks to Grave’s, also had endocrine reports of Para thyroid hormone (PTH) disrupting calcium levels ie being extraordinarily high without knowing this was coming, with equally low vit D3 levels, even though I am an holistic healthcare professional and felt abit of weight creeping on ( I am very small and v slim), and then, for the 1st time in many, many years when my thyroxine was mot under control well enough, my hair began falling out. PTH was the the problem. For the past 9 months I have been disallowed any form of calcium, took for 5 months 10,000 mg bd of vit D3 (was taken off calcifferol D2), and now 4 months later on 5,000mgs a day, next blood test will hopefully take me to the NORMAL amount for women over 40 1000mg’s vit D3 and perhaps will be able to return to 1000mg a day of calcium. The body is an exquisite, fragile lot of organs, cells, blood vessels, hormones – never take anything for granted and certainly get 2nd and 3rd ‘out-of-the-box-medical and other opinions. Never just stick with listening to 1 person…. high 5 for all of us who live and are challenged daily! Sharon Levin http://www.fibromyalgiasa.co.za Head of fibromyalgia Southern Africa, et al.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Debbie on March 29, 2015 at 11:59 pm

    I have had Graves’ since January,2014. I am taking methimazole. It has been gradually reduced over the past year but I am taking 5 mg 3x/week. The past week or so I have been gaining weight. I believe it is the methimazole…too much. I feel pretty good. Had blood work Friday and I am waiting on results.

    Reply

  6. Posted by Kesha on August 6, 2015 at 1:18 pm

    I was diagnose with Graves disease 2 years ago. At that time I weighed 230. I never experienced any sort of weight loss with Graves-only weight gain. I have gained 55 pounds in the last year and at my wits end. I have changed my eating habits drastically, work out 5 days a week, and haven’t touched a soda in months and NOTHING. I just started taking a PTU a week ago and am terrified it will make me gain even more weight. Nearly every doctor I have seen thinks its impossible I have Graves because I’m so overweight but then they run the labs and see that I’m not crazy and I really am hyper and not hypo. This disease is so frustrating!!!!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Laurie on January 27, 2016 at 3:23 am

    I have hyperthyroidism and am on carbizmozole (not sure on spelling)have to do regular blood tests to make sure the dose is right, it is definitely not acceptable for a dr to let a patient be on a dose too high so that their thyroid is under active, it’s malpractice and I would urge changing dr’s and reporting it. It can take juggling to get the dose right and an endocrinologist might be needed.

    Reply

  8. Posted by helen on October 10, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    I ewas diagnosed with graves disease 4 months ago i have an overactive thyroid. I have been put on 3 tablets 5mg carbimazole a day. I have gained just over a stone in weight. I feel awful almost like someone has took over my body, aching muscles, not sleeping, pulpitations, diarrhoea list goes on. I am moody depressed and i am stuggling to work full time. I could cry in an instant this is so not me i am not coping well. Im on my medication 4 months suffer from water retention due to side affects. Can someone reassure me i havent went completly mad please.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Asee on November 21, 2016 at 6:09 am

    Hi,
    I am 42 and I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism two years ago. The first year I went from 130 to 114 in a matter of months months. My doctor put me on methimazoleI started to gain weight very steadily. Instead of taking medications, I decided to change my diet, quite caffeine, and take vitamins. That was last October. I have not been back to see my doctor since. Thanks to high insurance premiums, I am make too much money to qualify for any help , yet cannot afford it on my own… Anyways. I really have no symptoms other than fast heartbeat every now and then. However, my weight is gone up to 143 over the last six months. No change in my eating habits. You may suggest I should go see a doctor:)
    I am planning on doing that in January, once my benefits start.

    Reply

  10. Posted by Bray on January 25, 2017 at 2:55 am

    I am fed up with doctor visits and medication (methimozole). I was 113 lbs at diagnosis and I am at 145 lbs, today. I have been working out 30 min, four times a week, and have not lost any weight. I stopped taking the medictaion became it makes me sick to my stomach, dizzy, and gives me the worst migraine ever. If I dont take it, I feel fine, with the occasional headache. I cant even get in to see my Endocrinologist, he his booked out 3 months. I am done with the medical treatment, I need to find tips on holistic remedies that I can do myself. I am lactose, so it seems, because my whole life I have never had the tummy for diary, even string cheese. I try not to eat processed food. I already eat green. Has anyone self diagnose their condition after being treated by a physician? Am I hurting myself by not taking methimozole?

    Reply

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