Obesity Causes Thyroid Problems

Friday, October 26, 2007  -  Byron J Richards, CCN

You are not alone if you think a sluggish thyroid is causing you to gain weight.  Contrary to this popular belief, in most cases it is just the other way around.  Gaining weight is actually causing the thyroid to become sluggish.  If your thyroid is struggling the problem tends to get worse the more times you go on a diet and lose some weight and then gain it all back again, typically with a few extra pounds for good measure.  Once in motion thyroid and weight problems feed off each other like a chicken and egg, locking in a nasty metabolic catch 22 that is quite difficult to solve.

Leptin is the key hormone that governs body weight.  Leptin is produced in fat, travels through the blood and up to the brain, enters the brain and informs the subconscious brain how much fat is in reserves.  If there is an adequate amount of fat in storage leptin permits the thyroid system to set a faster basal metabolic rate.  Leptin is in control of thyroid, thyroid does not control leptin.  Think of thyroid hormone as the drummer in the band, setting the pace or tempo.  Think of leptin as the conductor of the band, determining what piece of music will be played.

This leptin and thyroid relationship is fundamental to survival.  During evolution there was often a scarcity of food.  This required that stored fat be broken down to use as fuel.  The stored fat now produces less leptin, which means to the brain it is time to slow down metabolism to conserve energy so as not to perish.  If a faster basal metabolic pace was allowed a person would die from malnutrition at a quicker rate.  Thus, leptin intentionally creates a hypothyroid state in order to survive.

Then, when more food is available, leptin commands that fat storage is replenished before thyroid is allowed to go faster.  This is a mode your body uses to recover from a period of famine, otherwise known as a diet.  This mechanism is the bane of any dieter, and the cause of the yo-yo dieting response.

The curse of prosperity is that we now have ready access to too much food.  Our bodies did not evolve with overeating as the primary issue.  Too much food really creates a lot of stress.  Extra pounds of fat crank out way too much leptin.  At the same time extra fat in the blood (triglycerides) blocks leptin from getting into the brain, inducing a problem called leptin resistance.  This makes your subconscious brain think you are starving even though you have plenty of extra fat on hand.  This is a false state of perceived starvation, with the undesirable side effect of slowing down thyroid function to set a slower metabolic pace (hypothyroid).

Now it is certainly possible to create a thyroid problem in some other way, such as chemical poisoning of the thyroid gland by exposure to fluoride or perchlorate.  This will slow down metabolism and make a person more likely to gain weight.  However, once the person starts gaining weight then the leptin problem makes the thyroid problem worse.

The problem isn’t too bad if a person can cut back on calories and increase exercise and lose the extra weight.  However, this leptin-thyroid conundrum is at the root of difficult weight loss and ongoing sluggish thyroid problems in overweight people.  Such people run out of energy and get in a really bad mood from cutting calories long before they reach their goal weight.  And they easily gain weight back eating even moderate amounts of food. 

The only way out of this trap is to understand leptin and to eat in harmony with the hormone.  By following the Five Rules of the Leptin Diet you can readily improve thyroid function.  This enables your metabolism to run faster while eating proper portions, permitting weight loss without inducing the thyroid-deteriorating starvation response that is invariably followed by weight gain.  Those who consistently follow the Five Rules for a number of months in a row have the best results.  Nutrients that support thyroid function and leptin function are also helpful tools, along with consistent exercise, to assist you in overcoming this thyroid and leptin rut.


Posted by Byron J. Richards at 01:16 PM.

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Thank you so much for all of your useful information!  I am currently using the five rules and am feeling great!!!

Posted by Ashley  on  10/26  at  04:38 PM

Does anyone have serious weight gain issues?  I gain weight abnormally fast 7 lbs in a week. I think something is wrong here, and I have a hard time losing.

Also - has anyone had this problem taking synthroid?

Posted by gatorlady  on  10/27  at  04:58 PM

I read the Leptin Diet beginning in May and started following the ‘5 Rules.” It is hard on the people I eat with, but I’ve been consistent. I have also been following Dr. Mercola’s advice to eat right, as I am a protein type body. I eat no sugar, very little in the way of starchy carbohydrates (1x a week I might have a whole grain rice or tortilla).  Despite foot surgery which kept me from exercising until recently, I have lost inches and at least 10 pounds. I am maintaining muscle mass with lots of physical therapy work. Can anyone tell me, what a ‘good’ Leptin level is in the blood? How does this relate to Leptin Resistance? I can find nothing in the literature that talks about Leptin levels. What is being done to educate the traditional medical community about this hormone???

Posted by megs3  on  10/27  at  05:07 PM

Gatorlady:  Such rapid weight gain is a combination of fluid retention, toxicity, and leptin problems.  Synthroid (or Armour) do not necessarily synchronize with normal body rhythms, which is frustrating and may or may not aggravate fluid retention/toxicity issues.

Megs3:  A radioimmunoassay (RIA) blood test for leptin has an optimal value between 4 – 6 ng/dL.  Up to 9 ng/dL is acceptable, overweight individuals are often at 30 or 40.  The higher the leptin the greater the abdominal fat, which means looking in the mirror can save you the price of the test.  Leptin blood levels will drop on almost any diet that reduces calories, even though a leptin problem is far from solved.  Only restoring metabolic fitness to your fat solves the leptin issue.  Leptin blood tests are fine for those who want to know a number or those conducting studies, but I don’t suggest them as important for general use.

Posted by Byron J. Richards  on  10/27  at  06:34 PM

What nutrients or vitamin supplements should be taken for hypothyroidism?

Posted by Millie  on  10/27  at  07:45 PM

whats another option of synthroid or armour for people like me on meds - I take 125 mg of synthroid… I have read the side effects, and one is weight gain etc.. and if you don’t have a leptin profile, then how do yuu truly know if that’s part of your problem

Posted by gatorlady  on  10/27  at  08:07 PM

Gatorlady:
There are no dietary supplements that replace thyroid hormone.  In order to get off any medication you have to improve the health of your body to a point it is no longer medically needed (as judged by your doctor). 

The goal of nutrient support for the thyroid is to help make the hormone, help protect the thyroid gland and liver, help activate the hormone, and help reduce any type of stress that could be interfering with thyroid function.  The Basic thyroid support nutrition is Thyroid Helper, Iosol Iodine, and Daily Energy Multiple Vitamin (co-enzyme B vitamins and krebs cycle bionutrients), a great starting point for just about anyone.

If you are overweight you have a problem with leptin and do not need a lab test to know this.  Leptin establishes the set point of your body weight in your subconscious brain, it controls the metabolism of stored fat, cortisol, insulin, and thyroid hormone.  When leptin is working properly your metabolism of calories is more efficient.

Posted by Byron J. Richards  on  10/27  at  09:54 PM

Byron, I am so glad that you started this blog.  I have been on the Leptin Diet for about a year and a half and have lost 80lbs.so far.  Trust me when I say that I have tried virtually every diet out there.  This has been the only thing that has worked.  To me this is not a diet but a slight change in lifestyle. I have never felt deprived. It only took 2 or 3 days before my body adjusted to the new routine and now the constant food cravings are gone.  I can come to the table hungry, but I leave feeling full and satisfied.  I eat less than half of what I did before, but I am satisfied until the next meal.  Thanks so much for being able to put this information out to the public.

Posted by Donna  on  10/29  at  01:44 PM

i was put on synthroid about 3 years ago for a borderline thyroid. since then, i have continued to gain weight and ihave very dry,brittle hair. i feel that there must be something else causing this.            (ie. hormonal)do i have to take synthroid for the rest of my life now? i’m thinking of going to a holistic dr. since mainstream just wants to puy you on another pill.

Posted by karen r  on  11/06  at  10:41 PM

Karen:  Thyroid hormone medication is only one angle on the thyroid issue.  Sometimes it is helpful and needed.  Many times there are other factors that are more primary that are disturbing thyroid function.  Explaining these factors and how to help you is the mission of this blog.  If you can fix the metabolic issues that have gone awry, then the need for thyroid hormone no longer exists because the problems are fixed.  This is possible for many people.  Of course you must work with your doctor when you are adjusting or lowering thyroid medication.  Most doctors don’t think your thyroid situation can improve, but I have seen improvement time and time again.  A holistic doctor may be able to help you pinpoint some of your trouble areas that need improvement.  They generally spend more time with you, which is so important when issues are more complex.

Posted by Byron J. Richards  on  11/07  at  01:38 AM

Dr. is doing really such a   remarkable job i really love this

Posted by john  on  08/11  at  11:06 AM

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