Battling to lose weight? It could be your thyroid

We live in a world that demands instant gratification - and expects perfection.

We want meals that can be created seemingly from the ether, and presented (and consumed) in just a few scrumptious seconds. They need to look great. And they need to taste amazing. To achieve our nearly impossible demands, food manufacturers take all sorts of shortcuts. Things like sugar, salt, preservatives, and fat serve to make a meal more appealing to look at, and more delicious to eat.

Unfortunately, they also pack centimeters on our middles and yards on our derriéres.

Most of our readers understand this, though. In fact, if you’re here you’re probably a fan of the slow food, organic approach to meals that is gaining well-deserved popularity around the globe.

As more of us start to see the connection between what we put into our bodies, and the results our bodies deliver, healthy, organic food is becoming a global staple.

The benefits of eating properly have been well-documented. And they are self-evident: energy, vitality, clarity of thought, clear skin, shiny hair, and radiant good health are centre stage in a cast of favourites that includes weight loss as a firm favourite.

But what if you’re doing everything right - walking twenty minutes a day (when you have the energy), eating properly, avoiding the things that are bad for you (no matter how yummy they look), drinking plenty of water … and still your weight doesn’t budge? In fact, it may even be rising.

You could be suffering from an underactive thyroid.

What is hypothyroidism?

Underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, results when the thyroid no longer produces the hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which regulate your body's temperature, metabolism, and heart rate. The amount of thyroid hormones secreted is controlled by another hormone, called thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), which is released from the pituitary gland in your brain.

The thyroid helps to control your body’s sensitivity to temperature, heart rate, and how effectively you metabolise food into energy.

When it’s not working properly, your body processes start to slow down. You may feel unusually cold, excessively hungry (or full), and prone to extreme fatigue. And you will find it difficult to lose weight.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Weight gain or increased difficulty losing weight
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Memory loss
  • Coarse, dry hair
  • Hair loss
  • Dry, rough pale skin
  • Cold intolerance (you seem to feel colder than those around you)
  • Muscle cramps and frequent muscle aches
  • Constipation
  • Abnormal menstrual cycles
  • Decreased libido

If you are experiencing more than two of these symptoms, it’s worth telling your healthcare practitioner so that he or she can investigate the possibility that your thyroid is underactive.

What Causes Hypothyroidism?

There are a number of factors that could cause or contribute to hypothyroidism. These include Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis [Three Easy Steps to Beating Histamine Intolerance], an autoimmune disorder that results in the inflammation of the thyroid gland. It is also possible that your pituitary gland is not functioning the way it should, so that it no longer releases the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) that drives the activity of the thyroid gland. Thyroid problems can be caused or exacerbated by unrelated medications or treatments, or may be caused by an iodine deficiency in the diet.

Because each case is predicated on a range of factors, it’s best to chat to your doctor about the diagnosis and treatment of your specific condition. Even so, it’s helpful to have an idea of what possible treatments are available.

How to Treat an Underactive Thyroid

Maria Treben, in her well-known book Health Through God’s Pharmacy, recommends using Bedstraw to treat thyroid complications. She advises either a tincture or a tea, depending on what’s available. Unfortunately Bedstraw is exceedingly rare and hard to find in South Africa.

In the absence of a herbal silver bullet, we have a number of other treatment options available to us.

Eight Alternative Thyroid Treatments

  1. Avoid (or eliminate, if you can) thyroid stressors such as caffeine, sugar, and refined carbohydrates.
  2. Increase your protein intake - preferably from organic sources.
  3. Eat healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, and seeds. Fish oil supplements can be helpful, too, provided they are sourced from certified mercury-free sources.
  4. Supplement: vitamin D, iron, omega 3, selenium, zinc, copper, vitamin A, the B vitamins, and iodine all support healthy thyroid function and can be beneficial in thyroid repair. Speak to your healthcare provider to create the right supplement mix for you. Also add glutathione to the mix. This powerful antioxidant supports healthy thyroid function and helps the immune system repair itself.
  5. Get rid of gluten. It sounds like a fad … until you consider this fun fact: According to MindBodyGreen, “The molecular composition of thyroid tissue is almost identical to that of gluten.”
  6. Avoid “goitrogens” - foods that interfere with the way the body thyroid works. These include:
    • Broccoli
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Cabbage
    • Cauliflower
    • Kale
    • Kohlrabi
    • Rutabaga
    • Turnips
    • Millet
    • Spinach
    • Strawberries
    • Peaches
    • Watercress
    • Peanuts
    • Radishes
    • Soybeans
  7. Go pro - probiotics, that is. Because so much of what makes us sensitive to foods, and damages our immunity, starts in our gut, it can never hurt to boost our healthy gut flora with a balanced probiotic.
  8. De-stress. Thyroid action is stimulated by stress, and too much stress can deplete its natural building blocks. Identify what stresses you out, and do what you can to minimise those stressors. Investigate healthy stress coping mechanisms such as exercise, yoga, meditation or prayer - or carve out some “me time” in your busy schedule - to give your body the time and space it needs to recharge. And make sure you get enough sleep!

Dr Alain Sanua is an experienced holistic health practitioner. He doesn’t believe in quick-and-dirty remedies aimed at masking a single set of symptoms. Instead, his approach is to understand the whole condition, and uncover the root cause of your symptoms. Call Dr Alain Sanua on on 011 463 1614 or email him on and get the help you need.


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