Hypothyroidism: Revving Up A Sluggish Metabolism
Having an underactive thyroid can lead to a sluggish metabolism, fortunately, there are steps you can take to help rev it up naturally.
Metabolism can be thought of like an engine to which the thyroid hormone acts like gas, but with hypothyroidism, the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the hormone which causes metabolism to slow down. Unfortunately having a slower metabolism can make losing weight difficult along with other unwanted symptoms such as weakness and fatigue among others.
According to the US National Library of Medicine, metabolism is the process that converts food and nutrients into the energy used to breathe, think, circulate blood, regulate body temperature, as well as think and perform other functions that are required to sustain life.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, while the thyroid hormone is not the only component involved in metabolism, it is needed to operate nearly every organ system within the body, and a properly functioning thyroid gland will help to maintain the level of hormones that it needs to keep metabolism running optimally. When the thyroid gland is not producing enough of the hormone metabolism and other processes in the body slow down which can cause sleepiness, muscle weakness, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, sensitivity to cold, cognitive issues, issues with weight loss, a hoarse voice, joint pain, lower appetite, and for women menstrual changes.
One of the most familiar symptoms of hypothyroidism is difficulty with weight loss, which is typically what people think of when they think about metabolism. While some blame extra pounds on the condition it does not cause as much weight gain as one may think, gaining more than 5-10 pounds may indicate that there is something else wrong. Those with a slower metabolism may have difficulty losing weight because they tend to burn fewer calories, which also means that more is being stored as fat.
For the most part how fast/slow the metabolism works is determined by genes, but there are a number of other factors that can play roles such as age, gender, level of physical activity, as well as body size and composition. While you are not able to control all of these factors there are steps that you can take to help burn more calories and/or lose/maintain weight.
If you have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism your doctor might prescribe a synthetic thyroid hormone, once thyroid hormone levels are normalized the metabolic rate should be normalized as well. If you are taking a thyroid hormone it is important to take it alone on an empty stomach and not at the same time as other pills, medications, and supplements unless advised otherwise by your doctor.
Additionally, while diminished levels of iodine can lead to hypothyroidism, and the effects will vary by person, it may be best to avoid taking iodine supplements if you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism without consulting with your physician before taking any supplement. However, if you have been confirmed to be deficient in vitamin D your doctor might recommend taking a vitamin D supplement as some studies suggest that there is a connection between vitamin D deficiency and hypothyroidism.
Exercise can help to increase metabolism, both cardiovascular and strength training are important to boosting metabolism. While higher intensity cardio exercise is more effective at increasing metabolism lower intensity exercise can still help. Walking, jogging, biking, swimming, aerobics, roller skating, tennis, and yoga, will all help to boost metabolism, but it will help if you try to incorporate a more intense class or interval training into your routine.
Starvation diets and skipping meals are known to cause lower metabolism, one of the signs and symptoms of starvations can look like hypothyroidism. Low-calorie diets can cause symptoms of a slowed metabolism such as fatigue, if this is happening to you go back to normal eating and consult with a registered dietitian, doctor, or certified medical professional to develop a meal plan that will work best for you.
Avoid processed foods, try to make food choices that are healthy which will help to keep your metabolism running strong. Additionally, refined carbohydrates should also be avoided. Try to include lean or plant-based protein in your meals, and stay hydrated. While it is unclear whether or not water can increase metabolism the body requires adequate water to function well. According to the US National Library of Medicine, you need about 2.7-3.7 liter of water every day.
Sleep is an often-overlooked factor, but not getting adequate amounts of sleep can actually lower your metabolic rate according to the National Sleep Foundation, as such they recommend adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Managing hypothyroidism can be a challenge, but making simple lifestyle changes such as those just mentioned can help you to manage the condition and possibly overcome the effects of a slow metabolism that accompany hypothyroidism.