Episode 013: Hormones & Fat Loss Part 3: Optimizing Your Thyroid

The thyroid hormones tend to take a lot of the blame when it comes to an ability to burn fat or chronic low energy levels. The thyroid hormones are incredibly sensitive to our diet, lifestyle and environment and then can totally derail our fat loss efforts if they are out of balance. In today’s episode we talk about the factors required for optimal thyroid function and how we can implement specific nutritional, exercise and lifestyle strategies to optimize our thyroid function naturally!

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Common Obstacle: The thyroid hormones tend to get a lot of the blame when people struggle to lose weight. You hear people say all the time that they struggle with their weight because they have a “slow thyroid” or something to that effect. There is no doubt that thyroid hormones play a major role in both weight loss and weight gain. What many people don’t realize is that you can naturally improve your thyroid function via the foods you eat and your lifestyle habits.

Facts: Your thyroid is a gland that secretes hormones. You can think of your thyroid as your body’s metabolic thermostat. The hormones secreted by your thyroid influence the function of pretty much every cell in your body. When your thyroid is functioning optimally you feel energetic, vibrant and optimistic. Weight management is easier. When it’s not functioning optimally you might feel tired, depressed, sluggish and foggy while experiencing weight gain, bloating and trouble regulating your body temperature.

You don’t have just one thyroid hormone. There are actually several thyroid hormones and they all function differently. They are produced and released based on signals the thyroid receives from the brain. Your thyroid is extremely sensitive to external inputs such as diet, environment, stress and toxins. Suboptimal diet and lifestyle choices can wreak havoc on your thyroid. Fueling your body properly will help your thyroid do its job. It can increase your energy and your ability to lose weight. NOT fueling your body well impairs your thyroid function.

An overview of thyroid hormones:

  • T3 is your active thyroid hormone. It regulates your body’s fuel usage and temperature
  • T4 is a precurser to T3. T4 is active and doesn’t play an active role until it is successfully converted to T3
  • Reverse T3 is also inactive. In times of stress, injury, illness or caloric restriction, your body slows your metabolism to conserve energy by producing more reverse T3.

Remember that your body is designed for survival. I say that all the the time because I think its so important. We have to look at all our diet and lifestyle choices based on the messages they send to our body’s survival instincts. When you drastically reduce your calorie intake, your thyroid function slows down. Why? Because your body senses that fuel intake is limited and it doesn’t want to allow you to burn off your stored energy in case you need it. When you slash your calorie intake, your thyroid hormone production is reduced and much of the thyroid hormone you will produce and release will be the inactive form. This is your body’s way of conserving energy in times of perceived threat.

Practical Implementation:

  • Do not crash diet. Do not drastically cut calories. This triggers your body to go into survival mode and produce more of your inactive thyroid hormones.
  • Avoid thyroid disrupters like bisphenol-A (found in plastics), red dye #3 (found in processed foods) and dioxin (found in non organic produce and meat)
  • Fuel your body with quality nutrition and be sure to meet your daily requirements for zinc, selenium and iodine.
  • Eat to balance your blood sugar by limiting processed foods and junk carbohydrates
  • Lift heavy weights and engage in high intensity interval training to increase the sensitivity of your thyroid hormone cell receptors

Resources:
Episode 11 – Eating to Optimize Hormones for Fat Loss Pt 1
Episode 12 – Eating to Optimize Hormones for Fat Loss Pt 2
Hormones & Fat Loss ebook! 50 pages of diet & lifestyle strategies to help you naturally optimize your hormones and get into fat-burning mode!!

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2 replies
  1. Esther Greenfield
    Esther Greenfield says:

    Elizabeth, I am wondering if you have come across Forefront Health and Tom’s Brimeyer’s approach to diet as it relates the hypothyroid issues. I tried to find one article that might be the best for you to check out: http://www.forefronthealth.com/how-to-heal-your-thyroid/ and help me figure out how to balance his advice especially with your recommendations for avoiding carbs at breakfast. I am so confused right now and want to be in optimal fat burning mode but at the same time I don’t want to negatively affect my thyroid hormones and I am wondering if there is a way to meet in the middle between your advice and his. I have included a quote from one of his articles which I think is the bottom line for his approach which includes orange juice within 30 min. of waking (but not any other carbs) and to eat more frequently.:

    “When you become hypothyroid, your liver loses its ability to store glycogen, which causes you to lose the ability to regulate your blood sugar.

    This causes your body to unleash a flood of thyroid suppressive hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to keep your blood sugar stable.

    These hormones are well known to suppress your thyroid function, particularly by further inhibiting the conversion of thyroid hormone at your liver.”

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Benton
      Elizabeth Benton says:

      I strongly disagree with ANY recommendation of a processed sugar product as a health solution. I further disagree that the liver loses it’s ability to store glycogen when you have an under active thyroid. As for eating more frequently – everyone is different here and our individual answers won’t come from someone else’s opinion (including mine) but from journaling and paying attention to what satisfies you and makes you feel your best.

      Reply

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