Is Your Thyroid the Reason Why You Can't Lose Weight?

A Hypothyroidism Risks and Symptoms Checklist for Dieters

Woman eating salad
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If you are one of the millions of Americans trying to lose weight -- but not succeeding -- you may think you're just not exercising enough, or you're eating too many carbs or too much fat, or you need to eat an extremely low-calorie diet. The reality is, some of us can practically stop eating, and exercise around the clock, and we still don't lose weight. If you complain to your doctor, you'll probably be told you're lazy, you need more willpower, or it's just age.

What they're not telling you, however, is that you might have a thyroid problem -- a dysfunction in the small, butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that is crucial to your metabolism.

While some doctors erroneously dismiss thyroid disease as just another lame or lazy excuse for being overweight, the reality is that for millions of overweight people, thyroid disease is a very real reason behind weight problems.

Recent studies have estimated that as many as 60 million people have an underactive thyroid. The majority of thyroid patients in the U.S. are undiagnosed. At the same time, more than half of all Americans are overweight.

This brings up a critical question: How many of the undiagnosed thyroid patients are also struggling with weight gain, or an inability to lose weight?

The reality is, many people -- women in particular -- are struggling with a weight problem but facing more of an uphill battle than everyone else because they are dealing with an underlying thyroid condition -- one that is both undiagnosed and untreated.

Are you one of them?

Could You Be Hypothyroid? Let's Find Out

When you are hypothyroid, your thyroid is underactive and is not producing enough thyroid hormone. Your metabolism slows down, as do body processes from digestion to hair growth to thinking.

The following checklist helps you identify whether you have risk factors, signs, and symptoms of an underactive thyroid.

(Note: you can also take an interactive, online quiz, Is Your Thyroid Making You Fat? to help find out.)

If you are having weight problems that don't respond to diet and exercise, take your checklist to the doctor to aid in getting proper thyroid testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

Risk Factors for Hypothyroidism

_____ Gender -- both men and women can develop thyroid problems, but women are far more likely
_____ A personal or family history of thyroid problems
_____ A personal or family history of autoimmune disease (i.e., rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, vitiligo, multiple sclerosis, lupus, or other conditions)
_____ Former or current smoker
_____ Allergies or sensitivity to gluten, or diagnosed celiac disease
_____ Exposure to radiation, by living near or downwind from a nuclear plant, or through particular medical treatments (i.e., treatment for Hodgkins disease, nasal radium therapy, radiation to tonsils and neck area), or proximity to the area downwind of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986
_____ Treatment with lithium or amiodarone
_____ Taking supplemental iodine, kelp, bladderwrack, and/or bugleweed
_____ Living in an area (i.e., the Midwestern "Goiter Belt") where there is low iodine in the soil
_____ Iodine deficiency
_____ Exposure to certain chemicals (i.e., perchlorate, pesticides) via your water, food, or employment
_____ Excessive exposure to metals, such as mercury, and toxins such as environmental estrogens and pesticides
_____ Excessive exposure to fluoride
_____ Overconsumption of soy
_____ Overconsumption of raw "goitrogenic" foods -- Brussels sprouts, rutabaga, turnips, kohlrabi, radishes, cauliflower, African cassava, millet, babassu (a palm-tree coconut fruit popular in Brazil and Africa) cabbage and kale
_____ Age over 60
_____ Being in a period of hormonal change, such as pregnancy, post-partum, perimenopause, menopause
_____ Serious trauma to the neck, such as whiplash from a car accident or a broken neck

Possible Signs and Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

_____ Extreme exhaustion and fatigue
_____ Depression, moodiness, sadness
_____ Sensitivity to cold, cold hands, cold feet
_____ Inappropriate weight gain, or difficulty losing weight despite changes in diet and exercise
_____ Dry, tangled and/or coarse hair
_____ Hair loss, especially from the outer part of the eyebrows
_____ Dry and/or brittle nails
_____ Muscle and joint pains and aches
_____ Carpal tunnel syndrome, or tendonitis in arms and legs
_____ Painful soles of the feet (plantar fascitis)
_____ Abnormally swollen or puffy face, eyes, arms or legs
_____ Abnormally low sex drive
_____ Unexplained infertility, or recurrent miscarriages with no obvious explanation
_____ Heavier than normal menstrual periods, periods that are longer than before, or that come more frequently
_____ Fuzzy thinking, difficulty concentrating, difficulty remembering
_____ Constipation
_____ Full or sensitive feeling in the neck, enlargement or lump in the neck
_____ Raspy, hoarse voice
_____ Heart palpitations
_____ Elevated cholesterol levels
_____ Worsening allergies, itching, prickly hot skin, rashes, and hives (urticaria)
_____ Elevated blood pressure
_____ Slow pulse
_____ Unusually low blood pressure

If you have risk factors, signs or symptoms of hypothyroidism, your next step should be thorough thyroid testing and clinical evaluation with your health care practitioner.

You may also want to read Losing Weight with Hypothyroidism: How an Underactive Thyroid Can Affect Weight Loss, and check out the Thyroid Diet/Weight Loss Information Center.

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