Thyroid, Meet Metabolism. Now Play Nice!
We hear about metabolism quite a bit in our society. It often takes the fall for any weight gain we don’t want. The wellness world markets so many exercises and supplements around the concept of speeding up that metabolism.
But your metabolism isn’t only about gaining or losing pounds. It’s actually “the engine” of your entire body. And what’s “the gas” controlling that engine?
Your thyroid hormones.
Together, your thyroid and metabolism are responsible for the energy your body uses to fuel every single function – whether you are asleep or awake.
- Your metabolism is much more than a weight reduction tool (though it is that too!)
- Your little thyroid is pretty important
Let’s learn more about your thyroid, your metabolism, how they’re connected, and what you can do to ensure the whole process stays on track.
What Is a Thyroid? Where Is It? What’s the Deal?
Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. Its main job is to produce two important hormones: T3 and T4. Here’s how it works:
Your pituitary gland is essentially your “master gland.” It tells the other glands what to do. When it comes to your thyroid, the pituitary gland releases Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which does exactly what the name suggests:
…Stimulates your thyroid to produce T3 and T4. What’s the point of these two hormones? Kicking your metabolism into gear!
What Is Metabolism Exactly?
Metabolism is the complex chemical process where your body converts all the calories you consume into fuel to keep your body working…even when you are sleeping.
Your body is doing so many things at the same time. Pumping blood. Creating hormones and new cells. Breathing. Managing your body temperature.
All of this 24/7 function is being fueled by your calorie intake and managed by your metabolism which is controlled by your thyroid. Make sense?
Here’s the point not everyone realizes:
Each metabolism is a little bit different, and most of that has to do with genetics more than it does with lifestyle changes. You may naturally have a faster, slower, or average metabolism.
However quickly your particular metabolism tends to run, if your thyroid is working properly, those T3 and T4 hormones are controlling everything in such a way to provide the ideal amount of energy.
But sometimes the thyroid messes up your body’s natural metabolism process. Let’s talk about how…
Metabolism and Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is the condition where your body does not produce enough T3 or T4. This means there isn’t enough energy for everything to work at an efficient pace.
Understandably, your organs and body systems tend to become sluggish with hypothyroidism. You get symptoms such as:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Elevated blood cholesterol levels
- Decreased sweating
- Muscle aches, weakness, tenderness, or stiffness
- Joint pain
- Heavy, irregular, or missed periods
- Dry or thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
Think about these symptoms in terms of what you now about metabolism:
- Sluggish digestion = constipation and weight gain
- Sluggish energy = fatigue and sensitivity to cold
- Sluggish circulatory system = lower heart rate
- Sluggish reproductive system = missed periods
Note: Just because you seem to have a slower metabolism does not necessarily mean you have hypothyroidism.
Metabolism and Hyperthyroidism
Hyperthyroidism is the condition where your body produces too much T3 and T4. This means that your metabolism goes into hyperdrive.
With hyperthyroidism, everything in your body tends to speed up. You get symptoms such as:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Rapid heartbeat (often over 100 beats per minute)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart palpitations
- Increased appetite
- Nervousness, anxiety, irritability, or mood swings
- Changes in your menstrual cycle
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- More frequent bowel movements
- Muscle weakness
- Skin thinning
- Fine or brittle hair
Think about these symptoms in terms of what you now about metabolism:
- Speedy digestion = diarrhea and weight loss
- Speedy circulatory system = faster heart rate and palpitations
- Speedy energy = can quickly overheat and anxiety
Note: Just because you seem to have a faster metabolism does not necessarily mean you have hyperthyroidism.
Is Your Thyroid Affecting Your Metabolism?
If you are dealing with a metabolism that seems to be too sluggish or too speedy, your thyroid may be to blame. Here’s how to tell:
- Visit your doctor and go over your symptoms
- Get a blood test for T3, T4, and TSH
It’s that simple! The blood test will show your doctor if you are overproducing, underproducing, or doing it just right.
If it turns out your thyroid is not behaving properly, check out the 3 ways to improve thyroid health and your metabolism below.
If it turns out your thyroid is fine, talk to your doctor about other conditions that may be causing your symptoms. Your next step will be to take an audit of your dietary and exercise habits.
3 Ways for You to Improve Thyroid Health & Your Metabolism
If your thyroid hormone balance is off, there are steps you can take to correct it. These will give you a healthier thyroid and also a healthier metabolism. Bye-bye uncomfortable symptoms!
1. Thyroid Treatment
You cannot avoid this first step. It’s crucial. Thyroid treatment is the only way you are going to get back to a functioning body once again.
- Hypothyroid treatment: This disorder is a bit more straightforward than the next – all you need to do is take replacement T3 and T4. This can come in a synthetic form through medication. It can also come from animals (though this is used much less frequently).
- Hyperthyroid treatment: This disorder is a bit more complex – most of the time you will take an anti-thyroid medication. If that doesn’t work properly, your doctor may move on to procedures or operations that shrink your thyroid or remove part of it/all of it.
2. Supplements (We Got You Covered)
While thyroid treatment needs to be the foundation for thyroid and metabolism success, there are certainly other ways you can support that healing process. One is through natural supplementation.
Science has shown us that various vitamins, minerals, and herbs can lead to better thyroid function. Here are some top choices:
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency is common, and it also increases your odds of hypothyroidism (and makes hypothyroidism worse if you have it). Getting plenty of D3 is vital.
- Vitamin B12: It’s also common for those with a B12 deficiency to get hypothyroidism
- Zinc: Zinc deficiency can lead to hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can lead to zinc deficiency. A supplement can help in either case.
- Selenium: Your thyroid needs selenium in order to do its job properly. It’s a trace mineral and you don’t need much of it – but ensuring you get enough is key to a healthy thyroid
- Ashwagandha: Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help balance out thyroid function
Always double check with your doctor before starting a supplement – you need to make sure it fits properly into your treatment plan.
3. Get Your Body Moving With the Right Exercise
Most of us who have ever tried to lose weight have probably heard that regular exercise boosts your metabolism. What complications does that have for a metabolism that isn’t working properly due to a thyroid disorder?
The key for thyroid disorder patients is to begin regular exercise – but not to push yourself too hard.
Once your thyroid treatment plan has evened you out, your doctor may give you the go ahead to get a more vigorous workout routine.
But until then, focus on regular low intensity exercise. Think:
- Long walks around the neighborhood
- Hatha or Yin Yoga class
Will a Healthy Thyroid Make You Lose the Weight?
Since most people who think about metabolism are thinking about losing weight, let’s address the #1 question:
If I get my metabolism back on track thanks to thyroid treatment, will I lose all the weight?
Short answer: probably not.
If your hypothyroidism slowed down your metabolism, it is still typically only responsible for about 5 or 10 pounds of weight gain. If that’s all you are trying to lose, then thyroid treatment may take care of it for you.
But if it is more than 5 or 10 pounds, you will have to factor in diet and exercise just like anybody else who doesn’t have a thyroid problem.
A Healthy Thyroid Means a Healthy Metabolism
One of the biggest takeaways from is to realize your metabolism is so much more than gaining or losing weight. It influences the speed at which all your body systems function.
And when we talk about ensuring our metabolism is working properly, we simply cannot leave the thyroid out of the discussion. It’s arguably one of the most important aspects!
If you are feeling a little sluggish or a little too speedy, it might be time to have a talk with your doctor. Check those thyroid levels, and if they are off, start your treatment plan.
But also realize everyone’s metabolism is different. Yours might seem a bit fast or a bit slow compared to your friends or family, yet your thyroid may be working just fine.