Is Your Thyroid Gland Making You Fat?

Hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid, has become a bit of a hot topic since Oprah's revelation of having "blown out" her thyroid gland. I can relate — the same thing happened to me. The truth is, thyroid problems are very common. It's estimated that 27 million Americans have some kind of thyroid imbalance, but less than half of them know it. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, a hereditary condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is seven times more common in women than in men.

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck, just below your Adam's apple. This gland produces thyroid hormone, which helps control the rate at which your body burns calories (as well as your heart rate, body temperature, digestion, fertility, mood, and a host of other functions). When thyroid hormones become imbalanced — either too high or too low — chemical reactions all over the body are thrown off. An underactive thyroid can lower your energy and make you feel sluggish, and you can pile on extra pounds that you can't blame on a poor diet or lack of exercise.

The good news is that my eating plan can help support your thyroid so it can get to work burning some fat for you. And for people with hypothyroidism, treatment can work wonders — since I started my thyroid medication, I'm back down to my fighting weight, which I maintain with moderate effort. I still exercise and follow my own diet advice, but I'm not killing myself in the gym or starving my body.

If you feel your energy is always low or the pounds just don't seem to come off no matter what you do, talk to your doctor about whether you might have hypothyroidism — identifying and treating a thyroid imbalance could be just what you need to get back on track.

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