Is an Underactive Thyroid Making You Overweight?

Because the thyroid gland is involved in so many functions in the body, an under-functioning thyroid gland can result in many possible symptoms. The following list includes many of the most common symptoms:



-Digestive problems, including low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria)

-Dry, itchy skin

-Excessive amount of sleep needed to function during the day


-Hair falls out easily

-Hypersensitivity to cold weather

-Increased vulnerability to colds and viral or bacterial infections or a lengthy recovery time during infections

-Loss of the outer portion of the eyebrows

-Low body temperature

-Morning headaches that improve as the day progresses

-Muscle cramps while resting

-Poor circulation and numbness in feet and hands

-Slow wound healing

-Swelling or edema, especially in the face

-Thin or brittle hair

-Weight gain or overweight even on a diet

Hypothyroidism is also linked to many female health concerns, including: breast cancer, postpartum depression, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, PMS, miscarriage, and endometriosis.

It’s not necessary to have all of the symptoms above to have hypothyroidism. Of course, if you have any of the symptoms above you should consult a doctor.

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, there are an estimated 13 million cases of thyroid dysfunction that go undiagnosed every year. That’s astounding. Blood tests are inadequate at measuring hypothyroidism in most people. Everyone is an individual. Some people may function perfectly fine outside the ranges of what constitutes “normal” thyroid function while others may be within the range of normal and have advanced hypothyroidism.

Additionally, many doctors only test thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which as you learned above is produced by the pituitary gland—a gland in the brain that instructs the thyroid in its functioning.  Testing solely for TSH may mean that doctors miss many people who are suffering from low thyroid function.

“Normal” has been determined by group of so-called experts but the definition of normal varies widely.  For example in Canada the normal range for TSH is 0.35 to 4.7.  In the United States the range has been reduced to include 0.35 to 3.  If you live in Canada and your doctor tested your TSH and it was 4.2, he or she would tell you that your thyroid function is normal.  If you had the same amount of TSH and lived in the United States, your thyroid function would be considered abnormal.  So you can see there is a problem here.  If the definition used to determine “normal” is incorrect then many people suffering from hypothyroidism will go undetected.

Most naturally-minded health practitioners believe that the upper limit for “normal” should actually be 2.0.  In other words the range should be 0.35 to 2.0. If you’ve been told your tests are normal, ask if you can obtain a copy of your lab reports.

If you haven’t been tested for thyroid function yet, ask your doctor to test for TSH, free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies. All four tests give a more accurate picture of the health of your thyroid gland.

You can also conduct a Basal Temperature Test to assess your thyroid function.  It sounds harder than it actually is. Check out my blog Low Thyroid? How to Conduct a Basal Temperature Test.

Source: Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS, Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? (Elephant Printing: 2010).

Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow me on Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.

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Judy T.
Judy T.2 years ago

Interesting article. Thanks.

Vicki Maitland
Vicki maitland2 years ago

I love this article wish GP's wold read it and take advise.

Pamela B.
Pamela B.2 years ago

Thanks for all the info!

Pat A.
Pat A.2 years ago

To many of us T4 is useless and Natural Thyroid Extract is our only hope of life before death (and no, I am NOT exaggerating!) - green stars to Jenny F and Christine S - and I strongly recommend educating yourself (difficult when your brain isn't working properly!) and looking on the net and joining like minded groups - they can save lives!

J.L. A.
JL A.2 years ago

good to know

Jacqueline B.
Jacqueline B.2 years ago

Another good article on low thyroid and weight gain:

Key tip: Completely eliminate gluten, sugar/sweeteners, alcohol, and junk food. These ingredients can interfere with healthy thyroid function. See how you feel!

Jane R.
Jane R.2 years ago

I have an underactive thyroid and take a low dose of Synthroid, yet I've never gained any weight because of it. I could stand to gain a few pounds. I've been thin all my life.

Sue Matheson
Sue Matheson2 years ago


Christine S.
Christine S.2 years ago

if you believe you have a thyroid issue please push your doctor for more tests. Most only use the TSH levels but that is not the correct test. If you have at least 2 symptoms get tested the correct way. don't suffer as I did for 14 years and then had cancer. Finding the right doctor is key to feeling better. Don't suffer with uneducated doctors. Be your own advocate and you will be better.

Bill and Katie D.
Katie D.2 years ago

Thank you for the interesting article!