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April 27, 2023 7 min read

Did you know that hypothyroidism can have a significant impact on your appetite? Yep, having too little thyroid hormone can actually affect hunger and food cravings. But how? And what can you do about it? Here's everything you need to know about the connection between hypothyroidism and appetite, as well as how you can manage changes in eating habits that may arise as a result of the condition.

How does the thyroid gland work?

Before we delve into the nitty-gritty of appetite, let's quickly recap what the thyroid gland is all about. The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located in your neck that produces thyroid hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, and development in your body. The thyroid gland's two main hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are released into the bloodstream and transported to cells throughout your body, which help control how your body uses energy (metabolism), body temperature, and appetite.

The production of thyroid hormones is controlled by the pituitary gland, located at your brain's base. The pituitary gland produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which signals the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormone and release it when needed. When there is enough thyroid hormone in the body, the pituitary gland slows down the production of TSH, which also slows down thyroid hormone production.

What happens when the thyroid doesn't function as well as it should?

When the thyroid gland doesn't function as well as it should, it can lead to conditions called hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid).

Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone. The excess thyroid hormone speeds up your metabolism, causing symptoms like hand tremors and weight loss.

Hypothyroidism is one of the thyroid disorders that occurs when your thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone levels to meet the body's needs. This thyroid disease slows down your metabolism, causing a range of symptoms like weight gain, cold intolerance, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Various factors can cause this thyroid disorder, such as an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's thyroiditis, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery, and certain medications.

Loss of appetite - hypothyroidism, what's the connection?

A woman with no appetite due to hypothyroidism.

It's no secret that our thyroid hormones play a crucial role in regulating metabolism. So, it's only natural that an underactive thyroid would lead to a sluggish metabolism, which in turn affects our appetite. But how exactly does this work? Let's break it down.

A slow metabolism caused by hypothyroidism can cause a decrease in the number of calories your body burns at rest (basal metabolic rate). This decrease in basal metabolic rate can lead to weight gain, even if you haven't made any significant changes in your eating habits.

But here's the catch – people with hypothyroidism may experience a reduced appetite or feeling full quickly, leading to a confusing scenario where they gain weight despite a lack of overeating. This apparent paradox can be frustrating for those trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight while dealing with hypothyroidism.

Aside from causing weight gain, the slower rate of calorie burn in hypothyroidism may also cause decreased appetite because your body doesn't need to replenish these calories as quickly. And when the body is not efficiently converting food into energy, individuals may experience fatigue and lethargy, leading to a diminished interest in food and a reduced appetite.

Hypothyroidism can also impact your digestive system, with constipation being a common issue. This can further contribute to feelings of fullness and reduced appetite. Additionally, the slowed metabolism also makes it harder for the body to process and eliminate waste, exacerbating the problem.

Lastly, hypothyroidism can sometimes lead to mood disorders, such as depression, which can affect appetite and cause a loss of interest in food. In such cases, addressing the underlying mood disorder and hypothyroidism with appropriate treatment can help improve appetite and overall well-being.

How to make sure that your appetite changes are caused by hypothyroidism?

TSH test.

If you suspect that your appetite changes may be related to hypothyroidism, the first step is to talk to your doctor to perform a physical exam and order blood tests to check your thyroid hormone levels. If your doctor determines that you have hypothyroidism, they may recommend hormone replacement therapy to restore your thyroid hormone levels. The tests may also be done to assess if your thyroid hormone replacement therapy is working for you.

Blood tests are one of the most common ways to see your thyroid hormone levels. These tests measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) in the blood.

Several blood tests can be used to check thyroid hormone levels, including:

1. TSH test

A TSH test measures the amount of TSH in the blood. If the TSH level is high, it means that the pituitary gland is producing more TSH to try to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormones, which is a sign of hypothyroidism. Conversely, if the TSH level is low, it means that the pituitary gland is producing less TSH because the thyroid gland is producing enough thyroid hormones, which is a sign of hyperthyroidism.

2. T4 test

The T4 test is a blood test that measures the level of thyroxine hormone in the bloodstream. This test helps diagnose hypothyroidism by checking whether the thyroid gland produces enough T4. If your T4 level is low, it indicates an underactive thyroid gland, which is a sign of hypothyroidism.

In some cases, the T4 test is combined with the TSH test to get a more accurate diagnosis of hypothyroidism. The T4 test is a simple blood test that can be done in a laboratory or at a doctor's office, and it typically does not require any special preparation.

3. Thyroid antibody test

This test measures the levels of antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. It's usually done to see the cause of your hypothyroidism. High levels of these antibodies can indicate an autoimmune condition, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which can lead to hypothyroidism.

How to manage appetite changes in hypothyroidism?

If your appetite changes are caused by hypothyroidism, there are ways to maintain it. Here are some tips to help you on your journey:

1. Seek medical help

An endocrinologist

Consult with your healthcare provider to find the right treatment plan for your hypothyroidism. This plan may include thyroid hormone replacement therapy, which restores your thyroid hormone levels to normal and helps regulate your metabolism. Regular check-ups and monitoring will ensure that your treatment remains effective and tailored to your needs.

There are various thyroid hormone replacement therapy out there. The most common thyroid hormone replacement is levothyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone T4. Since it's the standard medication for hypothyroidism, your doctor will likely prescribe it for you when you're just diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

Another popular option is natural desiccated thyroid (NDT). Unlike levothyroxine, which only contains T4, NDT contains both T4 and T3. It's made of dried porcine (pig) thyroid glands. That's why it's a popular option among hypothyroid patients who prefer a more natural approach to their treatment.

NDT is available in prescription medication forms, such as Armour Thyroid and NP Thyroid, as well as in supplement forms, like VitaliThy. The NDT supplement VitaliThy is available to buy online.

2. Stay active

Engaging in daily physical activity not only boosts your metabolism but also improves your overall well-being. Incorporate a variety of activities, such as walking, swimming, yoga, or strength training, to keep your routine fresh and enjoyable. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

3. Eat mindfully

A woman with hypothyroidism trying to eat mindfully

Developing a healthy relationship with food is crucial in managing your appetite. Pay attention to your hunger cues and avoid eating out of habit or boredom. Practice portion control by using smaller plates and eating slowly to give your body time to recognize fullness. Prioritize balanced, nutrient-rich meals that include lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats to ensure your body receives the essential nutrients it needs for optimal functioning.

4. Hydrate

Staying well-hydrated is vital for maintaining a healthy metabolism and alleviating constipation, a common issue in people with hypothyroidism. Drinking water before meals can also help promote feelings of fullness and prevent overeating. Aim for at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, or more, depending on your activity level and individual needs.

5. Seek support

Managing hypothyroidism and appetite can be challenging, but you don't have to face it alone. Reach out to friends, family, or support groups for encouragement, motivation, and accountability. Sharing your experiences, learning from others, and knowing that you're not alone can make a significant difference in your journey toward better health.

Why do I still experience loss of appetite despite taking levothyroxine?

Are you still experiencing a loss of appetite despite taking levothyroxine for your hypothyroidism? This can be a puzzling and frustrating situation, but don't worry! There are several potential reasons for this, such as the following:

1. Your dose is not optimal

One possible explanation for the persistent loss of appetite is that your levothyroxine dosage may not be optimal for your specific needs. If your thyroid hormone levels are still not within the desired range, you may continue experiencing hypothyroid symptoms, including appetite loss. Make sure to have regular check-ups with your healthcare provider and discuss any ongoing symptoms. They can adjust your dosage accordingly to ensure your thyroid hormone levels are adequately balanced.

2. Levothyroxine may not be the best option for you

Levothyroxine is a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4). In some cases, individuals may have difficulty converting T4 to its active form, triiodothyronine (T3). This issue can result in continued hypothyroid symptoms despite taking levothyroxine.

If you suspect that levothyroxine may not be the most suitable treatment for you, discuss this with your healthcare provider. An alternative treatment option could be Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT). As explained before, NDT is sourced from the thyroid glands of animals, typically pigs, and contains both T4 and T3 hormones. This treatment may be more effective for individuals who struggle with the T4 to T3 conversion, as it directly provides the active T3 hormone.

One great option is VitaliThy, a natural desiccated thyroid you can buy online. Not only does it contain both T4 and T3 thyroid hormones, but it also comes with Ashwagandha extract, spica prunellae siccus extract, and selenium yeast, which are good for your thyroid health. Plus, it's free of gluten, lactose, eggs, fish, and shellfish, as well as artificial coloring and flavoring. Thus, it's good for those who have a certain food sensitivity.

Conclusion: Thyroid hormone replacement can help ease the lack of appetite

A healthy and active woman.

In conclusion, if you are experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism and are struggling with appetite changes, there are steps you can take to manage your condition. It's important for you to incorporate thyroid hormone replacement, such as the NDT supplement VitaliThy. By increasing your thyroid hormone levels, you can find relief from your symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

Wojciech Majda
Wojciech Majda

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