What Can I Do About My Low Thyroid?

I just found out I have low thyroid and am now taking a prescription for it [about a month now]. I haven’t been able to lose weight for two years and I’d been working out like a crazy person. I tried to gain muscle but my body fat just went up to 31 percent. I thought, WTF? Have you trained many people dealing with this medical condition, and if so have you seen success stories of people finally losing weight with the combination of exercise and Rx?  I think I’m about ready to invest again in weekly/daily exercise now that I know it’s not my diet or exercise routine that is the problem.  I just got so frustrated and gave up for a while.  Damn you, thyroid!  [well at least I now have a name for it and know what the problem is].  Just wondering your thoughts on the situation. —Betty, Lansing, Michigan

[Note from Sam: I asked my physician friend John (who’s had low thyroid issues of his own) to share his thoughts on your question.  Here’s what he said].

From a personal standpoint, I can tell you that I did not find much of a correlation between [weight loss and thyroid medication].  I’ve been on it for about 5 months now, and went off of it for about a month approximately two months ago. And, while that five month period roughly corresponds with my weight loss (which started in March), I do not believe the two are related. Actually, that one month that I was off the drug was the time when I began to really lose a lot of weight. It surprised me. The only explanation I can come up with is that I was falling asleep at 8PM because of the hypothyroidism, and therefore didn’t snack at night.

I know that a ton of people out there, who are morbidly obese, and want to attribute that to a thyroid deficiency. Never mind that their lips are shiny from Kentucky Fried Chicken even as they tell you this.

The gold standard for internal medicine is Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. My copy is a bit old (1987), but here’s what it says:

“Obesity can result from hypothyroidism because of decreased caloric needs. However, only a minority of hypothyroid patients are truly obese, and an even smaller proportion of obese patients are hypothyroid. Indiscriminate use of thyroid hormone in the treatment of obesity is to be deplored, and should never be instituted in the absence of documentation of decreased thyroid function.”

Perhaps the correlation with being simply overweight is clearer, but I don’t think there are many studies out there documenting this. There actually probably are not a lot of studies. But, still, lower thyroid function, so lower metabolic rate. Few calories expended, and before you know it, horizontal stripes are completely out of the question.

By the way, there are a ton of other great benefits from the drug other than just being able to stay up later. I found that it gave me a little more of a sense of well-being. Took away some sadness. Increased sex drive.