Are your Hormones Making You Fat?

MassAttackWe all have hormones – and when they’re good it’s great; but when they’re bad it’s ugly!

Thyroid imbalance contributes to weight gain in 1 in 3 Australian women. Thyroid disease is often mistaken for depression, signs of ageing, or ‘mummy moments’.  Your thyroid controls:
  • Functioning of cells, organs and glands
  • Blood sugar levels
  • fluid
  • circulation
  • muscle strength
  • libido
  • metabolism
Three thyroid hormones (TSH, T3, T4), directly affect your metabolism. Although your thyroid gland secretes and regulates these hormones, about 80% of the body's T3 is produced in the liver by chemical modification of Thyroxine or T4.

Problems arise when T4 is not being converted by the liver to the metabolically active form of T3 or the converted T3 hormone is not getting to the cellular level of the body – meaning you are producing it, but your body can’t use it. So even if you are taking thyroid hormones, you may still feel rotten. Most conventional practitioners only test for the inactive T4 hormone level in the blood.


Every cell and tissue in your body is affected by hypothyroidism and deficient levels of the active T3 thyroid hormone can produce one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Weight Gain
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Low body temperature
  • Dry, coarse hair/dry skin
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle or joint pain and stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Decreased Libido
  • Elevated cholesterol or triglycerides

What interferes with Thyroid Function

  • Insulin Resistance/Metabolic Syndrome
  • Chronic stress - there is a strong interplay between the thyroid and the adrenals.
  • Prescription drugs - Birth Control Pills and some anti depressants
  • Frequent X-rays - from dental or medical exams
  • Thyroid inhibiting foods - Over-consumption of soy & thyroid-inhibiting foods
  • Hormones - Estrogen in food, Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder, Fibroids, IVF
  • Exercise - The receptors for the thyroid hormones are found deep within the cells and exercise stimulates the thyroid by increasing oxygen to the cells. When you exercise you speed up your metabolism and pump up your metabolism. You need to pump some iron to heat up your cells “fat burners” by giving them more oxygen – this is why Pilates is so good for hypothyroid patients.
  • Dieting - During a restrictive diet that is either too low calorie or deficient in essential nutrients, the body produces less of the liver enzymes, therefore converting less T4 and producing less T3. Perhaps the biggest problem with diets is that most diets leave you with less muscle and more fat than when you started.
  • Heavy Metal Exposure - Mercury is a toxic heavy metal, which comprises over 50% of “silver” dental fillings & is found in cigarettes. Mercury interferes with the conversion of thyroid hormones.
  • Chlorine - added to most municipal water supplies as a disinfectant
  • Fluoride – found in dental products, water supplies, pesticide on grown foods.

These last two elements, fluoride and chlorine, block iodine receptors in the thyroid gland.

Tests for thyroid function

Let’s assume you are overweight and think you have hypothyroidism. You’ve been to the doctor with complaints of weight gain, fatigue, cold hands and feet, and "brain fog". The doctor examines you and performs some blood tests, including thyroid tests. And all the tests come back normal. But you are sure you must have an under-active thyroid. What do you do from here?

Firstly make sure they performed the relevant tests. For a woman who has recently given birth I recommend T3, T4, auto immune antibodies, liver function & iron. Pregnancy & child birth can alter your thyroid function, so if you are feeling tearful & unwell it is best to have this checked. Remember, it is possible to be ‘within the range’ but only just. This is where diet, herbs & nutrition can be extremely helpful.

Reviving Your Thyroid

If your thyroid gland is found to be sluggish, through any of the various tests, you may first try the natural non-drug approach to reviving your thyroid.
  • Identify what is causing it to be sluggish – eg stress, chemical exposure etc
  • Consult your GP if necessary & request specific blood tests & discuss any possible need for medication changes
  • Change your diet – different foods do interfere with thyroid function. You may wish to consult a naturopath for help with this
  • Herbs such as Withania, Coleus, Rehmania, Kelp are helpful. They can be contraindicated in breastfeeding/pregnancy, so please consult an herbalist.
  • Improve your liver function
  • Avoiding the toxins I mentioned earlier and increasing your intake of iodine-rich foods such as seafood, asparagus, sea vegetables, garlic, lima beans, sesame seeds and sea salt can be helpful.
  • The bottom line is most of the above symptoms may sound familiar - it’s not unusual for a 30, 40, or 50 something woman to feel tired, burnt out and a little bit overweight. This makes hypothyroidism that much harder to diagnose. However, there are few things more frustrating than feeling unwell & it can take a while to get the right diagnosis.

Getting a correct diagnosis is crucial when you realize that being treated can be a life-affirming event. So explore your options & strive for a better, healthy life!

Narelle Stegehuis, CEO of MassAttack, is a practicing Naturopath specializing in the treatment of conditions such as PCOS, Fibroids, Endometriosis & Thyroid imbalance. Uniquely her services are offered online. She is both an accomplished writer and recent recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. Download her free e-book “7 Secrets of Weight Loss Revealed” at