Hashimoto’s is the most common autoimmune disease in the United States. And one of the most common complaints for people with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism is that they have difficulty with weight loss.
This is even true for people who are taking thyroid replacement hormone (especially T4), exercising and eating well. It seems that no matter what they do they just can not get the weight off.
There are many reasons for this and in this post I will explore 4 secrets to weight loss that new research has revealed.
The Old Metabolism Model Is Outdated
The old model of your metabolism and hormone levels, alone, being the reasons for success or failure of your weight problems is proving to be outdated.
In the old model, the primary reasons for difficulty with weight loss are: eating too much, or eating too much food laced with sugar, fat and salt ( this is a still a real problem for many). In addition, a lack of exercise and hormone related problems like not enough thyroid hormone or excess cortisol.
While these are very real issues and should be considered in any weight related treatment, they have been shown to not be the answer for many women (and men ) with Hashimoto’s struggling with their weight.
New Research Shows Immune System Is a Big Factor As Well
I recently attended a seminar taught by Dr. Datis Kharrazian, one of the world’s leading experts on the treatment of thyroid issues with functional medicine, called The Neuroendocrine Immunology of Exercise and he taught us about this new research that has discovered an entirely new model of causes for stubborn weight gain.
This model involves causes of weight problems that are related to the immune system. And this makes sense for people with Hashimoto’s because it is an autoimmune disease and a thyroid disorder.
If blood tests show that your TSH and T4 levels are “normal”, you are eating well and exercising and you still can’t lose weight, then this may be exactly what is going on with you.
4 Reasons for Weight Gain Related to the Immune System
According to Dr. Kharrazian, in the immune system model, there are 4 main reasons for stubborn weight gain.
* The mix of bacteria in your gut
* Intestinal permeability (also known as leaky gut)
* Low grade inflammation
* Immune reactive dietary proteins
Let’s explore each one of these in more detail.
The Mixture of Bacteria in Your Gut Matters
An important thing to understand is that your body is an ecosystem, or really, a lot of interconnected ecosystems. And the digestive tract is one of the most complex and dynamic of them all.
Each one of us has their own unique mix of bacteria and other organisms that live in our guts. This mix is determined by our genetic profile, our diets, what medications we have taken and our environment.
There are an estimated 100 trillion different cells and over 1,000 different species of bacteria. 90% of these species belong to 2 families: Firmicutes and Bacteriodetes.
The Balance of Bacteria Can Make You Unable To Lose Weight
New research has shown that the balance of these 2 bacterial species matters for whether or not you are able to lose weight.
In obese and overweight people, there is more Firmicutes than Bacteriodetes. The balance between these 2 species of bacteria generates certain signals to specific genes in the intestines that produce more fat cells.
It is also interesting to note that, according to the research, Lactobacillus bacteria (the most common species sold in over the counter probiotics) actually increases body weight. Both dairy and non-dairy sources.
What that means is that while probiotics may be beneficial for the ecosystem of your gut they are not that helpful in helping you shed the pounds.
Increase Bacteriodetes and Lose Weight
Firmicutes really like junk food. To feed them and gain weight, eat like your average American. To starve them and lose weight, read on.
The more important question is: how do you increase the Bacteriodetes? It seems these little critters really like plants. And the best way to increase their number is to increase the amount of plant based foods and fiber in your diet.
Especially oligosaccharides (found in Jerulsalem artichokes, and onions, leeks, garlic asparagus and jicama, etc.) and monosaccharides (found in pears, grapes, peaches, apples, pineapples, apricots, bananas, yams, carrots, onions, and sweet potatoes). And other plant based fibers that come from green leafy vegetables, green tea, etc.
These get fermented in the colon by the good guys and help you to become a mean, lean weight loss machine! But, just so you know, this is not something you can change in 5 minutes or 5 days. It may take a few months to alter this environment.
Leaky Gut Leads to a Bigger Gut
While it is true that people with Hashimoto’s often suffer from intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome, new research shows that this can also lead to fat around the organs.
In leaky gut, the intestines lose their ability to keep tiny particles of all sorts of stuff out of the bloodstream. It turns out that there may be a connection between a fatty liver and the breakdown of the gut barrier system.
In addition, zonulin, a protein that is used by the intestines to bind tight junctions, leaks into the blood stream when people have a breakdown of this barrier. It is also increased with obesity associated insulin resistance.
Finally, the toxins that are produced by bacteria known as lipopolysaccharides have also been linked to obesity and the onset of diabetes.
Bottom line: If you want a smaller gut, you need to heal your leaky gut.
Low Grade Inflammation: The Chicken or The Egg?
Autoimmune disease is a disease that is closely linked to inflammation. So is type 2 diabetes, so is eating a lousy diet and eating too much sugar, salt and fat.
What research is now showing us, is that obesity is also an inflammatory condition. It is becoming less clear which came first. One thing we now know is that adipose tissue (fat tissue) produces inflammation in the body all by itself.
So you have the creation of this destructive cycle of abnormal gut bacteria and leaky gut leading to a process (insulin and leptin resistance) which makes glucose not able to enter cells. When glucose can’t enter cells it gets converted into fat in the liver (triglycerides). These fat cells start the whole process all over again.
Leptin and Insulin Resistance Are Similar
Leptin is one of the main hormones involved in hunger, metabolism and the control of how energy from carbs and fats get stored and used. It comes from the Greek word ‘leptos’ meaning thin.
The amount of leptin produced directly correlates with weight loss or weight gain. (Women have significantly higher circulating leptin than men).
Leptin resistance is very similar to insulin resistance. With insulin resistance, long term elevated levels of insulin make your muscle and fat cells more resistance to the action of insulin.
Chronic elevated levels of leptin end up making you eat way too much. And abnormal gut bacteria and leaky gut feed this process as well (pun intended ;)).
Its A Vicious Cycle That Makes It Harder to Lose Weight
This whole process creates more fat tissue which causes more inflammation, and on and on it goes, snow balling and making it harder and harder to lose weight.
So you can see, while this is kind of complicated, it is hugely important to do everything you can to reduce inflammation that is the root cause of everything that we have just examined.
Immune Reactive Dietary Proteins
Certain proteins can also add gasoline to the flames of inflammation.
Everything that is living in our world is made of proteins. With autoimmune disease the immune system confuses our own proteins with that of an invader like a virus or a food we are allergic to.
There are some proteins in our diet that can cause an immune response that can also lead to inflammation and add more insult to injury.
These proteins are found in gluten, dairy and soy and in some other foods called cross reactors. You can learn more about them in this post.
These need to be eliminated from the diet if you want to lose weight because this will begin to unwind the vicious cycle of inflammation at the root of the immune system’s influence on weight gain.
Bye bye inflammation, bye bye weight.
Have you had trouble losing the pounds even though your lab test numbers look “normal”?
Do you eat well and exercise, but still can’t lose the pounds?
Do you experience the common symptoms of inflammation like brain fog (inflammation of the brain), joint pain (inflammation of the joints), thyroid nodules (inflammation of the thyroid) and weight gain (body wide inflammation).
Need help? Schedule a 30 minute Hashimoto’s Healing Discovery Session: Click here to set up a time to chat.
The Neuroendocrine Immunology of Exercise, Dr. Datis Kharrazian, 2013
Diabetes. 2007 Jul; 56(7): 1762-1772. Metabolic endotoxemia initiates obesity and insulin resistaence.