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How To Gain Weight When Dealing With Hyperthyroidism

While many people have problems losing weight, most people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease have the opposite problem. Due to the increased metabolism caused by the hyperthyroid condition, most people with hyperthyroidism lose a good amount of weight, and many of these people find it challenging to stop the weight loss. When I was dealing with Graves’ Disease I lost 40 pounds, and it took awhile before I began gaining weight. I work with many people with hyperthyroid conditions who have the same problem. And so the goal of this blog post is to discuss what people with hyperthyroidism and Graves’ Disease can do to gain weight.

When someone is initially diagnosed with hyperthyroidism or Graves’ Disease, they might actually like the idea of losing weight. In fact, some people don’t want to undergo any treatment until they drop a certain number of pounds. On the other hand, some people with hyperthyroid conditions begin to gain weight when taking antithyroid medication. But some people struggle to gain weight even while on the medication, and so let’s go ahead and discuss some of the things people with hyperthyroid conditions can do to gain weight.

WEIGHT GAIN STRATEGY #1: Normalize the thyroid hormone levels. Since the high thyroid hormone levels are usually responsible for the weight loss in hyperthyroid conditions you of course want to do what is necessary to normalize these levels. Most people with hyperthyroidism have Graves’ Disease, which is an autoimmune thyroid condition where TSH receptor antibodies stimulate or bind to the TSH receptors, thus causing the thyroid gland to secrete an excessive amount of thyroid hormone. Ultimately the goal should be to suppress the autoimmune component, but until this is accomplished it is important to manage the hyperthyroid symptoms.

Many people choose to take antithyroid medication such as Methimazole. This frequently will help to normalize the thyroid hormone levels, which in turn can prevent weight loss from occurring. However, it’s not uncommon for the antithyroid medication to make someone hypothyroid, and thus make it challenging to lose weight. Bugleweed and L-carnitine are natural options, as they both can inhibit thyroid hormone production, and thus stop the weight loss from occurring. Sometimes people will continue to lose weight even after the thyroid hormone levels are normal, and when this is the case they will need to look into the other “weight gain strategies” I listed here.

WEIGHT GAIN STRATEGY #2: Eat nutrient dense foods. Most people with hyperthyroid conditions try to address their weight loss issues by eating as many calories as they can. Frequently what they’ll do is try to load up on carbohydrates. Ideally what you want to do is eat nutrient dense foods. In his excellent book “You’re Personal Paleo Code”, Chris Kresser lists certain foods according to their nutrient-density scores. According to Chris, the food with the highest nutrient-density score was organ meats. Other meats are also nutrient dense, although not as high as organ meats. If you happen to be vegetarian then you’ll be happy to know that nuts and seeds are high up on the list. Some examples of nutrient dense fruits and vegetables include avocados, collard greens, kale, spinach, arugula, radishes, and carrots. Eggs are also nutrient dense. If someone has gut issues then they will either want to cut out, or completely avoid eating nuts and seeds (as well as beans and legumes). The reason for this is because these foods have lectins and phytic acid, which make them difficult to digest. Soaking these foods can help to reduce these antinutrients, although this won’t completely eliminate them.

WEIGHT GAIN STRATEGY #3: Consume one or two smoothies on a daily basis with some added protein. In addition to eating nutrient dense foods, you can also have one or two smoothies per day. In the smoothie you can of course add some nutrient dense foods, such as kale, avocados, coconut oil, etc. But in addition to this you can also add some additional protein in the form of whey protein (which is also a great source of glutathione), or if you’re trying to avoid dairy then you can use a rice- or pea-based protein powder.

WEIGHT GAIN STRATEGY #4: Correct any malabsorption problems. Malabsorption is common with hyperthyroidism (1) (2), as the increase in metabolism itself can affect the absorption of nutrients, although there can be other factors which cause problems with absorption. For example, many people with Graves’ Disease have an increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut), and this can cause problems with nutrient absorption. Certain pathogens can also cause problems with absorption, and in some cases it is wise to obtain a stool panel which detects the presence of pathogens. Gallbladder problems are another factor to consider. Sometimes a person will be taking medication other than antithyroid drugs and beta blockers which are interfering with nutrient absorption. For example, oral contraceptives interfere with the absorption of numerous vitamins and minerals.

WEIGHT GAIN STRATEGY #5: Do some LIGHT weightlifting at least 3 days per week . Since hyperthyroidism decreases the muscle mass (3) and affects the bone density (4), it would also be a good idea to do some light weightlifting at least a few days per week. When losing weight most people simply try to eat more calories, but doing some light weightlifting can help greatly in gaining weight. A small trial involving sixteen patients with hyperthyroidism showed that resistance training accelerates the recovery of skeletal muscle function and promotes weight gain based on muscle mass improvement (5). Of course if you don’t have experience lifting weights it probably would be a good idea to work with a personal trainer.

In summary, when dealing with a hyperthyroid condition it can be a challenge to gain weight. When this is the case, normalizing the thyroid hormone levels will be one of the keys to halting the weight loss. However, eating nutrient dense foods and doing some light weightlifting can also help people to gain weight. And if someone has another condition which is interfering with the absorption of nutrients (leaky gut syndrome, intestinal dysbiosis, gallbladder problems) then of course this needs to be addressed.


 

37 Comments

  1. Janet Frye says:

    I have hyperthyroidism and graves diseases. My problem is l have gained weight. Know matter what I do I can’t lose any weight. I’ve gained over 60 lbs in the pass 4 yrs. When I do lose I gain it right back plus more.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Janet,

      It depends on what’s causing the weight gain. If someone is taking antithyroid medication then this commonly causes people to gain weight. If this isn’t the case, then other factors which can cause weight gain include estrogen dominance and insulin resistance.

  2. Linda dc says:

    I have been on a Fodmap friendly diet for a couple of months and have finally started putting on weight, as a vegan I eat a lot of spinach, very few legumes and only activated nuts. If you have gut problems I highly recommend a fodmap friendly diet.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Thank you Linda for letting us know about the success of going on a low FODMAP diet. For those unfamiliar with the FODMAP diet, FODMAP is an acronym that stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. A number of foods high in FODMAPs can exacerbate irritable bowel syndrome or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), as well as other conditions. Although I love adding spinach to my smoothies, some people do need to be cautious about eating too much spinach, as it’s high in oxalates.

  3. Alexis ASher says:

    My legs began to look like sticks but I had to walk to survive in a certain situation. I also had to lift things (bring stuff to storage) I was amazed at the strength I still had although once I did too much and had to be lifted up. Within that month I noticed my leg and arm muscles began to take on some shape. I was afraid to do physical things because
    I was 97 pound skeleton.
    When I gained access to a little more food, the weight gradually went up by about five pounds.
    Meat and whey protein powder do best for me as well as tofu.
    I need more tests. I am on no medication. Bugleweed helps.
    I can’t thank Dr. Eric for all of his posts.
    This has been a frightening thing to have to deal with.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Alexis,

      Thanks for sharing your experience with everyone. And I’m glad the Bugleweed has been helping.

  4. Supriya says:

    I loose big amount of hairs and weight.I am suffering with hyperthyroidism and how to overcome this problem please give me solution and can I use these medicines life long or not

  5. Kuceli says:

    Oh wow. I’m glad I came across this. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism since June 2014. At first the meds were working and I was gaining weight. Then I stopped for a but and relapsed. Now I’m back on them but I’m not gaining weight like the 1st time but my eyelids are swollen. I will start lifting weights and I will change my diet too. But Dr Eric what can I do about my swollen eyelids?

  6. v satya sameeera says:

    i have hyertyroid since 4 years n am maarreid n have baby too still my weight is 35 am v thin i want to become fat is there any medicine we can use with hyerptyroid problem and also i am feeding my baby still/..SO please let me know any alternative to become fat its very urgent for me to become fatplz help me

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hello,

      Unfortunately there is no medication or supplement I can recommend which will safely help you to put on weight. Controlling the hyperthyroid condition is the first priority, as if you have elevated thyroid hormone levels then this frequently will result in weight loss. But as I mentioned in this post, eating nutrient dense foods is also very important. I would try to eat healthy fats such as avocados and coconut oil, and in addition to getting protein through the food you eat, if necessary you can have a smoothie and add some protein powder (in addition to plenty of veggies, and some fruits).

  7. Jaclyn Namer says:

    I am about to have the surgery for my thyroid to be taken out . The endo said in all of my blood work that my T3 AND T4 are normal but my TSH is very low. I am so scared about gaining weight.. Does everyone gain weight that has there thyroid removed ..
    Thank you for any feedback

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Jaclyn,

      Not everyone who has a thyroidectomy will gain weight, as it depends on the person. Some people do fine taking thyroid hormone medication and don’t experience any problems with weight gain, while others don’t do as well on the meds and experience some hypothyroid symptoms.

  8. Jaclyn Namer says:

    I am so hyper and I am scared that the energy that I have had for years is going to change … along with my weight

  9. Jinna says:

    I started losing weight drastically August of this year. I went from 117 to now 102 and I’m scared of other problems in addition to my hyperthyroidism. Some of my symptoms include weight loss, looser bowels than normal, hair loss, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain/weakness. I have an appt to see an endocrinologist this coming week and I’ve been a mess emotionally (which I know is not good for my body). Anyway, I’m really glad to come across your website. I need to do something about my weight because I can’t afford to lose more weight.

  10. Gagan says:

    I too have recently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Symptoms where: weight loss ( I lost 20 kgs in 2 months) , severe muscles pain specially thigh skeleton muscles, Restlessness, fast heartbeat, dry mouth.

  11. Aporupa says:

    I am suffering from hyperthyroidism and from last 1 year i gained my weight 10 kg and feeling lazy, weak enough. What should i do to loose my weight please suggest me something? It’s necessary for me.

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Aporupa,

      Are you taking antithyroid medication, as this commonly causes weight gain in those with hyperthyroidism? Obviously eating well and exercising regularly can also help, but it’s difficult to give suggestions without knowing what your thyroid hormones look like.

  12. Melissa says:

    I have been hyperthyroid for almost 10 years,It has made me miserable with family and loved ones they think I am on my death bed. I am wondering the same thing I currently weigh 76 pounds before I had my thyroid removed I weighed 122 I am 5″6 now I look so sick. I just started menopause at 44 and I am so sensitive to everything I try to eat. Everything but hamburgers, chicken, oranges and potatoes pretty much makes me sick. Sugar, coffee, white bread, all vegetables but carrots, fish, candy, cheese, milk, peanut butter, smoothies and just about any other food makes me vomit water for hours when I wake up and sometimes in the middle of the night. Help me this Obama care crap keeps sending me to ocshner and they treat me like I AM ON AN ASSEMBLY LINE no one cares they just pawn you off on another dr which In can not live at the drs office. I am hypokalemic most of the time but then my body flips and sends me to the hospital because my potassium hits 10 and my heart is about to explode. I do not know the difference because I never sleep my heart wont slow down ever it always feels like it is running a marathon, All day and night. Please help me before I disappear completely 76 and losing.

    • NatureGrl says:

      Follow his weight gain strategy above.
      My heart is breaking for you . I will forever keep you and others like you in my daily prayers. Keep a positive mindset, stay in prayer, and don’t ever stop researching for other natural cures.
      God Bless.😇✌

  13. Marlee says:

    I was told that I had hyperthyroid, when I was diagnosed I had lost 15 pounds & weighed a whopping 70 pounds. They said my count was over 1000 & it has been bad for over a year. My hair was falling out & I wanted to die.

    Now im 80 pounds, I would like to gain weight.. But I feel like everything I’ve tried fails. In public Im told to gp eat by strangers & everyone else. Its annoying & upsetting because I want to fix it.. But i feel like I can’t

  14. JohnD says:

    Hi
    I am 59 years old, and had a thyroid storm in 2005 and 2006, which resulted in the removal of my thyroid. On top of the scary trips to the ICU, the thyroid was choking me. TO compound the issue, ablation was out of the question due to the work I did in the military as an EOD technician. Today I am somewhat successfully on Bovine based Compounded Thyroid replacement. I am 6″1″ and 230 lbs — and on the muscular side. However, I was a whole more muscular in my 20s and 30s, could eat whatever I wanted, worked out and packed on my muscle mass. Now, it is aggravating, I work out and eat protein and good fats (MCT, etc..) and I add to my abdominal mass, opposed to biceps/pecs/etc… I am an active 59 year old, still play softball with the 20 year olds. I like to rollerbade (running replacement since my meniscus is trashed on my Left knee) and enjoy Kettlebells as exercise — about 30-40 mins 3-4x a week. My Doc has me take some estrogen because my free-T is to high, as well as some DHEA. I am starting a diet based on foods (eliminating the ones that cause inflammation — this was a blood test). Some real surprises in that test in terms of foods I need to eliminiate (like Oranges, Cabbage, and Peanuts). Any ideas how an active somewhat vibrant 59 year old can get back his muscle mass lost to graves?

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi John,

      I’m not sure why your doctor has you on estrogen, as testosterone converts into estrogen, and so if you have high free testosterone levels and on top of this are taking estrogen, then it’s possible that you are dealing with estrogen dominance. I’m not sure if this is the case, but I would definitely ask your doctor to test the estradiol levels, as if you have high estradiol levels then this can be a factor in the lower muscle mass.

  15. Beca says:

    Im 24yrs old needing help with gaining weight i was 135lbs now im at 109 5’5 its extremely hard to gain weight i take levelthoroxine daily for 5 year’s now and i eat constantly but cant seem to put on the weight its definitely emotionally for me and my family to see me so skinny i desperately want to gain weight i do shakes and nothing? What more can i do?

    • Dr. Eric says:

      Hi Beca,

      Taking too high of a dosage of the levothyroxine can be one possibility, as this can increase the metabolism and cause you to lose weight. But chances are your doctor would have figured this out, and so probably the next step would be to look into the health of your gut, as if you are having absorption issues then this very well can cause weight gain. If you have low serum levels of nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 then this can be one sign of malabsorption issues, but either way you might want to consider doing a comprehensive stool panel.

  16. anu says:

    hi,i had hypothyroid with 17 tsh but now its 0.05 which below normal. t3 t4 is normal. I never had any symptom of hypo but now I’m loosing weight. could it be due to below level tsh? I have bad diet and workload too but it never bothered earlier,suddenly now I’m loosing weight. please help!

  17. Anthony says:

    I have hyperthyroidism and was losing weight started lifting weights and drinking lots of ensure (6) daily with whey protein I put on 8 pounds in 1 month

  18. Akilah says:

    Hey I am 24. I did my thyroid blood test n my thyroid level was high. I am 5.5 and I loss 10 pounds. I was weighing 100 now I’m down to 90, I am having light periods, sweating alot, having frequent bowel movements, headaches, fatigue, dry irritated lips and difficulty gaining weight. I want to know if I’m hyperthyroid and if it can be corrected and if I can gain weight. This makes me very emotional at times to see myself looking this skinny.

  19. MIKI GRAY says:

    I HAVE HYPERTHYROIDS AND HAD MY WHOLE THYROID REMOVED FOUR IN A HALF YEARS AGO I HAVE LOST OVER 50 POUNDS AND IM 5’6 I LOOK HORRIBLE AND FEEL HORRIBLE I WEIGHT A LITTLE OVER 130 I DONT FEEL RIGHT I WANT TO GAIN WEIGHT I HAVE PROBLEMS SLEEEPING EATING I HAVE MOOD SWINGS BADLY AND I SWEAT REALLY BAD WHAT CAN I DO TO GAIN WEIGHT I FEEL REGRETFUL GETTING THE SURGERY NOW. PLEASE HELP ME !! I BEEN ON ONE MEDICATION TO THE NEXT ON SO MANY DIFFRENT LEVELS!

  20. Sufaid says:

    I have 18 years old. I need to gain my weight. i tried so many times to gain my weight but ànything won’t work. i am so tensed. i drink milk daily with protien powder but i have loose 2 kg. pls help me

  21. Libby says:

    I was diagnosed with Graves disease about 5 years ago. At first I gained 20lbs. Going from 120lbs to 140lbs, I am 5’5 1/2″. I have frequent loose bowels, a poor appetite, mood swings and cannot gain weight. I am currently back to 120lbs but will follow the instructions in this article and will gain my weight back. Thank you for sharing everyone. Your Testimonials give me hope.

  22. Julie A Bearden says:

    I may be too late but must ask anyway… I can’t afford insurance, and I’ve had graves/hyperthyroidism for about 3/4 years now… I had a baby a litte over a year ago but lost 5 pounds during the pregnancy.. since then my weight has drastically decreased. I git pregnant at 145 pounds, gave birth at 140.. it’s been about 16 months and I now weigh 85 pounds.. I can’t afford to see a doctor or text medications they want me on.. I don’t know what to do and I feel like I’m dying. It doesn’t matter how much I eat I still can’t seen to gain a pound.. could this wither me away to nothing and kill me?

  23. Sana says:

    I have hyper thyroid am loosing my weight. Please suggest me how to gain weight through which food. Please help me out.Daily I am using MCG 50 tblts.

  24. Hi I had my thyroid removed 3 years ago. My problem is I’ve never been able to gain weight ever! I have seven kids with a set of twins in that seven I’m at 138 …the most I’ll gain is 5 pounds an it’ll be gone in a month an I’ve had the same diet sense grade school an I drink soy protein shakes everyday plus always have eaten everything in sight!I’m 37 years old an 5/9 I’m dry at I’ve plus run behind a 16 month old everyday!immediately so depressed abound being small I don’t no where else to turn to! I would like to at least be at 145 to 150! I no most want to lose but it’s people out here like myself dreadfully want to gain! My idea weight is what I am after I give birth but it just doesn’t stay it falls of as fast I gained it fast an quietly! Sincerely yours mrs.I Need Help with gaining weight lady! !

  25. Jasmin says:

    Hi, I’m so sorry you all are having to go through this. I went from hypothyroid many years ago, to normal thyroid function for several years, and now hyperthyroid. Based on my google research it doesn’t seem too common to alternate from hypo to hyper but as you know in my case it happens. Back when I was hypo I focused on getting adequate rest, ensuring that I got adequate iodine, eating anti-inflammatory foods and herbs (e.g. Salmon, Basil and Rosemary to name a few), LOTS of dark green leafy vegetables (raw), and avoided eating cruciferous/goitrogenic foods Raw. Definitely avoided processed foods, refined foods, fast foods and sugar. If I did treat my-self it was at first once a week then much less down the road. What was especially helpful for the energy and significant improvements I experienced with hypothyroidism were green smoothies and raw green vegetable juice made at home. After 1 and a half year on medication and eating the foods I just mentioned I was proudly able to get off of the medication and be fully functional. The he color of my hair was returning, my bowels became regular,and I began to flow once more. I happily enjoyed several years of a normal thyroid function 🙂

    Now, though my thyroid is overactive. Although anything could have caused the imbalance I believe it was from living an imbalanced lifestyle for two to three years. I was too much on the go, too little rest, too much coffee and sugar just to name a few. My body had shown me many signs that it needed attention but I ignored. I lost sight of and touch with the miracle God had given me years back- a healthy balanced thyroid! I’m restless now, can’t sleep, losing weight which is quiet scary since I’m naturally VERY skinny, my heart and thoughts are racing, I feel anxious, irrational exuberance, losing hair, dry hair and just feel like everything is FAST inside of me. Uncomfortably fast. I will be beginning my research on healing this imbalance this week. For now though this is what I’ve come across that has sort-of helped some of my symptoms:
    Make sure the water you purchase is of good quality AND contains magnesium as some water companies do not add sufficient amount of this mineral. Magnesium helps to relax your muscles. In my case, it slightly helps bring down my heart rate and blood pressure which as you know with hyperthyroid it seems to go up. Aquafina is my personal choice.
    When my thoughts are racing at night and I can’t sleep and/or relax I’ll make some tea comprised of Lemon balm, lavender and chamomile. I read lemon balm is especially helpful with hyperthyroid symptoms. These three herbs promote a state of relaxation, calmness and sort-of slow things down in your mind. Depending on how fast my mind is racing I’ll not only drink the tea but also inhale the hot aroma with deep breaths. So simultaneously, your inducing relaxing within your body with deep breath, inhaling good-ole relaxing herbs and ingesting them. Triple the power. Personally, this helps to really slow things down although it doesn’t completely calm my mind it still helps quiet a bit.
    Because of my weight I’ve found it difficult to eliminate chicken, fish and eggs which contain ingridients that help the thyroid produce hormones….exactly what you don’t need more of 🙁 so what I do is eat them but less frequently. I’ll alternate my days. My days off of these protein sources I’ll consume high-quality, extra-firm Tofu. Tofu is made of soybeans –which inhibit the thyroid from producing hormones…exactly what you need. I have noticed a slight difference in my restlessness by doing this.
    Resistance training (lifting weights) has helped to halt the weight loss. Not to mention resistance training is good for you and can help burn some if that extr fuel in you.
    Lastly, is believing that you can be healed. Having faith. I will be continuing my research over the next month and applying the knowledge to my-self. Next week, I see my endocrinologist. Based on my lab work he will more than likely prescribe antithyroid medication. That is OK with me. I believe medication Along with a safe complementary therapy (healthy food, herbs, green juices etc) can have good results. This was the case for me many years ago when I was hypothyroid: I will keep you all posted on the progress and oufcome. Best of luck to you all!
    If any of you wish to contact me directly for insight or to share some thing you’ve learned with me please do so.

    • Sasha says:

      Hi…how are you feeling now? Are you on meds?
      I just got diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism, going for an ultrasound this coming up Monday and seeing Endocrinologist next week. I did some reasearch and came across “thyromate” supplements. I haven’t started taking them until i get a ok from the doctor. I’m so freaked out it makes me cry! So far I’ve lost 6 pounds, my heart races fast at times & hair is getting little thin! I do lift weights 5-6 x a week (gym freak:)…and thats the only thing that’s keeping me going! Yes….lemon balm tea is amazing! Vitamin D as well…Hope to hear about your progress!!! Xo

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Get Your Free Guide Entitled
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Natural Treatment Methods:
Graves Disease Treatment
Hypothyroidism Treatment
Hyperthyroidism Treatment
Natural Thyroid treatment


Conventional Treatment
Methods:
Radioactive Iodine
Thyroid Hormone