The thyroid got a lot of attention in the media back in 2007 when Oprah Winfrey announced she had had a thyroid condition, and with good reason—the thyroid is your metabolic gatekeeper.
This small, butterfly-shaped gland, located in your neck, is responsible for keeping your metabolism running smoothly. If it’s under-producing thyroid hormones—a condition known as hypothyroid—then your metabolic engine is idling really low, and fat gain is all but inevitable.
“When the thyroid gland is releasing inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone to meet the body’s metabolic demands, the metabolic rate is therefore reduced,” writes David Brownstein, MD, one of the leading experts in the integrative treatment of thyroid disorders. In other words, your metabolism slows down. And that means fat-burning crawls to a standstill.
“Thyroid hormone acts as the body’s metabolic regulator,” writes Brownstein, “every single muscle, organ and cell in the body depends on adequate thyroid hormone levels for achieving and maintaining optimal functioning.”4
So what can slow the thyroid down?
Glad you asked.
The adrenal hormones- stress hormones like cortisol—can have a profound effect on thyroid function. If your adrenals are out of whack, it’s not surprising that your thyroid is as well. Diet also has a profound effect. “Constantly eating devitalized food will result in deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and other essential products and will inevitably lead to hormonal and immune system abnormalities,” writes Brownstein.
Not surprisingly, he identifies sugar and refined carbohydrates among the major culprits.
Brownstein also considers detoxification essential to a healthy, functioning thyroid (which, in turn, is essential for a healthy fat-burning metabolism).
“One of the main reasons the thyroid gland can malfunction is from exposure to heavy metals, including mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic and nickel,” he writes. “These agents poison enzyme systems throughout the body and decrease the normal functioning of various organs and glands including the thyroid gland.
Detoxifying the body and removing these harmful elements can vastly improve the overall picture of one’s health.”5 When you have a sugar-burning metabolism, it virtually guarantees that the thyroid won’t be working at optimal levels. What’s more, a sugar-burning metabolism is a fast track to leptin resistance, a condition where the brain simply doesn’t “hear” or listen to the signals from the appetite-regulating hormone, leptin.
Leptin resistance is a fast track to being hungry all the time, since there’s a disconnect between the brain and the body—your fat cells and your tummy may be full, but your brain never gets the message. Since your brain thinks you’re starving—and no food is coming in—it makes an “executive decision” to conserve energy, which it does by slowing down the thyroid. Thus the vicious cycle continues.
If all of this inter-connectedness is starting to make your head spin, it should—we’ve only just begun to understand how all of your fat burning hormones work together.
But knowing every last detail of this isn’t important—what’s important is to understand that the hormones all work together and until, and unless, you take specific steps to get them all fixed, you’ll be stuck in sugar-burning, fat-gaining cycle.
What to Do, What to Do?
My most recent program, New You in 22, is specifically designed to trigger the hormones that burn fat, build or maintain muscle and keep you young and healthy while minimizing the hormones designed to pack fat on, eat away your muscle and age you faster. The promise of the program is to change your metabolism from that of a sugar-burner to that of a fat-burner. The idea is to correct your hormonal environment so that you can now access your fat stores and your body can burn fat for energy instead of sugar.
If you’re interested, you can find out more about it here.