Eat Healthy and Exercise But Still Gain Weight? If So, It Might Be Your Thyroid

August 23, 2018 Updated: August 23, 2018

If you make an effort to eat healthy and get plenty of exercise, yet you can’t lose weight or you even gain more weight, you may want to get your thyroid checked.

But what if you already got it checked, and your doctor said there’s nothing wrong?

When your thyroid is not working well but the most common test results are normal, it’s called subclinical hypothyroidism. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that as many as 26 million people may have this issue.

These patients may have lost 10-40% of their normal thyroid function. Over time this can lead to obesity, heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, infertility and much more.

The thyroid gland, which is located in your neck, is the primary control center for your metabolism. (Eraxion/

The thyroid is a bow tie shaped gland that sits just over the trachea. This little unassuming gland is in charge of many functions in the human body: metabolism, regulating bone growth, controlling the body’s sensitivity to other hormones (including the adrenal gland which is a great source of energy), and it’s also responsible for cardiovascular and reproductive health (you can’t get pregnant if your thyroid is not working well).

Here is a scenario I am all too familiar with in my practice. I’ve heard these words hundreds of times: “I’m eating less and less and working out more, and I can’t lose an ounce. I’m also tired all the time.”

Why is this happening?

Lets talk about how hypothyroidism in presently being diagnosed in mainstream allopathic medicine. Most doctors are only using one test that measures Thyroid Stimulation Hormone (TSH) and that’s it. But this test may not be reliable alone.

Many times when test results are in the correct range of 0.5-4.5, the patient already has full-blown hypothyroidism and the symptoms to prove it. Many times these same patients are told they are just depressed and given antidepressants.

A bottle of Effexor antidepressant pills in Miami, Fla., on March 23, 2004. FDA asked makers of popular antidepressants to add or strengthen suicide-related warnings on their labels as well as the possibility of worsening depression especially at the beginning of treatment or when the doses are increased or decreased. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A bottle of Effexor antidepressant pills in Miami, Fla., on March 23, 2004. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) recommends that doctors “consider treatment for patients who test outside the boundaries of a narrower margin based on a target TSH level of 0.3 to 3.0 mU/l.” However, I have seen patients who show symptoms at 1.

This actually has a name, because it’s become so commonplace: Wilson’s Syndrome. A patient has normal thyroid tests, but they have many symptoms of hypothyroidism.

But one thing’s for sure, it takes a lot more lab tests than just TSH to fully diagnose hypothyroidism. A physical exam is also needed, along with the testing of a patient’s reflexes and temperature. Many functional medicine doctors use seven lab tests to do this, and even then it can be difficult.

Low thyroid function can also be exacerbated by mercury toxicity, radiation therapy or imaging, auto-immune disease, medications, and many other factors. The thyroid gland is often known as the canary in the coal mine for this reason.

In Europe, many doctors will measure your basal body temperature two to three times per day and then averaged out over a week, and this is the gold standard. Your temperature is directly controlled by your thyroid.

A thermometer with various medications. (Pixabay/Pexels)

If you have a temperature under 97.5, you may have low thyroid function, and if it’s 97.5-98.0, you may have an adrenal issue. The best option is to find a doctor who uses comprehensive lab work, your verbal history, your temperature, and a physical exam to pinpoint exactly what is going on.

Treating hypothyroidism after a diagnosis can be challenging too. Most doctors use a drug called Synthroid (Levothyroxine), which is T4. The thyroid produces two major hormones T3 and T4. T3 is the active form and T4 is the inactive form that needs to be converted into T3 to do the work.

This can cause a lot of problems, because many people cannot convert T4 to T3 well, and with their TSH lab staying normal most of the time, they are just given larger and larger doses of Sythroid over time.

Dr. Denis Wilson, MD, who developed the idea of Wilson’s Syndrome, found that over time, higher and higher doses of Synthroid can block the T3 receptors, and then T3 can’t do its job. This is when I usually hear the words I mentioned at the top of this article. These patients are very depressed, obese, have heart issues, and have no energy to work out. I have seen this hundreds of times and resolved it.

The trick is to use a natural or compounded source of T3 and T4 to reduce their inflammation, so they are able to use their T3. One thing to note here is that stress alone can block the conversion of T4 to T3, as well as many other things.

Here are some major symptoms of low thyroid function:

Muscle weakness
Fatigue all the time
Weight fluctuations
Hair loss
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Temperature sensitivity
Depression (chronic)
Dry rough and scaly skin
Cold intolerance
Muscle spasms
Coarse dry hair
And many more

I purposely didn’t mention Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is hypothyroidism with an autoimmune problem, however, it will be addressed in a future article. It can be very hard to treat properly.

If you think you have a thyroid issue, make sure you find a doctor (an ND or NMD is best) who can truly diagnose you.

To contact Dr. Dana Churchill, N.M.D., email: or visit the The Churchill Center.