What Is Hyperthyroidism?
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland in the neck that produces hormones T3 and T4, which are responsible for the energy usage by cells. The thyroid gland and these hormones play a huge part in the regulation of metabolic rate and in turn body-weight.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid becomes overactive and produces too much T3 and T4 hormone; without treatment/management may lead to a number of negative health concerns.
There is a strong link between graves disease and hyperthyroidism, which is why it is said that graves disease causes weight gain – Graves disease is a type of autoimmune complication that leads the thyroid to become overactive.
In most cases, weight gain only becomes apparent when the hyperthyroidism is being treated.
Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism:
- Increase in appetite.
- Irregular heartbeat and palpitations.
- Increased anxiety.
- Unexplained weight loss.
What Causes Graves Disease?
Firstly what is Graves Disease?
Autoimmune diseases are a collective of complications that cause the immune system to create antibodies that attack healthy tissue. In the case of graves disease, the targeted tissue is the thyroid.
To offset the damage from the antibodies, the thyroid increases in size and produces more T3 and T4 hormone than what the body needs – This is hyperthyroidism.
As with nearly all autoimmune diseases, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact contributing factors that lead to the development of graves disease.
The immune system mistakenly turning against the body is the 'cause' of graves and other autoimmune diseases, but there is very little knowledge as to why this happens in the first place.
What causes the immune system to become confused, and turn against the body?
The most common consensus is that graves disease and the probability of developing it may be linked to family history.
Other factors that increase the probability of graves disease is age and gender. Women a far more likely to develop an autoimmune disease and so are over 20's – It should, however, be noted that they can develop in males and females of any age.
There are currently a number of research teams working towards finding a definitive cause of autoimmune diseases – The most promising route thus far is by identifying individual genes in tissues, that might trigger an immune response. Nothing to date has been found to be conclusive.
Graves Disease Symptoms.
- Increase appetite.
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Difficulty sleeping/insomnia.
- Increased perspiration.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain
- Bulging eyes and difficulties with vision.
- Generalised weakness.
If you are suspected of having graves disease; based on medical history, family history and present symptoms, the next stage to obtaining a proper diagnosis involves various tests to evaluate the functionality of the thyroid.
These tests will determine whether or not you have either hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism and if it is caused by graves disease.
Can Graves Disease Cause Weight Gain?
Because of Graves effect on the thyroid, there is a common notion that graves disease causes weight gain; which is not really true. So what is the thyroid weight gain connection in regards to graves disease?
Whilst hypothyroidism weight gain is well-known, weight loss is more likely when suffering from hyperthyroidism, despite a decrease in appetite is a frequently reported symptom. This is because of hormone T3 and T4's effect on metabolic rate; leading to more calories burnt per day.
What is Metabolism?
Metabolism or metabolic rate is the speed at which the body breaks down calories into available nutrients and energy. Because more thyroid hormones lead to an increase in metabolic rate, more calories are burnt per day; resulting in a calorie deficit and weight loss.
Weight loss is ultimately determined by calories in and calories out. If someone burns more calories than what they consume; over a period of time, they will lose weight. The same goes for gaining weight; consume more calories than what your body uses up and an increase in body weight will be sure to follow.
So how can Graves Disease cause weight gain if Hyperthyroidism causes weight loss?
Graves disease itself is not directly responsible for weight gain in any way shape or form. It is actually through the process of treating hyperthyroidism that weight gain can present itself.
The reason why is because, over a period of time of living with untreated hyperthyroidism, the body becomes somewhat accustomed to the increased metabolic rate. As a result, the body craves more and more calories in order to sustain itself; this is the root of the increased appetite.
When the hyperthyroidism is treated, the appetite and cravings persist, but the increased metabolic rate is brought back down to 'normal'. The decrease in metabolic rate is due to less T3 and T4 hormone being produced by the thyroid.
As stated previously, consuming more calories than what is metabolised will result in an increase in body fat. Surplus calories are stored as fat to be used at a later date when there is a calorie deficit.
Managing Sugar Cravings with Graves Disease
Sweet and sugary treats are a common reach for those looking to bridge the hunger gap between meals. In moderation, sugar cravings aren't all that bad, especially when properly managed. Hyperthyroidism and sugar craving should, however, be monitored carefully.
An increase in metabolism, caused by an overactive thyroid, can see insulin in the blood be removed at a quicker rate. If the pancreas can not keep up with the insulin demand, blood sugar levels can rise significantly.
The continual strain on the pancreas can lead to diabetes; so those with thyroid complications/graves disease must show extra caution with their approach to sugar consumption.
Ways to Manage Sugar Cravings.
- Stick to a meal plan.
Having a meal plan in place can take the guesswork out of eating, and make it easier to avoid sugary snacks. Develop a meal plan that is well balanced, nutritionally dense and varied to keep things interesting.
- Eat more protein.
Protein from both animal and plant-based sources are excellent at keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Proteins are the building blocks of the body and provide essential amino acids responsible for muscle development. Eating adequate amounts of protein will suppress sugar cravings.
- Try apple cider vinegar.
Adding a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to your water and drinking it throughout the day is thought to help suppress sugar cravings. Apple cider vinegar is also excellent for the digestion system and reducing bloating.
- Eat fruit regularly.
The sweetness found in fruit is derived from a type of sugar called fructose. Not all sugars are created equal and fructose has does little to contribute towards blood sugar spikes.
- Change your thinking.
Sugary foods are hard to avoid. Chocolate bars are everywhere, prepacked cereals are an easy breakfast and spoonful’s in hot drinks quickly add up. By changing your thinking and making more conscious food choices, cravings for sugar can quickly subside.