Graves' disease is the most common type of overactive thyroid disorder. It's caused by an immune system response that makes your thyroid produce too many hormones. Thyroid hormones control metabolism. As you are being treated for Graves' disease, you may start to gain weight as your body produces fewer hormones and your metabolism slows down. But it is possible to lose weight during treatment. Your weight loss may be slow while your body adjusts to your new lower metabolism. If you follow a healthy diet, however, it will help you feel your best and reach a healthy body weight.
Understanding Graves' Disease
Graves' disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes your thyroid to overproduce T3 and T4 hormones -- which regulate metabolism. With Graves' disease, everything speeds up -- from your heart rate to the rate your body converts food into energy and how fast that energy is used. Hyperthyroidism can lead to anxiety, heart palpitations, insomnia, sweating, fatigue, weakness and vision problems. Usually, weight loss occurs with hyperthyroidism. Women are 10 times more likely to be affected by Graves' disease than men are and it often strikes women in their 20s and 30s. There are three treatments for Graves' disease -- anti-thyroid medications, radioactive iodine treatment and surgery. Both radioactive iodine and surgery destroy all thyroid function; you will become hypothyroid and need to take a hormone replacement for the rest of your life.
Thyroid Treatment and Metabolism
Treatment for Graves disease will slow your metabolism, as hormone production is either slowed or stopped entirely. Your metabolism control the rate you burn calories -- the higher your metabolism, the easier it is for you to lose weight. There are three parts to your metabolism: your Basal Metabolic Rate, physical activity and digestion. You can increase the number of calories burned during digestion by making changes in your diet, and you can boost the energy needed for physical activity by exercising more. Strength training exercises that build muscle mass will increase your BMR because muscle uses more energy at rest.
Graves' Disease and Diet
Hypothyroidism is not caused or cured by your diet and affects overweight, underweight and average weight people. To lose weight with Graves' disease, you need to follow a healthy weight loss eating plan that includes a variety of foods and engage in regular exercise. To keep your metabolism as high as possible, you need to eat at least 1,200 calories daily. If you don't consume enough calories, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. It's a biological survival mechanism that helps you survive long periods of fasting or famine.
Whether you follow a low-carb diet, a low-fat diet or the U.S. dietary guidelines, the best way to promote weight loss while being treated for Graves' disease is to keep your metabolism as high as possible. Eating enough calories and spacing them evenly through the day keeps your metabolism from slipping into "starvation mode" and slowing down. Try not to go more than four hours without eating. Make sure you eat enough protein. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that at least 18 to 20 percent of your diet comes from lean protein to keep metabolic function up.
- MedlinePlus: Graves' Disease; Ari S. Eckman, M.D.; April 2010
- Endocrine Web: 5 Foods that May Help Ease Hyperthyroidism Symptoms
- Women's Health: Graves' Disease Fact Sheet; David S. Cooper, M.D.; May 2010
- American Thyroid Association: Thyroid and Weight
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes; March 26, 2009