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Dealing with Weight Changes after a Thyroidectomy

Dealing with Weight Changes after a Thyroidectomy

Dealing with weight changes after a thyroidectomy
Medically reviewed by

Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND. Canadian-certified Naturopathic Doctor with a clinical focus in thyroid conditions and Hashimoto’s Disease.

What is a thyroidectomy

A thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure where all or part of your thyroid gland is removed.

The thyroid gland is located at the base of our necks and produces our thyroid hormone, which regulates bodily functions such as our metabolism, heart, digestive, muscle and brain health. 

This procedure is usually performed to treat thyroid cancers or noncancerous enlargements that occur with thyroid conditions such as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when you have an overactive thyroid that is producing too much thyroid hormone. Removal of the whole thyroid gland, which often occurs in cases of thyroid cancer, you would need additional daily thyroid medication to ensure adequate levels of thyroid hormone.

Do weight changes occur after a thyroidectomy?

Some studies have indicated there aren’t any extreme amounts of weight changes in patients. In other instances, those who have had a thyroidectomy especially, when dealing with the condition of hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancer, did experience sudden weight changes,  specifically weight gain. 

This can be extremely frustrating and overwhelming for those who have just gone through surgery and are making adjustments in managing their hormone health in new ways after the removal of a whole or partial thyroid gland. 

Researchers from Georgetown University conducted a study to examine the weight changes in participants after undergoing a thyroidectomy procedure. The participants had recently undergone the procedure and were on euthyroid medication to ensure normal thyroid function. The thyroidectomy participants gained more weight within the first year after surgery compared to the participants who did not undergo a thyroidectomy and were solely on thyroid  medication 

The researchers conducted a further study examining a different group of 120 individuals, which included;  those who had undergone the procedure and were then on euthyroid medication for their hormone health, those with hypothyroidism, and those with no thyroid disease and those with thyroid cancer. After 1 year, the results again concluded that those who had the surgery and were then on euthyroid medication had significantly higher weight gain compared to those just on euthyroid (hypothyroidism), those having no thyroid disease, and those who had thyroid cancer. 

Why do weight changes occur after a Thyroidectomy

Our thyroid gland is important in regulating most of our metabolic functions, which play an integral role in weight management. With its removal, our bodies need to adjust to its functional absence.  

After you undergo a thyroidectomy, you will need to take medication to replace or manage what once was your thyroid gland function. Your doctor will conduct necessary tests and come up with the best course of action in terms of which medication you are on and the dosage. 

There may be an adjustment period where your doctor will monitor your hormone levels and will adjust your dosage. During this time, your body will be adjusting to this new form of thyroid functionality.  Without the actual thyroid gland present, your metabolism will fluctuate. This leads to weight gain after a thyroidectomy procedure in some patients. 

If your thyroid is removed and the hormone levels are not replaced adequately ( which can happen during that initial adjustment period) you can potentially develop insulin resistance. This causes your muscle, fat and liver cells to not respond to insulin. Glucose in your blood is not used for energy which can cause weight gain. 

How to deal with the weight changes after a Thyroidectomy? 

It is important to remember that the reason your weight change is due to the thyroid gland removal which can disrupt your metabolism function. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and take it one day at a time. 

Medication. Guided by your doctor, stick to your hormone replacement medications. You will need to take these your whole life and will find which dosage works best for you over time. Otherwise, you would have hypothyroidism where you are underproducing thyroid hormone and prone to weight gain. 

Diet. Eating a balanced whole foods diet, low in simple carbohydrates and refined sugars will better fuel your body’s energy levels. Opt for dark leafy greens, lean meats, fresh seafood, low-sugar fruit, and dairy alternatives. Eating this way will help balance your blood sugar levels and prevent insulin resistance

Movement. Aim to incorporate some kind of movement or exercise in your everyday life consistently. It does not need to be a complicated workout. Do something that is easy to implement in your daily routine and that you enjoy! 

Yoga, walking outdoors, jumping rope, and going on a bike ride are great ways to get started. Over time, move up to more cardio-intensive workouts such as sprinting/running, spin classes, weightlifting, or even boxing. Exercise is important in regulating our metabolisms and thyroid function. 


Key Takeaways

  • Thyroidectomy is a surgical procedure where all or part of our thyroid gland is removed to treat overactive thyroids in hyperthyroidism or thyroid cancers. 
  • Often weight gain occurs in those who have had the procedure due to their metabolic function linked to thyroid function becoming dysregulated in the absence of a thyroid gland. 
  • People can further develop insulin resistance which also affects weight gain
  • To deal with the weight changes after this procedure:
    • Taking your hormone replacement medication will help to restore your thyroid function. 
    • Maintaining a well-balanced diet consisting of dark leafy greens, lean meats, fresh seafood, low-sugar fruit, and dairy alternatives that are low in simple carbohydrates and refined sugars. This will help prevent insulin resistance and further weight gain.
    • Incorporating daily exercise into your life will help regulate your metabolism and prevent weight gain.

Managing your thyroid health on top of your general health can sometimes be overwhelming, especially with the number of factors you need to be considering. If you’re looking for answers or curious about what other people who have undergone a thyroidectomy are doing – head over to the ThyForLife News & Community section inside our app! Visit this page to download our app for Android or iOS. 

You can ask and answer questions anonymously with other community members, participate in daily polls and discussions, and gain access to more medically reviewed content (like this article).

At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. If you require more detailed information regarding medical terms, conditions, and practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider. 

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