The Connection Between Your Metabolism and Thyroid Hormone (+ How to Boost it)

​Test your metabolism:

Do you gain weight by just smelling food?

Have you been on multiple calorie-restricted diets throughout your life?

Are you eating 1,000 calories per day just to MAINTAIN your weight?

Are you cold, fatigued, and exhausted? 

If you answered YES to any of these questions then there is a HIGH chance that your metabolism is damaged.

But the question is: 

What can you do about it?

if you've read about the biggest loser study recently you're probably really depressed.

Why?

Because according to that data you are destined to have a slow metabolism for a LOOOOONG time (at least 6 years according to the data), and there's nothing you can do about it.

Lucky for you that turns out to be COMPLETELY WRONG. So don't worry!

I'm going to explain what YOU can do about your metabolism to heal it and start losing weight...​

More...

Is your Metabolism Damaged?

Most people know when their metabolism is damaged, but some people are walking around completely unaware. 

We've already gone over some symptoms above but because it can get confusing I've included a list of more symptoms below: ​

  • Constant weight gain no matter how few calories you eat
  • History of recurrent yo-yo dieting
  • Constantly hungry even after large meals 
  • Chronic fatigue or extreme exhaustion
  • Cold body temperature/intolerance to cold temperatures

You might have noticed that MANY of these symptoms are similar to those of people who have hypothyroidism.

And you are completely right.

Do you see why that is important?

Understanding this point will help you to understand HOW to fix the problem.

Because a damaged metabolism means you ALSO have damaged thyroid function. 

Which means that proper treatment of your metabolism will be proper replacement thyroid hormone replacement! ​

Download my Free Resources:

Foods to Avoid if you have Thyroid Problems: 

I've found that these 10 foods cause the most problems for thyroid patients. Learn which foods you should absolutely be avoiding if you have thyroid disease of any type. 

The Complete List of Thyroid Lab Tests:

This list includes optimal ranges, normal ranges, and the complete list of tests you need to diagnose thyroid hypothyroidism correctly!

Download more free resources on this page

How to Test your Metabolism

The best way to test your metabolism is through a machine known as indirect calorimetry

Indirect calorimetry

This device allows you to estimate the number of calories you burn while resting - your resting metabolic rate. 

Your resting metabolic rate is what is known as your metabolism - meaning how many calories do you burn while breathing, thinking, living, etc. 

The more damage you have to your metabolism, the fewer calories you will burn while "living". 

Another easy way to "estimate" your metabolism is by checking both your resting heart rate and resting body temperature (1).

​Your body temperature is a reflection of much energy (AKA Heat) your body produces. 

The more heat you produce = the higher your body temperature = higher metabolism. 

So people who have lower body temperatures burn fewer calories at rest. 

Get it? 

And we already know that hypothyroid patients have a low body temperature (2), to begin with. 

​So being overweight AND hypothyroid is a double whammy - and not the good kind. 

​STOP Damaging your Metabolism

One of the primary ways that people damage their metabolism, to begin with, is through calorie-restricted dieting. 

If you've ever done a calorie-restricted diet for more than 21 days in a row, your metabolism is damaged. Period.

Calorie restriction, counting calories, HCG diet, etc. are all names for the same thing:

Diets that DAMAGE your metabolism.

And these kinds of diets will NEVER lead to long-lasting weight loss. 

​The perfect example of this is the biggest loser study (which we discussed above). 

In this study, researchers followed 14 of the biggest loser contestants over 6 years after the program and showed that not only was their metabolism damaged DURING their weight loss, it STAYED damaged 6 years later.

I can't tell you how bad these diets are for weight loss. They just won't work. ​

​But what can you do about it?

​7 Steps to HEAL your Slow Metabolism

I'll be honest with you:

Healing a metabolism will take some time.

This is NOT an overnight process. Even though everyone out there wishes it was.

If you don't do these things, or if you revert back to calorie restriction to "maintain" your weight ​you will NEVER lose the extra weight you are holding on to. 

If you can stick to these 7 steps, you will notice an increase in your energy, a reduction in your weight and slow improvement in all of your symptoms.

The more damaged your metabolism, the longer the process will take. ​

#1 Get on T3 Thyroid Hormone

Extreme weight loss and calorie-restricted dieting leads to high concentrations of reverse T3 (3).

​The higher reverse T3 is in your blood the slower your metabolism will be. 

​Reverse T3 directly blocks Free T3 from turning cellular genetic transcription on in the nucleus of your cells thereby DECREASING thyroid function. 

You can read more about reverse T3 levels here and why they are important.

In order to reverse this process (and reverse high T3 levels), you have to provide your body with higher levels of T3 to "flush" the reverse T3 out of your system. 

This means taking thyroid medications that contain T3 hormone like liothyronine, Cytomel, SR T3 or Natural Desiccated thyroid.

Taking medications like levothyroxine, Synthroid or Tirosint can actually INCREASE reverse T3 levels and make the problem worse.

#2 Boost Mitochondrial Function with these Superfoods

Remember way back to 6th grade when you were taught about the "powerhouse of the cell"?

Those mitochondria in your cells are the guys that create almost ALL of the energy your body uses in the form of ATP. 

So in order to burn more fat and increase your metabolism, you have to increase the EFFICIENCY of your mitochondria.

They are always working (if they weren't you'd be dead).

But how efficient they are working is another story.

One of the best ways to boost mitochondrial function is to consume healthy foods that your mitochondria LOVE. 

 I'm talking about MCT (or medium chained triglycerides). 

Sources of MCT from food

These amazing fats are found in coconut oil, cheese, butter, and milk. 

They are actually fats that your mitochondria use as ENERGY as opposed to storing them in your fat cells for later use. 

They have been shown to boost fat burning potential (4), suppress appetite (5) and boost ketone production in the body (6). 

MCT oil boosts metabolism

#3 Move More and Move Faster

I'm talking about combining low-intensity exercise with high-intensity exercise. 

Every day you should be walking at least 30 minutes. You should NOT be sitting all day (even if you have a desk job) and you should try to be as active as possible - parking far away, taking the stairs, etc.

Lots of low-intensity exercise throughout the day helps keep muscles moving, blood pumping and reduces your risk of death from all causes (7). 

In addition to walking and moving for 30 minutes on a daily basis, you should ALSO be practicing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) one to three times per week. 

Doing HIIT for at least 2 weeks has shown to significantly increase the number AND function of your mitochondria in your muscles (8). 

The science behind HIIT

​More mitochondria = more energy production = higher metabolism. 

​But what about people who are so fatigued they can't even exercise? 

Great question:

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from a slow metabolism find it almost impossible to get up an exercise due to crushing fatigue.

If you fall into this category I don't recommend adding in exercise UNTIL you've been on thyroid hormone and adrenal support for at least one month.

​But...

Just because you can't do HIIT doesn't mean you can't do low-intensity exercise daily.

And if you can't walk for 30 minutes daily, then start with 20 minutes or whatever else works for you.

The point is to push yourself (but not too fast).​

And by the way - HIIT also has a number of other amazing benefits like reducing insulin resistance (9), increasing weight loss (10) and balancing neurotransmitters (11). 

#4 Add Intermittent Fasting and Prolonged Fasting to your Routine

While each of these 7 steps is important - this one might just be the MOST important of all. 

And I would guess this is probably the one step you HAVEN'T tried. 

While it may seem counter-intuitive, fasting actually causes an INCREASE in your metabolism as opposed to a decrease. 

And it can get confusing here, so let me explain:

There is a big difference between prolonged and sustained calorie restriction and episodic calorie restriction. 

21 days of calorie restriction will DAMAGE your metabolism. 

Fasting 1-2 days per week will HEAL your metabolism and help you burn fat. 

Episodic fasting increases your metabolism by boosting adrenaline levels (12) (norepinephrine) and INCREASING fat breakdown

Resting metabolic rate and weight over 4 days of fasting

That means going without food actually INCREASES your energy, not decreases it.

​I like to use this example: 

Imagine yourself thousands of years ago hunting woolly mammoths. You only get to eat when you get a kill, and that doesn't happen on a daily basis. That means you may go days between each meal.

Does it make sense for your body to completely shut down, you to get dizzy, lightheaded and sluggish if you can't get a meal for a few days?

Obviously not! We would all be dead if that were the case.

The symptoms you get when you go without food (getting "hangry") is a product of your biochemistry and its inability to burn fat as a fuel source. Once you change that - your body will actually start to burn fat instead of just store it. ​

#5 Reduce Inflammation in your Gut

This section applies to you if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Gas or abdominal bloating/distention
  • Acid reflux or metallic taste in the back of your mouth at night
  • Constipation, diarrhea or a combination of the two
  • Abdominal pain from cramping, especially after meals
  • Allergies to multiple food groups
  • Chronic hives, itching or swelling after eating certain foods
  • History of irritable bowel syndrome

​If you have any of these conditions they MUST be treated and corrected or you will always have damage to your metabolism. 

This damage is mediated through a toxin known as Lipopolysaccharide and it's a part of the cell wall of certain bacteria in your gut. 

The problem is this:

It was never meant to get into our bloodstream or into our cells, but when there is inflammation or damage to the gut, it gets through and causes tons of damage.

Gut inflammation = High LPS levels in the blood = Mitochondrial damage = Reduced metabolism

Not only does LPS damage mitochondrial function (13), but it also damages thyroid function by DECREASING T4 to T3 conversion (14).

​Treating each condition is very different so I won't go into that here, but just realize you need to manage your gut health if you ever hope to improve your metabolism. 

You can start by taking a highly potent probiotic designed to restore intestinal microflora. 

#6 Get your Leptin Levels Checked

Leptin resistance is probably the commonly missed component of weight loss resistance that I've seen in my patients. 

Most people realize the importance of the other 7 steps listed here, but unfortunately, many Doctors don't realize how important leptin resistance is.

High levels of Leptin make thyroid function worse and send signals to the brain to reduce metabolism and increase appetite.

Unless the vicious cycle is broken, leptin resistance will make weight loss impossible.

Some of the other techniques listed above will help reverse Leptin resistance (like HIIT + supplements + healthy diet), but I prefer to use a GLP-1 agonist in many patients.

These medications can help some patients lose 10-20 pounds in the first month of treatment (15) simply by lowering leptin levels and reversing leptin resistance.

If you have diabetes, hypothyroidism or weight loss resistance you NEED to have your leptin levels checked.

And if they are high, consider using this medication to lower them. ​

#7 Take Energy Boosting Supplements

The goal of using supplements is only to AUGMENT the other steps listed above.

Simply ordering these supplements and not doing anything else listed here will NOT result in healing your metabolism.

However, if these supplements are used in combination with the recommendations above they can be very powerful.

All of these supplements help boost mitochondrial function while lowering inflammation:​

Wrapping it up

Healing your metabolism is possible, it just takes time and the 7 steps listed above. 

I've successfully used these steps above to help patients heal their metabolism even after dieting for decades and decades. 

Just remember that ALL seven steps must be done in order to increase your basal metabolic rate. Just picking 1 or 2 will NOT be enough. 

It will also be very beneficial if you can get help from a knowledgable practitioner. It can be difficult to accomplish many of these steps by yourself, and having someone to help - especially when medication is required - will make the process a lot more effective.

Now I want to hear from you:

Do you have a damaged metabolism? 

What have you tried that has worked?

Leave your questions or comments below! 

References (Click to Expand)

This post was most recently updated on January 18th, 2019

Dr. Westin Childs

Dr. Westin Childs is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. He provides well-researched actionable information about hormone-related disorders and formulates supplements to treat these disorders.He is trained in Internal Medicine, Functional Medicine, and Integrative Medicine. His focus is on managing thyroid disorders, weight loss resistance, and other sex hormone imbalances.You can read more about his own personal journey here.

36 thoughts on “The Connection Between Your Metabolism and Thyroid Hormone (+ How to Boost it)”

  1. Thank you! What a great article. I cannot lose weight despite many diets. I have lost 16kgs on HCG but 6 months later I am back where I started. I have Hashimotos but find it very difficult to get any doctors in Australia to test for anything let alone reverse T3 and Leptin levels! I will try all the ones I can without testing. Do you have any advice?
    Many thanks,
    Mary

    • Hey Mary,

      You will need to get those tests first to determine where your problem is at. Once you know, then you can create a plan to take action! Until then you are just flying blind.

  2. Hi, I am from the U.K.
    I had Graves Disease and had thyroidectomy in 2012 ending with a tracheostomy for a few months. I was started on Levo 125mg but they have now put it down to 100mg and I feel absolutely lousy, tired lifeless cant sleep hair falling out and nails snapping. My G.P. says my levels are fine and wont allow me take anything else. What would you suggest. I am willing to buy T3 but I don’t know what dose id have to take. Please could you help me get my life back. thank You. Kath

    • Hey Kath,

      I don’t recommend taking it unless it’s under physician supervision, too much can be dangerous.

  3. Hi Dr. Child,
    tabk you fir your advise abd I took Cytomol but after 4 week I did the bkuttest abd myTH3 was high and TH4 was very low and the Doctor
    Told ne to stop and use Levotroxin but I lodt in the 4 weeks over 10 pound the only thing negative was that I my hair was getting thiner
    And now I take Morning levotroxin and evening half tablet Cytomol and will do bluttest in 4 week
    Thank you again

  4. Thank you, Dr. Childs, for another set of action steps. I’m sure my metabolism is damaged! Decades of all kinds of diets desperate to lose weight, but I actually gained 15 pounds per year when working out and on low calorie diets. My body seems to love set points. In the past 4 years I’ve been learning the better way toward general, AI, and thyroid health. Based on your previous restart post, for two months I have been on healing diet and exercise (45 min on recumbent bike 5x week + HIIT 3x week) plus the adrenal glandulars. Just started taking the adrenal adaptogens. I have lost several inches in my torso, which is great, but my weight won’t budge from its “favorite spot” after 20’ish years of Hashimoto’s. Now I’ll try these new steps. I appreciate all that you share on your blog!

  5. Hi Dr. Child, I was diagnosed with Papillary Cancer in 2009, I am 35 years old. I had a total thyroidectomy and iodine ablation. Should I follow your 7 steps? I found the information here very interesting and it could be very helpful, but does it apply to me?

  6. Wow, this all is so confusing to me. I have no insurance and unfortunately very little money for lots of drugs. Most people seem to be battling a little weight loss. I am dying from my weight. I thought I would start loosing but instead I gain. I am exhausted, vitamin d deficiency, keep gaining weight, I am on 2 antidepressants, a med for arthritis, a stomach med, a med to help with insomnia and albuteral. I am so ashamed of my weight and can’t seem to get a grip on anything. I know it is killing me but I feel lost. I weigh in at 295 now. I don’t have money so what can I do to help myself or am I gonna die because I can’t get help. I am truly terrified. I am at a loss. I don’t know. Is there anything I can do to stop this. Should I stop taking my meds.

    • Hey Becky,

      Unfortunately those are questions only your doctor can answer. I wouldn’t recommend you stop any medication without consulting your doctor because that can be dangerous. I will be honest with you – you are not likely to find great care inside the insurance model.

    • Hey Aida,

      No diet out there is likely to completely reverse and fix thyroid function, but it may slightly boost thyroid function (if your diet was terrible prior to starting it).

  7. Good article, but my doctor don’t recommended selenium for me by taking levothyroxin 112mcg , and how safe is T3 supplements that everyone can buy online? ??

  8. I found this article very interesting. I found out several years ago through resting metabolic rate testing that mine was the lowest they had ever tested. The reason I had it tested was weight gain even though I was exercising and eating healthy. I had been thin all my life. Over the past year and a half, I have been treated for hypothyroidism. I have tried 4 different medications that I cannot tolerate due to sleepless nights, nightmares, immediate weight gain and generally feeling “crappy”. I have gained 18 pounds. During this time, my TSH levels have been all over the place from 1.89 to 7.2. My T4 and T3 levels are normal. I have a history of not being able to tolerate any medications or even supplements. I have been to 2 endocrinologists. Any thoughts on my situation would be appreciated because I am desperate to improve my life. I am ready to leave doctor visits, blood tests and medications behind.

  9. Hi Dr.Childs

    I have been sick for 4 years, started acutely at 44,fours years befor that a CLEAN gallbladder just stopped work, out it went want it back.that was really the beginning of the end but in a lot better place then 2-3 years ago, bedridden, in pain multi-sysmtoms, deppresed and and wanting my life to end.After having to UNDO all that the mainstream doctors did to me and all the way they convinced me I was crazy, gave be deppression drugs, anxity drugs, operations I didn’t need a lost of humiliation, also got fired from a few, they don’t like really sick people.They and one good doctor,finally diagoned me with idiopathic gastroparesis, Hoshimotos, diverticulitis, fibromyalgia vitamin defcieancies food sensitivits, high CRP low blood pressure, High pulse,sex hormonal imbalances, After learning so much from you and a few others, I have got off a precriptions still have pain and other sysmtoms but I knew I would never get better on them.My t-3 is still not a optiamal revers is high, need my leptin levels check, over weight from hypo and straving for 3 years with gp, and HIGH simple carb sad diet they reccomened.I am using ALL AND I MEAN ALL THE ADDVICE YOU GIVE AND I’M STRICT ABOUT ALL, MY LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.My kitchen counter looks like a health food store from NAC to alc to ala and probiotic an on and on.I wish I would have known ALL this stuff before.I blamed mainstream med, and US for not caring about are selves until to late.Now my question Gastroparesis is an ugly evil painful disease and its really makes getting healthy that much harder.Now I have tried every enzyme and hcl on the market, I can’t swallow and have a sore throat after using them, they dont work well for me anyway( I don’t have acid reflux any more so its not that). But I keep trying.Is my HOshimotos reacting to the OX BILe, and the gastrin in the HCL? I know somany say that NDTS will increase antibodies so I thought that was maybe what is happen or my throat senese the higher acid and its like my LES clamps tight and I can’t burp up air and the pressure make me feel like I’m choking.Only get that with those things.You would be proud if you knew how hard I try, I don’t watch tv or waste of time stuff I just study people like you and Dr. Jack Kruse, Dr.Issabella Wentz Dr.Mercola and so forth.I seemed to have hit a wall, can hardly ever leave the house and if I do can not eat ANYTHING before I go, and wind up feeling like I have the stomach flu and having a heart attack I’m not.My other question is I am going to see a Hormone expert and funtional med doct. He orderd unrin all the right test BUT reverse t3, but we did it ourselves, and tested all sex hormones BUT FSH and SHBG????? Why not? He claims to be an EXPERT.I still keep hoping if I get this ALL balance ALL!!!! My my GP will go away.Any advice would be worshiped from you. Your Friend, Ava

  10. Hi Dr. Childs, I also did 5 rounds of HCG (injections, and 650+ calories per day) during 2015 and 2016. This after finding it impossible to lose once I hit menopause. My first round was my best round, and I dropped 30 pounds in two months. I ran into trouble during my second round with a too high dosage, which I lowered and then stopped because of hunger issues. When my dosage was correct, I had no hunger issues whatsoever. I had a decent third round, but then I started regaining after I found I was diagnosed with Adrenal Fatigue. I did two more rounds, but the weight wouldn’t stay off. It took me a year to recover from the AF, and I do feel much better now.

    I am in menopause, recently started taking compounded bioidentical hormones, and I have Hashimoto’s. I am in Europe and take European thyroid drugs (Thybon T3, 10 mcgs daily and .50 mcgs Euthyrox T4.) I also inject Sermorelin, a growth hormone agonist, in the evenings, which has been a big help with sleep and improved my energy levels. I am 5,3.5 and 186 pounds and need to lose about 40 pounds to be at a healthy weight again.

    I have only just started exercising again recently (after being inactive because of the AF and low energy) about six weeks ago. I do strength-training 2x per week, HIIT training 2x per week, and walk the other days 1-2 hours per day, 10-20,000 steps. I also stretch, do planks and TRX), and go to the sauna 3-4x per week. I’ve managed to lose about three pounds so far, but it’s probably all water, and that’s it. My clothes feel a little bit looser, too. I don’t drink much alcohol, 1-2 drinks per week, and I don’t drink coffee anymore, except on occasion, and no fruit juices or soda. I am normally drinking green tea and 2-3 liters of water per day.

    Foodwise, I drink protein shakes with greens and flax seeds in the mornings, usually have fish/chicken/meat/plant protein and salad with my own dressing made from MCT oil which lunch and similar meal for dinner (protein with vegetables), I go easy on fruit (usually apples or berries). I occasionally have dark chocolate and my own home-baked bread (made with spelt and buckwheat flour).

    I have some food intolerances (wheat, dairy, eggs, almonds) so I tend to avoid those.

    I tried intermittent fasting, but it had an adverse effect on my reproductive hormones (they were quire low), so I am not sure if I should do that. I understand it has a different effect on women.

    I also take supplements (Fish oil, probiotics, Vitamin D3, Resveratrol, Collagen, magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Stress B Complex, CoQ10, Vitamin C, Liv Amend, Glutamine, Antronex and adaptagenic herbs.)

    I am trying not to freak out about the scale not moving, but it’s not easy to do all these things and see no progress. Also, it’s scary to read that the HCG might have damaged my metabolism and/or thyroid, especially when I was reassured it was safe. What else should I be doing to heal my metabolism and lose all this weight?

    Any guidance appreciated. Best, Tina

  11. Any research, clinical experience or opinions on the use of cold or hot therapy or far infrared in regards to resetting metabolism? Thanks for the informative article. You really have the pulse of your target audience and pump out excellent content consistently.

  12. Good morning Dr. Child,
    I am a 50+ yr old female with subclinical hypothyroidism, non-Hashi. I am finally on the correct meds (NatureThroid) and I follow a Keto Diet but I really don’t enjoy eating in the morning. I wanted to try 16/8 IF for health, convenience and weight loss but everything I read points to it not working for someone like me (older female, hypo, etc), even possibly making my condition worse. It really seems as if every single article contradicts the one prior. Can you speak to this point, please?

    • Hi Ginger,

      You’ll find seemingly contradictory points on virtually everything related to healthcare because each person is slightly different and there never is a “one-size-fits-all” approach or therapy. I’m not a huge fan of keto because I just don’t think it works as often as other diets but it can work for some.

  13. Hi Dr
    If the t3 is low on my latest test results, may I add a t3 supplement to my diet? Or is it better to consult with my physician?
    Had a thyroidectomy Feb 2018. High TSH and low t3.

    • Hi Renette,

      It’s definitely safest to consult with your physician prior to using T3 because it is so powerful. You may not need to consult with your doctor if you are considering using over the counter supplements, however.

  14. Your site is full of great information but are there actual people who have followed this protocol and successfully reversed their metabolism? It all sounds great but nothing speaks like actual real people who have destroyed their metabolism , followed the protocol and had success- otherwise it seems this is still in the theory stage.

    • Hi DMorgan,

      Just my patients as far I as know. I don’t know anyone else using these medications/therapies so I can’t speak for them!

      You can find the case studies on my website with before/after pictures, I have several posts about them on here.

  15. I am so thrilled that I came across your articles while researching how to reverse hypothroidism. YOU GIVE ME HOPE! Just want to Thank you!!
    I did the HCG diet…. far too many times, I had a hunch resetting my hypothalamus wasn’t such a great idea. Now I’m paying for it. I can’t wait to post updates on healing my thyroid. I felt fine, went in for a physical and bloodwork came back as hypo- so Dr. prescribed me 75mcg levo. I’m hungry, gaining weight, extremely exhausted and numerous other side effects. Wish me luck!

  16. I have been hypothyroid for about 30 years and am presently taking Levothyroxine. This article was very interesting to me as I am having a very difficult time with weight loss. I would love to find someone near me who could assist me in managing my thyroid. I have been under an NP for years, but I think I need someone else to assist as she lowered my levothyroxine dose when I did loose some weight, but when I gained weight, she made no changes. Is there anyone you could recommend near Columbia SC?

  17. Hi Dr. Childs,

    I had a thyroidectomy 6 years ago and have since gained 50 pounds. My doctor refuses to change my medicine and says that it’s in the normal range. Since I do not have a thyroid, are there things that I can do to boost my metabolism? Or – am I limited to eating like a bird the rest of my life?

Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00