Thyroid Belly Shape: What Causes It And How To Get Rid Of It

Thyroid Belly Shape: What Causes It And How To Get Rid Of It

What is a thyroid belly? 

It’s the characteristic distention of the abdomen that appears to be unique to thyroid patients and its severity can range from mild to severe. 

In the most mild cases, it may just look like you ate a large meal, but in the extreme cases, it could make you look pregnant. 

Some thyroid patients believe that the thyroid belly shape is related purely to fat while others believe it’s purely related to the gut. 

The reality is that it’s caused by a combination of problems all of which can be tied back to your thyroid. 

While it’s certainly a frustrating condition to deal with, the good news is that you can absolutely eliminate it with the right treatments. 

But in order to do that, you have to understand what causes it: 

DOWNLOAD 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 avoid if you have thyroid disease of any type.

DOWNLOAD NOW

The Complete List of Thyroid Lab tests:

The list includes optimal ranges, normal ranges, and the complete list of tests you need to diagnose and manage thyroid disease correctly!

DOWNLOAD NOW

#1. Visceral fat

YouTube video

This is the first and probably most dangerous cause that we will discuss. 

Visceral fat is the worst kind of fat that you can accumulate in your body because it surrounds your organs. 

And research study after research study suggests that this visceral fat is far more problematic than its cousin known as subcutaneous fat (1). 

While both types of fat cause problems, and both types of fat contribute to the thyroid belly shape, visceral fat is the type of fat you want to deal with first because of its long-term danger to your health. 

What causes it? 

What research has taught us is that some people are more prone to developing subcutaneous fat over visceral fat and at least some of this has to do with genetics. 

The other part, the part that matters for this discussion, is related to your lifestyle and thyroid. 

We know that visceral fat is often associated with the condition of metabolic syndrome which is a constellation of problems including high cholesterol, insulin resistance, obesity, and high blood pressure (2). 

Unfortunately, thyroid dysfunction directly impacts cholesterolweight, and blood pressure which is probably why 1 out of every 4 people with thyroid disorders have metabolic syndrome (3). 

Even though this visceral fat is located deep inside your belly around your organs, as it enlarges, it pushes the contents of your stomach outward. 

This causes a distention of your abdomen which contributes to the thyroid belly shape. 

#2. Gas And Bloating

Even if visceral fat isn’t contributing to your thyroid belly, it’s VERY likely this next one is: 

A dysfunctional gut. 

Thyroid patients are prone to developing all sorts of gut conditions that can range from infections (like H. pylori (4)) to bacterial overgrowth syndromes (like SIBO and SIFO). 

And the reason for this has to do with how thyroid hormone impacts the motility or movement of your gut. 

In the healthy state, thyroid hormone helps your gut move along in a rhythmic motion known as peristalsis (5). 

When your thyroid is either too high or too low, it will either speed it up or slow it down, respectively. 

Bloating in hypothyroidism is usually from two causes: 

#1. Constipation.

And #2. Gas. 

And both of these contribute to the thyroid belly shape. 

Constipation is pretty easy to understand:

If your gut moves slower than normal then it will take longer for the food that you eat to exit your body. 

Instead of having a bowel movement every 24 hours (which is normal), you might have a bowel movement every 36 to 48 hours. 

The more constipated you are, the more filled your intestines will be, and the more they will push your stomach outward. 

shop thyroid supplements for all thyroid patients

The second has to do with excess production of gas. 

Gas is usually the result of swallowing air but it is also produced by the bacteria in your gut when they break down certain foods. 

Due to reduced motility of the gut, food stays in the intestinal tract of thyroid patients longer than it should. 

As a result, they are more prone to developing overgrowth of bacteria that use this food as fuel. 

More bacteria means more gas production which means more abdominal distention. 

This condition, known as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), is seen in as much as 50% of patients with hypothyroidism (6) and can be very difficult to treat. 

It should go without saying but eliminating gas, bloating, and constipation is necessary if you want a flat stomach. 

#3. Subcutaneous Fat

Compared to what we’ve talked about so far subcutaneous fat may not sound nearly as concerning, but it still matters. 

As mentioned, this is the type of fat that is found directly underneath your skin. 

You can think of this fat as the type of fat that wiggles and jiggles and contributes to cellulite. 

For most people, when they say they want to lose belly fat, they are almost always referring to subcutaneous fat because this is the fat they can see and feel with their fingers. 

Unfortunately for thyroid patients, they are at increased risk for developing both subcutaneous fat and visceral fat but where they place that fat depends on many factors. 

You can think of it like this: 

The hypothyroid state promotes weight gain by virtue of its impact on metabolism (7). 

The slower your metabolism, the more likely you are to gain weight. 

But where your body places that weight depends on your activity level and the quality of the food you are eating. 

If you are overeating relatively healthy foods, for instance, you are likely to place most of that in the subcutaneous region. 

This is because, aside from having a little extra fat, that fat is still considered “healthy” in that it can produce hormones like leptin to communicate with the brain. 

On the other hand, If you are overeating unhealthy foods (think seed oils, fast food, processed foods, etc.), you are more likely to place most of the fat that you gain around your organs. 

This is because processed foods and fast foods not only bring in calories but also bring in inflammation which can damage your fat cells leading to adiposopathy. 

Most thyroid patients end up with a combination of subcutaneous fat and visceral fat but the exact ratio will vary based on their lifestyle. 

Subcutaneous fat may not increase your risk of heart disease, at least not to the same degree as visceral fat, but it still contributes to the thyroid belly shape and is not cosmetically pleasing to the eye, so you still want to eliminate it if you want a flat belly. 

#4. Fluid Retention

Due to its impact on a compound called hyaluronic acid (8), the hypothyroid state can result in fluid accumulation in different tissues. 

If it happens in your wrist, you’ll end up with carpal tunnel syndrome

If it happens in your legs, you’ll end up with peripheral edema

If it happens in your face, you’ll end up with puffy eyes

And if it happens in your stomach area, you’ll end up with a thyroid belly. 

This condition usually isn’t a big problem all by itself but it often co-exists with the other conditions we’ve mentioned previously. 

The good news is, this particular problem tends to clear up as you treat the other conditions so it’s usually less of a concern.

Can You Get Rid Of A Thyroid Belly? 

Absolutely!

While it can be difficult, it’s not impossible and even if you can’t completely get to a flat stomach, you can almost always get pretty close. 

Eliminating that thyroid belly shape is all about targeting the right problem, though, which is why I went through all of the trouble explaining each one. 

Once you have figured out which problem(s) are contributing to your thyroid belly, it’s just a matter of treating them one by one. 

Here are some tips to help you do just that: 

How to eliminate thyroid-related visceral fat

If visceral fat is your main problem then you are going to need to be aggressive which will most likely mean dramatic changes to your lifestyle are necessary.  

  • Optimize thyroid function. You can do this with natural treatments or with thyroid medication. You’ll know if you are there when your thyroid symptoms completely disappear. 
  • Completely eliminate processed foods and replace them with whole foods
  • Start exercising, using a combination of weight training and cardiovascular training. 
  • Take advantage of intermittent or prolonged fasting. 
  • Use supplements designed to target insulin resistance and leptin resistance like glucomannanberberine, and alpha lipoic acid

How to Eliminate Thyroid-Related Subcutaneous Fat

If subcutaneous fat is your primary problem then you should already be at least partially active and already eating mostly whole foods. 

  • Optimize thyroid function (see above). 
  • Be mindful of your intake of healthy foods to make sure you aren’t accidentally overeating. 
  • Use intermittent fasting or prolonged fasting to reduce total caloric intake. 
  • If you are already exercising, increase the intensity or length of your workouts to enhance metabolic burn. 
  • Consider adding weight loss supplements to augment your lifestyle efforts. 

How to Eliminate Thyroid-Related Gas and Bloating

  • Optimize thyroid function (see above). 
  • Get tested for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and treat if needed. 
  • Pay attention to the foods that you eat to find how your gut and body respond to them. Avoid eating foods that make your bloating and gas worse. 
  • Try supplements to improve gut health like herbal antibiotics, enzymes, l-glutamine, gingerprobiotics, and prebiotics
  • If you are taking an acid blocker for acid reflux, take steps to get off of it as soon as possible

How to Eliminate Thyroid-Related Fluid Retention

  • Optimize thyroid function (see above). 
  • Exercise regularly to promote drainage of fluid through the lymphatic system. 
  • Use a massage gun or other vibration devices to promote the movement of fluid through your tissues. 

Follow these treatment strategies and stay consistent and you should be able to completely get rid of your thyroid belly for good. 

Scientific References

#1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7563871/

#2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459248/

#3. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354852

#4. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8848460/

#5. pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20351569/

#6. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10303511/

#7. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6711558/

#8. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3219173/

four causes of thyroid belly & how to get rid of it

picture of westin childs D.O. standing

About Dr. Westin Childs

Hey! I'm Westin Childs D.O. (former Osteopathic Physician). I don't practice medicine anymore and instead specialize in helping people like YOU who have thyroid problems, hormone imbalances, and weight loss resistance. I love to write and share what I've learned over the years. I also happen to formulate the best supplements on the market (well, at least in my opinion!) and I'm proud to say that over 80,000+ people have used them over the last 7 years. You can read more about my own personal health journey and why I am so passionate about what I do.

P.S. Here are 4 ways you can get more help right now:

#1. Get my free thyroid downloads, resources, and PDFs here.

#2. Need better symptom control? Check out my thyroid supplements.

#3. Sign up to receive 20% off your first order.

#4. Follow me on Youtube, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram for up-to-date thyroid tips, tricks, videos, and more.

7 thoughts on “Thyroid Belly Shape: What Causes It And How To Get Rid Of It”

  1. Hi I have sub clinical low tsh I don’t even get a marker for my bloods, but I have no hyperthyroidism symptoms they are all hypothyroid symptoms, my docs dropped me from 100mcg levo thyroxine in October to 75mcg and I’ve put on 2 stone and got water retention and the weight is all on my belly no where else apart from the water retention which gathers in ankles and legs and then hands during the day… where am I going wrong here and what to do next? Thanks

    Reply
    • Hi Claire,

      The short answer is that the standard of care for thyroid patients is grossly inadequate. The longer version is explained in more detail here: https://www.restartmed.com/doctors-fail-thyroid-patients/

      The good news is that this website has plenty of information to help you get back to feeling 100% but it will require more than just pushing your dose of levothyroxine around a bit.

      Reply
  2. 25 yrs ago I was put on the thyroid medication levothyroxine to gid rid of a skin rash the specialist were unable to cure using creams and salves. I have a thyroid belly as the article describes. I gained 35 pounds over the years and no matter how much I dieted, worked out, I have been unable to lose an ounce of weight. I have floating fat globules all over my body. I’m seeing my doctor next week and telling her that I’m not taking the thyroid medication any longer. Perhaps tirosint which targets the T3 cells I’m told would work. Your thoughts please!

    Reply
  3. I have been told that my thyroid needs to be removed because my heart rate is causing me to sweat and then have chills I am also having palpitations and have been taking metropolol and amlodipine. Will I possibly die without the surgery or taking tapozole for thyroid imbalances?

    Reply
    • Hi Loretta,

      Possibly, but it would be unlikely. It’s really hard for me to give any meaningful insight, though, as I don’t have enough information. As such, you will want to lean on the information provided to you by your doctor or seek a second opinion.

      I can tell you, though, that, nowadays, doctors are all too eager to remove the thyroid gland when it isn’t always necessary. So at the very least, you will probably want to look at a second opinion or try lifestyle changes, assuming your life isn’t in immediate danger.

      Reply
  4. I am a 35 year old female diagnosed with Graves disease at 21. I received RAI treatment at that time, and have managed on Levothyroxine alone until about a year ago. I convinced my doctor to add Liothyronine to my treatment, which has helped, but only very little. I almost always eat clean, I exercise regularly (bike 10 miles a day, 4 days a week), I’m active with my 4 kids, and I am still gaining weight! The stubborn weight gain only began about 1-2 years ago, but it’s gotten so bad, I cannot stand it. What do you suggest I try next? I’m willing to take supplements, follow a strict diet, anything I can. It’s been hard to find advice specifically for people like me who have hypothyroidism due to RAI, and have zero natural thyroid function. Thank you SO much for all that you do! Your website has been such a blessing to me.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

0
Your Cart
Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop
Calculate Shipping