Diabetes, Thyroid and Weight Gain

by Ann Bartlett Patient Expert

Weight can be a problem for anyone and especially for someone with diabetes. That wobbling blood sugar can mean that you eat more often and injected insulin has been known to add to the problem of weight gain. Diabetes is no fun

But for some people living with type 1 diabetes, another culprit to weight gain is a sluggish thyroid. Fifteen percent of people with type 1 diabetes will develop low thyroid and a low thyroid level can cause weight gain, as well.

The job of our thyroid is to help regulate our heart rate, play a critical role in metabolism and maintain healthy skin. A sluggish thyroid will show signs of dry skin and brittle hair, achy joints, low energy, low body temperature and depression and, not surprising, weight gain too.

A few years ago, I went to see a new ob/gyn whose focus was on looking for low thyroid. She reached across the desk and grabbed my hands and said, "Are your hands always cold?" She also asked me if I had ever had weight issues. The best medical professional to properly diagnose and treat a thyroid condition is an endocrinologist.

At the time, I was running about 30-40 miles per week and even with a balanced diet, I could not shed weight easily. In fact if I modestly reduced my mileage, I saw weight gain. I thought most of my weight issues were related to a slow metabolism and diabetes. I had no idea that part of the effect be a sluggish thyroid.

A blood test showed that my thyroid level, called TSH, was in the lowest part of the normal range. My doctor explained that for some people being in the low range was just as lousy as being outside the perimeters of acceptable. My symptoms of low thyroid included dry skin and brittle hair, fatigue (especially at 4pm every afternoon), cold hands and feet, low body temperature (average 97.9) and weight gain. I never feel sick, but constantly lethargic.

After a month of thyroid meds, I could start the car and rev the engine! I felt like I was doing everything better and had more energy then ever before. I needed no convincing thyroid medication was going to be every bit as important as my insulin injection.

Some Facts about Thyroid Disease:

Thyroid Disease is far reaching then the press has given attention to. According to The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists(AACE) and the American College of Endocrinology, an estimated 30 million American have thyroid condition, but 15 million Americans remain undiagnosed and of 30 million people suffering thyroid disorders, 80 percent suffer a form of hypothyroidism.

In most cases of diabetes and thyroid disease, it is diagnosed as Hashimoto's thyroiditis. According to ADA, people with one organ-specific autoimmune disease have a greater risk of developing another autoimmune response.

It's been 10 years, since I started taking my thyroid meds and I've had to increase them twice in the last couple of years.
At least now, I know symptoms, like weight gain, can be thyroid related and I can request a blood test to evaluate the TSH levels.
Having balance in my body is everything to being able to conquer the days, weeks, months and years.

For more on hypothyroidism and diabetes, read David Mendosa's Diabetes and Hypothyroidism- Partners in Ill Health.

Ann Bartlett
Meet Our Writer
Ann Bartlett

Ann wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Diabetes.