Thyroid and Metabolism: Are They Connected?

Jenna Hilton
May 9, 2024

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in metabolism, influencing how our body processes food and turns it into energy. Optimal thyroid hormone levels can improve metabolic rate, help you get in shape, and restore hormonal balance for a better mood, higher energy, and increased cognitive clarity.

This article delves into the connection between thyroid and metabolism and gives you actionable tips to boost metabolism for better thyroid health.

Thyroid and metabolism: are they connected?

Does Thyroid Function Affect Metabolism?

The thyroid gland produces the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones control cellular metabolism and affect vital bodily functions, such as energy expenditure, heart rate, growth, body temperature, and digestion. They directly influence the speed of metabolism, impacting how your body transforms food into energy.

Thyroid Conditions That Affect Metabolism

Metabolic function directly depends on thyroid hormones. Abnormal thyroid hormone levels can impair metabolic health in two distinct ways outlined in the following chart:

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
CharacteristicsInsufficient production and release of thyroid hormones.Excessive production of T3 and T4hormones.
Metabolic impactSlows down metabolism.Speeds up metabolism.
Common symptomsFatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, dry skin, and depression.Rapid heartbeat, weight loss, increased appetite, excessive sweating, insomnia, and anxiety.
Affected populationAffects all ages and genders, with a higher prevalence among women.Affects approximately 1.2% of the population in the United States and is slightly more common among women.
Treatment solutionsHormone replacement therapy is an effective treatment for older women, as they are more likely to develop this condition after menopause.Treatments usually involve antithyroid drugs, radioactive iodine, beta-blockers, or surgical removal of the thyroid gland.

Thyroid disorders require medical assistance and prescribed medication. Below is a list of the most common thyroid health problems that affect metabolism. The list is not exhaustive so it is essential to consult your medical provider if you suspect problems with your thyroid gland.


Thyroiditis (thyroid inflammation) encompasses the following group of health conditions:

  • Hashimoto’s disease
  • Postpartum thyroiditis
  • Radiation-induced type
  • Drug-induced type
  • Acute infectious thyroiditis
  • Riedel thyroiditis

This inflammation can be temporary (acute or subacute) or permanent (chronic). Treatments and symptoms vary depending on the disorder and its severity. Thyroiditis can affect anyone, and the most common type is Hashimoto’s.


Hashimoto’s disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis) is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, often resulting in hypothyroidism. This chronic inflammation decreases thyroid hormone levels and slows down metabolism.

Common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, cold intolerance, constipation, and heavy or irregular menstrual periods. Patients are encouraged to take regular blood tests to monitor thyroid hormone levels and take prescribed medication with a synthetic form of thyroxine.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which starts producing a surplus of hormones (i.e., hyperthyroidism). Increased metabolic activity causes rapid heartbeat, tremors, anxiety, weight loss, diarrhea, and heat intolerance.

This rare condition affects more females than males, typically aged thirty to fifty. The risk increases if you smoke, have other autoimmune conditions, or have a family history of thyroid dysfunction. This lifelong disorder requires medical care. Symptoms can be alleviated with beta-blockers, antithyroid drugs, and radioiodine therapy.

Thyroid Nodules

Nodules are unusual lumps (growth) of cells on the thyroid gland. Depending on their size, number, and hormone production, they may slow down or accelerate your metabolic rate. Common symptoms include difficulty swallowing, voice changes, neck pain, and thyroid gland enlargement.

Thyroid nodules are usually benign and rarely cancerous, however, they can cause or indicate an underlying thyroid disorder. Thyroid nodules affect 6% of women and 1-2% of men and are less common in children. Depending on the underlying cause, they may require radioactive iodine therapy, surgery, or no treatment.


Goiter is a treatable condition characterized by an enlarged thyroid gland. Depending on the underlying thyroid disorder, it may disrupt metabolic processes. Common symptoms include neck vein swelling, a lump below the Adam’s apple, tightness, hoarseness, and dizziness.

There are two types of thyroid enlargement:

  • Toxic goiter – The gland is enlarged and contains nodules that produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone, directly impacting metabolism.
  • Non-toxic goiter – The gland is enlarged, but thyroid hormone levels are within an optimal range. This condition typically does not affect metabolism.

People who suffer from obesity, insulin resistance, or metabolic syndrome are more likely to develop this condition.

Thyroid Cancer

This type of cancer starts in the tissue cells of the thyroid gland. It shows no symptoms at first, but as it grows patients may experience neck swelling, lumps (nodules), voice changes, and swallowing difficulties. Disrupted thyroid hormone activity impacts metabolism, typically by slowing it down.

There are several types of thyroid cancer, and most of them have a good cure rate. Treatments include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, thyroid hormone therapy, and radioiodine therapy.

How to Boost Metabolism When You Have a Thyroid Disorder

Improving thyroid health will positively impact various bodily functions, including metabolism. A healthy thyroid will help you increase metabolism for weight loss or simply enhance overall health, regardless of your weight goals.

Make sure your thyroid hormones are under control before making any lifestyle changes. Always consult an endocrinologist before trying new exercise regimes, supplements, or diets.

Moving your body to boost metabolism.

Move Your Body

Regular exercise can improve thyroid function and help you reap additional health benefits, such as better sleep, more energy, and increased metabolism. However, excessive exercise or high-intensity training may provoke heart failure if your thyroid hormones aren’t well-controlled. Therefore, doctors recommend different workout plans based on your fitness level and health condition.

Beginners can start with low-impact exercises, such as:

  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Water aerobics
  • Strength training
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Pilates
  • Bike riding

High-impact exercises involve more risks, but with more stamina and your doctor’s approval, you can safely engage in them.

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

Check Your Vitamin and Mineral Levels

Dysfunctional thyroid often indicates vitamin or mineral deficiency. Optimal levels of essential micronutrients help moderate TSH levels, protect the thyroid from oxidative stress, and promote overall health. They are also essential for regulating energy metabolism and the production of enzymes that facilitate energy release and storage.

Your healthcare provider may run a blood test to determine if you have any vitamin or mineral deficiencies that impair your thyroid function and metabolism.

  • Vitamin A – This fat-soluble vitamin inhibits thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion and regulates thyroid hormone metabolism. It reduces the risk of Hashimoto’s disease and premenopausal hypothyroidism.
  • Vitamin B – The vitamin B complex promotes weight loss, speeds up metabolism, and helps stabilize thyroid hormones. Vitamin B2 (riboflavin) reduces inflammation in autoimmune conditions (e.g., Hashimoto’s), B6 (pyridoxine) helps convert stored fat to energy and improves iodine uptake, and B7 (biotin) helps maintain metabolic homeostasis.
  • Vitamin B12 – Supports energy production, turns carbs into glucose, and affects red blood cell formation. Hypothyroid and Hashimoto’s patients benefit from supplemental B12.
  • Vitamin C – Reduces post-workout oxidative stress and speeds up metabolism. Vitamin C also aids weight loss efforts by helping you burn more calories at rest. Studies indicate that this vitamin helps regulate thyroid hormone concentrations in patients with hypothyroidism.
  • Vitamin D3 – Optimizes thyroid-stimulating (TSH) levels that impact your body’s metabolism. Adequate levels of D3 enhance the immune system and help prevent the risk of autoimmune thyroid diseases.
  • Magnesium – Aids the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone T4 into the active thyroid hormone T3, which directly impacts your metabolism.
  • Iodine – Too much or too little of this mineral can destabilize thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) levels, which regulate metabolism and other bodily functions.  
  • Selenium – This mineral is required for the enzymes that enable the conversion of T3 to T4. Supplementation with selenium can help to prevent or minimize hypothyroidism.
  • Zinc – Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are characterized by zinc deficiency. This mineral impacts the immune system and promotes the T3 to T4 conversion.

Note: IV therapy for weight loss is another way to optimize nutrients and improve metabolic function.

Modify Your Diet

You can tweak your dietary regime to improve thyroid health and increase metabolism. A metabolic diet is a good place to start, as it aims to boost metabolism by tuning in to your body’s natural cues. Avoid fad diets that promise quick and easy solutions, and always consult a certified nutritionist or an endocrinologist when choosing a new meal plan.

The following dietary guidelines can help you get started:

  • High-protein mealsAmino acids are protein compounds that help you burn more calories, build muscles, and regulate the metabolism of thyroid hormones. Protein-rich foods include meat, dairy, eggs, soybeans, lentils, and fish.
  • Mineral-rich foods – Mineral deficiencies may worsen thyroid health and impair metabolic function. Depending on the condition, you may lack iodine, magnesium, selenium, or zinc. You can supplement these minerals or get them through food (e.g., oysters, red meat, spinach, poultry, liver, and legumes).
  • Omega-3 foods – These fatty acids help regulate the production of T3 and T4 hormones that impact metabolism. Good sources include salmon, mackerel, tuna, flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds.
  • Caffeine – Caffeine helps modulate pituitary hormone secretion, optimizes TSH levels, and may increase the metabolic rate, which is why many consume caffeine for weight loss. This “fat-burning” stimulant can be found in coffee, green tea, black tea, dark chocolate, and supplements.
  • Whole grains – Oats, brown rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa, and other whole grains contain fiber that revs up metabolism. They are also a rich source of nutrients vital for thyroid health, such as vitamin B, zinc, copper, magnesium, and phytochemicals.
  • Nuts and seeds – Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed, and other nuts and seeds are nutritious, high in essential fats, and rich in dietary fiber that supports metabolic and thyroid function.
  • Fiber-rich vegetables – These vegetables are nutrient-dense, help curb unhealthy cravings, prolong satiety, and help regulate metabolic processes with fiber. Good examples are spinach, celery, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, and asparagus.
  • Spicy food – Turmeric and green chilies have potent anti-inflammatory properties that may alleviate symptoms of hypothyroidism, and red pepper powder contains a metabolism-boosting chemical called capsaicin.

Use Metabolism-Boosting Supplements

If diet alone doesn’t provide satisfactory results, adding metabolism booster supplements can help you rekindle metabolic activity. These supplements come in the form of pills, tablets, or powder. They can further enhance the fat-burning rate, moderately increase thermogenesis, aid your thyroid hormones, and suppress appetite.

Choose supplements that contain a blend of vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that also support your thyroid function.

Use supplements to alleviate thyroid problems and boost metabolism.

Enhance the Thermic Effect of Food

Studies indicate that thermogenic response to food decreases in patients with hypothyroidism. The thermic effect of food (TEF) is the increase in metabolic rate after eating food. You can optimize your metabolism by choosing foods that slightly enhance TEF.

Digesting protein-rich foods increases metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats. Complex carbohydrates such as high-fiber vegetables burn more calories than simple carbs. Larger meal sizes may also increase TEF, as opposed to frequent, smaller meals. Age and physical activity also contribute to the quality of the thermic effect.

Try Intermittent Fasting

Studies indicate that fasting may help regulate thyroid function by optimizing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4).

You can start your weight loss journey and moderately improve your metabolic rate with intermittent fasting (IF), but only under medical supervision. Medical weight loss programs sometimes include IF to treat obesity and prevent type 2 diabetes.

This eating pattern involves periods of regular eating followed by fasting or food restriction. During fasting, the body uses stored calories to burn fat more effectively. Depending on your health goals, you can choose different methods to do intermittent fasting. The most popular regime is 16:8 (sixteen hours of fasting followed by an eight-hour eating window), but you can also follow other schedules (e.g., 5-2 diet, alternate-day fasting, etc.).

Manage Your Stress

Chronic or excessive stress can stall thyroid function and slow hormone production that regulates metabolism, resulting in unwanted weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, and poor gut health. Stress alone does not trigger thyroid disorders, but it may worsen them by preventing the conversion of T4 to T3 vital for metabolic processes.

Vitamins and supplements for stress can help lower cortisol levels, help you lose stress-induced weight, and improve your thyroid function. You can also engage in stress-relieving activities you enjoy, such as yoga, journaling, hiking, meditation, arts, breathing exercises, and gardening.

Use Medication

If you have a malfunctioning thyroid or suspect a thyroid disorder, seek immediate medical assistance. Most patients receive medication that controls the condition, alleviates the symptoms, and prevents additional health issues.

Thyroid medication is only available with a doctor’s prescription. Depending on the condition, the medication may provide a synthetic thyroid hormone replacement (levothyroxine) or stop excess thyroid production (thioamides).


Thyroid and metabolism are intricately linked and require a holistic treatment approach. If you want to improve metabolism to reach your ideal weight or get more energy, make sure your thyroid hormone activity is under control.

Different lifestyle modifications, supplements, and medications can be beneficial to help you get started. Consult your chosen healthcare provider for more information and help.

Jenna Hilton
Jenna Hilton has been a practicing PA since 2009, specializing in Family, Internal Medicine and Medical Aesthetics. She attended Arizona State University where she received her Bachelor's Degree and graduated magna cum laude. She received her Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies from A.T. Still University.

Jenna has been injecting neurotoxin and dermal filler since 2013. She received certification as a Master Injector in 2017 through Empire Medical in Los Angeles, California. She is currently working on a Fellowship Program in Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Her special interests include use of PLLA, Ablative/Non ablative skin resurfacing, PDO threads, hormone therapy and nutritional therapies to improve cellular regeneration and medically supervised weight loss.

Jenna Hilton believes in a multi-factorial approach, considering internal factors that accelerate aging and disease development. She always enjoys teaching. She co-founded Vibrant EDU courses at Vibrant Skin Bar and regularly performs one-on-one training with fellow injectors. She teaches Aesthetic and Advanced Injectable Courses at National Laser Institute. She has been named Preceptor of the Year and is an Adjunct Faculty Member at Midwestern University. She was born in Iowa, and lives with her husband and three children in Phoenix, AZ.

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