Is My Thyroid Preventing Me From Losing Weight? [Podcast Episode #047]

Sometimes it might feel like your body has a mind of its own. You eat right, you exercise, you drink extra water, you do everything that you "should" do in order to slim down, but nothing happens. 

Is it possible that your thyroid simply isn't working as well as it should? Perhaps your weight-gain has been caused by a simple hormonal issue all along?

Here's how you can know for sure...

Episode Resources:

Is My Thyroid Preventing Me From Losing Weight? [Full Text]

Dave: Thanks so much for joining me in today’s episode of the Make Your Body Work Podcast. As you know the show is all about helping you live a healthier, happier life. I just appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your day to invest in your health and maybe particularly today I’ve got a really neat question from Melissa. Let’s dive right in.

Melissa writes in and she says,

"I’ve been listening to your podcast for the last few months and I love it. Thanks for all the great information and for making it so easy to understand. One question I do have though is about metabolism and how it’s controlled by the thyroid gland.

I’ve read that the thyroid simply doesn’t work as quickly for some people and for those people it’s really hard to lose weight no matter what they do. Obviously, this can seem pretty defeating, is this true?"

Melissa, thanks for the question and like I said this is probably a really appropriate question for many people out there. Even if they don’t think it’s their thyroid that’s preventing them from losing weight it’s this idea of I’ve tried everything. My diet’s good, I’m exercising, but for some reason weight loss is not happening.

That’s why I have a really special guest today, Dr. Shiroko Sokitch. She’s a medical doctor, but she practices a unique blend of Western medicine plus Chinese medicine. I’m going to let her explain it because she does a really good job of explaining how that’s so effective and how it can help clients like you, Melissa, who are looking for a reason why can’t I lose weight when I’ve tried seemingly everything. Without further ado let’s meet Dr. Shiroko.

Meet Dr. Shiroko Sokitch

Dave: Hey, Shiroko, thanks so much for joining us on today’s episode.

Shiroko: Thank you for having me, I’m really excited to talk to you.

Dave: Yeah, I’m excited to have you on the show. I was looking through your website before we started recording this morning. You said something that really resonated with me and made me think, okay, we’re a good match to be on the show together. You said your body is unique in every way, no one else has a design exactly like yours.

Shiroko: Yes.

Dave: Can you talk about … Why did you write that on your site?

Shiroko: For lots of reasons, but basically I’ve been doing what I do for 25 years and I have learned that there’s no such thing as cookie cutter medicine. Every single patient that I have and every single condition and it’s been interesting because especially when I first started my practice it would be this interesting thing where I’d see three people with the same symptom in the same day.Every one of them had a different treatment that would work.

It just became clear to me that you can’t tell everybody to do the same thing. A part of why I work with people the way that I do is I teach them to listen to their bodies, so that they can be in charge of their own health. I have the ideas and the suggestions, but part of what I do is I have a huge tool chest, so that there’s lots of choices of what to do. Then we come together with a plan for how to help somebody be completely healthy.

Dave: I love that idea of a tool chest. That’s a really good way of putting it.

Shiroko: Yes, yeah.

Dave:, I know it can be … I’m sure you see this all the time with your patients or your clients, but it can be frustrating because if there was one way to lose weight or get healthier, fix whatever problem, man, that would make everyone’s lives a whole lot easier, eh?

Shiroko: Yeah, but we’re not cars.

Dave: Certainly not. Can you tell us a little bit about your practice? What is it that you do? What do you specialize in?

Balancing Eastern and Western Medicine

Shiroko: I’m an MD and an acupuncturist and I specialize in blending Chinese and Western medicine. The people that I help the most or the most common person that comes to me is a person who’s having struggles with not knowing what’s wrong with them or being told that they need an antidepressant when there’s a bunch of symptoms that they have and the doctor can’t find the cause.

Usually I see people who have been to 10 or 12 doctors or however many doctors and they come to me frustrated and angry and tired and not feeling well and know that there’s something wrong with them, but haven’t been told what it is.

Part of why I love Chinese medicine is because the whole principle in Chinese medicine is it’s significantly different than in Western medicine. The idea is that you’re made up of energy and energy travels through your body in certain patterns. When your energy’s out of balance there are problems.

Your wellbeing lies in a proper balance between your physical and your mental health

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Basically, the whole idea is that we have to figure out what is out of balance and how to get you back in balance. When your body’s in balance things are flowing and you feel smooth and you are able to be awake when you’re supposed to be awake and sleep when you’re wanting to sleep.

You have plenty of energy to get through your day and to do the things that you need to do and it’s exactly how you’d want to live your life. I use that principle and I ask a lot of questions in the initial visit to get a picture as to what is going on with that person when they first come in. Then I use Western medicine as an adjunct, so do you want me to give you an example?

Dave: Yeah, yeah, please.

What Is Your "Energy" Saying?

Shiroko: For example, in Chinese medicine and each organ works differently than it does in Western medicine. A classic example of patients that I see, the liver rules the smooth flow of energy in your whole body. It regulates your menstrual cycles, it regulates the ligaments and tendons and it deals with the emotion of anger.

It has also the seat of the soul, so that the liver is the organ that is the space between your physical body and your spirit. Each organ has emotional and spiritual functions that are different from each other, so when it all comes together it’s about balance.

Because the liver regulates the menstrual cycles a lot of women come to me with different problems about their menstrual cycles, with their periods or things like that. Other symptoms that also go with the liver are migraines, neck and shoulder tension, those kinds of things, of course, irritability and anger.

When somebody comes to me and she’s telling me a story about something going on with her body I listen really closely and then I do an exam and by feeling their pulse I can tell which organs are out of balance as well. If their liver’s out of balance I might do some tests using Western medicine to understand what’s going on with their liver better. Or I might do hormone tests to understand because it regulates the menstrual cycles, to understand what’s going on with their cycles, so that’s just one example.

Chinese medicine is bringing balance to Western medicine, and is helping people discover true health

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Dave: Now I know for a lot of listeners and I’ll be honest even with myself, the idea of when you said you’ll feel their pulse and you’ll know which organ is out of balance. That’s a far out concept. I worked with a naturopath a couple of years ago and he did some muscle testing with me.

I remember he had me hold different substances that potentially there was some food sensitivity to and then would be pushing on my arm and seeing how strong I get. That was the same thing. It was very far out, but I had really good success through it. I don’t know, maybe can you explain what you’re talking about when you said testing for the pulse.

The Yin & Yang Concept of Energy

Shiroko: Feeling the pulse, yes. There are 3 positions on each wrist and you start … It’s on the thumb side of the wrist and you feel starting right at the wrist crease and then you line up 3 fingers and you feel the pulse in those positions. Then you do it on both sides and it tells me about how 12 different organs are working, so each position is 2 organs.

It’s complicated because Chinese medicine is so different than Western medicine, but each organ … The whole idea of energy, you can only really explain energy based on the concept of yin and yang because it’s divided into those 2 components. Those 2 components are opposing and also matching each other.

The yin is feminine, moist, cool, nighttime energy and the yang is masculine, daytime, bright, sunny energy and there’s more to it than that. They oppose each other, but they also flow into each other and that’s why that symbol looks the way that it does because there’s a Ziggy line that goes through and then there’s two little circles in the middle.

All of that means a lot of different things, but one of them is that they’re flowing at different times of the day and flowing through your life. The little circles mean that one can convert into the other.

I’m in love with all this information. I’ve been doing this for this many years and it always makes so much sense to me. When I feel the pulse each organ is … The lungs are paired with the large intestine, so the lungs are the yin organ and the large intestine is the yang organ. Then the liver is paired with the gall bladder and the spleen is paired with the stomach.

Each organ is paired like that, yin and yang. When I feel the pulse it tells me about each of those organs. It’s not just how fast it’s going, it’s what it feels like under my finger, how deep is it, how full is it, how hard is it to compress. That tells me what direction to go in in my treatment.

Dave: It’s interesting because when I say some of this is going to seem a little far out to the listeners or even to myself. I think that the big thing is can you get results? Can that actually tell you a path or direction to head with the patient and can you lead them to get the results you’re looking for? Because even if it seems a little bit far out if it works it works.

Shiroko: That’s the thing is the people that I see are people who have been frustrated because nobody knows the answers. When I see them I know the answers because I have a different way of looking at them, so my results are great. Do you know, I started this … in the beginning … I finished acupuncture school in 1990 and I was working in the emergency room, so I was a fairly young doctor at the time.

I was studying acupuncture at the same time that I was working in the emergency room. It put the two together, so I’ve always been able to put Western medicine with the Chinese medicine. That helped me look at things from a bigger angle.

In 1990 functional medicine wasn’t as well-known as it is now. There wasn’t the science that we have now of understanding the flow, different ways of testing people that we don’t do now or that we didn’t used to do then like the stool tests that we can do, the hormone tests that we can do, the ways that we can look at the chemistry of the body.I didn’t have that information then.

Having Chinese medicine allowed me to look at the body from a different angle and to look for different answers and it still does. Even now when I have patients where science doesn’t help them or where science doesn’t have the answers I can use Chinese medicine to guide how I help them heal.

Dave: That’s a great segway and I think this is one of the reasons why you’re such an excellent guest for Melissa’s question today because she asked about the thyroid and how the thyroid impacts metabolism and is getting at the idea am I just destined to not be able to lose weight if my thyroid is preventing my metabolism from ever increasing.

You can sense some frustration in her question, some of that she looked for answers elsewhere and hasn’t found any answers and is trying to find some solution, okay, maybe it’s just my thyroid. What did you think when you heard her question?

The Connection Between Thyroid and Weight Loss

Shiroko: First of all, I think about the question of losing weight because so many people come to me frustrated because they “can’t lose weight”. Certainly weight loss is one of the things that drives people to come look for me or look for help, but weight loss to me is just a symptom.

I look at the deeper imbalance that created the issue. Yes, the thyroid is a part of what helps people lose weight and your metabolism can’t work right if your thyroid isn’t working well.

First of all, we want to know that the thyroid is working well and the tests that most doctors do aren’t adequate to looking at the thyroid properly. Even when I do the most thorough testing sometimes it won’t tell me the answer as to whether the thyroid is working or not.

Sometimes we end up having to just see if working with the thyroid will help that person, but weight loss is such a complicated issue. There are so many factors involved. There’s the possibility that a person has hidden infections.

There are another 20, 30 hormones involved in the process of getting your body in balance. There are dietary factors and food allergies and digestive problems and so there’s so many things to consider, but thyroid is definitely one of them and it’s very important.

Weight gain is often just a symptom of something greater. For weight loss, finding the root cause is step #1

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Dave: When you talk about it being difficult to accurately assess or to do tests that really show the right path. If you can’t test the thyroid with 100% accuracy and say yes, this is the problem and yes, we’ll go this direction, what approach do you take?

Shiroko: I can test it. It’s not 100% accuracy and that’s for sure, but the approach that I take is I do the testing, the thorough testing that I would do that most doctors don’t. Most doctors measure something called the TSH which is the thyroid-stimulating hormone. It’s the hormone that’s produced by the brain telling the thyroid what to do.

If that’s normal most doctors don’t go any further than that, but there are 10 steps in thyroid hormone production. You can test every one of them and so there’s further testing to be done. You can measure the amount of actual thyroid hormone you have.

There’s a form of hormone that is active and there’s a form that’s inactive. There’s a precursor to TSH. Your immune system can be attacking your thyroid if there’s a hidden infection. You want to look at the immune system and how it’s interacting with the thyroid, so there’s a lot of things to look at. I do that on everybody that I suspect has a thyroid problem.

I don’t just do the one test, the TSH. After looking at that if it shows me anything I’ll work on that. If it doesn’t show me anything and the patient really has some of the classical symptoms of low thyroid then I’ll work on figuring out a way to help their thyroid be functioning better.

Again I have this huge tool chest. I use Chinese medicine, I use herbal medicine, I use acupuncture, I can measure other hormones. The other element of the thyroid is maybe the thyroid’s “normal,” but your adrenal glands aren’t normal. Let’s say your cortisol level’s too high or your estrogen and your progesterone are out of balance and all of those things play a role in how you feel and how your body’s responding.

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

Dave: Can you talk about … You mentioned some of the classic symptoms of someone with a poor functioning or underfunctioning thyroid. What would those look like for Melissa or any other listeners out there who have maybe asked this question of themselves?

Shiroko: It’s interesting because there’s the classic that everybody knows about, so there’s hair loss, weight gain, fatigue, sleepiness, trouble sleeping. Then there’s some other more subtle symptoms like anxiety. Anxiety with low thyroid is … You would think when you have low energy you wouldn’t have anxiety because anxiety seems like a high-energy thing. I’ve seen that a lot, anxiety, trouble sleeping, digestive problems. A lot of people who have low thyroid or thyroid problems have digestive issues.

One of the classics that you might not know about is the outer third of your eyebrows is thinning. You may not be losing the hair on your head, but you may have thin eyebrows on the outer third. You may not even have noticed that they disappeared. Migraines and headaches, so anybody who I see who has a lot of headaches, sometimes I’ve seen people who have headaches every day or every week. All of those go with thyroid being low, so those are some symptoms that you might not be aware of.

Dave: Agreed, the thinning eyebrows, I’ve never heard that. I want to go look in a mirror right now and take a look at my eyebrows. You mentioned and I think everyone in the audience knows this to be true as well, but weight loss is very complex. Melissa’s question alludes to one potential hidden factor that’s preventing someone from losing weight and that’s an underfunctioning thyroid. What are some of the other ones that could mysteriously prevent someone from losing weight?

Shiroko: There’s a lot. There’s adrenal hormones, so perimenopause is a time when people have trouble with their weight. The adrenal hormones, your brain chemistry could be out of balance. Adrenal hormones include estrogen and progesterone, so your ovaries make estrogen and progesterone, but your adrenals do, too. Then you have cortisol and cortisone, those are your stress hormones and when they’re too high you can have trouble losing weight because your body holds on to sugar and holds onto fat in order to try to sustain you.

Actually diet, of course, plays a role, but not in the way that people think. People have been trained a lot to think about how much you eat is a factor. There are some people who actually can’t lose weight because they don’t eat enough.

If you skip meals too often you can become insulin resistant and if you’re insulin resistant then your body will hold onto fat. I’ve had lots of people start losing weight after they start eating three consistent meals a day and they thought they shouldn’t eat because they were trying to lose weight.

Dave: I love that message. I just want to emphasize that again to the listeners. Starving yourself is not the way to lose weight. It is definitely not the way to lose weight particularly over the long-term. I know I’ll talk to a lot of clients who did see some results by a severely restricted diet, maybe eating 900 calories a day. That might work for a month or 2 months, but geez, not a sustainable approach.

Shiroko: No, no, yeah. I’ve seen women who they did that in their 20s and now they’re in their 40s or early 50s and now they can’t because they’ve become insulin resistant through having starved themselves in the past.

Then the thing that a lot of people don’t know is that if you have infections and you may not know that you have infections it will affect your ability to lose weight because your body is busy trying to fight something.

One of the things that I teach is to respect your body and to let it tell you what it wants to do. That sounds funny because it’s like I should be able to tell my body what I want to do. That’s not how it always works. It’s like your body has a wisdom that maybe your mind doesn’t. You have to learn to listen and you have to learn to look for the right clues to figure out what’s going on which is sometimes tricky.

Dave: I had a guest on my podcast at one point and we were talking about the idea that our body speaks very loudly to us and it speaks through symptomology. When things aren’t going well it’s saying hey, stop, listen, pay attention, what am I trying to tell you.

Shiroko: Yeah, and I have to say I’m not just a doctor, I’m also a patient or sometimes I have my own health things. I’m stubborn, too, so I understand. It took me years to figure out that I was allergic to dairy and that it was causing me to have a stuffy nose and an irritable bowel for years and years and years. When I finally figured it out it was like oh, of course.

Dave: I should have known better.

Shiroko: Yeah, but then how do you learn to listen, so you have certain things that you have to begin to pick on to learn to listen to your body.

Your body has a wisdom that your mind does not possess. Learn to listen to yoru body.

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Dave: It’s neat. When you get a client who says, okay, I’ve tried everything and I still can’t lose weight. There is an element of them listening even in that statement, that they are looking for answers and I appreciate that. As frustrating as it can be for them at least they’re looking for an answer.

I know in this show we try and keep things really poignant and very actionable and even the idea of weight loss and how complicated it can be. I know that some of the listeners might come away thinking, okay, what am I even supposed to do to start. Let’s give the listeners a Make Your Body Work takeaway.

Make Your Body Work Takeaway

What would you say for someone like Melissa who is looking for an answer that maybe isn’t as apparent, wants to lose some weight and she was thinking specifically about thyroid. Is the thyroid the place that you would go first or what would you suggest someone could do today?

Shiroko: It depends on their age and where they are in their life, so there’s so much more information that if they were talking to me that I would ask. Do you have an idea of her age or where she is in her life?

Dave: I don’t, I only have the message that I passed along to you. Let’s assume just for argument’s sake around that fortieth, the “middle age” standpoint. What would you say to a woman in that position?

Shiroko: The first thing I would do is look at all the things that have to do with diet. A lot of people that I see they skip breakfast because they’re not hungry first thing in the morning. They get going with a cup of coffee and they get out of the house.

The first thing that you’re doing wrong, the first thing you can do, if you don’t want to come see a doctor or do a lot of testing would be to start making sure that you have breakfast first thing in the morning and that your breakfast has protein.

When I say protein I mean it should be mostly protein like a decent amount, even 30 grams. You either have a protein power smoothie or a shake made with protein powder or you have some eggs if you eat eggs or you have something that has protein in it.

Those are the two standard breakfasts, but a lot of people are allergic to eggs, so that’s another issue. If you’re a person who’s skipping breakfast or if you’re already a person who has breakfast, that you start your day with a cup of coffee, I would say start your day with breakfast. That’s a simple takeaway and you try that for a week.

The reason I say high-protein breakfast is because a lot of times people are not hungry in the morning because their cortisol level is high. Cortisol’s that stress hormone and that’s one of the things that will make you gain or not be able to lose weight is if your cortisol level’s high. Your body thinks that it needs to hold onto sugar or fat in order to sustain your survivability.

If you start eating a high-protein breakfast you begin to change your cortisol level naturally. You begin to shift your blood sugar naturally which will help you lose weight if that’s one of the things that you’ve been doing.

Dave: If I can jump in there, I love the fact that you emphasize the protein in the breakfast because particularly in a western diet if you look at the breakfast foods that we eat they’re all carbohydrates.

Shiroko: Yeah, I know. So many times when I’m traveling and I’m allergic to eggs, so I don’t eat them. So many times when I’m traveling I can’t … My choices are various bread and eggs and things like that, so I always travel with my shake mix.

I take my protein powder and then I find some way to … Depending on how far I’ve traveled I find some way to mix it, so that I can have something for breakfast. Also, if you don’t eat eggs or want to have a shake or you can’t have that available I travel with a bag of toasted nuts and a bag of my shake mix, so that I have something that I can eat to start my day.

Dave: That’s so practical and so simple. Just if you’re flying make sure you put it in your stowaway luggage because random bags of powdered substances I know sometimes don’t go through customs so well. Where, Shiroko, could people connect with you because I know we’ve just scratched the surface here talking about hormones and weight loss and thyroid. If they wanted to connect with you where’s the best place?

Shiroko: My website is HeartToHeartMedicalCenter.com and that’s spelled like the heart in your chest, not h-a-r-t. I have some fun little information things that you can get there and that’s the easiest way to find me.

Dave: Yeah, that’s great and for the listeners, if you go to MakeYourBodyWork.com/47 for this 47th episode of the show I can have a link directly to Dr. Shiroko’s website. If you don’t mind me saying, I noticed on your website that you have a free giveaway. It’s called Supplement Smart. Just I thought that might be really relevant based on this whole conversation. What would people learn if they were to download Supplement Smart?

Shiroko: A lot of people take supplements thinking that they will help them and there’s been a lot of controversy about supplements because there’s literature that says that they don’t work or that they may not help in the way that they should and they may do harm.

I think the reason that they do harm is because they’re full of chemicals. If you go to Costco and you buy a bottle of vitamins there’s a list about twice as long of additional ingredients including one ingredient called polyethylene glycol. A lot of people just look for the active ingredient instead of looking at the additional ingredients.

The book tells you what additional ingredients there are, what supplements you can buy, which ones are good, which ones are bad, how to choose. It’s a handy little book to figure out if you are going to take supplements what supplements would you want to take.

Dave: Which is very relevant for anyone who is looking to lose weight.

Shiroko: Yeah.

Dave: That’s great. Dr. Shiroko, thanks again for taking the time to share a lot of really valuable information today. Yeah, hopefully, directing people on the right path. I really appreciate you being here.

Shiroko: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.

Dave: Thanks again, Dr. Shiroko, for joining us today and for sharing so much valuable information about our body, just our body in general, but also how these unseen things, these unseen factors can influence our body’s ability or inability to lose weight. I really appreciate that and I know the listeners will as well. Thanks to you, the listener, for tuning in. As I always say, without you there would be no podcast. Thanks for all your great questions.

Please, please, please keep writing to me. I’ve said this a million times before, but it really is the highlight of my day is getting your questions and hearing what it is that you’re struggling with or what you need to be encouraged in or how I can help. That’s what I’m here for is to connect you with valuable information that’ll answer your questions and help you make the appropriate changes in your life.

I just want to end by emphasizing what we started talking about about Dr. Shiroko on her website, how she says your body is unique in every way, no one else has it designed exactly like yours. I can’t emphasize that there’s so much truth in that. You are unique, your body’s unique. The solutions to your health and wellness problems are going to be unique as well.

Please don’t get too frustrated, don’t give up. Keep experimenting, keep searching out solutions because there are solutions out there to be had. If anyone wants some help with that process I run a program called the 10 in 4 Challenge and that’s what it’s all about, it’s about experimentation. Taking some guidelines and applying those to your unique life and figuring out what will work for you when it comes to getting in shape and losing weight.

If you’re interested in potentially working with me and figuring out what your solution is you can check out 10in4.com. Again that’s 10in4.com and I’d love to start working with you. Thanks again for tuning in today and I can’t wait to see you here again next week.

Thanks for joining me today!

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Dave

Dave Smith has been a personal trainer since 2001 and was chosen as Canada's Top Fitness Professional in 2013 for his dedication to his clients' success. Download his "Sweet Spot" plan [FREE!] to begin your weight-loss journey today!