Do you have hypothyroidism and have not been able to lose weight even though you are medicated? The all too common symptom of weight gain and the difficulty of losing weight with hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto’s thyroiditis may have just been solved by scientists researching natural solutions.
Not Losing Weight on Thyroid Medication
When I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism I was as excited as a 4 year old waiting for Santa’s arrival on Christmas morning in anticipation of the gift of weight loss I thought starting on thyroid hormone replacement (called levothyroxine, thyroxine or T4 replacement) would bring.
What I discovered was the standard medical treatment for hypothyroidism was a lump of coal / bundle of sticks when it came to weight loss. This lack of weight loss from thyroid medication is a very well known truism in the long term hypothyroid community and has scientific research to support it as well (Lee, Braverman & Pearce, 2014). So not losing weight on thyroid medication is not just in our heads!
New Research on Weight Loss for Hashimoto’s hypothyroid
Constantly I hunt the research scouring publications for clues that someone somewhere is studying a solution to weight loss for those of us who are medicated with hypothyroidism. So when the researchers first published their promising results using a seed from a plant on people with Hashimoto’s hypothyroid who were medicated I threw tinsel in the air and ran around my neighbourhood wishing everyone a Merry Christmas - Santa’s arrived and he is bearing gifts!
The study was on the impact of a seed from a plant called Nigella sativa also known as black seed, black cumin or Nigella. Nigella sativa has long been used as a traditional medicine for a wide range of diseases including obesity and investigations into its constituents detected the presence of thyimoquinone which has been linked to improved thyroid status in animals.
Treatment with Nigella sativa was at a dosage of 1 gram/ twice a day for 8 weeks (Farhangi, et al., 2016).
The study found the 40 Hashimoto’s hypothyroid participants lost weight and reduced their body mass index (BMI).
Better Thyroid Labs
For those of you who track your lab results the study also found a lowered thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level, increased active thyroid hormone (T3) and reduced thyroid autoantibodies - a stunning result (Farhangi, et al., 2016).
Deep Dive Into The Research
So if you’re like me and want to delve a little deeper here are some key snippets of the research:
- 40 Hashimoto’s thyroiditis patients
- Aged between 22 and 50 years old
- Placebo Controlled & randomised into two groups for 8 weeks of treatment one receiving 1g of powdered Nigella sativa in a capsule twice/day and the other a placebo capsule of starch twice/day.
- Measurement was of changes in body weight, BMI, waist circumference, dietary intakes, thyroid status.
- Also measured was Nesfatin-1 concentrations (a neuropeptide that influences hunger and fat storage) as several studies have proposed its possible role in thyroid dysfunction and serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) linked to pathological changes in the thyroid gland itself (Farhangi, et al., 2016).
After 8 weeks:
• TSH and anti-thyroid peroxidase (anti-TPO) antibodies decreased in the Nigella sativa group.
• T3 concentrations increased in the Nigella sativa group with a with a significance of P < 0.05
• T4 concentrations increased in the Nigella sativa group but not significantly
• Treatment with Nigella sativa significantly reduced body weight, waist circumference and BMI with a significance of P < 0.05
• There was a significant reduction in serum VEGF concentrations in the Nigella sativa group.
• There was no significant change in the Nesfatin-1 concentrations
• None of these changes had been observed in placebo treated group
• There was no change to the food eaten by either group over the 8 weeks studied specifically no change to calories consumed nor carbohydrate, protein, fat ratios.
During the trial, three patients in Nigella sativa-treated group experienced itching and nausea which are possible side effects of taking this herbal remedy.
The researchers said:
“Our data showed a potent beneficial effect of powdered Nigella sativa in improving thyroid status … in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. … Considering observed health- promoting effect of this medicinal plant in ameliorating the disease severity, it can be regarded as a useful therapeutic approach in management of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.” (Farhangi, et al., 2016).
The Bottom Line
The “Against Nigella” Argument
- 1 study is not a strong piece of evidence and let’s face it 40 people is not a big group for a result. If the study had been in the thousands or if it had been repeated a few more times I’d be more confident recommending it for weight loss and raising T3 levels.
- The potential cost of a taking a supplement of 1 gram twice a day for 8 weeks of Nigella and not noticing any weight loss.
The “Pro Nigella” Argument
- What’s your scientifically researched alternative for weight loss with Hashimoto’s when medicated for hypothyroidism? Nada! I know this is not a resounding successful “pro” argument in all fairness.
- However from personal experience in my study of N=1 it is gosh darn-hard to lose weight with Hashimoto’s when you are on T4 medication. Personally I would have been super happy to fork out $ for 8 weeks of a supplement that might just might work with the downside, the worst case scenario being the lost $ and/or some tummy cramps.
Still Want More Info?
Other Studies on Nigella
The only other studies on Nigella sativa in hypothyroidism has been on rats with mixed results:
- 30 days of Nigella oil saw an increase in both T3 and T4 levels significantly (P ≤ 0.005) and TSH level decreased significantly (P < 0.005) as compared with control groups (Jasim, et al., 2016)
- 14 days of Nigella in an ethanolic extract saw a significant increase in T4 results but not T3 results (Sharif, et al., 2012)
Farhangi, M. A., Dehghan, P., Tajmiri, S., & Abbasi, M. M. (2016). The effects of Nigella sativa on thyroid function, serum Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)–1, Nesfatin-1 and anthropometric features in patients with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 16(1), 471.DOI: 10.1186/s12906-016-1432-2
Jasim, W. K., Hassan, M. S., & Keam, G. G. (2016). Study the effect of Nigella sativa on thyroid function and reproductive hormone of female rat. Journal of Contemporary Medical Sciences, 2(6), 67-69.
Lee, S., Braverman, L., & Pearce, E. (2014). Changes in body weight after treatment of primary hypothyroidism with levothyroxine. Endocrine Practice, 20(11), 1122-1128.
Sharif, S. H., Elmahdi, B. M., Mohammed, A. M. A., & Mohammed, A. H. (2012). The effects of Nigella sativa L. ethanolic extract on thyroid function in normal and alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Thyroid Research and Practice, 9(2), 48.