Can Low Thyroid Lead to a Fatty Liver?

Fatty Liver with Lipid Accumulation
Credit: Dreamstime

When you suffer from hypothyroidism, one of the most noticeable symptoms is stubborn weight gain. Although the number on the scale often indicates only 5 to 10 extra pounds, it is enough to notice a difference in your waistline and the way your clothes fit. While some of this additional weight is due to increased salt and water retention, high levels of TSH caused by an underactive thyroid also cause fat to accumulate throughout the body. Much of this weight gravitates to typical trouble spots, like the belly or the thighs. But there is one area this fat has a tendency to concentrate that poses a much greater risk to your health: the liver.

The liver performs more than 500 vital functions, from producing essential nutrients and filtering the blood to regulating blood clotting and balancing blood glucose levels. Unfortunately, when you gain weight, lipid buildup within healthy liver tissue can cause persistent inflammation and negatively impact its ability to function efficiently. The resulting condition is known as fatty liver disease, which, having very few or no symptoms, often goes undiagnosed. However, left untreated, fatty liver disease can progress to liver fibrosis or even cirrhosis, a permanent scarring of the organ, which often requires a transplant.

Anatomy of the Thyroid
Credit: Dreamstime

Aside from the fact that hypothyroidism causes weight gain, it also disrupts the balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol and contributes to insulin resistance. All of these factors lead to higher triglyceride levels in the liver, putting you at high risk of developing fatty liver disease. Several prominent studies in recent years have confirmed this close correlation between hypothyroidism and fatty liver disease. One study found that not only were 30.2% of patients with an underactive thyroid diagnosed with fatty liver compared with just 19.5% in the control group, but also that the prevalence of fatty liver disease and severity of the condition increased as the grade of hypothyroidism increased.

Because the health of your thyroid and liver are so closely intertwined, keeping your liver healthy can have a positive impact on your thyroid. Consider lowering your intake of complex carbohydrates and sugars while working more physical activity into your daily routine. A combination of diet and exercise can help limit harmful inflammation and lipid accumulation, keeping your liver healthy and able to perform its essential functions properly.



Jennifer recently retired from her career as a Certified Manual Physical Therapist to spend more time with her family. When she isn't writing about natural medicine, she enjoys practicing yoga, rock climbing, and running marathons.

Email Jennifer at [email protected].


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