Can Perimenopause Cause Hypothyroidism?

You’ve no doubt heard horror stories about the symptoms that may come with perimenopause, the transitional period leading to menopause. But the problems can be far more complex. As if hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, loss of libido, weight gain and brain fog weren’t enough, you can also develop hypothyroidism ― that is, an underactive thyroid.

It happens to around 26% of women undergoing perimenopause.

Why is hypothyroidism so bad?

For starters, if you have low thyroid function, there’s a good chance you will also find yourself battling depression.

Not only that, but when this little butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your throat malfunctions, it can have huge repercussions for your entire body.

The thyroid produces triiodothyronine (T3) and a larger amount of thyroxine (T4), which is converted to T3. These two hormones affect metabolism. That means they control how your body uses food to produce energy and determine the rate at which your heart, liver, muscles and other organs, including your brain, work. In short, they affect about all your body’s working parts.

One of the most common effects of low thyroid ― when not enough thyroid hormones are being produced or when they’re not working at the cellular level ― is depression.

Why Do Perimenopausal Women Get Hypothyroidism?

Perimenopause occurs in mid-life, normally beginning between your mid-30s and late 40s. That’s the same time when your risk for hypothyroidism greatly increases, so it’s entirely possible that the two simply occur coincidentally.

But it’s equally true that perimenopause and hypothyroidism are often related. As your egg supply diminishes with the onset of perimenopause, your ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen. However, your progesterone level can fall far faster than that of oestrogen, throwing these two hormones out of balance. In other words, your optimal oestrogen/progesterone ratio is disrupted.

This imbalance often results in oestrogen dominance ― a condition when progesterone falls to a level so low that it’s unable to limit the action of oestrogen. When this happens, you can experience symptoms exactly like those caused by low thyroid, including depression, along with weight gain and brain fog.

But it can get worse . . . .

All that low but excessive oestrogen can actually sabotage your thyroid hormones. Even if your thyroid is pumping out sufficient T3 and T4, oestrogen dominance can make them ineffective. And if they can’t do their job, you will develop hypothyroidism.

It can also work the other way. A pre-existing low-functioning thyroid can cause your progesterone levels to plummet. Even if your oestrogen/progesterone balance was initially optimal, the ultimate result can be oestrogen dominance, which further impairs the thyroid and worsens depression.

How Hypothyroidism Leads to Depression

The T3 thyroid hormone acts in the brain to govern three neurotransmitters important to your emotions:

  • Serotonin: Optimal levels of serotonin (called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter) make you feel happy and relaxed
  • Norepinephrine: Improves mood, helps you deal with stress and acts like a natural anti-depressant
  • GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid): Improves mood and relieves anxiety

When the action of the T3 hormone is impeded by hypothyroidism, these mood-stabilising neurotransmitters are effectively taken ‘off-line.’ When that happens, depression gets worse.

Serotonin seems particularly important for maintaining an ‘up’ attitude and good mood, but it can drop precipitously following an abrupt decrease in oestrogen, which can occur in the mid-30s. Shortages of serotonin can worsen symptoms associated with menopause ― hot flushes, insomnia and mood changes ― that can add significantly to depression.

How You Can Relieve Thyroid Dysfunction and Depression in Perimenopause

Diagnosing low thyroid can be tricky. Even though your oestrogen/progesterone levels are unbalanced and affecting your thyroid hormones’ action, a routine thyroid test may show your thyroid hormones are at perfectly normal levels. That’s because your thyroid is putting out hormones that can be measured ― they just can’t do what they’re supposed to do.

Generally speaking, adequate thyroid treatment will reverse thyroid hormone insufficiency and depression. It’s important to be aware, however, that people with hypothyroidism-induced depression are often misdiagnosed and treated as having a psychiatric illness. As a result, they are frequently prescribed antidepressants.

Unfortunately, antidepressants can be addictive. Also, they can have dangerous side effects. They can, in fact, actually worsen depression ― even trigger homicidal or suicidal impulses ― and they won’t fix an oestrogen-dominance problem or a low-thyroid problem.

To reverse low thyroid and depression during perimenopause, you will need thyroid testing, but the standard TSH test doesn’t detect most cases of low thyroid and won’t give you the answers you need.

You need a restorative medicine physician skilled in bioidentical hormone restorative therapy (BHRT) who offers comprehensive, full-panel thyroid testing. That includes total T3 (TT3) and total T4 (TT4) tests, along with a TSH test. He or she will also do full testing of your sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) in order to assess their status.

With that knowledge, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment to restore optimal balance to your hormones, proper functioning to your thyroid, and a life free of perimenopausal-related depression, as well as other troubling menopausal symptoms.

SOURCES:

Depression: Common Symptom of Hypothyroidism. Hotze Health.
Dowling, C. Menopausal Depression Is Common and Treatable. Women’s Wellbeing and Mental Health.
Kellman, R. Menopause or Low Thyroid ― Is It One, The Other or Both? Huffington Post, THE BLOG. Oct. 30, 2015.
Magnolia. 35 Symptoms of Perimenopause ― Hypothyroidism. The Perimenopause Blog. Oct. 10, 2016.
Northrup, C. Thyroid Disease. DrNorthrup.com.
Perimenopause and Thyroid Problems ― common and confusing. CEMCOR.

Perimenopause: What Every Woman Should Know

It is important that every woman in their 40’s is aware of the perimenopause and the changes it will bring. Even if you feel you are way too young to be thinking about the dreaded M word, learning about the P word will stand you in good stead.

If you understand the vital role hormones have in your health, emotions and overall wellbeing you will be much better prepared to deal with the perimenopause, menopause and ageing process in general.

So in the spirit of forewarned is forearmed, here are 5 things I wish someone had told me when I hit 40!

1. It starts at 40 not 50

Sorry, you probably didn’t want to read that. However, I cannot over emphasise enough how important it is to listen to your body in your 40’s when changes in your hormone levels begin to occur.

You probably know that menopause is when you have not had a period for 12 months. But… you may not know that the six to thirteen years leading up to the menopause are when some of the most difficult symptoms kick in. I’m talking; hot flushes, insomnia, bone loss, mood swings, brain fog, irregular periods, diminished sex drive, breast cancer and unexplained weight gain. This is called the perimenopause. It usually starts in your 40s, but can start as early as your 30s.

Although most women experience the menopause at around the age of 51, it’s very likely you will have suffered some perimenopause symptoms from your 40s onwards.

2. It’s your hormones

Menopause symptoms are your body’s way of signalling that something is wrong, that you have a hormonal imbalance. Hormones regulate every bodily function, from your heartbeat to weight gain. Without them we would slowly but surely fade away and die! Perimenopause is in fact, the earliest stage of this fading process.

In menopause, oestrogen(s) and progesterone levels decline drastically. These female hormones, that are so famous for fertility in our younger days, should not to be ‘left out in the cold’ once we reach menopause, as they are key hormones and play a vital role in bone health; protecting against osteoporosis. They protect our skin, keeping it healthy and glowing; brain function, protecting against dementia; heart health, protecting against heart attack; vaginal and urethral tissues, keeping our sex drive in ‘top’ form!

When there is an imbalance of even just one hormone, it will adversely affect the others and may result in any of several menopausal symptoms.

3. Test your thyroid

After your fortieth birthday, it is important to recognise the symptoms of low thyroid (hypothyroidism). Low thyroid complaints include; joint pain, allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome, high insulin, unexplained weight gain, fibrocystic breast tissue, hair loss, loss of libido, dry skin and headaches to name just a few.

In perimenopause, declining levels of oestradiol (a type of oestrogen) and progesterone (both known as female sex hormones), along with testosterone from our ovaries, may leave a woman with a ‘go-slow’ (underactive) thyroid. Declining levels of female sex hormones may cause thyroid issues such as hypothyroidism. However, these are not true thyroid problems, they occur because female sex hormones are low. When oestrogens and progesterone are restored to optimal levels, in the majority of cases, thyroid issues will be rectified, thus, there would be no need to supplement with thyroid hormones.

However, about 25 per cent of perimenopausal women have some kind of thyroid problem. In the majority of cases it is due to subclinical hypothyroidism which may progress into overt hypothyroidism. Both subclinical and overt hypothyroidism should be treated.

4. There is an alternative to conventional HRT

There is not a one-size-fits-all woman. Therefore, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all pill. We are all different, we all metabolise hormones differently, and our hormonal decline varies from woman to woman. Therefore, we need an individualised treatment. HRT is a one-size-fits-all treatment. Bioidentical hormone restorative therapy (BHRT) is tailored to the patient’s requirements. We are all different – would you go out and buy a size 14 dress just because your friend did, when you’re actually a size 12?

5. Don’t dread the ‘M’ word

Contrary to the conventional menopause stereotypes that we often see in the media, you can have a happy, healthy, strong and sexually vibrant life, well into your forties, fifties and even beyond. The key is to get the right information early on.

 

The Menopause Cure: Hormonal Health. The book is available in good book stores and online at Amazon.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an inflammation of the thyroid gland and is the most common form of thyroiditis. It is much more prevalent in women than men. It is an autoimmune disease.

The major role of the thyroid is to regulate growth and metabolism – in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis the immune system attacks the thyroid gland, which causes it to dysfunction, therefore growth and metabolism will be slowed.

Common symptoms are:

  • weight gain,
  • cramps,
  • depression,
  • fatigue,
  • goiter,
  • muscle weakness,
  • constipation and sensitivity to cold.

However, some people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis display no symptoms.

If you suspect you have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis check in with your restorative medicine doctor and do the appropriate blood tests (full thyroid panel). If you do have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis your doctor will restore thyroid hormones to alleviate your hormone deficiency. It is extremely important that the dosage is correct – when hypothyroidism is diagnosed, both T4 and T3 pathways should be restored. If you only restore T4 pathways, then you could still have low thyroid symptoms because of problems with the conversion of T4 to T3.

Conventional doctors usually only prescribe T4 (in the synthetic form). Restorative doctors prescribe T4 and T3 (in the natural form). T4 is the inactive form and needs to be converted in the bloodstream into T3, before it becomes the active form. There are no receptors in the body for T4 only T3.

Medicine prescribed by conventional doctors (Synthroid – synthetic) only contain T4. Armour Thyroid prescribed by restorative doctors are natural and made up of T4, T3 and other substances that assist the body in converting T4 to T3, such as calcitonin and selenium. Of course, it is important to get other hormones checked as thyroid dysfunction rarely happens alone. When basic hormones are low or imbalanced the immune system is weak, which may actually provoke autoimmune diseases including Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. Hormones are crucial in keeping our immune system in order. It is important to get it right if you want to be healthy!

As well as taking thyroid hormones, there are also certain supplements that can help discourage the immune system attacking the thyroid gland.

  • EPA/DHA (fish oil), omega-3 – when taking fish oils also take vitamin E to prevent oxidation or choose a source that contains vitamin E.
  • Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), omega-6 – it is important to maintain the correct ratios of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, between 3:1 to 6:1, or it can lead to chronic inflammation and many other health problems. The diet today is very high in omega-6 and low in omega-3.
  • Magnesium – if you find it causes diarrhea take a lower dose.
  • Olive leaf extract – to be taken with food.
  • Probiotics – if taking any antibiotics make sure to wait 3 hours before taking probiotics.
  • Selenium – to be taken once a day.
  • Vitamin C – do not take a high dose if you are subject to kidney stones or gout.
  • Vitamin E – make sure to take mixed tocopherols, which is the more active form of vitamin E. Please first consult with your healthcare provider if you are taking blood thinners.

Thyroid friendly foods (Infographic)

One in 20 people in the UK suffer from thyroid disorders, according to the British Thyroid Foundation. The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.  During October, the Menopause Woman page on  Thyroid and Menopause received over 30,000 visits from our readers looking for information on under active thyroid or low thyroid.

To help you make food choices to improve your thyroid health see the Thyroid  infographic below. The Thyroid Food Swap infographic walks you through some of the foods to avoid and replaces them with foods to strengthen thyroid function. It includes causes of low thyroid, common symptoms and the vital hormone connection that many women in the forties are not aware of. If you are looking to strengthen thyroid function, keep on reading.

Thyroid Food Swap

Thyroid Food Infographic

Thyroid Food Infographic

Is it my thyroid or the perimenopause?

Life events such as childbirth and menopause can influence the balance of female hormones which put women at a higher rate of thyroid disorders than men. Women in their forties tend to be more affected than their male counterparts and, in fact, many midlife cases of hypothyroidism can be due to oestrogen dominance. Numerous cases of hypothyroidism can go undetected and untreated, as many doctors and women may be unaware of the hormonal connection and thyroid function in perimenopause/menopause.

Dr Dzugan is always telling me that thyroid dysfunction or imbalance is commonplace in many of DzLogic’s patients and US research shows around 25 percent of women in or near perimenopause are diagnosed with this condition.

So, is there such a thing as a Thyroid Diet?

Whilst there isn’t such a thing as a ‘Thyroid Diet’, there are foods that can damage or strengthen the thyroid gland, together with general hormone production. The thyroid needs certain vitamins and minerals that are accessible in many foods. A healthy diet of real foods consisting of a plant-based, whole-food regime, provides active nutrients which help to protect the thyroid.

Why certain minerals and vitamins matter

When we are deficient in certain minerals and vitamins, such as vitamin C, B-complex, zinc, selenium, and iodine, the thyroid cannot function at optimal. This is when we see weight gain, become more subject to insulin resistance, and suffer from a myriad of other symptoms; foggy thinking, brittle nails, joint pain, allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease (noncancerous changes in the breast tissue), hair loss, decreased sex drive, to name a few.

Without iodine the thyroid just doesn’t work!

The majority of people are deficient in iodine in fact, nearly 72 percent of the world’s population. We need trace amounts of iodine in all of our hormone receptors for our hormones to work correctly – good thyroid function is vital to hormone balance. Without iodine the thyroid just doesn’t work!

Using iodized salt isn’t sufficient to remedy this deficiency. The use of iodine that was once added to foods, greatly helped to reduce the incidence of goiter, or abnormally enlarged thyroid gland. Nevertheless, in the 1960s the use of iodine in bread was discontinued, largely because it was thought to be bad for you, and so replaced by bromium.

The problem with Bromium

Bromium is now found in such things as bread, vegetable oils, energy and fruit drinks and many other products. Bromium can actually dislodge iodine in a healthy thyroid, provoking it to dysfunction, going on to cause hypothyroidism. Today, processed and convenience foods present a significant problem because they are so deplete of important nutrients that help maintain a fully functioning and healthy thyroid and body. Continual consumption over the years of these ‘nutritionless foods’, will affect thyroid function and slow it down.

Keep away from these non-nutritional foods – eat real food!

The problem with fluoride

Another thing, fluoride in our waters and toothpaste block iodine binding. Drink filtered water and buy fluoride-free toothpaste! And apart from that, high fluoride levels have been linked to various negative health effects; impaired brain development which include lower IQ in children, weaker bones and more fractures, genetic damage and cell death, an increased tumor and cancer rate, and damaged sperm and increased infertility.

Thyroid friendly foods

Hormone friendly foods include organic, wild or free-range proteins, such as salmon, chicken, eggs, and beef. Other sources are raw nuts and seeds, and fresh fruit, along with pure, cold-pressed organic oils, including borage oil, olive oil, sesame oils. And importantly, organic green vegetable helps boost thyroid function.

What about soy?

Consuming organic soy foods such as fermented soy sauce, fermented soy yoghurts and miso, in small quantities, are also hormone friendly foods. However, you should avoid all regular soy foods that contain genistein, which ultimately decrease iodine absorption.

References

Dr Dzugan

British Thyroid Foundation

Dr Northrup on Thyroid Disease

Share Our Thyroid Infographic On Your Site

The Effects of Yo-Yo Dieting

yoyo-diet-thyroid-weight

The thyroid is our metabolic motor, and controls our metabolism (metabolic rate), when we ‘crash diet‘ a biologically-programmed interruption in its function is created, which actually results in weight gain – the opposite to what you are looking to achieve. As the thyroid talks to all the other hormones, this interruption disrupts the hormonal flow, and consequently, other metabolic processes along the way.

The thyroid gland secretes its hormones in the following proportions: 80 percent of T4, the inactive form, which is ultimately converted to T3 in the bloodstream to become the active form, and 20 percent of T3. When we crash diet a physiological response in the body takes place, which most likely dates back to Paleolithic man and the risk of starvation. T4 is then converted into reverse T3 (RT3), instead of T3. Reverse T3 is not metabolically active, and will result in the ‘shutting down‘ of our basal metabolic rate (metabolism).

When there is a lot of crash dieting going on the body sees this as a sign of famine and slows everything down, so whatever we are doing we will not lose weight. With persistent yo-yo dieting we are technically lowering our basal metabolic rate. Our metabolism will get stuck on neutral and we will gain weight on fewer calories whatever programme we are following, be it a high protein, low-carb, high vegetable, or whatever – the results are always the same; metabolic ‘shut down’.

Yo-yo dieting has gained its name because it truly is a yo-yo effect; as soon as we stop the severe food restrictions, the weigh piles back on and at a greater rate. This short-term solution does not work. If we restore our body with bioidentical hormones, adapt healthy eating habits and include exercise, the weight will come off and stay off!

Note: The same mechanism occurs in people under intense and increased stress. Stress raises the hormone, cortisol, which interferes with the conversion of T4 to the active form T3, this results in more reverse T3 being made, and again, it slows down the metabolism. This is known as stress-induced weight gain.

Balance your hormones, your systems, your body. Restore your body!

Why is iodine so important?

Why is iodine so important?

Did you know that iodine is the most important trace element for human health and that every cell in your body requires iodine to function correctly? And that a whopping 72% of the world’s population is deficient in iodine? Our glands, especially thyroid, ovaries, testes, pituitary and adrenals need iodine for the production of hormones. Hormones are the essence of life. Without them we could not function.

Iodine deficiency

When there is a deficiency in iodine, the body cannot repair itself because the building hormones, such as growth hormone, IGF and testosterone, all require iodine. Guess what happens? The body slowly breaks down. The body needs iodine for healthy cellular and metabolic functioning, it is almost impossible to achieve optimal health when there is an iodine deficiency.

Today iodine is perhaps the most misunderstood and overlooked mineral but its importance cannot be overstated. Iodine deficiency has been linked to breast cancer, along with ovarian, uterine, prostate cysts and cancers. Iodine signals death to cancer cells. With low iodine breast tissue can become cystic and fibrous and fibroids may occur in the uterus. Women suffering from fibroid cysts respond well to iodine supplementation.

Thyroid connection

The thyroid is a very important gland and cannot function correctly when there is a deficiency in iodine. The primary function of the thyroid is to balance metabolism. When the thyroid gland dysfunctions, it produces less thyroid hormone, a condition known as hypothyroidism. When hypothyroidism occurs, the body becomes sluggish and this is when we see weight gain – oh no, who wants to get fat? Also, with iodine deficiency you may have poor concentration – your job may depend on this! You may feel exhausted and depressed, you may suffer from craving for foods such as carbohydrates and sweets, and you may feel cold when other people feel hot. You may also have dry skin and/or hair loss. All these symptoms are characteristic of women with an iodine deficiency.

When your thyroid suffers, the rest of your body suffers – everything in the body is interconnected. There is a major connection between low thyroid production and low adrenal production. When the adrenals are low, you can be sure your sex life will be on a ‘go slow’ too – that’s because your sex hormones are low as well. Do any of you recognise these symptoms?

How to protect yourself

Be aware of bromide, aluminium, lead, chlorine and fluoride that are found in our drinking water, and mercury fillings that some of you may still have, as any iodine you have in your body will be used up in order to remove these extremely toxic chemicals. Iodine is known to increase the excretion of these toxins.