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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.

Stress is a Major Ager!

Ageing is multifactorial*, and stress is included in this.

Stress is a ‘major ager’, it speeds up the ageing process – mind, body and spirit! It’s not important if it is emotional, mental, physiological, environmental or nutritional, or biological, they all lead to the same result – continual stress equals faster ageing and faster body breakdown.

Today, stress is everywhere, it is killing us. It starts in the morning with perhaps eating a rushed breakfast in the car on the way to work; to organising your day and how to fit your tasks into it; to disagreeing with a colleague or family member; to dealing with a bad driver on the roads – these are all stressors. Stress never stops!

Continual and unrelenting stress causes the stress hormone, cortisol, to rise. This creates a continual flow of cortisol in the bloodstream, which is highly destructive. This includes suppressed thyroid function which can cause blood sugar imbalances, which will lead to insulin resistance; impaired cognitive performance including concentration, memory, and problem solving; decrease in bone density and muscle tissue; high blood pressure which effect the function of the arteries; and increased abdominal fat which leads to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Continual stress also degrades the immune system, our protector, leaving us wide open to such things as cancer and age-related, degenerative diseases. High stress levels also cause behavioral problems such as irritability, depression, unhappiness, or the opposite, extreme happiness, together with insomnia, and reduced mental and physical control.      

Think of it this way, any stressor will create a six hour shut-down of the immune system, when there are two or three stressors at a time whether it be, emotional, physical physiological, environmental, or nutritional, we get a twelve or eighteen hour shut-down. Bereavement can throw the whole body into total hormonal bewilderment for as much a six month.  

As we age our hormones decline, in menopause our sex hormones decline drastically over  a five year period, putting the body under an incredible and continual stress load. If we are already highly stressed and are also menopausal, our stress will be exacerbated because of this factor (and we definitely will not be sleeping).

How to control stress levels?

To remain, fit, healthy and youthfully active we need to ensure that we control our stress levels by doing such things as yoga, curling up with a good book, taking a hot bath, making time for sleep, sex, and for ourselves, meditation, massage, and exercise, but restorative doctors believe that stress control on a permanent basis is impossible ‘unless and until’ hormonal balance is restored.

*Multifactorial – involving or dependent on a number of factors, especially genetic or environmental factors.

 

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

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.