Hypothyroidism and Menopause Hormone Changes

It’s not your imagination. Menopause and thyroid problems often occur together.

Hypothyroidism, or low thyroid, is fairly common in menopausal and middle-aged women. Fluctuating hormone levels at menopause appear to be a significant trigger for thyroid malfunction. Sadly, this is a common disorder that often goes unrecognized. Proper thyroid function is essential to healthy metabolism.

This small, butterfly-shaped gland, located behind the adam’s apple in the neck, is of great importance to overall wellness. A person suffering from hypothyroid might have either high or low blood pressure, may experience chronic constipation (sluggish colon), and may experience severe depression, including post-partum depression.

A person may also suffer from unexplained weight gain,or the inability to lose weight, regardless of exercise and dietary changes.

Hypothyroid has been called ‘the great imitator’, for even IF your doctor is correctly suspicious, blood tests may not reveal anything out of order. Many of us have complained to our doctor about fatigue, depression, sensitivity to cold, chronic skin problems, weight gain , decreased concentration and memory function and fluid retention—all of which are known symptoms of low thyroid.

In the beginning stages, these symptoms are all the more likely to be attributed to other factors. If we insist with our complaints, we may be told that we are “just depressed” (Here comes the Paxil…) or that perhaps we just need more estrogen. ( And here comes the Premarin…) What we may already be experiencing is ‘sub-clinical hypothyroid‘.

What is sub-clinical hypothyroid?

Put in simple terms, this means that blood test results are showing to be within normal range, but the patient is actually symptomatic (exhibiting symptoms) for low thyroid function. Since many physicians tend to focus a great deal of attention on test results, a patient’s symptoms may simply be dismissed, ignored or misinterpreted.The subtle nature of this hormone imbalance can be frustrating, to say the least. Skin problems, such as acne, psoriasis and eczema, along with hair loss, may accompany the condition.

One may have frequent headaches, migraines, and memory problems. There may be loss of sexual desire and increased cholesterol numbers. On top of all of this– insomnia and profound fatigue . Nearly every system in the body is impacted by thyroid function.Hypothyroidism often co-exists with estrogen dominance. Progesterone is manufactured in the presence of adequate thyroid hormones, nutrients, such as vitamin A, and certain enzymes.

Too much estrogen, in relation to progesterone, may suppress secretion of thyroid hormones and inhibit conversion of T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) to T3 (the biologically active form). Without sufficient conversion, the progesterone deficit worsens, creating a vicious cycle! Adding fuel to the fire is excess cortisol, due to chronic stress. Like estrogen, cortisol is a thyroid-inhibitor.The good news? Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid are treatable conditions, especially if caught early. Make note of your particular symptoms and work with your doctor to uncover imbalances that may be affecting your overall wellness.

Do not attempt to self-treat this disorder. Coexistent low thyroid can, and often does, aggravate other illnesses. More than one condition may need to be treated simultaneously. If there is compromised function, prescription drugs and/or nutritional supplements may be used to treat the imbalances.

Some Reported Symptoms of Hypothyroid

  • Severe fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Intolerance to cold
  • Persistent low body temperature (less than 98 degrees consistently)
  • Diffuse muscle and joint pain (fibromyalgia)
  • Brain fog–mentally unfocused, memory problems
  • Goiter
  • Dry skin
  • Dry, coarse, brittle hair
  • Hair easily falls out
  • Slow speech
  • Slow pulse rate , despite low physical fitness
  • Cold skin
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Brittle fingernails
  • Prone to adult acne or eczema
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Feelings of anxiety , often leading to panic

Menopause and Hypothyroidism – Suspected triggers of autoimmune thyroiditis

  • Hormone fluctuations/menopause onset
  • Major Surgery
  • Severe, sudden changes in lifestyle
  • Neck trauma, such as whiplash
  • Intravenous iodine contrast tests
  • Chronic Stress
  • X-rays
  • Chemical exposures, such as fluoride, chlorine
  • Food allergies that are moderate to severe

Conditions that may co-exist with Low Thyroid Function

A personal story from the webmaster: After nearly two years of hormone misery, induced by sudden, surgical menopause, my nurse practitioner agreed to prescribe a small dose of Armour thryoid for a trial period.My TSH numbers were over 2 but not yet approaching 3. Just as a point of reference, this is considered ‘ in normal range’.After about four months, my energy improved, carpal tunnel symptoms improved and best of all, my brain “fog” has lifted for the most part. Also, though I am not losing weight, the cycle of gain, gain, gain seems to have been halted for now.This is only my own personal experience and is not intended to diagnose or provide treatment guidance for your specific symptoms.I share this story to illustrate the importance of symptoms–and having a health care person who will listen to you about the symptoms.Quotes from Alternative Health Professionals, on the subject of Hypothyroid:

“Despite increased awareness in the medical community about the issues and interventions surrounding menopause, tremendous numbers of women still suffer from menopausal difficulties…Frequently, the underlying hypothyroidism is such a controlling factor that simply correcting it returns the whole system to fairly normal functioning. Menopause continues, but it is a more mild, gradual, and comfortable process. If your thyroid is low, your hot flashes will be much more pronounced, much more frequent, and more disconcerting. This is because thyroid is your energy throttle, your gas pedal. You need energy to go through the change gracefully.” ~Richard Shames, M.D., (Thyroid Power, page 116)

“Millions of Americans wake up each day with hypothyroidism, a disease you don’t even know you have. You’re fatigued, your hair is falling out, you’re gaining weight and depressed. You don’t even think to mention the symptoms to your doctor because you assume age, not enough sleep, or too little exercise are to blame. Unfortunately, you don’t recognize the symptoms of hypothyroidism, a condition that affects an estimated 13 million Americans. If you’re a woman, you’re up against a one-in-eight chance of developing a thyroid disorder during your lifetime. When you’re living with undiagnosed hypothyroidism, you’re not living well.” ~Mary Shoman (Living Well with Hypothyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You, page 1)


Disclaimer: This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or other medical condition. This information is provided for educational and informational purposes only. Please consult with your doctor should you have specific health questions or concerns.