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Is it menopause, low thyroid — or both?!

By Dr. Sarika Arora, MD

When reproductive hormones fluctuate in menopause, what women may not realize is that this shift is powerful enough to throw thyroid hormones into imbalance too. If you’re struggling with symptoms like low energy, fuzzy thinking, hair loss, and unexplained weight gain, don’t dismiss it as “just” menopause. Some hormonal symptoms of menopause and low thyroid overlap, but for some women, low thyroid is actually their dominant problem!

When reproductive hormones fluctuate in menopause, this shift is powerful enough to throw thyroid hormones into imbalance too.

3 questions to ask yourself to uncover thyroid issues in menopause

Here’s what to ask yourself — and what to do — to help uncover a hidden thyroid issue:

1. Are you experiencing telltale signs of low thyroid? Weird weight gain? Fatigue? Low sex drive? It’s hard to know what’s going on when so many thyroid symptoms are similar to those in menopause. This overlap occurs because your thyroid and reproductive hormones pathways are so interconnected.

However, there are also telltale symptoms of low thyroid issues that generally don’t overlap with menopause. If you are experiencing any of these, it’s a good idea to check in on the health of your thyroid:

  • Feeling cold all of the time,
  • Thinning/brittle hair or hair loss,
  • Yellowing of the hands,
  • Dry, flaky skin, and/or
  • Brittle or ridged fingernails.

2. Is your thyroid test really “normal”? For many women with thyroid symptoms, a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test is the first step in figuring out if low thyroid is indeed present. A TSH test measures how much thyroid stimulating hormone your brain is releasing to stimulate thyroid hormone production. If levels of thyroid stimulating hormone are high, it generally indicates your thyroid is not producing enough active thyroid hormone, which leads to uncomfortable symptoms.

Unfortunately, you may be told your numbers are “normal” even as your symptoms become progressively worse. Many women with mild and moderate symptoms actually have subclinical hypothyroidism (low thyroid) in which test results appear in the “normal” range, or are right on the border, according to conventional practitioners. For example while the “normal range” for labs that test TSH may be as high as 4.0mlU/L, we generally like to see TSH blood level tests come closer to 2.0 mlU/L. Anywhere in the middle is this state of subclinical thyroid dysfunction that triggers symptoms.

We suggest taking thyroid supportive steps if your levels are above 2.0 mlU/L, if your TSH levels have been gradually rising over the years, or if you are having symptoms of low thyroid (our approach: let your symptoms be your guide!). This way you have an opportunity to rebalance your thyroid without medication.

3. Is a sluggish thyroid sneaking up on you? Act now before it’s too late. Thyroid issues are “sneaky” even if you’ve been taking good care of yourself. In fact, you may have lived your entire life without realizing you were vulnerable to thyroid imbalance, until the extra stresses of hormonal imbalance in menopause expose a low thyroid issue. This can be especially scary for women who have been working to stay healthy and don’t want a lifetime of medication. The good news is that there are many natural options to support your thyroid function, especially if you get started sooner rather than later.

Supporting your thyroid naturally in menopause

Starting with a gentle, natural approach may help to restore normal function and decrease any thyroid symptoms that overlap with menopause symptoms. Depending on the degree of imbalance, you may benefit from a natural menopause support supplement or a natural thyroid supplement or a combination approach. As part of a whole body approach to wellness, also try some of the following simple measures for restoring thyroid function:

Nourish yourself. Your body needs a wide range of nutrients every day to manufacture and metabolize thyroid hormones. Be sure to eat food that include vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, iodine and selenium. It’s also a good idea to get EPA and DHA (e.g., fish oils). Selenium and vitamin D are especially helpful in protecting against thyroid autoimmunity.

Healing herbs from Mother Earth. Medicinal herbs can not only help women in perimenopause or post-menopause to recalibrate the ratios between estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, but can support healthy thyroid metabolism as well. We recommend bacopa, hops, and sage, which are all found in our T-Balance Plus, to support healthy metabolism within the thyroid gland and throughout the body.

Manage the level of stress in your daily life. Chronic stress has powerful, detrimental effects on your endocrine system. You may not be able to eliminate all stressors in your life, but you can take measures to minimize the impact of stress through moderate exercise, meditation, or other mindful practices.

Learning to say “no”, taking time out each day to quiet your nerves, ensuring a good night’s sleep, and minimizing stimulants can all work to keep your adrenals — and, by extension, your entire endocrine system — healthy.

If you have several weird and uncomfortable symptoms, don’t underestimate the influence your thyroid may be having over the way you feel every day. If you suspect your thyroid may be behind your symptoms, take our Thyroid Quiz to see what’s up.

Last Updated: November 9, 2022
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