Women are far more likely to develop thyroid disease and disorders than men are, and these problems often appear between puberty and menopause. (1)
The chaos of your hormones at menopause can result in some strange things happening with your thyroid, so it might be a good time to get it checked out.
Understanding The Thyroid
Your thyroid is a small organ with a very big job.
The thyroid is located in your neck, and the organ itself is shaped like a butterfly.
Your thyroid is in charge of releasing the hormones that control your metabolism, which is the way your body uses energy. In addition to that, your thyroid is responsible for regulating many vital body functions including the following…
- Your body temperature. Are you too cold or too hot no matter what the thermostat says? You might have thyroid issues!
- Your body weight. Can’t lose weight? Can’t gain weight? Could be your thyroid causing trouble.
- Your menstrual cycle. Your thyroid is involved in the releasing of the hormones necessary for your reproductive system to do its job.
Your thyroid is also instrumental in helping to regulate your breathing, your heart rate, your muscle strength, your cholesterol levels and your nervous system.
Your thyroid is a core member of your endocrine system. The organs in this system are responsible for making, storing and releasing the hormones your body’s cells need.
When you eat, your thyroid absorbs the iron from your food and creates T3 and T4. Your brain works to keep these hormones in perfect balance. If the T3 and T4 levels become unbalanced, many things can begin to go wrong in your body. (2)
If your body has on overactive thyroid, meaning it has too much T3 and T4, you might experience:
- Hair loss
- Missed periods
- Sensitivity to heat
If your body has an underactive thyroid, meaning it doesn’t have enough T3 and T4, you might be experiencing:
- Joint pain
- Dry skin
- Heavy periods
How Hormones Affect The Thyroid
When your body begins to go through menopause, many of your hormones begin to fluctuate, but none wavers as much as estrogen.
Estrogen has been found to have an impact on the way your body’s cells receive the thyroid hormones they need. (3)
During menopause, some women opt to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to alleviate their symptoms. Women who enter menopause with no problems with their thyroid tend to remain untroubled after starting hormone replacement therapy.
Unfortunately, women who enter menopause with an underactive thyroid might find that they need to increase their dosage of thyroid medication due to their HRT.
What Is Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is a condition of your thyroid in which it is overactive. This means it produces too much of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
As stated earlier, it is imperative that these hormones stay balanced for proper body functions. When these hormones are out of balance, some galling symptoms can appear. (4)
Some of the most common symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- Excessive sweating
- Skin thinning
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss that is sudden
- Sensitivity to heat
- Changes in menstrual patterns
- Increased heart rate
Because hyperthyroidism presents with symptoms similar to other health issues, it can often be difficult for your doctor to make the connection between your symptoms and the problem at hand.
The Link Between Hyperthyroidism And Menopause
Disorders of the thyroid, especially hyperthyroidism, can mimic menopause, causing similar symptoms.
It can be difficult to differentiate between hyperthyroidism and menopause, which makes treatment almost impossible.
Additionally, hyperthyroidism can worsen the symptoms of menopause. Many women have found great relief in their menopause symptoms after being treated for their thyroid disorders. (5)
Getting Your Thyroid Tested
If you find you are experiencing symptoms of hyperthyroidism, be sure to speak with your doctor.
A simple blood test can help them determine whether or not you have thyroid disease.
You will have your blood drawn and it will be sent to the laboratory for TSH testing (that’s short for thyroid stimulating hormone). The laboratory will determine your T3 and T4 levels, and see if they are within normal parameters. The laboratory will then inform your doctor of these test results and your doctor can decide if treatment is warranted. (6)
Simple Steps To Improve Your Thyroid Health
Here are a few steps you can take to improve your thyroid health:
Eat a healthy diet containing foods that have iodine and selenium. Selenium is vital to your thyroid health, and iodine deficiencies are directly related to poor thyroid health. (7) (8)
Make sure you are getting enough Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in salmon and tuna. Fish is also a good source of selenium.
Nuts are a good source of selenium as well, especially Brazil nuts.
Make sure you are getting enough fruits and vegetables. If you have hypothyroidism, be careful of your intake of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
Try to exercise regularly and to get enough sleep.
Be sure to speak with your doctor about medication options as well.