20% of women in menopause have hypothyroid symptoms.
The thyroid is the hormone of metabolism, similar to the “idle” position in a car. If your idle is slow, the processes in your body are sluggish. Focus is diffuse. Hair falls out. You look at a piece of bread, let alone pumpkin pie, and gain weight. Your joints feel mildly geriatric.
When your thyroid is working against you, your body feels slow. Reflexes? Not as rapid-fire as they were 10 years ago. You don’t react as fast to changes in your environment.
Why does thyroid hostage happen? There are many reasons, and I want to highlight the six most common reasons for thyroid hostage that I see among the women in my concierge integrative medicine practice.
1. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. It’s a mouthful. Basically, your immune system has gotten confused and is attacking your thyroid as if it were a foreign invader. Oprah has this, and Dr. Oz aptly described it as a frat party in her thyroid. Initially, as your immune system moves into the thyroid on attack mode, you make more thyroid hormone which can cause insomnia, anxiety and irritability. Then the thyroid burns out when it can’t fight anymore. The burn out phase leads to the common hypothyroid symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, hair loss, and low body temperature.
When you have Hashi’s, you can flip back and forth between hyper- and hyp-thyroidism when you have a “flare” or the immune system is diggin’ in with a big attack. Your anti-thyroid antibodies (antibodies to thyroglobulin and thyroid peroxidase) increase and decrease depending on the fight that’s left between your thyroid gland and your immune system.
2. Iodine Deficiency. Remember those cute numbers after thyroid hormones – T4, the inactive form of thyroid hormone, or T3, active thyroid hormone – refer to the quantity of iodine atoms attached to thyroid hormone. If you don’t have enough iodine in your diet, you can develop low thyroid function. If you’re not sure about your iodine consumption, check your urine in this home test.
But those of you with Hashi’s, beware. Adding iodine can be like adding gas to the fire (or the frat party). Iodine stimulates thyroid peroxidase, which can lead to a dramatic increase in antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO), resulting in an autoimmune “flare.”
3. After-the-Baby Thyroiditis. Many of my wellness clients and concierge patients report that their problems first began post-partum, after baby #1 or maybe one of the subsequent births. Here’s the rub: Pregnancy puts your endocrine glands into overdrive in order to make the sky-high levels of estriol and progesterone that your baby requires. Some women can rise to the occasion without missing a beat… and then there’s the rest of us who deliver the baby and never quite get our tank back to normal. Mood tanks. Hair falls out. No energy, and it’s more than just lack of sleep with a newborn.
Note to self: Have your doctor to test your thyroid. TSH. Free T3. Reverse T3. Politely decline the prescription for an antidepressant and the referral to a new moms’ support group (they won’t help your slow thyroid).
4. Selenium Deficiency. Dr. Sara believes selenium is the most important mineral for your thyroid health, and unless you’re eating from composted soil, I doubt you’re getting enough from your food. Many areas around the globe have soil depleted in selenium. If you don’t get enough selenium, you are less able to convert the storage thyroid hormone, T4, which is inactive, into T3, which is active.
5. Endocrine Disruptors. Is your bed organic? If not, chances are you are getting exposed to flame retardants that act by 10+ mechanisms to slow down thyroid function. Or perhaps you’re still eating food from a can – beans, soup, pumpkin? Cans are lined with bis-phenol A, an endocrine disruptor that blocks thyroid receptors and keeps your thyroid hormone from exerting its biological destiny.
6. Estrogen Dominance. We know that too much estrogen compared to progesterone causes thyroid hormone to be less available (that is, bound to carrier proteins). One of the most common times for estrogen dominance is age 35-50 when perimenopause begins.
There are currently millions of people who struggle with thyroid problems,
but you can start changing your thyroid hormone levels for the better.