Hypothyroidism and Menopause

A large number of women with menopausal-like symptoms may be suffering from (undiagnosed) thyroid problems. Approximately 30% to 40% of women develop thyroid problems at some point, and the likelihood of developing it increases with age.   Hormonal changes brought on by entering into perimenopause may be partially responsible for this. During pre or peri-menopause the ovaries decrease production of progesterone leading to “estrogen dominance” or too much estrogen. This proliferation of estrogen engenders an over production of thyroid-binding globulin (TBG) by the liver.  This substance in turn attaches the thyroid hormones (T3/T4) preventing absorption by the cells. This situation may trigger Hashimoto’s disease.

The same symptoms associated with menopause are also indicative of hypothyroidism. These are: weight gain, mood swings, sleep disruptions, depression and fatigue (both). The thyroid gland (part of the endocrine system) regulates the body’s metabolism and influences the reproductive system, appetite, muscle strength, brain, heart, and kidneys.Hypothyroidism may be accompanied by a coldness in the body’s center which is persistent. This differs from the hot/cold experience of menopause including cold extremities (hands/feet), especially “frozen fingers.” This experience is caused by a higher than normal amount of stress hormones called catecholamines produced by the adrenal gland. These make the blood vessels in hands constrict and feel cold.

If you believe you are suffering from hypothyroidism as well as menopause symptoms talk with your health care provider about having your TSH (thyroid secretion hormone) checked. This can be done with a simple blood test. Thyroid replacement therapy may be in order.

How to diagnose thyroid problems: A simple blood test, called a TSH (Thyroid Secretion Hormone) test will indicate whether or not there is a problem. If the TSH test shows your levels to be either in the top quarter of normal or higher than normal your doctor can order a T4 test to find out if your actual thyroid is not performing properly. If a thyroid problem is occurring then the T4 should be in the low normal/lower than normal range. If the TSH is going up and the T4 is going down, but they are still in the normal range ask to be retested in six months. If a woman has borderline thyroid functioning or low iodine intake (another potential cause of thyroid problems) soy foods may increase the risk of hypothyroidism as the phytoestrogen in soy may disrupt the body’s ability to absorb thyroid hormones, including synthetic thyroid hormones provided by medication .

The usual prescription medication for hypothyroidism is Thyroxine (levothyroxine).   If a woman is taking this medication and then starts taking HRT (hormone replacement therapy) she should have her thyroid tested after starting this, as she may need to increase her thyroid meds.  Please be aware that hypothyroidism in menopausal women has been associated with a heightened risk of bone fractures. This is as thyroid hormones are key in maintaining healthy bones.   If a woman is taking thyroid medication she should not take any calcium supplements within four hours of taking the mediation as it may decrease the absorption of it by up to a third.

If you do not need to don’t take thyroid hormones as these can cause heart problems and decrease bone density.

You can undertake lifestyle changes to lessen the production of excess estrogen, or lower the likelihood of coming into contact with estrogen like substances including Phytoestrogens from plant sources and Xenoestrogens from synthetic products . Try not to cook with plastics as these have estrogen mimicking compounds that may leach into your food. Other sources of estrogen mimickers are: lawn and plant fertilizers, cosmetics and nail care products, paint, glue, and cleaning products.  Manage your weight as Xenoestrogens  may be stored in fat cells, leading to thyroid disruption when they are metabolized.

Fat cells  themselves can also make estrogen, so the more fat cells you have  the more problematic this phenomenon becomes. Grains especially can be problematic as they may contain estrogen compounds meant to increase the grain’s growth rate. Cattle and milk farmers use estrogen to increase livestock weight and milk production respectively.  Chicken farming may also involve estrogens. Avoid drinking or using drugs excessively as these disrupt liver functioning. The liver breaks down estrogen and removes it.

Reduce stress, as this lessons the amount of progesterone in the body by  turning the hormone   progesterone into the stress hormone cortisol.   Avoid birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy if possible as they can contribute to estrogen dominance. Try to avoid foods with pesticides as well as those high in sugar, including simple carbohydrates.


Sources referenced

British Thyroid Foundation website, webpage: Thyroid and Menopause. Retrieved from: www.btf-thyroid.org/information/articles/107-thyroid-and-menopause

Cemcor website, the center for menstrual cycle and ovulation research. Perimenopause and Thyroid Problems, common and confusing, retrieved from www.cemcor.ubc.ca/ask/perimenopause-and-thyroid-problems-common-and-confusing#sthash.3KueNbeQ.dpuf

Website Medicinenet.com. Webpage: Doctor's view archive, thyroid disease & menopause, medical author: R. Mathur, M.D.; medical editor: W.C. Shiel, Jr, MD., FACP., FACR.  Retrieved from: http://medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=16424&page=2

Website: theperimenopauseblog.com.  Webpage: 35 symptoms of Perimenopause-Hypothyroidism. Retrieved from: www.theperimenopauseblog.com/35-symptoms-of-perimenopause-hypothyroidism/

thyroidpharmacist.com website, webpage: Estrogen Dominance as a Hashimoto’s Trigger. Retrieved from: www.thyropharmacist.com/articles/estrogen-dominance-as-a-hashimotos-trigger

Outsmart disease website, webpage: How estrogen dominance can ruin your thyroid health, posted January 8, 2013. Retrieved from: www.outspartdisease.com/how-estrogen-dominance-can-ruin-your-thyroid-hyealth/


The information on this site is for educational and informational purposes only.  It is not to take the place of medical advice or treatment.   Seek out a qualified health care provider if you have questions or need help.  Dr. Grant is not responsible for any possible health consequences of anyone who follows or reads the information in this content.  Everyone, but especially those taking medication (over the counter or prescription) should talk with a physician before undertaking any changes to their lifestyle or diet (including taking supplements).