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Can Perimenopause Cause Hypothyroidism?

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You’ve no doubt heard horror stories about the symptoms that may come with perimenopause, the transitional period leading to menopause. But the problems can be far more complex. As if hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, loss of libido, weight gain and brain fog weren’t enough, you can also develop hypothyroidism ― that is, an underactive thyroid.

It happens to around 26% of women undergoing perimenopause.

Why is hypothyroidism so bad?

For starters, if you have low thyroid function, there’s a good chance you will also find yourself battling depression.

Not only that, but when this little butterfly-shaped gland at the base of your throat malfunctions, it can have huge repercussions for your entire body.

The thyroid produces triiodothyronine (T3) and a larger amount of thyroxine (T4), which is converted to T3. These two hormones affect metabolism. That means they control how your body uses food to produce energy and determine the rate at which your heart, liver, muscles and other organs, including your brain, work. In short, they affect about all your body’s working parts.

One of the most common effects of low thyroid ― when not enough thyroid hormones are being produced or when they’re not working at the cellular level ― is depression.

Why Do Perimenopausal Women Get Hypothyroidism?

Perimenopause occurs in mid-life, normally beginning between your mid-30s and late 40s. That’s the same time when your risk for hypothyroidism greatly increases, so it’s entirely possible that the two simply occur coincidentally.

But it’s equally true that perimenopause and hypothyroidism are often related. As your egg supply diminishes with the onset of perimenopause, your ovaries begin to produce less oestrogen. However, your progesterone level can fall far faster than that of oestrogen, throwing these two hormones out of balance. In other words, your optimal oestrogen/progesterone ratio is disrupted.

This imbalance often results in oestrogen dominance ― a condition when progesterone falls to a level so low that it’s unable to limit the action of oestrogen. When this happens, you can experience symptoms exactly like those caused by low thyroid, including depression, along with weight gain and brain fog.

But it can get worse . . . .

All that low but excessive oestrogen can actually sabotage your thyroid hormones. Even if your thyroid is pumping out sufficient T3 and T4, oestrogen dominance can make them ineffective. And if they can’t do their job, you will develop hypothyroidism.

It can also work the other way. A pre-existing low-functioning thyroid can cause your progesterone levels to plummet. Even if your oestrogen/progesterone balance was initially optimal, the ultimate result can be oestrogen dominance, which further impairs the thyroid and worsens depression.

How Hypothyroidism Leads to Depression

The T3 thyroid hormone acts in the brain to govern three neurotransmitters important to your emotions:

  • Serotonin: Optimal levels of serotonin (called the “feel-good” neurotransmitter) make you feel happy and relaxed
  • Norepinephrine: Improves mood, helps you deal with stress and acts like a natural anti-depressant
  • GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid): Improves mood and relieves anxiety

When the action of the T3 hormone is impeded by hypothyroidism, these mood-stabilising neurotransmitters are effectively taken ‘off-line.’ When that happens, depression gets worse.

Serotonin seems particularly important for maintaining an ‘up’ attitude and good mood, but it can drop precipitously following an abrupt decrease in oestrogen, which can occur in the mid-30s. Shortages of serotonin can worsen symptoms associated with menopause ― hot flushes, insomnia and mood changes ― that can add significantly to depression.

How You Can Relieve Thyroid Dysfunction and Depression in Perimenopause

Diagnosing low thyroid can be tricky. Even though your oestrogen/progesterone levels are unbalanced and affecting your thyroid hormones’ action, a routine thyroid test may show your thyroid hormones are at perfectly normal levels. That’s because your thyroid is putting out hormones that can be measured ― they just can’t do what they’re supposed to do.

Generally speaking, adequate thyroid treatment will reverse thyroid hormone insufficiency and depression. It’s important to be aware, however, that people with hypothyroidism-induced depression are often misdiagnosed and treated as having a psychiatric illness. As a result, they are frequently prescribed antidepressants.

Unfortunately, antidepressants can be addictive. Also, they can have dangerous side effects. They can, in fact, actually worsen depression ― even trigger homicidal or suicidal impulses ― and they won’t fix an oestrogen-dominance problem or a low-thyroid problem.

To reverse low thyroid and depression during perimenopause, you will need thyroid testing, but the standard TSH test doesn’t detect most cases of low thyroid and won’t give you the answers you need.

You need a restorative medicine physician skilled in bioidentical hormone restorative therapy (BHRT) who offers comprehensive, full-panel thyroid testing. That includes total T3 (TT3) and total T4 (TT4) tests, along with a TSH test. He or she will also do full testing of your sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone) in order to assess their status.

With that knowledge, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate treatment to restore optimal balance to your hormones, proper functioning to your thyroid, and a life free of perimenopausal-related depression, as well as other troubling menopausal symptoms.

SOURCES:

Depression: Common Symptom of Hypothyroidism. Hotze Health.
Dowling, C. Menopausal Depression Is Common and Treatable. Women’s Wellbeing and Mental Health.
Kellman, R. Menopause or Low Thyroid ― Is It One, The Other or Both? Huffington Post, THE BLOG. Oct. 30, 2015.
Magnolia. 35 Symptoms of Perimenopause ― Hypothyroidism. The Perimenopause Blog. Oct. 10, 2016.
Northrup, C. Thyroid Disease. DrNorthrup.com.
Perimenopause and Thyroid Problems ― common and confusing. CEMCOR.

Stress is a Major Ager!

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Stress is a Major Ager!

Ageing is multifactorial*, and stress is included in this.

Stress is a ‘Major Ager’ – it speeds up the ageing process – big time!  Mind, body and spirit! It’s not important whether it’s emotional, mental, physiological, environmental, nutritional, or biological, they all lead to the same result – continual stress equals faster ageing, faster body breakdown, therefore, more health issues.

Today, stress is everywhere, killing us slowly but surely. It begins in the morning with perhaps eating a rushed breakfast in the car on the way to work; to organising your day and how you can fit all your tasks in; to disagreeing with a colleague or family member; to dealing with a bad driver on the roads – these are all stressors. We are
surrounded by stress on a daily basis – it never stops!

Continual and unrelenting stress causes the stress hormone, cortisol, to rise. This creates a continual flow of cortisol in the bloodstream, which is highly destructive. This includes suppressed thyroid function which can cause blood sugar imbalances, impaired cognitive performance including concentration, memory, and problem solving; decrease in bone density and muscle tissue; high blood pressure which effect the function of the arteries; and increased abdominal fat which leads to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Continual stress also degrades the immune system, our protector, leaving us wide open to such things as cancer and age-related degenerative diseases. High stress levels also cause behavioral problems such as irritability, depression, unhappiness, or the opposite – extreme happiness – together with insomnia and reduced mental and physical control.

Think of it this way, any stressor will create a six hour shut-down of the immune system, when there are two or three stressors at a time whether they be emotional, physical, physiological, environmental or nutritional, we get a twelve or eighteen hour shut-down. Bereavement can throw the whole body into total hormonal bewilderment for as much as six months.

 As we age our hormones decline, in menopause our sex hormones (oestrogens and progesterone) decline drastically over a five year period, putting the body under an incredible and continual stress load. If we are already highly stressed, and are also menopausal, our stress will be exacerbated because of this factor (and we definitely will not be sleeping). Men don’t get off scot-free either, a decrease and imbalance in their sex hormones, in andropause, or as it is commonly known, ‘the male menopause’, will also exacerbate the detrimental effects of chronic stress.

How to control stress levels?

Restoring hormones to their optimal levels – the levels we had in our youth – is key to combating the devastating effects of stress on the body. This topic is covered in more detail in Jill’s book. Also key to remaining fit, healthy and youthfully active, is to ensure that we control our stress levels by doing such things as yoga, making time for ourselves, curling up with a good book, taking a hot bath, making time for sleep, and sex, along with meditation, massage, and doing moderate exercise. Eating healthily and taking high quality supplements, with the correct amount of active ingredients is also highly important to help protect yourself from the crushing effects
of chronic and daily stress. The 4 nutrients listed below can help counteract this daily stress.

4 Key Nutrients to counteract the effects of Stress

Vitamin B-50 complex

Various studies suggest that B vitamins can promote a healthy stress response. Also, stress itself may deplete family member of the B-vitamins, namely folic acid and vitamin B12 (1), serum levels. A high quality vitamin B complex can help digestive metabolic processes that may be negatively affected under times of stress, since stress slows the digestive process. Vitamin B supplementation may therefore, ameliorate the impact of negative stress from
collective angles.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is not only required for correct immune system function, it also crucial for adrenal function and the maintenance of healthy cortisol-to-DHEA levels. The adrenal glands contain more vitamin C than any other organ in the body, therefore, when stress is high more vitamin C may be required (2).

L-theanine

An amino acid that is found in green tea and is well known for its ability to enhance relaxation (3), but without the effects of drowsiness (4), as well as improving concentration. In other words, L-theanine increases attention yet is accompanied by a durable relaxed effect (5). L-theanine helps calm the brain, reduce anxiety by decreasing electrical activity, and helps decrease depression. It has also been seen to help sustain attention levels when doing long-term difficult and stressful tasks, and reduce heart rate response under acute stress tasks.  

Phosphatidylserine (PS)

Phosphatidylserine is present in all cells of the body and is a vital component for healthy cellular communication. A diet rich in phosphatidylserine helps balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or as it is more commonly known, the HPA axis. The balance of this axis is crucial to both our mental and physical health (6), and is a key factor in controlling our resistance to stress. During times of intense, acute stress, phosphatidylserine has been seen to attenuate the increase in cortisol levels (7).    

*Multifactorial – involving or dependent on a number of factors, especially genetic or environmental factors.

Citations

  1. Berg AL, Rafnsson AT, Johannsson M, Hultberg B, Arnadottir M. The effects of adrenocorticotrophic hormone and cortisol on homocysteine and vitamin B concentrations. Clin Chem Lab Med. 2006;44(5):628-31.
  2. Brody S, Preut R, Schommer K, Schürmeyer TH. A randomized controlled trial of high dose ascorbic acid for reduction of blood pressure, cortisol, and subjective responses to psychological stress. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2002 Jan;159(3):319-24.
  3. Vuong QV, Bowyer MC, Roach PD. L-Theanine: properties, synthesis and isolation from tea. J Sci Food Agric. 2011 Aug 30;91(11):1931-9. Wakabayashi C, Numakawa T, Ninomiya M, Chiba S, Kunugi H. Behavioral and molecular evidence for psychotropic effects in L-theanine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Feb;219(4):1099-109. Nathan PJ, Lu K, Gray M, Oliver C. The neuropharmacology of L-theanine(N-ethyl-L-glutamine): a possible neuroprotective and cognitive enhancing agent. J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(2):21-30.
  4. Nobre AC, Rao A, Owen GN. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol. 2007 Jan;74(1):39-45. Gomez-Ramirez M, Kelly SP, Montesi JL, Foxe JJ. The effects of L-theanine on alpha-band oscillatory brain activity during a visuo-spatial attention task. Brain Topogr. 2009 Jun;22(1):44-51.
  5. Dimpfel W, Kler A, Kriesl E, Lehnfeld R, Keplinger-Dimpfel IK. Source density analysis of the human EEG after ingestion of a drink containing decaffeinated extract of green tea enriched with L-theanine and theogallin. Nutr Neurosci. 2007 Jun-Aug;10(3-4):169-80.
  6. Kelly GS. Nutritional and botanical interventions to assist with the adaptation to stress. Altern Med Rev. 1999 Aug;4(4):249-65. Monteleone, P., Effects of phosphatidylserine on the neuroendocrine responses to physical stress in humans., Neuroendocrinol. 1990, 52: 243-248. Benton D., The influence of phosphatidylserine supplementation on mood and heart rate when faced with an acute stressor. Nutr Neurosci. 2001;4(3):169-178. Hellhammer, J., Effects of soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress (Amsterdam, Netherlands)2004, 7 (2): 119–126.
  7. Fahey TD., The hormonal and perceptive effects of phosphatidylserine administration during two weeks of resistive exercise-induced overtraining. Biol Sport. 1998;15:135-144.

Thyroid Friendly Foods

One in 20 people in the UK suffer from thyroid disorders, according to the British Thyroid Foundation. The most common thyroid condition is hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.  The Menopause Woman page on  Thyroid and Menopause has received over 30,000 visits from our readers looking for information on under active thyroid or low thyroid.

To help you make the right food choices and improve your thyroid health, see the Thyroid  infographic below. The Thyroid Food Swap infographic walks you through some of the foods you should avoid and offers you alternative foods that can help strengthen thyroid function. It includes some of the causes why low thyroid (hypothyroidism) may happen, the common symptoms, and the vital hormonal connection that many women in their forties are unaware of. If you are looking to strengthen thyroid function, keep on reading.

Thyroid Food Swap

Thyroid Food Infographic

Thyroid Food Infographic

Is it my thyroid or the perimenopause?

Women are more susceptible to different hormonal fluctuations than men. Life events such as childbirth and menopause greatly impact and challenge the balance of female hormones, which puts a woman at a higher risk of thyroid disorders than men. And in fact, women are 5 to 8 times likely to have thyroid disease.
It is a well-known fact that women in their forties tend to be more affected than their male counterparts. And in fact, many midlife cases of hypothyroidism have been linked to oestrogen dominance (when oestrogen overrides progesterone). Numerous cases of hypothyroidism go undetected and untreated, mainly because many doctors, and women for that matter, are unaware of the hormone/thyroid connection in perimenopause/menopause.
Interestingly, research demonstrates that approximately 25 percent of women, in or near perimenopause, are diagnosed with hypothyroidism.

So, is there such a thing as a Thyroid Diet?

Whilst there isn’t such a thing as a ‘Thyroid Diet’, there are foods that can damage or strengthen the thyroid gland and its function, together with general hormone production. The thyroid needs certain vitamins and minerals that are accessible in many foods. A healthy diet of real foods consisting of a plant-based, whole-food regime, provides active nutrients which can help to protect the thyroid. However, try and make sure you eat organic or buy your food from a local farm, as conventional-agricultural methods have left our soils depleted in essential and important nutrients that dictate our health.

Why certain minerals and vitamins matter

A deficieny in certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, B-complex, zinc, selenium, and iodine can cause the thyroid to malfunction. This is when we see unexplained weight gain, foggy thinking, poor blood control, and a myriad of other symptoms; brittle nails, joint pain, allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome, fibrocystic breast disease (noncancerous changes in the breast tissue), hair loss, and diminished sex drive to name a few.

Without iodine, the thyroid will be unable to work at optimum!

The majority of people are deficient in iodine – in fact, nearly 72% of the world’s population. The function of the thyroid gland is to take iodine and convert it into the thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The thyroid cells combine both iodine and the amino acid, tyrosine, to manufacture T4 and T3. Without iodine, the thyroid gland is unable to function correctly! Good thyroid function is vital to hormone balance.
Using iodized salt isn’t sufficient to remedy this deficiency. The use of iodine that was once added to foods greatly helped to reduce the incidence of goiter (an abnormally enlarged thyroid gland). Nevertheless, in the 1960s the use of iodine in bread, for example, was discontinued, largely because it was thought to be bad for you, and so, was replaced by bromium.

The problem with Bromium

Bromium is now found in such things as bread, vegetable oils, energy and fruit drinks and many other products. Bromium can actually dislodge iodine in a healthy thyroid, provoking it to dysfunction, which may then cause hypothyroidism. To explain further, bromium, as well as fluoride, are chemically similar in structure to iodine and are considered toxic halides.They mimic and compete with iodine, blocking its absorption into the cells. When this happens, thyroid disorder will occur.
Also, today, processed and convenience foods, present a significant problem because they are so depleted in important nutrients that help maintain a fully functioning and healthy thyroid, and therefore, body. Continual consumption over the years of these ‘nutritionless toxic foods’, will eventually affect thyroid function and slow it down!
Keep away from these non-nutritional foods – eat real food!

The problem with fluoride

Fluoride found in our waters and our toothpaste can block iodine binding, as mentioned above. Drink filtered water and buy fluoride-free toothpaste! And apart from that, high fluoride levels have been linked to various mental and physical health issues; impaired brain development, which include lower IQ in children, weaker bones, and more fractures, genetic damage and cell death, an increased tumor and cancer rate, and damaged sperm and increased infertility.

Thyroid friendly foods

Hormone friendly foods include organic, wild or free-range proteins, such as salmon, chicken, eggs, and beef. Other sources are raw nuts and seeds, and fresh fruit, along with pure cold-pressed organic oils, including borage oil, olive oil, sesame oils. And importantly, organic green vegetables which help to boost thyroid function.

What about soy?

Consuming organic soy foods such as fermented soy sauce, fermented soy yoghurts, and miso, in small quantities, are also hormone friendly foods. However, you should avoid all regular soy foods that contain genistein, which ultimately decrease iodine absorption.

References

Dr Dzugan

British Thyroid Foundation

Dr Northrup on Thyroid Disease

Why is Iodine so Important?

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Why iodine is so important

Did you know that iodine is the most important trace element for human health and that every cell in your body requires iodine to function correctly? And that a whopping 72% of the world’s population is deficient in iodine? Our glands, especially thyroid, ovaries, testes, pituitary and adrenals need iodine for the production of hormones.

Hormones are the essence of life. Without them we could not function.

Iodine deficiency

When there is a deficiency in iodine, the body cannot repair itself because the building hormones, such as growth hormone, IGF and testosterone, all require iodine.

Guess what happens? The body slowly breaks down. The body needs iodine for healthy cellular and metabolic functioning, it is almost impossible to achieve optimal health when there is an iodine deficiency.

Today iodine is perhaps the most misunderstood and overlooked mineral but its importance cannot be overstated.

Iodine deficiency has been linked to breast cancer, along with ovarian, uterine, prostate cysts and cancers. Iodine signals death to cancer cells. With low iodine breast tissue can become cystic and fibrous and fibroids may occur in the uterus.

Women suffering from fibroid cysts respond well to iodine supplementation.

Thyroid connection

The thyroid is a very important gland and cannot function correctly when there is a deficiency in iodine. The primary function of the thyroid is to balance metabolism.

When the thyroid gland dysfunctions, it produces less thyroid hormone, a condition known as hypothyroidism.

When hypothyroidism occurs, the body becomes sluggish and this is when we see weight gain – oh no, who wants to get fat?

Also, with iodine deficiency you may have poor concentration – your job may depend on this! You may feel exhausted and depressed, you may suffer from craving for foods such as carbohydrates and sweets, and you may feel cold when other people feel hot.

You may also have dry skin and/or hair loss. All these symptoms are characteristic of women with an iodine deficiency.

When your thyroid suffers, the rest of your body suffers – everything in the body is interconnected. There is a major connection between low thyroid production and low adrenal production.

When the adrenals are low, you can be sure your sex life will be on a ‘go slow’ too – that’s because your sex hormones are low as well.

Do any of you recognise these symptoms?

How to protect yourself

Be aware of bromide, aluminium, lead, chlorine and fluoride that are found in our drinking water, and mercury fillings that some of you may still have, as any iodine you have in your body will be used up in order to remove these extremely toxic chemicals. Iodine is known to increase the excretion of these toxins.