Thyroid problems are common during perimenopause and after menopause. Unfortunately the symptoms of both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can be similar to menopausal symptoms. Many women can go undiagnosed and suffer when their symptoms could be treated.
This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about how good fitness and nutrition can benefit women during menopause and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not intended to be medical advice. This information is to be used at your own risk based on your own judgment.
What is your thyroid?
Your thyroid is a gland in your neck. It produces thyroid hormones which help to regulate metabolism throughout your body.
What is hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when your thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. There are several causes of hypothyroidism. The symptoms of hypothyroidism are:
- Brain fog
- Thinning hair
- Feeling cold
- Weight gain
- Heavy menstrual periods
What is hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism is when your thyroid produces excessive thyroid hormones. It is less common than hypothyroidism. The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Nervousness and tremor
- Fast heart rate
- Intolerance to heat
How does menopause effect thyroid function?
During perimenopause and after menopause estrogen levels bounce up and down and then taper off. Progesterone levels taper off more quickly. This can create an estrogen dominance. So even though your estrogen levels are lower than before menopause, the relative amount of estrogen to progesterone is higher creating an estrogen dominance. (This is the reason many women see heavy irregular periods during perimenopause.)
This estrogen dominance seems to be related to hypothyroidism. Your thyroid may not be able to produce thyroid hormones the way it should. Since the symptoms of hypothyroidism are similar to the symptoms of menopause, hypothyroidism can go undiagnosed during this time. In fact thyroid issues may be the cause of some of your menopause symptoms.
How does diet affect thyroid function?
If you have a thyroid disorder then diet alone will not fix it. However there are certain foods which can make hypothyroidism worse. If you are on thyroid medication talk to your physician about these foods:
Iodine – iodine has a direct effect on thyroid function. We want to keep levels in the right range, not too high, not too low. Table salt is fortified with iodine to make sure that we get enough.
Soy products – soy contains plant based estrogens so it can effect your estrogen balance. Many women use soy products to reduce hot flashes during menopause. Unfortunately soy can contribute to an estrogen dominance so should be limited if you have hypothyroidism. Some soy seems to be OK.
Cruciferous vegetables – These include broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower. They have a compound called goitrogens which can interfere with thyroid hormone production. Cooking destroys the compound so these vegetables are fine eaten cooked and as long as you don’t overdo it, some raw should be OK. Be cautious with juicing a large bunch of kale, though.
Gluten – Some natural health experts insist that eliminating gluten is necessary for women with hypothyroidism. Celiac disease is more common in women who have hypothyroidism so make sure you are tested for celiac.
Some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism can be improved by eating a healthy diet. Some general guidelines are:
- Low in sugar
- Lots of vegetables
- Less processed foods
How does exercise affect thyroid function?
With symptoms of hypothyroidism, exercise may seem like the last thing you want to do. If you do exercise you may see some benefits. Cardiovascular exercise can increase production of thyroid hormones. Exercise in general helps to increase metabolism, increase energy, improve temperature regulation and improve mood which helps to elevate some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Talk to your physician to make sure that exercise is right for you, especially if you suffer from any other conditions. Get this free workout plan to get started with exercise.
This article is not meant to be an intensive study of menopause and thyroid disorders, but hopefully you have a better understanding of how menopause effects your thyroid and what you can do about it. The Healthy Changes Program can help you establish better eating habits that will help with menopause symptoms and help to improve your overall health.