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How to Tell the Difference Between an Underactive Thyroid and Menopause

Aug 23, 2019

Did you know that there’s a strong connection between our female sex hormones and our thyroid health, especially when we are approaching menopause?

It’s no coincidence that those same years we start noticing symptoms of menopause is also the time when our thyroid glands seem to play up and most diagnoses of hyper- and hypothyroidism are made.

Our hormones play an intricate game with each other and the rest of our bodies. They need to be in perfect balance at all times for us to feel like our most happy and vibrant selves.;

As we approach the years of the perimenopause, our bodies start to wind down the production of those female sex hormones like oestrogen and progesterone which have given us our female characteristics, helped us to bear children and give us our periods.

We start noticing those tell-tale symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, low energy, low sex drive, brain fog and weight gain.

If that wasn’t enough, this shift can also affect the quantity of thyroid hormones that are produced by our bodies. This can cause hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones) or worsen any imbalances you had before (even if you didn’t know about it.)

Hypothyroidism means your body is no longer producing enough of the thyroid hormones which are responsible for things like controlling your metabolism, body temperature and heart rate.

This too also produces symptoms which are very similar to those experienced during the menopause: brain fog, low energy, weight gain, low libido and so on.

When it comes to feeling better, it’s important that we understand whether your symptoms are caused by the perimenopause or an underlying thyroid problem so we can find the best natural solution for you.

What is the difference between symptoms of the menopause and symptoms of hypothyroidism?

There’s a significant overlap when it comes to symptoms of menopause and symptoms of hypothyroidism which makes it extremely hard to pinpoint the root cause of your health problems and find a solution.

However, it’s extremely important that we work out which of these is causing your problems as they don’t only make your current symptoms worse but can also can lead to greater health issues further down the line.

For example, thyroid disorders can increase your chances of suffering from osteoporosis and heart disease at the menopause and beyond.

With that in mind, here’s a list of the symptoms which can be associated with both hypothyroidism and menopause.

Lack of energy

Lack of energy is probably one of the biggest complaints I hear from women as they enter menopause.

You feel unnaturally tired and there often isn’t a clear explanation. You can’t get yourself up in the morning, you find yourself dragging your way through your day and you can’t get through without regular doses of coffee and sugar to keep you going.

Memory loss or brain fog

Keep forgetting people’s names, appointments, or things you planned to do?

Both perimenopause and hypothyroidism can affect your memory and make it hard to think clearly and leave women feeling like they’re trying to move through some kind of fog, hence the name. Sound familiar?

Depression, anxiety and low mood

Our brains require an adequate level and optimal balance of hormones for us to feel happy and ‘balanced’.

As our sex hormone levels shift during the perimenopause and menopause, it’s common for our moods to swing too. The same can be said for thyroid hormones and hypothyroidism. Our brains have more thyroid (T3) receptors than anywhere else in our bodies, so if they’re not getting what they need, our mood suffers.

Obviously, there may be other reasons why we struggle with depression, anxiety and low mood.

These years of our lives tend to be periods of transition- we might have kids going off to university or leaving home, we’re coming to terms with the ageing process, we might be caring for ageing parents and we’re learning to cope with the changes in our body.

But what if everything is ‘perfect’ and you still feel depressed? If you go to your doctor, you’re likely to be offered antidepressants. These may help short-term but they’re not getting to the root of your problem.

Loss of libido 

Going off sex can be caused by an imbalance in sex hormones in addition to low levels of thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism directly affects your oestrogen and testosterone levels and can cause a lack of arousal, orgasm and sexual satisfaction.

Sadly, I see a lot of women just accepting a loss of libido as a natural part of this phase of life. But this is not true. Your libido is so important for your immune system, hormone balance and overall wellness. If you lose it, it’s important to find a way to regain it before it’s too late.

Of course, there are many other symptoms of both the menopause and hypothyroidism such as weight gain, low body temperature, fluid retention, chronic constipation, headaches skin issues, hair loss, changes in your voice, anaemia, blood sugar balance problems.

This is why it’s so difficult to pull apart your symptoms and understand the root cause by simply reading a list of symptoms. There are many contributing factors.

This is why I always search for the root cause when I’m working with the clients. It’s so important to better understand exactly where you’re at with your hormones. I think outside the box when it comes to your health and helping you to feel better.

[The perfect way to do this is to join my perimenopause webinar here.]

Underactive thyroid or menopause: what do you have?

When clients come to me, I often ask them to ask their GP to run a full thyroid panel (including testing of THS, T4, T3 and TSI).

This helps to give a clearer picture of what is happening with their thyroid gland. It’s important that you ask for each of these tests- many GPs only test TSH which doesn’t help us get to the root of the problem and understand what’s happening to your actual thyroid and body connection.

Many GPs are willing to conduct a full hormone test at the same time as testing your thyroid hormones. This is a good idea as it provides a clear picture as to your other sex hormones and potentially points to an imbalance or help confirm the menopause. If not, the DUTCH test is a great resource for testing both thyroid and sex hormones.

If you’re told that your thyroid is borderline, please don’t stop there. If you already have an issue with your thyroid, it will only get worse over time if you leave it untreated.

I’d also suggest that you start tracking your basal body temperature so you have a better idea of your menstrual cycle (if you still have one), can identify signs of thyroid imbalances plus identify any changes happening within your body.

As you can see, underactive thyroid and menopause do share many similarities and one can affect the other. That’s why it’s important to seek professional help if you’re suffering from any of the symptoms so we can get to the root of your problem and help you feel like your old self again.

 

If you’d like to stop feeling confused about perimenopause and need friendly reassurance that you’re not going mad, join me for my free webinar here.

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