Menopause has been one great ride for me. It was a game-changer!
I started to look over my life, what I eat and how I move. I also changed how I see my world and my surroundings to live a more positive life.
My lifestyle was pretty healthy, but my body felt off. I was often tired, and now and then, I felt heart palpitations. Sometimes I noticed some swelling, and my blood pressure reading became slightly high. After visiting the doctor, I found out it was thyroid gland problems.
You see, menopause affects many organs in our body – this includes the thyroid. Not to mention, we are more prone to thyroid gland problems than men. Let’s find out how menopause contributes to thyroid issues and how we can heal this butterfly gland naturally!
Major Functions of Your Thyroid Glands
Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ located right at the base and center of your neck. In men, the landmark is Adam’s apple. Its main function is to regulate metabolism for energy.
The thyroid gland is a small part of your body, but it has an enormous job keeping your body processes balanced. Aside from metabolism, it also helps with:
- Growth and development
- Brain functioning
- Reproductive health
- Stress management
- Healthy hair, skin and nails
- Normal breathing, heart rate and body temperature
- Proper central nervous system functioning
- Healthy body weight
- Regular menstrual cycles
- Normal cholesterol levels
The thyroid gland is part of your endocrine system. This system is made up of your glands that produce and store hormones.
You have two thyroid hormones called Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). Your hypothalamus and pituitary gland balance these two. Please read our fact box at the end for more information about these hormones.
Does Menopause Cause Thyroid Gland Problems?
I read an article in the Huffington Post, and the title was, “Is it menopause or a thyroid disorder?”. It makes sense.
You see, whether you’re going through menopause or you have a thyroid problem, both can affect each other. These conditions have a bi-directional relationship!
First, women have a higher risk of having thyroid problems. Experts say the culprit is because of our hormones.
How Menopause Affects Our Thyroid
Estrogen and progesterone have great control over your thyroid function. During perimenopause, progesterone decreases before estrogen. As a result, estrogen goes up, leading to a condition called estrogen dominance.
Higher estrogen may over-activate your thyroid gland. This causes hyperthyroidism. Meanwhile, when reaching postmenopause, the exact opposite happens. We tend to develop hypothyroidism because of low estrogen levels. But these thyroid gland problems aren’t set in stone. They happen at any time during the different stages of menopause.
How the Thyroid Affects Menopause
To be specific, hypothyroidism affects us during menopause. When we have low thyroid hormones, our body slows down, including the ovaries. As a result, our estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, and this worsens symptoms.
For this reason, the best way to know if it’s menopause or thyroid gland problems is to take a hormone test! You can also take note of your symptoms.
Here’s a video of Dr. Berg explaining why thyroid gland problems are common in menopause (6:19):
The Two Common Thyroid Gland Problems in Women
Hyperthyroidism means your thyroid is overactive. It’s producing excess hormones, especially T4. More thyroid hormones mean overactive body functions. You can feel hyperthyroidism symptoms such as:
- Anxiety, irritability or mood swings
- Hand trembling
- Hair loss
- Light or missed monthly periods
- Sleep disturbances
- Sudden weight loss
- Cravings and increased appetite
- More frequent bowel movements
- Increased heart rate and breathing
- Heat intolerance
Aside from changing hormones during menopause, some causes of hyperthyroidism include:
- Grave’s Disease – an autoimmune condition where your antibodies attack your thyroid. This causes an enlargement.
- Thyroiditis – inflammation of your thyroid that happens because of viral overload.
- Thyroid Nodules – one or more lumps in your thyroid which makes the organ produce more hormones.
- Iodine overload – happens where there’s too much consumption of foods that contain iodine.
Hypothyroidism happens when your thyroid is too slow. One main symptom of this condition is a sluggish metabolism. You may feel symptoms such as:
- Dry skin and hair
- Unexplained weight gain
- Difficulty losing weight
- Brain fog
- Sensitivity to cold
- Frequent, heavy periods
- Joint and muscle pain
Some causes of hypothyroidism are:
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis – an autoimmune disorder when your antibodies attack your thyroid. This is the leading cause of hypothyroidism.
- Radiation therapy – damages the cells of the thyroid affecting its activity.
- Medications – drugs for heart problems and mental disabilities affect the thyroid.
- Deficiency in iodine – iodine is one of the keys to produce thyroid hormones. Your body doesn’t produce iodine so you need to eat more foods such as saltwater fish, shells, clams, kelp and eggs.
10 Natural Ways to Balance Your Thyroid Hormones During Menopause
Sharing with you these ten tips that I practice in my life!
1. Less carbs and load up on healthy fats. Too many carbs in your diet may increase estrogen levels. Eat more healthy fats such as coconut, wild salmon, avocado, chia and flaxseeds instead.
2. Eat a balanced diet with iodine. To keep iodine levels in balance, eat more veggies, fruits, kelp and fresh seafood.
3. Go gluten and dairy-free! These food components may cause food allergies and intolerance. They can also lead to a “leaky gut”, which may cause inflammation of the thyroid gland.
4. Avoid sugar and fast foods. They contain a lot of chemicals such as GMOs and xenoestrogens that trigger autoimmune diseases.
5. Take Carnitine, Selenium and Bugleweed. These supplements keep antibodies at normal levels. This prevents them from attacking your thyroid.
6. Use Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that may help regulate your thyroid hormones. It also has balancing properties.
7. Use anti-inflammatory herbs. Herbs such as holy basil, rosemary and oregano help prevent inflammation in your thyroid.
8. Detoxify daily! Flush out toxins by eating whole, organic foods and cruciferous veggies. Bone broth is especially good for detoxification. Have more citrus fruits for snacks, avoid using plastics and personal care products. A mixture of turmeric, milk thistle, chlorella and cilantro flushes out heavy metals.
Dr. Hyman and Dr. Izabella Wentz discuss how toxins can cause thyroid gland problems in this video [8:18]:
9. Take advantage of essential oils. Essential oils such as Frankincense and Myrrh are two of the best oils for the thyroid. They can regulate thyroid hormone production and increase blood going to the gland.
10. Reduce stress! Your thyroid is so sensitive to stress so you need to slow down. Stress produces cortisol which offsets the balance in your thyroid. Cortisol can hyperactivate or shut off the thyroid in a snap! Reduce stress by doing activities such as deep breathing, yoga and meditation. A walk in nature can make a world of difference!
Dr. Josh Axe also has a great video of his top 5 picks to maintain thyroid health [4:15]:
Quick Trivia: Are the Adam’s Apple and Thyroid Connected?
If your Adam’s apple is big, does that mean you have a thyroid issue? Before we answer that, let’s get into some information first!
Your Adam’s Apple and thyroid are so close to each other, but they are different parts of your body!
Adam’s Apple is a prominence in your neck. It becomes obvious as you go through puberty. Your hormones affect its growth. Both men and women have it, but it’s more obvious in men.
The thyroid is at the center of your throat, right below your Adam’s Apple and above your collar bone. It’s hidden and not visible, but there are cases when it enlarges.
So, let’s go straight to the question: do they have any relationship?
NO! Adam’s apple and the thyroid gland do not have any form of relationship. But sometimes, some people experience bulges in their necks. They think their Adam’s apple is growing when in fact, it’s their thyroid!
Since these two parts sit next to each other, the enlarged thyroid pushes Adam’s apple forward. As a result, it appears bigger!
Dr. Elise Brett has a good video where she shows us the exact location of the thyroid. She also performs a self-neck exam for the thyroid in the same video. Watch it here [1:12]:
What can I do to Check for Thyroid Health?
Besides checking your neck, one best thing you can do is to take hormone tests. Many doctors use the TSH and T4 tests to determine your thyroid health. But these tests don’t assess the overall condition of your thyroid gland. Many researchers say that people who have thyroid gland problems tend to have normal TSH. It’s best to take a complete thyroid panel.
Triiodothyronine (T3) is the active form of your thyroid hormones. It influences many processes in your body, but it’s primarily in-charge of metabolism.
Thyroxine (T4) is the inactive form of your thyroid hormones. But it’s more abundant than your T3. When T4 reaches your organs and tissues, it is converted into T3 and serves its functions.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) tells your thyroid gland how much T3 and T4 to produce. It’s produced by a part of our brain called the pituitary glands. TSH is found in our blood.
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