Thyroid and Menopause both create similar set of symptoms such as irregular periods, fatigue, weight gain and brain fog. Now, if you are in your late 40s, you may naturally assume your health issues as menopause symptoms.
While, there is nothing wrong in this assumption! But, what could really be an issue is if you ignore your health problems and do not take action.
This is simply because, you may not be in perimenopause yet. And that your symptoms are actually caused by an under performing thyroid due to the hormone imbalances in your body.
Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Thyroid and Menopause Symptoms
Now, if you keep up with your assumption of menopause symptoms for long and ignore your health problems; there is high chance that the hypothyroidism may progress to create chronic health issues.
This way, you may be left on the mercy of medications and treatments for a very long time.
So, if you are struggling with thyroid and menopause like symptoms; the first thing you need to do is to stop ignoring your health issues and get proper diagnosis. This way, you can prevent health risks that arise due to hormone imbalances in menopause and thyroid.
And in this post we will help you to learn more about thyroid and menopause.
Firstly, we will see how thyroid and menopause can cause similar types of symptoms and what exactly is the connection between them.
Secondly, we will look into how you can find out whether your symptoms are due to thyroid or menopause?
And lastly, we will look into Ayurvedic natural ways encompassing herbs, diet and lifestyle to address the health issues.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is the time in a woman’s life in which the menstrual cycle ends. It is a transitional stage between your fertile years and the years after.
Menopause occurs in phases
These are the different stages of menopause:
- Premenopause: The fertile phase. It is the period of active menstruation and stretches between the first and last menstrual periods. It runs for about 30-40 years.
- Perimenopause: This is the period ‘around’ menopause. It begins when you hit 40 or around that, and lasts for 4-11 years. It is marked by fluctuating estrogen levels and declining levels of progesterone. These two hormones are important in the menstrual cycle, and estrogen, in particular, has a big part in the interaction between hypothyroidism and menopause, as you’ll soon see.
- Menopause: Menopause is said to have set in if a woman does not see her period for 12 consecutive months. This happens around 51 years. It can reach up to 60 years for some.
- Post menopause: After these 12 months are over, then the woman has really entered into post menopause. The term is used interchangeably with menopause, however.
What does Menopause Feel Like?
For nearly, 25% of the women menopause arrives without any health issues. For about 30-40% of the women, the hormonal changes in menopause cause severe health issues related to physical and mental health.
And for about 30-45% of women, health issues termed as menopause symptoms are rather mild to moderate. Some of the common menopause symptoms are:
- Menopausal Weight gain
- Hot flashes and sweating
- Hair loss
- Problems with digestion,
- Anxiety and depression, and many more of such.
Thyroid Function and Disorders
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped just at the base of your neck, on the front part, that is. It is responsible for producing two types of thyroid hormones:
- Tri-iodothyronine (T3) about 6% of total hormone production
- Thyroxine (T4), rest 94%
These hormones are mainly responsible for metabolism. If they’re imbalanced, the rate of metabolism can be too fast or too slow, depending on the type of the disturbance.
If the thyroid glands are hyperactive, they produce too many thyroid hormones. This leads to a condition known as hyperthyroidism. In this case, metabolism is too fast.
Hyperthyroidism leads to symptoms as:
- hot flashes
- weight loss
- frequent bowel movements
- hair loss
- irregular periods
Here, you can begin to see links between thyroid and menopause, through the shared symptoms. But that’s not all.
This occurs due to an under active thyroid, meaning the thyroid nodule is not able to produce sufficient thyroid hormones. Consequently, there are too few thyroid hormones in circulation.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Brain fog
- Muscle weakness
- Abnormal or irregular periods
- Weight gain due to a slower metabolism
- Reduced heart rate
- Impaired fertility
- Dry skin
- Hair Thinning
Sometimes, the thyroid symptoms can even be taken for symptoms of mere fatigue. But this is not so! This is why it is important to avoid self-diagnosing.
While you can assess your own health by yourself, the best you can do is tell if you’re healthy or not.
Can you tell what exactly the problem is, however? Likely not, you might just have vague ideas of what might or might not be.
Thyroid and Menopause | The Connection!
Now, we can see both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism exhibit symptoms similar to Menopause. That’s what creates a confusion on whether it is your thyroid or is it menopause that’s setting in?
Let’s look further into it.
Common Symptoms of Thyroid and Menopause
Let’s just bring them together here, and see some symptoms that they have in common:
- Weight changes are observed in both menopause and thyroid disease.
- Moodiness is also common in both conditions.
- You may also experience forgetfulness, brain fog, confusion, and difficulty, whether you have hypothyroidism or menopause.
- Your libido can change in any of the situations.
- Digestive problems are also a common symptom of thyroid and menopause.
- Insomnia and sleep disorders is another symptom that they share in common
- Persistent fatigue and tiredness are experienced in menopause and thyroid alike.
- Bone brittleness is also common, though this is more likely if the thyroid is overactive, which is in hyperthyroidism.
Hormone Imbalance | Low Estrogen and Thyroid Problems in Menopause
Another link between thyroid and menopause symptoms is the hormone imbalances that are involved in both.
Estrogen Fluctuation in Menopause
Estrogen is involved in the regulation of the menstrual cycles. Along with Progesterone, Estrogen is one of the most important hormones for the whole reproductive cycle.
Towards menopause, the production of estrogen fluctuates down and eventually decreases. This leads to low estrogen levels in menopausal women. This transition of estrogen fluctuation goes on during perimenopause (8-10 years before menopause).
However, the problems of menopause are not limited to low Estrogen levels. In majority of the cases, women struggle with Estrogen dominance despite low estrogen levels. This means, their bodies have high estrogen compared to progesterone due to really low progesterone levels.
In this case, they can struggle with symptoms of estrogen dominance, low estrogen and hypothyroidism.
Estrogen and Thyroid Problems
Estrogen levels can directly or indirectly affect thyroid function and thyroid hormones in the body. Here’s what it can do:
- Low Estrogen affects the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 by the thyroid gland. This causes the pituitary gland to release more TSH into the bloodstream in an attempt to stimulate the thyroid.
- It also indirectly affects thyroid hormone availability by sending signals to the liver for production of thyroid-binding globulin (TBG). So, high Estrogen causes more TBG. This reduces available thyroid hormone and affects thyroid function.
- Estrogen stimulates thyroid gland growth and function. That’s why low Estrogen can cause very less thyroid tissue and hence hypothyroidism. Similarly, high Estrogen can cause goitre like condition.
Thyroid or Menopause | Here’s How to Find Out
It is important to know how to tell the difference between thyroid and menopause. If you don’t know for sure, you might be taking the wrong treatment regime without knowing it.
However, remember the issue with the symptoms? There are just too many overlapping symptoms to be able to tell them apart.
For hypothyroidism alone, its symptoms could be caused by so many other things. So, self-diagnosis is as good as impossible. To tell for sure, you should visit your doctor for adequate testing.
You might be asked to undergo some tests. These tests assess your hormone levels to be able to ascertain where the problem is stemming from.
Here are some tests that can especially useful in diagnosing if it’s a thyroid disorder or menopause.
1. Confirming Menopause | Diagnosis and Tests
When you are approaching menopause, the levels of estrogen in your body will reduce. The bulk of estrogen’s work is done during puberty and in your reproductive years. So, at this stage of menopause, estrogen is expected to have dropped.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone(FSH)
Menopause can also be confirmed if FSH levels are persistently high. FSH is another hormone that induces the maturation and ovulation (release) of an egg in the ovary. As you age, you need more FSH to do these successfully.
Therefore, the levels of FSH are higher. If this is the case, menopause is confirmed as the cause of your symptoms, rather than hypothyroidism.
During the menstrual cycle, LH surges at about the time when you are supposed to release an egg.
However, if the levels of LH are persistently high throughout the month, this can confirm menopause also.
2. Confirming Hypothyroidism | Diagnosis and Tests
Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
Testing TSH levels is often the go-to test to confirm thyroid function.
TSH, as the name implies, stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones. If there are not enough of the hormones in the body, then there will be more TSH produced.
Higher levels of TSH indicate that the body is working hard to make up for a deficiency of thyroid hormones.
T3 is the most active of the two.
A high level of T3 indicates hyperthyroidism, rather than hypothyroidism.
T4 is used to confirm hypothyroidism. However, T4 alone doesn’t accurately tell us about the development of hypothyroidism. This is because, the levels of T4 do not decrease substantially until the condition is very severe.
That’s why your doctor may order a free T4 index (FTI) or free T4 (FT4) test. It helps to correctly find out the condition.
Thyroid Antibody Test
This test measures the level of two major antibodies made against thyroid cell proteins: thyroglobulin antibody, and thyroid peroxidase antibody. If you have overlapping symptoms of hypothyroidism and menopause, then thsi test may help to make a conclusive diagnosis in combination with others like TSH, T3 and T4.
Treatment for Thyroid and Menopause Symptoms
The symptoms of menopause and thyroid are shared of course. And if the two conditions are present at the same time, then you have to treat both.
For example, you decide to tackle, say, menopause because you’re experiencing weight gain. You could take medications or what have you, and menopause symptoms are regulated.
But that will not effectively stop you from gaining weight. This is because you have not quelled the contribution that hypothyroidism is making to weight gain.
You have to treat both conditions, and the good news is that you can tackle them both naturally.
Ayurveda for Hormone Imbalance in Thyroid and Menopause
In Ayurveda, three doshas (dynamic energies) are responsible for proper functioning of our body systems. They need to be balanced for a person to be in an optimal state of health.
- Vata is responsible for circulation and hormone communication
- Pitta is responsible for metabolism and hormone balance
- Kapha is responsible for growth and hormone production
Hormone Imbalance in Thyroid and Menopause | Here’s What Happens
Our dosha are intricately connected with each other. Any disturbance in one has cascading effects on others.
- When we live a sedentary lifestyle or consume excessively sweet, fried or processed foods; then it increases Kapha dosha.
- Kapha imbalance in the body increases fatty tissues (meda dhatu).
- Excess fatty tissues and kapha blocks thyroid normal function and slows down metabolism (pitta dosha imbalance).
- Slow metabolism leads to nutritional deficiencies, excess production of waste products (Ama) and toxin buildup in the body.
- This creates further disturbances in all the dosha, leads to hormonal imbalances in menopause and development of hypothyroidism.
Ayurvedic Herbs and Therapies to Restore Hormones and Dosha Balance
All the herbs and formulations that have been shared in this post are for information purpose only. All of these are potent Ayurvedic medicines that should be taken under the supervision of a qualified Ayurvedic doctor only. Do not indiscriminately use Ayurvedic herbs as it may cause more harm than benefit.
Triphala consists of three herbs, namely haritaki, amla and bibhitaki. Its functions are a whole lot. Some are thus:
- It helps in maintaining immunity (Ojas or life force)
- Triphala has powerful antioxidants to rejuvenate and inhibit inflammation
- Ensuring proper heart and respiratory functions
- Triphala can as well serve as an Ayurvedic supplement for your skin and hair
Shatavari root is an excellent adaptogen and hormone balancing herb. It has immuno-modulatory and antioxidant properties.
Shatavari enhances resilience to physical and mental stress. It is used for general debility, hyperacidity, urinary problems.
Shatavari is excellent to boost metabolism, balance estrogen levels and find relief from menopausal symptoms.
The Gugguisterones in Guggulu helps increase the production of thyroid hormones. They also increase metabolism, burn fat and help to detox the body.
Regular consumption of Kachnar guggulu may help to establish regular and pain free periods, better metabolism for proper nourishment and improved health.
However, guggul alone is usually very strong for the body. Hence, it is often blended with synergistic and complimentary Ayurvedic herbs to achieve health benefits.
Amla is useful for its detoxifying qualities. It also works well to reduce cholesterol levels.
That is not all. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, so it removes free radicals and helps restore hormonal balance in the body.
It reduces stress and increases our body’s strength. Regular consumption of Ashwagandha elevates the brain chemicals, helps to relax, and establishes hormone balance.
6. Pankacharma – Detoxification Therapy
Panchkarma follows a sequence of 5 Ayurvedic medical therapies. Here the focus is to eliminate the excessive Dosha and toxins out of your body.
This helps you to regain balance of hormones, digestive fire, and also improves the functioning of your body systems.
7. Abhyanga | Regular Massage
Abhyanga is the practice of massage, using oils. This helps you relax and can help with the muscle cramping symptoms.
Medicated powder massage can help you relax.
Your Diet | Best and Worst Foods for Hormone Balance
Poor diet and dietary habits create nutritional deficiencies and toxin buildup in the body. These are the 2 primary causes of thyroid and menopause symptoms. Hence, when you improve your diet, you also improve your chances of finding relief from Diabetes symptoms.
8. Foods that you should eat | Best Foods
- Prefer smaller meals during the day and do not hold hunger. Always take timely meals at fixed time everyday.
- Eat freshly prepared healthy meals at the right times.
- Your ideal breakfast should be foods rich in complex carbohydrates and whole proteins. Choose foods as eggs, millets, beans, seed and oats.
- Keep hydrated with warm water. It serves as natural detoxification water and supports metabolism.
- Have a diet rich in protein. This helps your stomach feel full for longer and reduces the frequency of your hunger.
- Take a lot of fruits and vegetables, and a lot of high-fiber foods too.
- Favor ghee, nuts like almonds, walnuts, pecans, flax seeds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, buttermilk, avocado, beets, lentils.
- Take warm and unctuous foods such as porridge, curries, gruel, and soups.
- Include spices and herbs to maintain healthy digestive fire and to get the micro nutrients.
9. Foods that you should avoid | Worst Foods
- Avoid artificial sugars like that in packaged foods. These could worsen your symptoms.
- Don’t skip a meal. Maintain a steady, regular meal pattern. This will help your metabolism deal better with the situation.
- Reduce your consumption of red meat and deep-fried foods.
- Reduce and remove caffeine, alcohol and any other stimulants from your meals and daily routine.
- Remove chili and peppers from your diet. Both of these cause excessive stimulation and push Vata out of balance.
- Remove cold temperature foods and drinks.
- Reduce your intake of dairy, except curd or buttermilk.
- Avoid sugar in any form as much as you can. Strictly avoid artificial sugars and low sugar foods.
Lifestyle Tips for Menopause and Thyroid Balance
Your lifestyle and daily routine is key to the flow of your circadian rhythms and natural hormone balance through out the day. How you choose your daily activities really affects how your body will be. Here are some Ayurvedic tips for you to find balance.
10. Pranayama | Yogic breathing exercises
Deep breathing exercises and pranayama are highly effective to relax the tired mind. Regular practice of pranayama boosts the supply of oxygen to your brain and vital body organs.
Always make sure to find a quiet place when you carry out breathing exercises. Here are breathing techniques that are effective to get rid of brain fog in the long term:
- Anuloma Viloma or alternate nostril breathing. It is highly effective for anxiety, lack of focus and restlessness that originate from Vata imbalances.
- Brahmari Pranayama or Humming Bee Breath. It balances the movement of air in and out of the body. By creating a rhythm around breathing, brahmari pranayama really pushes much needed oxygen in the body parts. It helps to animate and energise the body cells.
11. Lifestyle Changes for Hormone Balance
- Engage in regular physical activity in nature such as walking, hiking, and bicycling.
- Balancing exercises such as yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi to improve stability and groundedness.
- Spend less time with screen and technologies, especially towards bedtime. This disturbs sleep and raises cortisol, stress hormone in the body.
- Avoid irregular schedule with untimely meals, erratic sleep and wake cycles.
- Do not suppress natural urges such as urination, defecation, sneezing, belching and flatulence.
- Improve your sleep habits. Staying up late at night and insufficient sleep poorly affect our Circadian Rhythms. It often triggers anxiety and fuzziness.
- Take less caffeine, alcohol and recreational drugs.
- Engage in spiritual practice helps you feel a connection to something higher than yourself, making you worry less.
12. Yoga for Thyroid and Menopause
Yoga goes much deeper than just the physical movement of the body. Regular practice of suitable yoga asana help to tone the muscles thus increase strength, relax the mind to reduce stress levels and also increase bone density.
That’s why yoga is one of the best ways to naturally support your metabolism and balance your hormones. Here are some yoga asana that you can practice:
- Anuloma Viloma Pranayama
- Kapalbhati Pranayama
Before you go!
Remember, it is important to ascertain what the problem is. Avoid assumptions and self-diagnosis, rather go to your doctor and get tested.
It is only when you know for sure where the problem stems from, that you will be able to treat it effectively.
Do write to us for any queries, comments, and feedback. We will try to get back the soonest we can!
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Wishing you vibrant health!