Chaos to Calm

Understanding the Perimenopause-Thyroid Connection: Achieving Hormonal Balance After 40

July 16, 2023 Sarah McLachlan Episode 18
Chaos to Calm
Understanding the Perimenopause-Thyroid Connection: Achieving Hormonal Balance After 40
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ever wondered why your body feels out of sync during perimenopause? Let's dive into the heart of the matter as we unravel the intricate relationship between perimenopause and the function (or dysfunction!) of your thyroid.

Join me, Sarah McLachlan, The Perimenopause Naturopath, as we explore how the decline of progesterone can lead to an increased risk of autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto's thyroiditis. We also probe into how fluctuating oestrogen levels can interfere with the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to T3, impacting your metabolism, energy and weight.

In our discussion, we discover how an excess of oestrogen can lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism, throwing the equilibrium between our sex hormones, stress and thyroid hormones into disarray. But it's not all chaos! In understanding these disruptions, we find ways to achieve balance by optimizing the function of our elimination organs like the liver, kidneys and bowel. So, whether you're weathering the hormonal storm or are keen to understand the perimenopause-thyroid connection better, this episode will help you understand WTH is happening with your hormones.

** Find the freebie Sarah mentions in the episode here:  The Blood Test Decoder: Optimal Ranges for Women Over 40. **

FREEBIES:

  • Caught in a hormonal storm? The Perimenopause Decoder is the ultimate guide to understanding if perimenopause hormone fluctuations are behind your changing mood, metabolism and energy after 40, what phase of perimenopause you're in and how much longer you may be on this roller coaster for.
  • Been told your blood test results are "normal" or "fine" while you feel far from your best? It's time to dig deeper and uncover the missing piece of the puzzle. Discover the power of optimal blood test analysis with The Blood Test Decoder: Optimal Ranges for Women Over 40.

To connect with Sarah and learn more about her services, visit her website at www.theperimenopausenaturopath.com.au, follow along on Instagram at @theperimenopausenaturopath.

Sarah McLachlan:

Hey there, i'm Sarah McLachlan. Thanks for joining me on the Chaos to Calm podcast, a podcast designed for women over 40 who think that changing hormones might be messing with their mood, metabolism and energy and want to change that in a healthy, sustainable and permanent way. Each episode will explore topics related to health and wellness for women in their 40s, like what the heck is happening to your hormones, what to do about it with nutrition, lifestyle and stress management, and inspiring conversations with guests sharing their insights and tips on how to live your best life in your 40s and beyond. So if you're feeling like you're in the midst of a hormonal storm and don't want perimenopause to be horrific, then join me on Chaos to Calm, as I share with you how to make it to menopause without it wrecking your relationships and life. Hello and welcome to the Chaos to Calm podcast, where we discuss how to master the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism and energy in your 40s and beyond.

Sarah McLachlan:

I'm Sarah, the Perimenopause naturopath, your host, welcoming you to episode number 18, hormonal Harmony, where we are going to explore the perimenopause thyroid connection. Woohoo, in the last episode, we talked all about the thyroid hormone. The thyroid hormone, the thyroid, what it is, thyroid hormones, how to look at your blood tests and see whether it's out of range, and I hope that you've gone and downloaded my latest freebie that I made for that episode, which is a cheat sheet on how to with the optimal ranges for your not just your thyroid hormone tests, but other blood markers like iron studies and vitamin D and things like that that are really important for your overall health, especially in your 40s and beyond. So today I want to talk some more about how your thyroid is influenced by the hormone fluctuations of perimenopause, because I mentioned as well last episode how often the symptoms that you might feel when your thyroid is out of balance can be dismissed as just perimenopause or you're busy, you're a busy mum, you know all that kind of stuff. So I always like to say and I'm sure I've said it before in one of the episodes at least leading up to this one that if you feel like there's something not right in your body, well you're probably right because you know your body. You know your body best I mean, you've lived in it the longest And so please do follow it up. So if you, you know someone dismisses something as you're just getting old, or oh, you're just a busy mum but that doesn't really sit right with you. Please do follow it up and, you know, get a second or third opinion, even if you need to there.

Sarah McLachlan:

So let's talk about thyroid dysfunction and your what happens in your 40s and perimenopause when your hormones start to fluctuate. So We've talked in the past about progesterone, your natural stress, sleep, cardiovascular disease protector, immune modulating hormone. It's so many wonderful things to us And sadly, during our 40s and perimenopause it starts to decline. Now that decline in progesterone has an impact on our thyroid and our thyroid hormones Isn't that interesting? So as it declines, as progesterone declines in perimenopause, it has less of an influence on the immune system. So that can increase the risk of you developing an autoimmune condition. And if you have a family history of thyroid problems or autoimmune thyroid problems, then you're more at risk of developing something like Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is a hypothyroid condition, so a slow thyroid condition.

Sarah McLachlan:

But the reason that your thyroid hormones are out of balance is because your immune system is attacking your thyroid and killing the cells that help make your thyroid hormones. So progesterone helps maintain the balance of your immune system. It's immunomodulatory, so it keeps it balanced and working how we want it to. But when it declines in your 40s and perimenopause it has less of that modulating effect or calming effect. Just think of progesterone. I've talked about it before. It's just really calming and soothing. So as that declines it's less of that calming influence on your immune system. Your immune system can come out like a drunk cat And get really confused and start attacking your own cells, which is not what your immune system is supposed to do. Very naughty immune system there. It is not supposed to attack your own cells. It's only supposed to attack invading pathogens or irritants or bacteria and viruses and things like that. So, sadly though, it can go haywire, and it's more likely to go haywire in perimenopause because progesterone is declining. Sad, but while that's happening. Yes, that's true. So we've also got the impact that estrogen has on our thyroid function.

Sarah McLachlan:

So fluctuating estrogen levels in perimenopause can impact the conversion of your thyroid hormone. So remember last time I talked about thyroxine T4 is like the storage version of your thyroid hormone, floating around in your bloodstream waiting for your cells to need it or your body to need it when it gets an iodine chopped off it and it becomes T3. Try iodothyronine. So estrogen can interfere. Estrogen imbalances can interfere with that conversion process So that can lead to lower levels of T3. And T3 is the active thyroid hormone that tells your cells how quickly to work and when to work. So reduced T3 levels will slow down your metabolism and metabolic processes. So that'll affect your energy expenditure, how many calories you use, and can potentially contribute to weight gain. Remember that slow thyroid state. Honestly I think it's like kind of protective from our body as well. It just wants you to slow down and go and crawl into a cave and not have anything else added to your workload or to your mental load there as well. So, like I said, estrogen imbalance their declining estrogen can affect your conversion of T4 to T3.

Sarah McLachlan:

One other thing that progesterone does as well is it facilitates the action of iodine uptake for your thyroid hormones. Iodine is really important for your thyroid hormones. So nutrient deficiencies of iodine and or insufficient intake can really impact your thyroid function as well. So eat that seaweed, enjoy your fish, enjoy your seafood. They're really rich, these sources of iodine there as well.

Sarah McLachlan:

But so I talked about how estrogen is antagonistic to the thyroid hormone. It gets in the way of that conversion. So if you've got lowering progesterone which you do in your 40s, in perimenopause but you've got wildly fluctuating estrogen and perhaps that estrogen is high, it's got that higher relative gap there as well. So we've got less iodine uptake for less hormones but also less conversion of thyroid hormone there. So when you've got that estrogen excess or dominance there where you've got the lowering progesterone sort of widens the gap, you know, makes it seem bigger than it is, and in that more dominant state of estrogen, then symptoms of hyperthyroidism can occur there as well. So remember, in early perimenopause and this is often when women will develop some kind of thyroid dysfunction because that estrogen is fluctuating and it can go really high And also your progesterone is declining, so it can have less thyroid hormones available there but also more likely to develop some kind of immune dysfunction from it there as well.

Sarah McLachlan:

And as I said in the last episode, a lot of those symptoms of a hypothyroid state are often mistaken for natural ageing or other factors, particularly things like fatigue and brain fog. I mean, there's many causes of fatigue, it's true. There's lots of reasons why you could be feeling that way. But it's worth having your thyroid tested and you can just rule. You know, if it's not that great we'll look at something else or what it might be. So last time I talked as well about that subclinical hypothyroid state and I just wanted to say that that presents as normal or slightly elevated TSH and reduced T4 and Often just normal T3 there. I forgot to mention that last time, so apologies. So you're looking at, you know, like maybe your T4 might be sitting around 10 or 11 instead of, say, 16 to 18 or 20 that we would like it to be.

Sarah McLachlan:

So let's talk some more about Estrogen and your thyroid hormone. So estrogen influences the synthesis and secretion of thyroid hormones. By interacting with your thyroid gland It stimulates the production of T4 and influences the enzymes involved in that there as well. But it also impacts the conversion of T4 To the active form T3 in your peripheral tissues. So this is what I was talking about I mentioned last time when we get that cellular hypothyroidism there.

Sarah McLachlan:

So, as I was saying, there too much estrogen can block the uptake of those thyroid hormones and leading to the symptoms of hypothyroidism. These symptoms often manifest really strongly in perimenopause because Progesterone is decreased or decreasing but estrogen is still a bit higher now Sadly, when you're in that hypothyroid state I mentioned that you know your bowels can slow and you can tend to constipation, so your elimination of of hormones like estrogen is slowed and so and Estrogen can be reabsorbed in the bow and move back into the bloodstream So It again can elevate further that estrogen and getting a bit of a vicious cycle there and further influence your thyroid and slow your thyroid function there. So Not ideal, but hopefully you can see that with these interactions between Estrogen and the thyroid hormones and progesterone and your immune system and thyroid as well, it really can disrupt the delicate balance there and and change your thyroid and your thyroid function there and Contribute to weight gain and other symptoms that I've talked about in with thyroid dysfunction there. So You know, one of the most common reasons people work with me is with regard to weight gain and Their energy as well. But brain fog is a definite issue that people come to me about there as well, and I want to talk about how There's a really delicate balance between our sex hormones Estrogen and progesterone being the main ones for women, stress and your thyroid, and it's because of the notion of a shared control centre.

Sarah McLachlan:

So the thyroid adrenals over ease. They're really important organs in your body and they work together and they have a shared control centre Called the hypothalamus and the pituitary glands. Think of them as like the coordinators of the team or the bosses. So the thyroid helps regulate our energy and metabolism. We've talked about that. The adrenal glands handle our response to stress. So they produce the hormones for you and your body when your brain perceives a stress or. And the ovaries, you know, play a crucial role in our female health and and making us female. So these organs communicate with each other. They're linked through that single, those control centre there and they're working in harmony.

Sarah McLachlan:

However, when we experience an up regulation in one of those organs Usually the adrenal glands because we're in a stressed or busy state a lot, it can disrupt the communication between Those organs and and the effect they're functioning. So you can, if you're, you know, chronically stressed or busy and Your adrenal glands are up regulated, there's more messages coming from the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland down to your adrenals. That can also upregulate the messages from your brain to your thyroid and to your ovaries as well and that can contribute to More of those symptoms. So put you more in a hypo Thyroid state because, remember, when TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone coming from our brain to our thyroid, is increased, it tells us that our thyroid is in a slower state And when the message from our brain to our ovaries is upregulated to, we can produce more estrogen there as well, which, as we know, is going to influence our thyroid function and our thyroid hormones there as well. So you can see, there's a really intricate connection between those three organs and upregulation, and one is going to put the other out of balance, but then they can also get stuck in that loop there as well. So, yeah, in this that's finishing up for today We've explored that connection between your perimenopause, between perimenopause and thyroid dysfunction and more likely to develop a thyroid imbalance in perimenopause because of the fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, and we talked about how that decreasing progesterone level can lead to the immune dysregulation.

Sarah McLachlan:

That's why often women will develop allergies, intolerances, other autoimmune conditions, or indeed they have an you might have an increased risk of autoimmune thyroid condition, like Hashimoto is there as well, and we talked about how estrogen influences thyroid hormone production and conversion and can contribute to more of it being bound by protein, so not available to ourselves as well. So those really wildly rollercoaster fluctuating estrogen levels that I talk about in perimenopause can really disrupt that delicate balance of your thyroid there as well. So that's why it's, you know, like we can't necessarily look to balance our hormones in perimenopause, but we want to optimize and support and nourish our body so that metabolism and elimination of those hormones, like estrogen is is good or, you know, working efficiently and well, so that we don't contribute to even more of an excess or dominance of estrogen there, because that's when it becomes mischievous in our bodies and contributes to dysfunction or symptoms developing there as well. So optimizing you know a change in your body. So optimising you know channels of elimination a liver, kidneys, and you know bowel motions and your use and weighing is two great ways to get rid of excess hormones and make sure you don't build up They don't build up in your body there as well.

Sarah McLachlan:

So, yeah, understanding the interplay between your sex hormones, stress and thyroid hormones there as well is really important, because that shared control centre which coordinates the three of them can be disrupted by something like stress. So I really hope and I can't overemphasize the importance of stress management for maintaining overall wellbeing. It's stress is the biggest blocker to health, happiness and weight loss for women in their 40s and beyond. It's just as simple as that. So it's all about stress management and building your stress resilience, as your natural stress resilience hormone, progesterone, is declining, so don't worry, it is as soon to become a podcast episode here as well, but it is really important. You know setting your boundaries, saying no, getting plenty of sleep, looking up, you know all those self care items that I've talked about in other episodes as well, so so important for your overall health and wellbeing, but the health of your thyroid as well. So when you understand, you know your thyroid, your thyroid hormones, how it works, it really helps you to navigate this phase of life and perimenopause and take proactive steps to support your overall wellbeing. And that's really. You know.

Sarah McLachlan:

Any time or any effort that you can invest in perimenopause or even before perimenopause will pay you dividends at this time, but also through the rest of your life as well. It's a really fork in the road period of time perimenopause. You can choose which way you go, whether you have more risk of chronic disease or you feel old before your time, or you move through this phase and age with vitality and more ease. So, um Yeah, don't forget to download my latest FreeBee, which is that cheat sheet of the optimal ranges for the blood markers that are most commonly out of balance for my clients in perimenopause. That will help you interpret your blood test results. Always get a copy for yourself and for your own records. Get your GP to print them out whenever you have blood tests. And don't forget that you can ask for, you know, those additional bloods that I suggested last episode. You can always ask your GP to add them on and pay for those yourself And then interpret the results with my handy-dandy cheat sheet So you can see.

Sarah McLachlan:

You know not just oh, you're fine, but are you in that optimal range? Is it set for your best state of health there? So you can find that FreeBee and the show notes and more at wwwCaosToCarnPodcastcom. And until next time, i'm Sarah, the perimenopause naturopath, reminding you that perimenopause does not have to be horrific. It's really common for women over 40 to experience the chaos of changing hormones, mood, metabolism and energy. But I hope you know now that common doesn't have to equal normal for you or them. You can help others understand they aren't alone in feeling this way and that perimenopause doesn't have to be horrific by subscribing, leaving a review and sharing this podcast with other women in their 40s and beyond. Thanks so much for listening and sharing your time with me today in this Chaos To Calm conversation.

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