In the US, over 20% of all women in menopause are diagnosed with hypothyroidism – a sluggish thyroid. Women need to better understand how menopause affects the thyroid, as with age increase the chance of developing hypothyroidism also increases. Menopause and hypothyroidism have common symptoms, such as depressed mood, decreased energy and memory, among many others. Often these symptoms are considered to be due to menopause, leading to delayed diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
Hormones in women’s bodies are very delicately balanced and hormonal imbalances commonly occur during pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause. In the time leading up to menopause, the once regular menstrual cycles may begin to become erratic. This could be because of highs and lows in estrogen and progesterone.
Hypothyroidism, which is seven times more common in women than men, also occurs because of hormonal imbalances. Some doctors think that estrogen dominance – excess of estrogen combined with low progesterone, typically occurs in early perimenopause. They feel that addressing estrogen dominance may help prevent complications in perimenopause, including hypothyroidism. In fact, estrogen is required to be counterbalanced with progesterone to avoid hypothyroidism.
Treatment Options for Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism or under-active thyroid develops primarily because of an auto-immune disease called Hashimoto’s where the immune system attacks and destroys thyroid tissue making it unable to produce the necessary hormones.
These hormones are Thyroxine (T4), which has to be converted in the body to the active thyroid hormone – Triiodothyronine (T3). Only then it can be effectively utilized by the body. Different practitioners have their own ways of treating hypothyroidism.
The most common treatment is Synthroid, Levoxyl or Levothyroxine – the synthetic T4 – for hypothyroidism. Other doctors add Cytomel – a synthetic T3 in addition to T4 to help with their low T3. Yet another form of treatment is the natural hormone which is dessicated porcine or bovine thyroid.
Many women don’t believe in synthetic hormones for treating their hypothyroidism, and try to relieve their symptoms with nutrition, exercise, stress-relieving techniques and similar natural treatments. And while these are all extremely important factors in the treatment of hypothyroidism, sometimes medication is necessary, even if it’s just for a period of time until your thyroid has had the time to heal. Rich nutrition is the basis of hormonal balance and well-being. Rich nutrition should consists of:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Essential fatty acids
- Calcium and magnesium containing foods
- Foods rich in vitamins
- Unprocessed foods
A healthy eating plan supports the body’s endocrine, immune and other vital systems. Some doctors recommend using a progesterone cream for the treatment of hypothyroidism. Progesterone, which is an essential building block of many of your body’s most important hormones, is also vital in offsetting estrogen dominance, which is one of the most common conditions in perimenopause and hypothyroidism. Women in menopause or perimenopause are advised to massage about half a teaspoon of progesterone cream into their hands and body. It is advisable to use twice daily for 21 days, to discontinue for 7 days, and repeat the procedure. The cream is to be massaged on the thighs, stomach, inner arms, and the buttocks. It is recommended that you increase your water intake to avoid dehydration. Many doctors recommend against prolonged use of progesterone cream after menopause. Short-term use is recommended after menopause, especially when weaning off Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
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