The thyroid hormone affects every cell and all the organs in your body by regulating the rate at which your body uses energy. Optimal thyroid health can make you feel better and function better.
Stress has a massive effect on thyroid health. Evolutionary speaking stress was often associated with extreme temperature changes, cold and lack of food. The body’s adaptation response was to hibernate and shut the metabolism down. Stress these days is anything but a lack of food, in fact we often react by overeating, but the same metabolic action will occur which is why weight gain is associated with stress.
Hormones work together, you can’t separate them. Cortisol (your stress hormone) is at the centre.
It disrupts your thyroid and if you don’t have good cellular metabolism the body won’t want to reproduce so it slows down reproductive hormones. Progesterone and thyroid hormones also have a reciprocal relationship.
You need adequate amounts of thyroid hormone for your ovaries to make progesterone, so optimising thyroid health can be helpful during perimenopause when ovulation isn’t as robust.
Progesterone is your “keep calm and carry on” hormone and helps to support mood and sleep.
As well as stress affecting thyroid health, oestrogen dominance during the perimenopause can block the conversion of thyroid hormones.
If you’ve experienced fatigue, weight gain, headaches and generally not feeling well there is a good chance that your thyroid will have been checked. TSH is the go-to marker for looking at thyroid function. It’s the starting point (the message from the brain) but it doesn’t give the whole picture, and can often come back looking relatively normal.
It is very common to gain weight during menopause. Stress and thyroid health isn’t the only cause – as the ovaries shut down the body continues to make some oestrogen through the aromatisation of androgens (think testosterone) in the fatty tissues. You may notice that your body shape has changed, and fat distribution has moved from the hips and thighs to the abdomen.
At the clinic we offer a detailed thyroid check up for TSH, T4, T3 and thyroid antibodies, together with some additional nutrients that are important for energy and thyroid function (ferritin, folate, B12 and vitamin D).
This test helps to rule out any obvious causes of low energy, brain fog, constipation/diarrhoea, weight gain/weight loss, depression/anxiety, palpitations, and hair loss.
Because your hormones are so entwined we often run this test with the Comprehensive Hormone Test which looks at the sex hormones and stress hormones to help tease out what is happening and where to focus attention to get the results that you want.
Micronutrients, mostly iodine and selenium, are needed for thyroid health. You need to be careful with supplementing iodine even in the form of kelp tablets if you have a thyroid condition. It’s best to seek professional advice.
- Selenium: Brazil nuts, shellfish, dark meat of chicken, fish, eggs, fish eggs (eg salmon roe)
- Iodine: seaweed, fish, shellfish, celtic sea salt
Liver health is important for optimal thyroid function so following the tips under Perimenopause will be helpful. You will see that some of the best foods are the cruciferous vegetables. Over the years you may have been told to avoid cruciferous vegetables if you have thyroid issues because they are goitrogenic, meaning they can affect thyroid function by stopping the synthesis of thyroid hormones resulting in an enlarged gland (goiter). Cooking denatures the enzyme responsible so technically they become non-goitrogenic. Have a mix of cooked and raw cruciferous vegetables and avoid juicing cruciferous veg (hence consuming it raw in large amounts) if you have a thyroid condition.
Managing stress is vital. This includes getting energy from nourishment (wholefoods) not stimulation (sugar, refined carbohydrates, caffeine, alcohol).
The free download “Be The CEO Of Your Health” is a great place to start getting some control over your life and your health.