If you’re going through menopause and having a hard time of it, you might have more going on. Research shows that about one in 12 women age 50 or older have inadequate thyroid function. That combination–low estrogen and low thyroid hormones–can make symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, brain fog, mood swings, dry skin and thinning hair–all worse. It can turn what might otherwise be a tolerable time of life into menopause-from-hell.
Getting a blood test to see if your Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) is high is important. It will determine if you have clear-cut thyroid issues. But plenty of women have normal TSH levels and still have symptoms of low metabolism, such as fatigue, brain fog, sluggish digestion, low sex drive, heat and cold intolerance–some of the same symptoms associated with menopause.
So, in addition to checking thyroid hormone levels with a blood test, I suggest checking your body temperature to see if it is consistently low–below 97.8 F. (For complete instructions on how to take your body temperature accurately, see “How are body temperatures measured”.)
If your body temperature is consistently low despite having normal thyroid tests (a condition called Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome) there’s a good chance that low metabolism is contributing to your symptoms.
Low metabolism is often caused by low levels of T3, the active form of thyroid hormone. Some people have trouble converting T4 to T3, a problem many doctors simply don’t recognize. T4 is the most commonly prescribed form of thyroid replacement hormones such as Synthroid. But T3 is also available as a drug (liothyronine sodium, brand name Cytomel) and some women do better when they get T3 instead of T4, or in addition to T4. T3 is even better tolerated and more effective when administered as a sustained release compounded (made by pharmacists) medication.
You can discuss taking a course of T3 (active thyroid hormone) with your doctor. Your doctor can call us at 800.420.5801 to get more information about how to use T3 and to discuss your individual case. The object of T3 therapy is to normalize your oral body temperatures to average 98.6 during treatment.
Correcting slow metabolism and getting your body temperature back to normal will help your body to get back to normal, too. It will boost the benefits of other natural treatments that will help you get through menopause, like exercise and healthy eating.
If you’re taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for menopause (estrogen/progesterone) you should note that oral estrogen makes less T4 available to be converted to T3. (It raises the circulating levels of thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG), thereby increasing the bound fraction and decreasing the free (bioactive) fraction of circulating thyroxine (T(4)). As a consequence, oral estrogen may increase the T(4) dosage requirements of women being treated for primary hypothyroidism. Transdermal estrogen does not have this effect, so an estrogen patch might be a better choice for women who are taking both estrogen and thyroid hormones.
Badawy A, State O, Sherief S. Can thyroid dysfunction explicate severe menopausal symptoms? J Obstet Gynaecol. 2007 Jul;27(5):503-5.
Mazer NA. Interaction of estrogen therapy and thyroid hormone replacement in postmenopausal women. Thyroid. 2004;14 Suppl 1:S27-34.
Pearce EN Thyroid dysfunction in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Menopause Int. 2007 Mar;13(1):8-13.