A sluggish thyroid is often associated with weight gain, fatigue, depression, painful or heavy periods, and infertility. Learn the symptoms of an underactive thyroid and natural remedies to improve its functions.
But you probably wouldn’t make a connection between your thyroid function and your menstrual symptoms, unless you were diagnosed to have hypothyroidism, the medical term for a sluggish or underactive thyroid.
In my work with women to harmonize their menstrual cycles, I’ve noticed an intimate connection between an underactive thyroid and menstrual problems, such as painful periods, heavy menstrual bleeding, and premenstrual fatigue and depression.
Since this issue is often under our radar when looking for the root causes of menstrual disharmonies, I thought it would be worth spending some time to address it.
In this article, I’ll share with you why your thyroid function is important, how you can identify if you have potential thyroid issues, and what you can do to improve your thyroid function – and harmonize your menstrual cycles.
Thyroid and the Menstrual Cycle
It’s estimated that as many as 59 million Americans have a thyroid problem, but the majority of these individuals don’t realize it.
Undiagnosed thyroid problems can dramatically increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, infertility and a host of other symptoms and health problems.
Low thyroids affect your weight, mood and energy level
The thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck, is the master gland of metabolism. An underactive thyroid slows down metabolism, which can make you gain weight, feel tired or depressed.
Thyroid problems affect your menstrual cycles
It can also affect your menstrual cycles, particularly the length of your cycle, the amount of bleeding, or the frequency of your cycles.
Generally speaking, heavier, more frequent and more painful periods are frequently associated with hypothyroidism; and shorter, lighter or infrequent menstruation can be associated with hyperthyroidism.
Low thyroid is a common cause of progesterone deficiency
In addition, body needs adequate thyroid hormone to produce pregnenolone (the mother hormone) from cholesterol, which then makes progesterone.
And when the progesterone level is low, the brain will signal the thyroid to work harder to manufacture more pregnenolone. This extra burden further weakens the thyroid, which will produce less pregnenolone (and less progesterone), creating a vicious cycle.
How can you tell if you have a potentially underactive thyroid?
The first step is always awareness. You can often detect the first signs of disharmony by paying attention to your body, and the signals it’s giving you.
Common signs of a sluggish thyroid may include:
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Depression or anxiety
- Poor memory or mental sluggishness
If you suspect you may have an underactive thyroid, it’s worth getting your thyroid checked. Our friends at True Health Labs provides complete thyroid panel testing at a draw location that is convienient to you.
After you take the test, you can also schedule a consultation with Dr. Brady Hurst and his colleagues to explain the results to you.
Normal Thyroid Range
According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists:
The new normal range for our thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is 0.3 to 3.0 mlU/L
This is narrower than the old normal range (0.5 to 5.0 mlU/L) still used by many labs.
Based on the old range, a TSH above 5.0 might be considered as hypothyroidism. But according to the new range, a TSH above 3.0 might be sufficient to indicate an underactive thyroid function.
Natural Thyroid Treatment
I always believe that good health starts in the kitchen. We can improve our health and wellbeing by eating nutritious foods and creating a balanced lifestyle.
Here are some recommendations for you to improve your thyroid function, based on my research from leading experts and my experience in working with women at CycleHarmony.com.
Zinc is important for converting the inactive thyroid hormone T4 to its active form, T3, hence improving thyroid function.
Copper is the mineral that counterbalances zinc, which means that they must remain in proportion.
When you take these minerals from foods, you don’t really have to worry about the proportion, as nature has its own way of balancing.
Foods richest in copper and zinc include:
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Garbanzo beans
- Lima beans
- Grass-fed beef
If you’re not eating enough of these foods, you may consider taking a whole food-based zinc vitamin supplement.
Selenium supports efficient thyroid hormone synthesis and metabolism, and protects the thyroid gland from inflammation and damage. It also improves mood and wellbeing.
Foods rich in selenium include:
- Brazil nuts
- Sunflower seeds
- Fish (halibut, tuna, cod, sardines, salmon)
- Shellfish (oysters, mussels, shrimp, clams, scallops)
- Meat (beef, liver, lamb, pork)
- Poultry (chicken, turkey)
- Grains (wheat germ, barley, brown rice, oats)
Again, considering taking a selenium supplement if you suspect your diet doesn’t give you an sufficient supply of this vital nutrient.
Vitamin A is also important to maintain the proper thyroid function. Foods rich in vitamin A include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
- Swiss chard
- Winter squash
- Mustard greens
Vitamin D is essential for the thyroid to function effectively. The best way to help the body synthesize vitamin D is by getting plenty of sunlight. If you live where sunlight is limited or you spend most of your day indoors, take a vitamin D3 supplement.
Iodine deficiency is a leading cause of hypothyroidism worldwide, even though this is rare in the United States because iodine is commonly added to our table salt. But too much salt is not very healthy for us.
Instead, you can source iodine naturally from sea vegetables, such are seaweeds, spirulina and chlorella. They’re also rich in minerals and have amazing detoxification benefits.
Personally, I add some spirulina powder to my smoothies every morning as part of my nutrition and detoxification routine.
Hormones are made from cholesterols. Your liver and other cells in your body make about 75% of your cholesterol, while the other 25% comes from foods (mostly animal products).
Shrimps and eggs are good sources of cholesterol when eaten in moderation. Other healthy sources include omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish and fish oil or flax seed oil supplements, olive oil, and coconut oil.
Alternatively, you can take a thyroid support complex, which include iodine, zinc, cooper, selenium, kelp, as well as energy boosting ingredients such as vitamin B12, schrisandra powder and ashwagandha root powder.
Avoid Environmental Toxins
Certain chemicals are known to interrupt our body’s natural hormone balance. They’re known as endocrine disruptors. Check out the top 10 endocrine disruptors and try to avoid them as much as possible.
Create a Balanced Lifestyle
Our body has an innate desire and ability to achieve a state of balance and harmony. This capacity is compromised when we engage in unhealthy lifestyle habits for a long period of time.
So, to help restore our natural hormone balance, we need to correct those unhealthy routines and cultivate habits that promote good health, happiness and wellbeing.
Check out our free resources for additional support.
Chasteberry (proven to help treat low progesterone and regulate menstrual cycles in more than 60 years of clinical research, including 5 randomized trials)
Vitamin B6 (one of the best vitamins to boost progesterone)
Progesterone Cream (bio-identical hormonal support)
Reduce Estrogen Dominance
Liver Cleanse Detox and Repair Formula (support liver functions)
Dim Plus (improve estrogen metabolism)
Amazing Grass Super Foods (clear excess estrogen and alkalize the body)
Support Adrenal and Thyroid Functions
Adrenal Health Daily Support (promote overall hormone balance)
Thyroid Support Complex (support energy and metabolism)
Once Daily Organic Whole Food Vitamin Supplement (provide essential nutrients for health and hormone balance)
Liquid Iron (support healthy blood)
Omega 3 Fish Oil (reduce inflammation and promote overall health)
The Hormone Cure, by Dr. Sara Gottfried
Cooking for Hormone Balance, by Magdalena Wszelaki