Stress, PMS and menopause, and Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Navigating female hormones is no walk in the park sometimes — between the cycling up and down each month with PMS and then throughout a woman's lifetime from puberty, through childbirth, and then through menopause, symptoms can range from mildly troubling to incapacitating.
Additionally, if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid, life can seem doubly unfair.
Studies show at least half, if not more, of women report suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Troubles transitioning into extreme health and mood imbalances associated with PMS and menopause are a sign your system is out of whack, most likely because of stress. And the same factors that lead to hormonal imbalances also trigger and exacerbate autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Hormone balance and PMS are very sensitive to stress, inflammation, toxins, poor diet, sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, too little sunlight, and other common factors of modern life. Because the reproductive hormones play an important role in brain health, mood, and brain inflammation, when they’re off, brain function and mood suffer.
Hormonal imbalances also affect thyroid health and thyroid autoimmunity when you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid. Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all play a role in thyroid health and inflammation associated with autoimmune thyroid flare ups. At the same time, thyroid dysfunction can imbalance hormones. A functional medicine protocol that addresses both can bring sustainable and therapeutic relief for PMS and Hashimoto's.
The most common types of hormonal issues in women that contribute to PMS are too much estrogen, not enough progesterone, or too much testosterone. Some of the things that cause these imbalances are chronic stress, high blood sugar, low blood sugar, chronic infections, leaky gut, unhealthy diet, and other problems. These factors also contribute to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Symptoms of female hormone imbalances include:
Low progesterone from chronic stress
- Mood instablity
- Frequent or irregular menstruation
- Problems sleeping
- Low libido
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Cry easily
- Poor concentration
A common cause for female hormone imbalance is low progesterone from chronic stress. This is due to “pregnenolone steal.” In this scenario, chronic stress robs the hormone building blocks needed to synthesize progesterone and uses them to make stress hormones instead. Low progesterone leads to PMS, getting your period too early, cramping and heavy bleeding, and other symptoms. It also sets the stage for a miserable perimenopause and transition into menopause.
Stress doesn't just come from your lifestyle. As far as the brain is concerned, you could be mad at traffic, in mild shock from that glazed bear claw and triple-shot vanilla latte, or running from an angry bison. Regardless, the brain's job is to prepare you to fight or flee. At that moment, reproduction hormones can wait until things are calm again. But for many stressed out Americans who don't get enough sleep and eat too much high-carbohydrate junk foods, calming down rarely ever happens.
If you are not addressing the root causes of your Hashimoto’s low thyroid, that is another stressor skewing your hormones and driving down your thyroid function, even if you take thyroid meds.
Don't just reach for progesterone cream or an estrogen prescription. It's important to first address the causes of your stress and hormone imbalances. The best way to calm stress for most people is to balance your blood sugar. This can mean not skipping breakfast and eating more frequently for some people. For others it means cutting back on the sugars and processed carbohydrates. Unstable blood sugar is very stressful for the body and for Hashimoto’s low thyroid.
Below are some common causes of chronic stress that lead to PMS, bad perimenopause symptoms, an unhappy menopause, and Hashimoto’s low thyroid:
- Too many sugars, sweeteners, processed carbohydrates (rice, pasta, bread, etc.), too much caffeine
- Food intolerances (gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, grains, etc.)
- Leaky gut and gut inflammation — gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, irritable bowel
- Not enough sleep
- Pain and inflammation — joint and muscle pain, skin rashes, respiratory issues, brain fog, fatigue, depression
- Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s low thyroid
- Overdoing it, exercising too much, not taking time for yourself
- Junk foods, fast foods, processed foods
Restoring hormone balance and taming Hashimoto’s low thyroid
You can stop pregnenolone steal and better balance your hormones through an anti-inflammatory diet, stabilizing blood sugar, improving gut health, calming inflammation, and addressing autoimmune Hashimoto's with functional medicine. It's also important for your hormones to eat the right amounts and kinds of essential fatty acids -- do not follow a low-fat diet. Also, ask my office about supplements that support female hormone health and stress handling.
These are largely the same protocols we use to manage autoimmune Hashimoto’s low thyroid. Ask my office for more advice.
How to learn if you have Hashimoto’s low thyroid
Many patients are not diagnosed with hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s until after several years and going through several doctors. It is a demoralizing journey richly illustrated in my book The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto's Low Thyroid Disease
, through real-life stories from patients in my practice. Managing Hashimoto’s goes far beyond using thyroid medication as you must work to stop the immune system from attacking the thyroid. For more information on identifying and managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid, contact
About Dr. Josh Redd — Utah, Arizona, New Mexico functional medicine
Dr. Joshua J. Redd, DC, MS, DABFM, DAAIM, author of The Truth About Low Thyroid: Stories of Hope and Healing for Those Suffering With Hashimoto's Low Thyroid Disease
, is a chiropractic physician and the founder of RedRiver Health and Wellness Center
with practices in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. He sees patients from around the world who suffer from challenging thyroid disorders, Hashimoto's disease, and other autoimmune conditions. In addition to his chiropractic degree, Dr. Redd has a BS in Health and Wellness, a BS in Anatomy, and a MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. He speaks across the nation, teaching physicians about functional blood chemistry, low thyroid, Hashimoto's, and autoimmunity. You can join his Facebook page here