Estrogen and Your Thyroid

Many women today have estrogen dominance – a condition where estrogen is high in relation to progesterone. It doesn’t necessarily mean that estrogen is elevated (although most of the time it is) – it means that there is not enough progesterone production to oppose estrogen and keep it in check.

As if hypothyroidism wasn’t enough of an epidemic, estrogen dominance is epidemic as well and can have some serious implications for thyroid function. Kind of a double whammy.

The role of estrogen in hypothyroidism is well-researched. Estrogen directly affects the thyroid by thwarting its ability to produce thyroid hormones. To get that thyroid fired and humming along, it’s critical to address estrogen.

[My best selling cookbook is now available: The Essential Thyroid Cookbook: Over 100 Nourishing Recipes for Thriving with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.]

Although women of any age can be estrogen dominant, it can be especially evident during perimenopause and menopause, when our reproductive hormones are supposed to take a natural downturn. When estrogen remains high while progesterone wanes, women can experience more hair-raising menopausal symptoms.

There is a misconception that the symptoms of menopause are normal. They may be common, but they’re not normal. Today, women are experiencing eight to ten years (or more), of life-disrupting perimenopausal wackiness.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. We were meant to see some mild symptoms leading up to menopause; menopause is technically one year without a period. Perimenopause, which wasn’t even a term until about 15 or so years ago, should only last about a year or maybe two, and again, should be mild.

Hot flashes, flushing, weight gain, unstable moods, brain fog, and heavy periods are signs of estrogen dominance. Add some hypothyroidism in there and you’ve got thyropause. That double whammy thing.

Here’s what few healthcare practitioners will tell you. When the ovaries ramp down progesterone production, the body looks to its backup system, THE ADRENALS. Has anyone ever told you this? 

The adrenals make some progesterone. As the back-up glands, the adrenals start taking on the role of four glands as menopause approaches – two adrenals and two ovaries. So if our cute little adrenals are already overworked (the first phase of adrenal dysfunction – making too much adrenaline and cortisol) or are pooped out (the second phase of adrenal dysfunction – making too little adrenaline and cortisol), we have no backup system for making progesterone.

In the first phase, the adrenals are like, “Hey, man, I’m too busy making adrenaline and cortisol to keep up with your crazy busy, stressed-out lifestyle. Gimme a frickin’ break.” In the second phase, there’s simply no capacity to take on another role.

When I mentioned this to a doctor I was seeing a few years ago, he chuckled and said that the progesterone that the adrenals make is so miniscule, that it’s a negligible amount that shouldn’t even be considered. I knew this jerk doctor was wrong, and as I went on to learn more about hormones (especially in Dr. Janet Lang’s Restorative Endocrinology course for healthcare practitioners), it was driven home to me how critically important the adrenals are for easing through menopause without losing your mind.

And my menopausal clients are seeing huge improvements in their symptoms – sleeping through the night without sweats, more energy, no hot flashes, and abatement of their hormonal mood swings.

The proof is in the puddin’, don’t you think? When women start nourishing and supporting their adrenals, thereby helping the body produce more progesterone, and when they nourish and support their thyroid, which can help normalize estrogen levels, their reproductive hormones are more in balance and they start to see perimenopausal symptoms vaporize. Most of the time without hormone replacement therapy.

Here are some other whys – I love getting to the whys. Besides waning progesterone, why are we seeing these elevated estrogen levels? There are a number of reasons:

  • Xenoestrogens in plastics (“xeno” means “outside the body”)
  • Synthetic estrogens in the birth control pill
  • Phytoestrogens from food – mostly soy and flax products (“phyto” means plant) 
  • Environmental toxins that mimic estrogen

A trap that many women fall into is eating soy (a phytoestrogen) during perimenopause and menopause. Firstly, if they’re estrogen dominant in the first place, that’s a recipe for disaster. Secondly, xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens don’t replace estrogen, they mimic estrogen and can send other hormones into a confused tizzy.

What You Can Do:

  • Avoid xenoestrogens – steer clear of plastics and other endocrine disruptors.
  • Avoid phytoestrogens – steer clear of soy and soy products, with the occasional exception of fermented soy like tempeh.
  • Choose a safer form of birth control – but know that IUDs have been shown to decrease progesterone.
  • Go organic. Limit your exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
  • Drink warm lemon water first thing in the morning. Follow it with a tsp. of fiber powder, in the form of psyllium or triphala, in 8 oz. of water, followed by another glass of pure water.

Comments

you sound like you may have Hashimoto's thyroiditis. I just got diagnosed. I lost 15 pounds in the last year and my tsh had been fluctuating a lot. In February it was 0.02 and my dr said it was normal. Meanwhile had all the symptoms of being hyperthyroid. Increased anxiety and losing weight; I was crying all the time! It was horrible. He did nothing . Asked if he thought I had Hashimoto's and he did not think so. Told me to take xanax. Told him let's get to the root of the problem but he was not on board. Got him to order thyroid antibodies against his wishes but he would not put down diagnosis code hoping I would back out knowing insurance may not pay for it. Told me it could be really expensive and the estimate was $70. Thyroid antibodies were close to 600 and should be under 9. Went to integrative dr and she put me on nature thyroid and within a few days I was feeling better. Feeling better and better! My iodine was also low( cold hands and feet all time so I am starting iodine soon. Also had my adrenals checked as they are interrelated as well as endocrine system. Trying to avoid xenoestrogens as they are a problem. Dr. Peter Eckhart has some good info on clear woman.com and if you buy his product you get a guide that lists safe cosmetics, laundry detergents etc and lists of phytoestrogens. His product didn't help much but he says if you get off all xenoestrogens for 3 months, estrogen dominance will get much better and you will not need progesterone. I also take ashwagandah 500mg 2x a day which is really supposed to help with thyroid issues. I also take mag citrate mag gluconate and buffered vit c and d3(10000-20000) per day with 90 mcg vit k2 with each 10000.

I am currently having more blood tests due to chronic fatigue that was initially thought to be due to low ferretin  this has now been rectified after having ablation therapy to stop my periods. I work as a nail technician working every day with acrylic polymers and monomers. Could this be having an effect on my hormones? I am desperate for answers. Also do thyroid fluctuations need to be caught at the time of feeling low because by the time my blood is tested usually a week after a bout of fatigue I tend to pick up.  

my menustral cycle is not regular it's 3 months late , I want to get it normal I m married and don't have children , had checkups and the doctor said yu have PCOS and egg are not formed , can u give me some advice for this and secondly is progesteron helpful for this problem ?

Hi. i have thyroid but I don't take medicine at all. can I take estrogen ? 

recent bloodwork showed estradiol at 630 but progesterone is 0.3. A previous blood draw 6months prior estradiol was 332. When I express concern over the high estrogen levels,  i am just told this is just my normal,especially being 48 yrs old and potentially perimenapausal.  but I find doubling of the estrogen levels troubling.   My thyroid levels are normal. I should also mention I had a single oophorectomy in December    Recent ultrasound shows ovary and Unger one lining to be normal.   I have only had one period since december.  Should I be concerned about the high estrogen levels? Lack of periods? 

Hi, hope you can help me.   I am currently on bio-identical hormone replacement therapy.   I had a hysterectomy 30 years ago and was left with a tiny portion of one ovary.  Went immediatley into menopause and have taken some form of estrogen replacement ever since.   I started bio identical HRT about 5 years ago, and was doing great (testosterone & estrogen by pellets, and progesterone orally).   I have also been taking Armour Thyroid for hypothyroidism, my dr. watches T3 and T4, not so much TSH.   Here is the perplexing problem:   I complained about weight gain, particularly around the mid section (when I first started thyroid and bio idential HRT, I was able to lose 30 lbs.  Now, I've gained half that weight back).   Although I was feeling great, the weight is an issue.   So my hormone dr. suggested getting my estrogen levels down.   Six months ago I received my regular testosterone pellet, but no estrogen.   When I went back in 3 months, my estrogen was still at 231.  Dr. was dumfounded.   So, no estrogen pellet again.  I just went yesterday for a check, had my labs done, and the estrogen is even HIGHER at 328.    WHAT in my body is producing this much estrogen?   I had had a vaginal ultrasound about 12 years ago, and no trace of that tiny ovary piece could be seen, so I don't believe I have any ovary in my body.   COuld the high dose of Armour Thyroid be the cause?   I'm taking 120 mcg.  Hormone Dr. wants me to see my gyno to be sure there isn't anything else going on.   But still I wonder, is it the thyroid rx?

Thanks!

Hi, I had a hysterectomy in 2011. I've been treating surgical menopause with BHRT since, I've always received estrodial, testosterone, and progesterone. The past 8 months my doctor has held off on estrodial because my body is making it (high levels of it) on it's own without ovaries. Recently, I found out I have a blood disease and my hematology doctor did a bunch of tests which found a 4mm calcified lesion on the right lobe of my thyroid. I have to see an endocrinologist now, but I'm wondering if this calcified lesion on my thyroid could be the reason my body is producing estrogen on it's own. 

Hafsa, I experienced irregular cycles all the time until taking iodine every day. After taking iodine every day (maybe a couple of weeks?), my period became regular to the exact day each month (28 day cycle) and was shorter, lighter flow. Also, my ovarian cysts went away. This is only my experience, but you should look into it. I know Dr. David Brownstein uses iodine to help his patients, maybe you can consult him or his book on iodine will help. Dr. Jorge Flechas treats patients with iodine as well and has spoken about the link with menstruation.

On another note, I've read/heard that good liver function is very important for removing excess hormones from the body. Anyone interested should research how to support the liver.

 I have a specific question.....I was TOLD I had graves which I do not have..all antibodies negative...had decompresson on my eyes when over medicated with synthroid. I was TOLD all my problems were menopause but the hair loss, weight issues and eye swelling was due to too much medication. The 'specialist' told me I had to use estrogen which I was not happy about (I had a subtotal hysterectomy) and was never informed abotu estrogen dominance and thyroid medications. I of course have researched this and know even with a hysterectomy the estrogen has to be balances with progesterone. Both have significant risks. My question is since going off estrogen I am having trouble finding the right dose of synthorid. Generally speaking how much will an estrogen such as vagifem reduce a synthroid dose? I have it down to 95mcg over two days (Dr. had me on well over 150mcg of synthroid).  The daily amount would be around 47 or 48mcg a day of synthroid...now to find out ow much teh estrogen product reduced this dose to have a great day every day again. Without the sweating..dry mouth swollen eyes and thinning hair (some is growing back)...and skin issues. Your help is very much appreciated. It seems the drug companies will nto answer patients questions and every pharmacist has a different idea..one did not know estrogen was a known suppressant of thyroid medication.

I have Hashimotos and have always felt increase in symptoms of muscle pain and fatigue and feel awful first day or two of monthly cycle and even now menopausal, I get the same thing. Reading this articel now I see Oestrogen affects hypothyridism in negative way. Is using Oestrogen creams gonna help this ? 

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