One of my most frequently asked questions is ‘can I use bioidentical natural progesterone alongside my thyroid medication?’ It is asked so often I thought it would be helpful to look at why it is not only ok, but positively advantageous. This is because one of many balancing functions of progesterone is to support healthy thyroid function.
An underactive thyroid is what happens when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of certain important hormones. The thyroid hormone affects growth, development, and many cellular processes which means that the normal balance of chemical reactions in your body is upset. This has widespread consequences for the body and although it seldom causes symptoms in the early stages it can, if left untreated, cause a number of health problems, such as obesity, joint pain, infertility and heart disease.
Is it menopause – or something else?
Menopause certainly brings its own commonly experienced symptoms, but if you suffer from an underactive thyroid, it’s easy to confuse or blame your frustrating symptoms on this stage of your life. Symptoms of low thyroid can include:
- poor concentration
- weight gain
- low sex drive
- dry hair or hair loss
- cold hands and feet
- brittle nails
Hypothyroidism can occur at menopause even if you’ve been taking good care of yourself. The symptoms overlap because our thyroid and reproductive hormones are so closely interconnected. You might have been vulnerable to thyroid imbalance earlier in your life but usually the body’s own checks and balances smooth out the major hormonal transitions women experience from the puberty onwards.
However there are other factors that can put you at risk and that the body may struggle to overcome:
- environmental exposures such as BPA
- inadequate nutrition
- family predisposition
Those are the external factors, but also playing their part are the menstrual cycle, the Pill or Coil, childbearing, perimenopause, menopause itself and HRT.
How best to support your thyroid
Thyroid hormone levels are closely tied to our sex hormones so that – for example – excess oestrogen can block thyroid function. Oestrogen dominance is common at menopause, particularly with HRT supplementation, and the role of progesterone is to balance the excess oestrogen and restore optimal thyroid function.
If you are on thyroid medication, generally levothyroxine, then one problem with such drugs is that once you go on them, the thyroid reduces its own production. This is one reason it is recommended to monitor your levels if supplementing with bioidentical natural progesterone. Many women have found that they have not needed the same levels of medication, but this is something you must check with your doctor on a regular basis.
Good nutrition is also essential and you need a wide range of nutrients every day to manufacture and metabolize all the body’s hormones, including thyroid. A diet of fresh whole foods are the ideal source but most people also need help from a high grade multivitamin–mineral complex that also has selenium, iodine vitamin A, and zinc for maximum support.
Adding in bioidentical natural progesterone and monitoring your diet are important, and so too is handling your stress levels. Chronic stress has powerful and detrimental effects on your endocrine system because the hormones released as part of the stress response interfere with the production, metabolism and/or utilization of oestrogen, progesterone and your thyroid hormones. That’s why menopausal symptoms that seem to be under control can flare up if you are under stress, it is your hormones natural response as the body tries to deal with it.