Are you a woman in your late 30s to early 50s feeling depressed, anxious and generally “not yourself”? Have you been to your doctor or therapist only to leave frustrated because the reason can’t be pinned down? Do you sometimes feel fine and hours or days later feel miserable? There are many hormonal changes interacting in your body during this time of life that many doctors and therapists are unaware of.
Women in the age range from late 30s to early 50s are typically in perimenopause. This is a period of drastically changing hormones. In many women, it is not just the female hormones-estrogen and progesterone- that are changing. Many women in the menopausal transition experience changes in their thyroid functioning creating a decrease in their thyroid hormone levels. All of these hormones have an effect on mood and energy.
What many doctors miss is the relationship between changing female hormone levels and the body’s requirement for thyroid hormone. When women’s estrogen levels are high, their bodies require more thyroid hormone. Conversely, when women’s estrogen levels are low, their bodies require less thyroid hormone. In women with healthy, well-functioning thyroids, this is not a problem since the thyroid secrets the appropriate amount of thyroid hormone to fit the body’s requirements. When the thyroid is not adequately functioning, as is common in the 40s and 50s, problems are likely to arise.
As women progress through perimenopause, their estrogen levels are changing frequently and drastically. This places a huge demand on the thyroid to manage the appropriate levels of thyroid hormone. When the thyroid is ailing, the level of thyroid hormone will be inadequate for the needs of the body. A visit to the doctor, even when blood work is done, may yield misleading results. If at the hour of the visit, your estrogen levels dip, the thyroid hormone level may appear adequate even though the thyroid may be grossly inadequate for those times that estrogen levels are high. At that time, the thyroid will not be able to keep up with the demand. Unless your doctor is familiar with the changing hormonal levels during perimenopause and how that interacts with your thyroid, they may miss the source of your symptoms.
Checking the blood levels of thyroid hormone several times will give a better indication of what is really going on in your body. Doctors also need to carefully attend to the symptoms and feelings a woman is experiencing, especially if they are in this age bracket. There are many helpful remedies, so women should pursue finding the right health professional to get the support they deserve.