Adrenals, thyroid, and the roles they play
Lorna Vanderhaeghe, BSc
Every woman experiences menopause. Symptoms related to this life transition can pose challenges. Find out more about the menopausal transition and the other important body systems at play, such as the thyroid and adrenals.
A normal part of women’s lives, menopause happens gradually over about a year, during which the ovaries cease producing eggs and menstrual cycles gradually end. Lifestyle, diet, and stress may play a role during the menopause transition, creating or aggravating common symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and mood swings. But not every woman experiences these symptoms. Thyroid and adrenal function can also play a role in how we experience this transition.
Your adrenal glands produce small amounts of estrogens along with DHEA and other precursor hormones that are converted in the ovaries to estrogen. You could think of your adrenals as a backup hormone system following menopause. Throughout life, the adrenals also secrete the hormone cortisol to help you deal with life’s stressors.
Unrelenting stress with continual secretion of cortisol is associated with symptoms such as insomnia and other sleep problems; anxiety and depression; angry outbursts; salt, caffeine, and sugar cravings; and abdominal weight gain. Menopausal women with high levels of cortisol may experience more severe hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, anxiety, and insomnia.
Stress reduction, relaxation techniques like yoga and mindfulness training, improving sleep patterns, and taking time for yourself during menopause can support healthy adrenal function and help ease menopausal symptoms.
Since thyroid hormones affect every cell, a deficiency (hypothyroidism) may cause hair loss, constipation, depression, sleep disturbances, dry skin, and weight gain. Research published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology has shown that women with low thyroid who were given thyroid hormone had a reduction in the severity of their menopausal-like symptoms.
For optimal thyroid health, add a good multivitamin with minerals that contains vitamin D3 and selenium, which are cofactors needed to make thyroid hormone.
Take time for you: gain newfound energy by doing what you love more often. Make a list and stroke off goals you have wanted to accomplish. Generously support yourself through this transition.