Here’s what to know about thyroid dysfunction — and how to get tested.
Although millions of men experience thyroid dysfunction, women are 10 times more likely to have a thyroid imbalance.
The reasons are uncertain, but according to integrative physician and gynecologist Sara Gottfried, MD, the phenomenon is linked to female hormones, since estrogen dominance (a condition in which estrogen levels are high relative to progesterone) has been implicated as a contributing factor.
The interaction between the thyroid and a woman’s reproductive hormones is significant: Hypothyroidism can lead to infertility, miscarriage, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), osteoporosis, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), irregular cycles, uterine fibroids, low libido, and difficulty in menopause.
For many women, thyroid problems first arise during times of hormonal unrest, such as childbearing and periods of prolonged or intense emotional, physical, and mental stress. According to Gottfried,
Women are most vulnerable after pregnancy and during perimenopause and menopause. Thyropause — a drop in reproductive hormones that often triggers hypothyroidism — is the main cause of fatigue, weight gain, and depression.
A woman’s hormonal matrix is a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario. Boosting thyroid function has a beneficial effect on ovaries and adrenals, but the opposite is also true: Resolving estrogen dominance, low progesterone, and adrenal fatigue can help rebalance thyroid hormones, too. All the organs and glands talk to each other; they also compensate for each other, explains family nutritionist and naturopathic endocrinologist Laura Thompson, PhD.
All of these systems need to be aligned,
Otherwise, the thyroid can be sidetracked by the ovaries and adrenals, especially in the presence of estrogen dominance and adrenal burnout.
Estrogen dominance can contribute to hypothyroid conditions, especially in menopause. The use of high estradiol birth-control pills can also contribute to low thyroid conditions.
But men aren’t entirely immune to hormonally triggered hypothyroidism, she notes:
Low testosterone often accompanies low thyroid in both men and women.