Relieve Menopause Symptoms with Adrenal and Thyroid Support
Published in: Vitalité Quebec | November 2011 Issue
Written by: Marita Schauch, BSc, ND
Menopause represents a major transition period in the lives of most women. Most women enter menopause between the ages of 45 and 55. The definition of menopause is one year with no menstrual cycle. On average, 70 to 80 per cent of women will experience mild to moderate symptoms, while 10 to15 percent will suffer severe symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include: anxiety, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep problems, brain fog and memory problems, mood swings, irritability, depression, weight gain, urinary incontinence, recurring urinary or vaginal infections and fatigue.
During this time, women experience a decreased production of sex hormones by the ovaries and the adrenal glands and fat cells take over. Then, the liver packages the hormones and the thyroid also plays a role. When the adrenal glands constantly have to adapt to stress, progesterone is converted to the adrenal stress hormones such as cortisol, rather than converting to estrogens and testosterone in the steroid pathway.
So, you can see menopause is much more than the ovaries going on a well-deserved vacation. Whether or not the hormonal transition will be symptomatic or relatively symptom free depends on the health of these organs. Those women with a congested liver, adrenal fatigue or thyroid problems will have a much more difficult time during menopause.
It is common for women to have symptoms of thyroid (over or under activity), particularly during perimenopause and menopause. If the situation is addressed at this point, further depletion of both thyroid and adrenal function can be prevented. If not, most women will be given estrogen replacement for their complaints, which further shuts down the thyroid. High estrogen levels interfere with thyroid hormones, particularly the utilization of T3, the most biologically active thyroid hormone. An underactive thyroid may also result in elevated cholesterol levels and low progesterone to estrogen ratio, both common in menopausal women.
In general, hypothyroidism or low thyroid hormone is a common condition in North America and affects between 20 and 25 per cent of the female population and about 10 percent of males. In addition, approximately 30 per cent of people over the age of 35 may have sub-clinical or mild hypothyroidism where the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) from the pituitary gland is within the normal range but they have many symptoms of low thyroid. If you are tired, gaining weight, have cold hands and feet, hair loss, dry hair or skin, cracking in the heels and insomnia, consider low thyroid. Clinically low thyroid, as confirmed by your doctor, requires prescription medication. However, if your tests come back normal and you are still experiencing symptoms you can support your thyroid with a natural formulation containing L-tyrosine, ashwagandha, guggul, pantothenic acid, copper, manganese and iodine.
As stress follows us for most of our life, once women hit menopause, another major stress becomes a reality. The hormonal fluctuations are a transitional period for women and require the proper support of the adrenal glands to ease menopausal symptoms. As mentioned before, the adrenal glands are key players in menopause and take over the production of sex hormones when the ovaries shut down. If you are experiencing anxiety, weight gain, moodiness, poor sleep, cravings, dizziness, fatigue and headaches you may have adrenal fatigue. Look for an adrenal gland supporting formula containing rhodiola, suma, Siberian ginseng, schisandra and ashwagandha to help reduce the symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
Maintaining optimal function of the adrenal glands and thyroid is a central part of a healthy transition through menopause.
Dr. Marita Schauch BSc ND is a graduate of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Canada’s premier institute for education and research in naturopathic medicine. Dr. Schauch’s recent book, The Adrenal Stress Connection, and health articles educate the public about health and wellness and have been featured in numerous print media. She currently resides and has her clinical practice in Victoria B.C.