Read I'm Too Young for This!: The Natural Hormone Solution to Enjoy Perimenopause Online
Authors: Suzanne Somers
Tags: #Health & Fitness, #Healthy Living, #Alternative Therapies, #Sexuality
Your thyroid can become low or underactive as a result of a genetic inheritance, exposure to certain viruses, iodine deficiency, direct physical trauma to the thyroid, indirect trauma (such as whiplash), autoimmune disease, or environmental toxins. In some cases the body itself will produce thyroid antibodies in a mistaken immune response, where the body perceives it is under threat and then produces antibodies to attack and disarm the threat. Insufficient dietary iodine can also cause hypothyroidism (as well as fibrocystic breasts). Iodine is utilized by every hormone receptor in the body, so deficient iodine can result in problems such as ovarian cysts, thyroid goiters, and hormonal imbalances.
Low thyroid causes weight gain. It is a classic symptom of this dysfunction. In such cases, levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone
(TSH) may rise in an attempt to spur more production and secretion of thyroid hormones from the thyroid gland. Other symptoms include: cold intolerance, particularly the extremities (cold hands and feet), fatigue, dry skin and follicular keratosis (like goose bumps on the triceps’ skin on the back of the arm), constipation, obesity/difficulty losing weight, swelling all over (swollen eyelids, swollen calves), hoarse morning voice, morning depression, orange coloration on the soles of the feet, slow pulse rate, high diastolic blood pressure, slow Achilles tendon reflexes, slow thinking, poor concentration, muscle and articular pains, PMS, menstrual abnormalities, low libido, brittle nails, frequent colds, flu, and other infections. As you can see from this long list of symptoms, low thyroid is no joke.
Depression is also frighteningly common. Many women with thyroid problems suffer from depression. One explanation for this is that T3 is actually a neurotransmitter that regulates the action of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and norepinephrine, two brain chemicals that are important for alleviating depression (
Perhaps the most awful of all symptoms, and this one is not common, is losing control of
and acting irrationally, crazy, literally out of control. It can begin as low-grade depression, but in severe cases people can experience hallucinations and delusions. This rare condition is sometimes referred to as “hypothyroid insanity.” Other symptoms of it are mental confusion, loss of memory, and delusions of persecution. I often wonder if those who go on shooting rampages are delusional from low thyroid. It is certainly something to consider. I mention it only because in the extreme chance that you recognize yourself in this description, you should immediately contact a doctor for help.
Hashimoto’s is another form of dysfunctional thyroid, though not common, that women write to me about. It is a condition that causes the body’s defenses, the immune system, to produce antibodies that over time destroy thyroid tissue. As a result, the thyroid gland cannot make enough thyroid hormone. The inflammation of the thyroid that results from the body’s attack is aggravated by food allergies and intolerances (usually gluten, wheat, and other grains; and sweets, even including fruits like grapes or dried fruit). Hashimoto’s disease is complex, but its symptoms are worth recognizing. They may be mild at first or take years to develop. The first sign of the disease is often an enlarged thyroid, called a goiter. The goiter may cause the front of your neck to look swollen. A large goiter may make swallowing difficult. Other symptoms of an underactive thyroid due to Hashimoto’s disease may include: unexplained weight gain, fatigue, paleness or puffiness of the face, joint and muscle pain, constipation, inability to get warm, difficulty getting pregnant, hair loss or thinning/brittleness, irregular or heavy menstrual periods, depression, and slowed heart rate.
There is no cure for Hashimoto’s disease, but don’t despair. There is no “cure” for perimenopause either, but we know now that by putting back the hormones you are missing you can regain your quality of life. With Hashimoto’s disease, replacing thyroid correctly and regulating iodine can balance hormone levels.
Thyroid function tests tell you whether your thyroid is working normally. Your symptoms will also tell you, if you are in tune with the language of your body. When TSH is measured, most doctors consider normal to be in the 0.2 to 5.5 range. However, the normal range is no longer considered optimal by antiaging doctors. Optimal is between 1.0 and 2.0; higher than this and
you can experience premature aging and an increased risk of heart disease. Philip Miller, M.D., author of
The Life Extension Revolution
, says, “If your thyroid levels are above 4.0 (still considered normal range), you are at increased risk of heart disease.”
You may be going to a doctor with complaints that indicate your thyroid is too high or too low, but then your blood work comes back in the normal range. Your doctor therefore, may not treat your thyroid because he or she considers it normal. Yet it could be one of the big reasons you are symptomatic and gaining weight. When the thyroid is not working at optimal range for
, you will not get the full benefit of bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, should you choose to use it.
The thyroid is very complex, and it takes a master to understand and interpret your labs fully. That is why you need to know the symptoms and tell your doctor everything that you are feeling. Hypothyroidism is very common in perimenopause, as I stated earlier, because estrogen and progesterone levels become imbalanced. Your ovaries have thyroid receptors on them and your thyroid gland has ovarian receptors (see how they interact with one another?). When your ovaries stop making estrogen, your thyroid is also affected.
Whenever thyroid problems are suspected or treated, it is important to monitor adrenal function as well. Attempting to treat low thyroid levels without supporting the adrenals can deplete the adrenal glands. At the same time, if your adrenals are weak, symptoms of low thyroid may persist even after your thyroid levels have been restored. Let’s find out more about the adrenal glands.
Adrenal fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms that results from low function of the adrenal glands. The paramount
symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep. The syndrome may be caused by intense or prolonged stress, or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis, or pneumonia … people suffering from adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas, and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.
—James L. Wilson,
I like to describe the hormones of the body as a symphony. The
are the conductor. Adrenaline comes from two triangular glands, the adrenals, which sit on top of each kidney. The adrenals also produce cortisol and together with adrenaline speed up heart rate, regulate blood pressure, and aid in other bodily functions that help you cope with stress. We’ll get to cortisol in a bit; for now I want to focus on adrenaline.
The adrenals’ hormones are also (like the thyroid) directed by the hypothalamus, which then communicate with the pituitary. The pituitary in turn communicates with the thyroid and then back to the adrenals. In this loop, the adrenals communicate with all the other hormones, telling them what to do. If all the hormones are balanced and in perfect working order, the symphony is in tune. It is
. We all know how beautiful that sounds. It’s the same with the body. When all is in perfect tune, you feel in harmony. You feel wonderful. If the orchestra leader (adrenals) doesn’t show up, then all the other players who are able to play don’t know
to play, so they become discordant. Sadly, most people are not in tune; they have no harmony. That is why aging becomes accelerated. Most people are walking around feeling unwell. Because they are not flat-out sick (yet) they accept it as the way it is. They don’t know that having hormonal harmony creates a state of bliss.
It is important to your quality of life that all your hormones are working at optimum. This is why I am spending so much time in this chapter dissecting each hormone’s function and purpose.
Adrenaline is our engine … it pushes us forward. You’ve felt it, that surge of boundless energy. If we are living a balanced life, our bodies release adrenaline when we need that surge and then afterward we return to a calmer baseline.
Problems arise when we get addicted to adrenaline and put ourselves in situations that continually feed our bodies more and more of it. These people are “adrenaline junkies.” You don’t need to be jumping out of airplanes to be addicted to adrenaline. You just need to be “on” at all times, craving or living in a high-energy state nonstop. You know these people; you may be one of them: every minute of each day is filled with activities, responsibilities, and piles and piles of things on the to-do list, with lots of check marks ticking off completed tasks. It is often said, “If you want something done fast and well, ask the busiest person you know.” There is truth in that statement. These busy, busy people are likely running on adrenaline, nature’s best energy bar. But like a caffeine bump or an illicit drug’s high, it’s addictive and also dangerous to your health.
Why is it a problem? Because if you continue down this path you can “blow out” your adrenals and they can become fatigued. Once that happens your adrenals won’t produce enough cortisol, and it will go too low. I know firsthand; I’ve blown out my adrenals from overwork and overbusyness, myself. It’s not fun!
When your adrenals are burned out the way mine were, you have no energy and you feel a “racing” inside that makes sleep impossible, which further hurts the function of your adrenals. The lack of sleep makes everything worse. What do you do when you are exhausted? You crave caffeine, or drugs, any stimulant that gives a false sense of energy. When you don’t sleep soundly
for days, weeks, even months (or like me,
), the result is depression.
The sad thing is most women go to their doctors at this point and instead of understanding the major impact of burned-out adrenals, their doctors will give them antidepressants like Paxil or Prozac. Now you are in trouble. Resorting to these substances is a road to nowhere, leaving you in a worse state.
I have burned out my adrenals three times in my career. It feels terrible, and it shortens your life. It also is a setup for a heart attack. I’ve had a tendency to overwork and reached total burnout too often. Think about this the next time you find yourself awarded the honor of being the busiest person you know. Who is really benefiting? Certainly not you!
People who have adrenal insufficiency suffer a lot. They are not calm. They live feeling like at any moment the sky is going to fall. They also are generally more negative than others. And, guess what, most of us are in this boat. The American Academy for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) estimates that 85 percent of Americans are walking around with burned-out adrenals, meaning adrenal burnout and borderline adrenal burnout are very common. The diagnosis is difficult because the causes are different: it could be from imbalanced minor hormones, overworking (superwoman syndrome), or a high level of toxicity causing you to have great difficulty to operate at maximum, or all of the above.
Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:
• Heart palpitations
• Recurrent infections
• Low blood sugar
• Inability to sleep
In addition to overwork and busyness, here are some of the other factors that can cause it:
• Not enough rest, sleeplessness
• Hormone imbalance
• Dietary imbalances
• Poor diet with excess calories from junk food
• Birth control pills
See yourself in this list?
The correction for burned-out adrenals includes sleep, a change in your diet, and a shift in your thinking. The present situation is not serving you well, so it’s time to change.
I vowed never to do that to myself again. I changed my life. I reprioritized my daily schedule, made time for sleep. I do yoga three times a week, and I realize that relaxation time is as important as being busy. I no longer stay up late, whereas I used to stay up until the wee hours of the morning writing my books. Now I try to be in bed by 9:00 p.m. It takes retraining. I have readjusted my social schedule so that I do not go out two nights in a row, and I try not to go out more than two nights a week. I know had I not done this, I would be in big trouble by now.
Your doctor can test for adrenal fatigue with a simple saliva test to determine if your adrenals are blown out. These same tests also measure your cortisol levels. Whether you are producing too much or too little cortisol, adrenal imbalance can lead to serious health problems … which is why the next major hormone you need to know more about is cortisol.
Cortisol is your stress hormone. It is released by your adrenal glands. When you encounter a stressful situation, you quickly release cortisol to raise your blood sugar level and give you energy. You’ve heard of those instances where a five-foot-nothing mom lifts a car to save her trapped child? Well, that’s cortisol at work mobilizing energy and fast. It’s the same as if you were to encounter a knife-wielding stranger. Your body springs into action, thanks to adrenaline and cortisol, so you can quickly run away. Crazy events like this aside, you cannot live very long without cortisol. It is that important to your body’s functioning.
Cortisol is the only major hormone where if you do not have any of it, you will die at the first body stressor, like an infection. (I told you it was important.) Cortisol is needed for mood enhancement, dynamism, work capacity, stress resistance, stimulation of our immune defenses, antirheumatic action (joint pains), and antipain action.