The PCOS Thyroid Connection
25% of women with PCOS have a thyroid condition!
There seems to be a strong connection between PCOS and hypothyroidism that needs to be examined. I’m going to cover the basics first, so all of this makes sense. Hormones can be complicated to explain and understand so I will try my best to break it down into understandable information. Let’s dig in!
What is your Thyroid?
Your thyroid gland secretes hormones that regulate the metabolic processes in the body.
What is Hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is when you experience low thyroid function. You don’t make enough thyroid hormones specifically T3 and T4 to meet your body’s needs. You produce too much TSH. If you have heard people refer to their thyroid as underactive, then they are referring to hypothyroidism.
What are symptoms of Hypothyroidism?
It is important to know the signs and symptoms, so you can get tested to determine if you have a sluggish thyroid and need treatment. Some symptoms include:
· Weight gain
· Mood changes
· Brain fog
· Low sex drive
· Cold hands and feet and cold intolerance
· Low body temperature
· Dry skin, hair, and nails
· Thinning outer third of the eyebrow
· Hair loss
· Heavy periods or other menstrual problems
· Recurrent headaches
· Decreased sweating
· Muscle or joint aches
· Heart palpitations
· Digestive problems
What causes hypothyroidism?
Hypothyroidism is caused when T4 doesn’t convert into T3. T4 is inactive and acts as storage and needs to convert into the active version T3 before it can be used. There are several causes that can lead to hypothyroidism including:
· Too much stress
· Too much estrogen
· Not enough selenium, iron or zinc
· Caloric insufficiency
· Environmental toxins
· Vitamin D deficiency
· Goitrogens- aka broccoli, Brussel sprouts, kale, soy, and millet
· Cancer Treatments
Tests to determine Hypothyroidism
There is a strong connection between PCOS and hypothyroidism and since a lot of the symptoms are similar, it is important to get a complete thyroid panel done. It is a simple blood test than can be ordered. These are the tests that should be run by your doctor to determine if there is a problem:
· Anti TPO
· Anti TG
What Should Your Thyroid Ranges Be?
According to the American Association for Clinical Chemistry they recommend the upper limit of normal for TSH to be 2.5 mIU/L.
If your TSH is greater than 2.5 and you have a low/normal fT3, fT4 then you have subclinical hypothyroidism.
If your TSH is greater than 5 and you have a low fT3, fT4 than you have overt hypothyroidism.
Women with PCOS tend to due better with a TSH below 2-2.5.
To sustain a healthy pregnancy, your TSH needs to be below 2.5.
Treatments for Hypothyroidism
Once a thyroid condition is diagnosed, doctors will prescribe a thyroid replacement medication. Based on your test results, the doctor will decide which kind is best for you and your situation.
It is important to get the correct balance of hormone, so you will be asked to get your levels tested in about 6-8 weeks to determine where your hormones reside with the use of the medication. Your doctor will then have to tweak your dosage accordingly.
Be patient, it might take some time to get the right dosage for you. But once you get your levels right, you should notice a difference in your symptoms.
Who should be managing your care?
An endocrinologist should have the most knowledge treating and diagnosing thyroid conditions. A functional medicine doctor could manage it as well. Some primary care doctors might treat you as well but be careful, they must be up on the latest information and guidelines. Primary care doctors are more generalists than anything.
Supplements to help with Hypothyroidism:
· Vitamin A
· Vitamin D
***Dosage and needs vary person to person. Talk to your doctor about any supplements you want to start taking.
RELATED: 7 Best Supplements for PCOS
How does this relate to PCOS?
When you don’t have enough thyroid hormones your PCOS symptoms can worsen. This can result in hair loss, acne, hirsuitism, and infertility. Your endocrine system must be in harmony for you to be healthy and for your body to work efficiently. It is important to rule out any thyroid issues first before a PCOS diagnosis.
PCOS and hypothyroidism are closely linked. Make sure you advocate for yourself and get a through work-up to make sure that your thyroid is functioning properly. Now that you are armed with information, you can make sure you are getting the care that you need and deserve.