Today thyroid disorders and PCOS are very common hormonal problems in women and both can disturb the periods across all age groups. Both the conditions also exist together in many women.
Many women have a lot of misconceptions about thyroid disorders, Whether it is hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Whether the medicines are lifelong, Will I gain or lose weight with thyroid, Can I plan a pregnancy so on and so forth.
In this article, we are going to see how does thyroid affect periods?
Did you know 12 per cent of people will suffer from abnormal thyroid function sometime during their lifetime?
Did you also know that women are eight times more likely than men to have an abnormal thyroid function and the most common symptom by which the abnormal thyroid function is diagnosed in women is by having abnormal periods?
So today we will talk about how does the thyroid or the thyroid dysfunction can affect your periods.
The thyroid is a small gland that is located in the front of your neck wrapped around your windpipe called the trachea. It is shaped like a butterfly, smaller in the middle and has got two wide wings.
The thyroid gland produces three important hormones
- Thyroxin which is T4
- Triidothionine which is T3
All these three hormones control the vital functions of the body, your metabolism and your reproductive hormones.
There is another important hormone called TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) which is secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. It actually controls the production of thyroid hormones, it tells the thyroid how much T3 and T4 to make.
So if your thyroid is producing less amount of thyroid hormones, the pituitary increases the amount of TSH trying to stimulate the thyroid gland to produce more hormones. High TSH means underactive thyroid or hypothyroidism while if your thyroid is producing excessive hormones now the pituitary reduces the amount of TSH trying to downplay the thyroid gland so low TSH means overactive thyroid or hyperthyroidism.
Another important thing to know is iodine. This comes from seafood or foods like iodized salt. This is something that is required for making T3 and T4 hormones.
What causes Hypothyroidism?
So let’s first talk about hypothyroidism which means the thyroid gland is not functioning well and is not producing an adequate amount of thyroid hormones.
Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol level
- Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
- Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
- Heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods
- Thinning of hair
- Slowed heart rate
- Impaired memory
- Enlarged thyroid gland (goitre)
Hypothyroidism is also associated with early puberty, heavy periods, frequent periods and painful periods. It can also cause infertility and abortions.
The most common cause of hypothyroidism is autoimmune, which means certain antibodies or certain immune cells form in the body which actually works against the thyroid gland and prevent it from doing its job of producing the thyroid hormones for example
- Hashimoto’s thyroiditis,
- Genetics and
- Family history
- Environmental toxins and pollutions
- Too little iodine in the diet
- Surgery and radiation on the thyroid gland
- Cancer of thyroid glands
- Certain medications
may cause hypothyroidism.
What Causes Hyperthyroidism?
Hyperthyroidism means that the thyroid gland is producing more hormones than the body needs. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include
- Feeling shaky, nervous
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Diarrhoea and more frequent bowel movements
- Double vision
- Thin skin
- Menstrual changes
- Intolerance to heat and excessive sweating
- Sleep issues
- Swelling and enlargement of the neck from an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre)
- Hair loss and change in hair texture (brittle)
- Bulging of the eyes (seen with Graves’ disease)
- Muscle weakness
Hyperthyroidism patients typically have delayed puberty they have shorter periods, scanty periods and sometimes absent periods.
So the causes of hyperthyroidism could be autoimmune infections of the thyroid gland which is thyroiditis tumours of the thyroid gland and too much iodine in the diet.
Hypothyroidism is much more common than hyperthyroidism.
How does thyroid affect periods?
- Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause disturbed ovulation, progesterone deficiency and hence causes irregular periods. [1,2]
- Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are known to affect the pituitary hormones like prolactin, FSH. Prolactin affects the production of estrogen, thus causing absent or infrequent menstruation. It can also cause other conditions like infertility, galactorrhea (an abnormal milky discharge from the breasts), and symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. [3, 4, 5,]
- Hypothyroidism is known to impair insulin sensitivity which is why as high as 30 to 40 per cent of PCOD patients have associated hypothyroidism. [6, 7]
- Hypothyroidism also causes weight gain which further increases the chances of PCOD. PCOS patients have a higher chance of autoimmune Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. 
- Hypothyroidism also decreases the coagulation factors in the body leading to heavy periods and hyperthyroidism increases the coagulation factors in the body leading to scanty periods. [9, 10]
- There is also an early stage of hypothyroidism which is known as subclinical hypothyroidism. Here only the TSH is elevated and the thyroid gland is still able to produce enough thyroid hormones without treatment this would ultimately progress to overt hypothyroidism and it is very important to treat this also especially if you have any menstrual problems and if you are planning for a baby.
Treatment of Hypothyroidism
Treatment of hypothyroidism is done by taking a medication called levothyroxine. This replaces the thyroid hormone which your thyroid gland is not able to make.
Remember it is a replacement medicine, not a curative medicine.
You have to take this medicine regularly and keep monitoring it with your TSH levels.
Treatment of Hyperthyroidism
This includes the use of
- Drugs like methimazole
- Radioactive iodine
- Surgery of the thyroid gland
Natural ways to fix your thyroid?
In India alone, more than 42,000 people are suffering from thyroid problems.
Our unhealthy, inactive and stressful life is to be blamed.
Women being hormonally sensitive are more prone to this disorder. However, today even males are developing thyroid problems.
But the good news is that thyroid can be permanently cured provided that you are really serious about making a few changes in your lifestyle.
- Food and lifestyle
Avoid packages, refined foods, trans fats and alcohol. Take a healthy homemade diet.
If you are having hypothyroidism avoid goitrogens. Iodine is the most important mineral for ideal thyroid function but avoids iodized free-flowing refined common salt where iodine is synthetically added.
Instead switch to rock salt which naturally contains iodine.
There are some big NOs when suffering from thyroid disease, these are
- Soy products
- Stored refrigerated food
Use earthen pot for cold water
Cabbage, cauliflower and peanuts are three foods that can be consumed but only if they are well roasted or cooked. Avoid eating them raw.
Caffeinated and tannin based things like tea and coffee do hinder thyroid healing.
Keep them to a minimum.
You must stop eating preservative-laden packaged food for a while and switch to fresh home-cooked food.
Simply follow the healthy plate method.
Next time when you sit to eat, fill half your plate with fresh seasonal vegetables. ¼ of the plate with protein-rich curry-like pulses, paneer etc and the remaining ¼ part with complex carbohydrates like chapati, rice or millets.
First, eat the salad and then hop on to the cooked food.
- Exercising regularly
Remember over-exercising is bad and following a sedentary lifestyle is also bad. Try and reduce weight if you have hypothyroidism.
- Work on your stress levels
The amazing thing about yoga is that there are some very specific breathing exercises and asanas for the thyroid that are easy and super effective.
- Tank vidya
Simply hmm the sound of om without opening the mouth and simultaneously keep moving your head up and down.
While doing it you can notice your thyroid gland vibrating.
It is an amazing exercise for the thyroid. Do it 5 times.
- Ujjai pranayama
Probably the most effective for thyroid.
Close the mouth and constrict the throat. Start inhaling slowly and rhythmically in one long and unbroken inspiration.
Allow the air to pass through the constricted throat creating a friction sound. Retain the inhaled air for as long as possible and exhale through the left nostril.
You might experience a little coughing in the beginning but thats completely normal.
Do it for 5 minutes.
- Singhasana (lion pose)
In this asana, the body and the face are manipulated at once to invoke the force and intensity of a lion’s roar.
This posture is one of the best to get rid of thyroid problems.
Do it 10 times.
This basic yoga routine is a must for fast recovery.
The bottom line
Thyroid disorders are actually hormonal disorders but are most of the time diagnosed by a gynaecologist when a woman comes with irregular, heavy or scanty periods. So if you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder please do not take it lightly, take your medications regularly and have a regular follow-up with your doctor.
Shecontent has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations.
- NCBI- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5980701/
- Fertility and Sterility- https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(00)01589-2/fulltext
- NCBI- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3719326/
- NCBI- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6396624/
- Fertility and Genetics institute- https://inovifertility.com/thyroid-prolactin-and-low-fsh/
- NCBI- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5393155/
- NCBI- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3683210/
- Endocrine Web- https://www.endocrineweb.com/news/thyroid-diseases/59637-hashimotos-thyroiditis-pcos-there-connection
- Menstruationresearch.org- https://www.menstruationresearch.org/2016/02/26/what-your-period-is-trying-to-tell-you-about-your-thyroid/
- Pharmascope.org- https://pharmascope.org/index.php/ijrps/article/view/2433/4833