Dr Marion Gluck, hormones expert and owner of the Marion Gluck Clinic, explains the science behind your hormones and their influence over your metabolism and thyroid health post-menopause.
What is the thyroid?
Thyroid is a hormone that is produced by your thyroid glands. It regulates your body’s metabolism, energy levels and your sensitivity to other hormones — including oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone. There are two thyroid hormones, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4).
Oestrogen is the key player
It can often be confusing to hear that oestrogen dominance is one of the primary factors that lead to weight gain during menopause, as it is commonly understood that oestrogen levels drop during this time.
One way that oestrogen dominance impacts on health is by stopping the conversion of T4 into T3 thyroid hormone which leads to low T3 levels. This means that although there is not a direct issue with the thyroid gland, symptoms of hypothyroidism will be experienced.
Too much oestrogen can also block the uptake of thyroid hormones, once again leading to symptoms of hypothyroidism. These symptoms often manifest most strongly during perimenopause, when progesterone levels are significantly decreased but oestrogen is still present.
Everything is connected
Oestrogens are primarily made in the ovaries and adrenal glands. There are three different types, all of which have vital roles in the body. In women, oestrogens help regulate body fat, are essential to female reproductive function, cardiovascular health, bone health and brain function (including memory).
As the liver metabolises oestrogen, this conjugated oestrogen is delivered to the bile for excretion into the gut. A healthy estrobolome minimises reabsorption of oestrogen from the gut allowing safe removal as waste in stool and urine again ensuring hormone balance.
It is very common for many patients who have symptoms of thyroid dysfunction to have normal or borderline results in their function blood test. When testing for thyroid dysfunction most GPs check only TSH and T4 (thyroxine) levels.
We assume that when these levels are normal then thyroxine is adequate, but for patients who still experience debilitating symptoms we should also check the T3 (tri-iodothyronine) levels. T3 is an active circulating hormone made from T4.
A blood test for TSH — stimulating hormone — screens for an underactive or overactive thyroid. These conditions can cause weight gain and loss, mood swings, anxiety and bad skin.
Find out more at nhs.co.uk