In my functional medicine practitioner/certified health coach practice, I recently helped a female client, 66 years old, who had been struggling with menopausal symptoms for several years. As of late, my client, a self-described “feisty, passionate Sicilian,” before working with me, was experiencing the following new symptoms:

  • Weight loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Increased appetite
  • Hair loss/thinning hair
  • Poor sleep quality

These symptoms may result from a prolonged hormonal imbalance that may result in Grave’s Disease. 

Her symptoms certainly are indicative of Grave’s Disease. And while my client has yet to be diagnosed with the condition by a medical doctor, I want to present this case study as a cautionary tale for all perimenopausal and menopausal women that it’s imperative to have your sex hormone levels checked and take a hormone replacement therapy under the supervision of a health professional (like yours truly). 

In this article, I’ll explain Grave’s Disease and its connection with menopause. 

What is Grave’s Disease? 

If you’re overweight, being recently diagnosed with Grave’s Disease may sound like a blessing. That’s because one of the earliest warning signs is unexplained weight loss. Unfortunately, it’s not the weight that you want to lose. Grave’s Disease may cause muscle wasting as it did for my client. It also caused her joint and muscle pain. 

Grave’s Disease is an autoimmune disorder most commonly associated with hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid gland). Most people with thyroid disorders have hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid function. Nonetheless, over 4.2 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have hyperthyroidism, according to the Cleveland Clinic

Mainstream medicine is unsure what causes Grave’s Disease, which causes the immune system to attack healthy thyroid gland tissue and causes the thyroid to produce too much thyroid hormone. 

In the case of my client, she did receive a blood test from her GP. The blood test revealed that she had high levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and low levels of thyroxine, or T4. 

I’m about to geek out on the science a little, but I’ll try to keep it simple. 

The Connection Between TSH and T4

TSH and T4 are both hormones involved in regulating the thyroid gland, which controls your metabolism. This is why the thyroid gland is often compared to a furnace. And every furnace has a thermostat. The body’s thermostat is the pituitary gland, which produces and releases TSH. When the thyroid gland receives TSH, two main thyroid hormones are produced: T3 (Triiodothyronine) and T4. 

If levels of T3 (the active thyroid hormone) and T4 (inactive thyroid hormone) are low, the pituitary releases more TSH to stimulate the thyroid to make more T3 and T4. But in the case of Grave’s Disease, there’s too much TSH produced. So the thyroid doesn’t make enough T4 and T3. 

If you consult medical textbooks, you’ll learn that hyperthyroidism can influence the onset and symptoms of menopause. Not only that some research shows that Grave’s Disease may lead to earlier menopause due to insufficient ovarian production. 

But what if you’re like my client who went through menopause at a normal age and only started developing symptoms of Grave’s Disease well after perimenopause? 

To be clear, menopause itself does not directly cause hyperthyroidism, but it can affect thyroid function. While some women develop a condition called postmenopausal thyroiditis, which involves inflammation of the thyroid gland and temporary thyroid dysfunction, I believe hormonal imbalance is the root cause of thyroid dysfunction. 

Progesterone & Grave’s Disease

When you think of hormonal imbalance and menopause, what comes to mind? For most people, it’s a lack of estrogen. But what many don’t realize is that you need adequate levels of progesterone to balance estrogen. It’s not enough to take estrogen creams or pellets or eat mountains of edamame. You also need to ensure your progesterone levels are adequate.

After menopause, progesterone levels substantially plummet from 5-20 ng/ml to less than 0.5 ng/ml. This makes the decline in progesterone levels more significant than the loss of estrogen. This is a natural part of the aging process as progesterone is involved with reproduction and the menstrual cycle. And although 0.5 doesn’t sound like an amount that would matter in the grand scheme of thyroid function, it matters a lot. 

The decline during menopause can contribute to hormonal imbalances, which may exacerbate symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.

It’s highly likely that my client’s progesterone levels were virtually non-existent, leading to the dysfunction of her thyroid gland. In this case, it seems to have caused her own immune system to start attacking its thyroid gland. 

How To Reverse Hyperthyroidism, Naturally

I ordered some lab tests for my client to determine her sex hormone levels. Sure enough, her results revealed a progesterone level of 0.1 ng/ml. Her estrogen levels were also low. As a result, I ordered progesterone and estrogen cream for her and we retested her levels after 3 months. The retest showed a dramatic improvement and her symptoms were dramatically improved. 

But it wasn’t just the bioidentical hormone therapy cream. We also worked on refining her diet and exercise routine (it turned out she was exercising too much!). And last but not least, I taught her a couple of simple stress-reduction techniques. 

There’s more to overcoming hyperthyroidism (and its opposite) than these strategies. If you want to optimize your thyroid function or discover the root cause of what’s holding you back, the first step is contacting me for a no-obligation, cost-free brief consult. 

Until next time…

Jenna Witt, NP

Nurse Practitioner

Functional Medicine Practioner 
Certified Health Coach
Mother of 4
Owner of Fundamental Wellness Nebraska