There are many common symptoms shared between hypothyroidism and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and correct diagnosis takes thorough testing and evaluation. In fact, up to one-quarter of women with PCOS also have an underlying thyroid disease driving the symptoms, and if the thyroid is not treated, it is impossible to regain balance and vitality naturally.
Women battling hypothyroidism generally feel more tired, cold, and sluggish and they’re the ones who are more at risk of developing PCOS.
What is PCOS?
Polycystic ovararian syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal condition, that affects how our ovaries function & produce hormones. A number of external triggers can lead to the development of these hormonal imbalances, including; insulin resistance, inflammation, androgen excess, and the contraceptive Pill.
The symptoms of PCOS vary, but will include some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Irregular periods. This can show up as having big gaps between menstrual periods or having periods that are not regular, or very heavy periods.
- Excess androgen production. Generally, a blood test will determine if this is the case, but the signs include excess body hair – such as around the mouth or jaw, lower belly, or lower arms. Often oily skin and acne will accompany this – which may be hormonal or may be constant.
- Weird cravings. It is very common for a blood sugar issue to be a big driver of PCOS, which may show up as sugar or cholate cravings. You may crave salt, or carbs too.
- Ovarian cysts. This is identified by ultrasound. The ovaries may be large or have multiple cysts.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the bottom of our throat. It produces 1 teaspoon of thyroid hormone a year! Even the tiniest change in this affects our body greatly. Too much hormone speeds all our cells up causing weight loss, anxiety, heart palpitations, and sweating. It can be a life-threatening situation. Too little slows the entire body down – weight gain, feeling cold, brain fog, slow healing – to name a few effects of low thyroid hormones.
Imagine making 1 teaspoon of butter last a whole year! You can imagine how just the tiniest error in judgment would have you run out early! Our passion at The Lucy Rose Clinic is working with people to optimise their thyroid hormones, resulting in the best health outcomes, preventing and reversing many diseases, and helping people live their best life.
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- Weight gain – when the thyroid is slow, so is the rest of the body. The metabolism slows right down and the body uses fewer calories for its daily functions. Weight gain ensues, and can become impossible to shift even with diet and exercise.
- Fatigue – When the thyroid is slow, you do not have as much cellular energy production and this affects your energy at all times. Particularly in the morning getting out of bed, before you have had a coffee to kick start!
- Slow speech and movement – due to the slower metabolism, you can also find your body slower to move, reflexes are slower, and you may feel more clumsy, finding random bruises on your thighs from where you bump into things.
- Dry skin – hypothyroidism causes dry skin, but with PCOS, the skin is usually oilier – if you have both conditions, you may experience both extremes such as dry skin on the legs and elbows, but oily hair and t-zone on the face.
- Irregular menstrual cycle – hypothyroidism causes a longer menstrual cycle and many women also have heavier bleeds.
- Feeling colder – a slow thyroid results in energy being pulled from the periphery of the body into the core. This results in cold feet and hands, and the tip of the nose. You will be wearing at least one extra layer of clothing than other people.
How The Thyroid Affects PCOS
When someone has both hypothyroidism and PCOS, they tend to have more symptoms occurring.
In women with hypothyroidism, thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH and prolactin levels increase. High levels of prolactin raise luteinising hormone (LH) levels, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This leads to the formation of cysts in the ovaries.
Therefore, in many cases, a thyroid condition will cause PCOS. Although scientists are not sure if PCOS leads to thyroid disease or vice versa, it seems a sure assumption that they are linked.
PCOS and Hashimoto’s
It is estimated that 95% of hypothyroid cases are due to the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s disease. This is identified with a blood test looking at the numbers of thyroid antibodies – either Anti Thyroglobulin Ab. or Anti Thyroid Peroxidase Ab. Or both in some cases.
The results of a study revealed that 22.5% of women with PCOS had hypothyroidism compared to 8.75% who did not, and thyroid antibodies were found in 27% of PCOS patients.
Sadly, Hashimoto’s disease can take up to 10 years to be formally diagnosed as antibodies are not routinely tested – especially if the TSH test is inside the accepted reference range, plus there is a chance of getting false positive results in the disease with testing as well.
However, you do not need to wait. You can book an appointment with us to run testing to get earlier answers to your hormone health status. When caught early, much can be done to correct the driving factors behind the disease and get your hormones back into a healthy balance.
What can you do?
Luckily, there is hope. Hormone imbalances do not tend to fix themselves, some type of intervention needs to occur. Sometimes that may be medical, but if caught in early stages, these conditions can be managed with a corrective natural medicine approach. However, if you are already needing medical intervention, you can still work with a functional medicine practitioner to support you and guide you to the best health outcomes.
As we discuss in our eBook THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO MANAGING YOUR PCOS NATURALLY, there are 5 types of PCOS, and many people have more than 1 of them. You can even have all 5 types occurring, which may be the case if your PCOS case is particularly extreme. Even so, natural medicine coupled with the right diet and lifestyle changes will start to alleviate the intensity of the symptoms by addressing the driving factors – it is not another band-aid approach.
Work with an expert
Working with a hormone-savvy naturopath is the surest way to get you feeling back to your old self. At The Lucy Rose Clinic, we run sensitive testing to identify the subtle markers driving PCOS and thyroid issues that are often overlooked. Testing such as food intolerance testing, full thyroid panels, blood sugar markers, inflammation markers, iodine status, and much more, gives your Lucy Rose therapist the data needed to get you from where you are right now, to a big step up not just in your symptoms, but in your overall health and vitality.
Here is just one of our happy client reviews:
The most helpful, evidence based assitance you will receive for your thyroid and general health. I have been to so many GPs, natropaths, endocronologist etc and none have assisted in the way this group has. Very professional and well organised…
If you would like to discuss your health with one of our experience and caring team, book in a free 15-minute appointment – we would love to connect with you and discuss how we can help!