How often do you blame endometriosis for exhaustion, low libido, bad periods, depression, or anxiety?
Before I trained as a women’s health coach, I assumed that many of my mystery symptoms were caused by endo. It made sense — endometriosis has been linked to depression and anxiety, and most endo patients frequently experience chronic fatigue.
The problem with the long list of complicated symptoms that fall under the endometriosis umbrella is that often more is going on than just endo alone, but because we’re told that not much can be done about it, we put up with these symptoms without digging any deeper.
Recently, I’ve been working with several clients who I suspect have hypothyroidism, a condition in which the output of thyroid hormones is reduced. Because thyroid hormones play such a pivotal role throughout the body, low thyroid function can cause pretty terrible symptoms.
Many of my clients have been dealing with exhaustion, cold sensitivity, infertility, low libido, and brain fog for years, but now they’re completely debilitated. We’ve started the testing process, and my suspicions are beginning to be confirmed.
This isn’t surprising. Studies have linked endometriosis to thyroid disorders, but the stress that endometriosis causes can play a role, too.
Aviva Romm, author of “The Adrenal Thyroid Revolution,” has written extensively about how chronic stress affects the thyroid by causing hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction. So, could unaddressed HPA axis dysfunction result in a thyroid disorder, or at least a struggling thyroid? Absolutely. Elevated levels of cortisol actually suppress thyroid function and thyroid hormones in multiple ways, as well as causing autoimmune problems, Romm explained.
What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?
- Chronic fatigue
- Low libido
- Painful joints
- Cognitive impairment such as brain fog and forgetfulness
- Feeling cold all the time or particularly sensitive to cold
- Dry skin and hair
- Hair loss or thinning (including eyebrows)
- Weight gain
- Low moods or depression
- Period problems such as heavy, long, or painful periods
- Infertility or miscarriage
Romm and Jolelne Brighten provide informative and extensive symptoms lists, if you’ve noticed your own struggles with any of the above.
So, what should you do if you suspect hypothyroidism or a sluggish thyroid?
One of the easiest ways to confirm your suspicions is to take your basal body temperature each morning before doing anything. Just stay in bed and check your temp before doing anything else.
The Fertility Awareness Method is a form of natural contraception, but it also is a wonderful way to chart your cycle and know exactly when you’re ovulating and what’s happening in your cycle. It allows you the chance to observe your normal patterns and distinguish when something’s up.
Before ovulation, your temperature levels should range between 96 and 98 F. After ovulation, you should see a permanent jump from 97 F to about 99 F, which will last until your period.
However, if you basal body temp is lower than this, it could indicate hypothyroidism, which is how my clients and I were able to identify an issue and convince their doctors to test their thyroid levels.
Testing to see what’s happening with your thyroid levels is a little bit trickier. I’ve been trained in functional lab tests rather than the standard lab tests that most general practitioners do. The difference is that most primary care practitioners will test only one or two, and maybe three markers, whereas a functional thyroid lab test (often called a full thyroid panel) looks at Reverse T3, Free T4, Free T3, TSH, and two antibodies — thyroid peroxidase antibody and thyroglobulin antibody.
The other issue is that the margins differ. With a standard test, you might get results that say you’re statistically “normal,” when in fact your thyroid levels are struggling. Functional lab tests can identify where thyroid problems are beginning to creep in before they get too far.
If you don’t have the budget to do a private test, start with your general practitioner, but educate yourself. Read up on the ideal ranges and understand your results, rather than assuming things are fine because you’re statistically “normal.”
If you don’t feel well, please don’t assume it’s just endo and that’s just the way it is. In my experience, there’s usually more to the story.
Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.
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