One of the conditions that many women suffer from as they get older, is hair loss, which they get minimal help for from conventional medicine.

The question that women want answered is this:

“Why do women   start losing their hair as they get older, especially in their late 40’s and 50’s?”

There are many causes of hair loss but one of the most common and often undiagnosed causes in this age bracket is a low functioning thyroid. As women age their thyroid function tends to decline and unfortunately the time of peri-menopause and menopause is when women really need good thyroid function.

So you could ask the question “Do peri-menopause and a low thyroid function go hand in hand?” Very often, yes. Low thyroid function is an underlying problem for many women and quite commonly it’s never picked up until she reaches peri-menopause when her energy drops to the floor and she feels she’s literally dragging herself around. The reason your thyroid has this effect on your hair is that every single cell in your body is dependent on having adequate thyroid hormone levels. The thyroid gland produces 2 major hormones, thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3) and they are responsible for helping cells to produce energy. Your thyroid produces about 1 teaspoon of thyroid hormone [thyroxine] over a year and that 1 teaspoon must drive the metabolic rate of every single cell in the body.

If there isn’t enough T4 and T3 produced, then a wide range of symptoms can develop: Hair loss, brittle nails, cold hands and feet, constipation, dry skin, high cholesterol, poor memory, puffy eyes, weight gain, are just a few. Some of those symptoms are often attributed to peri-menopause and menopause, so the next question is “how can you tell which symptoms relate to which condition?”

Good question! Unfortunately, hypothyroidism [as it’s known clinically] is frequently undiagnosed. The conventional approach and ‘gold standard’ to diagnosing low thyroid function has been to measure TSH [thyroid stimulating hormone]. If the TSH test comes back raised, a diagnosis of hypothyroidism is made and if it comes back normal with the results within the reference range, then the common assumption is that there is no problem with the thyroid. However, there is now a paradigm shift with this assumption. It’s now thought that TSH is not a sensitive enough test in identifying a hypothyroid condition and that relying solely on TSH tests results in under-diagnosing many women who suffer from hypothyroidism.

A more holistic approach includes looking at

  • More comprehensive blood tests
  • Medical history
  • Basal body temperature
  • Physical examination
  • Comprehensive blood tests would check T4 and T3 levels [this can reveal a problem of converting T4 into T3),
  • A medical history would look at signs and symptoms the person experienced and basal body temperature testing is a system of recording body temperature over a period of time.
  • A physical examination notes things like poor eyebrow growth, especially the outer third; swelling under the eyes; hard skin on the heels; very dry skin and hair loss.

Once you’ve identified that there is a low functioning thyroid, can you reverse the condition?

Conventional treatment relies mainly on using Thyroxine, a synthetic form of thyroxine. Another approach is to use a dessicated glandular thyroid product; Armour is a common one in the UK but requires a prescription by a GP. Another approach is to work with a nutritional therapist and use glandular products that have had thyroid hormones removed but work by supporting your thyroid to produce more T4 and T3. Many people find that homeopathic thyroid support works well. Glandular products are usually derived from porcine thyroid so may not be appropriate for some religious groups, however, there are certainly other options to try.

Once the thyroid is properly supported, all those symptoms such as fatigue, hair loss, hard skin on the heels, weight gain can be resolved! It really can turn peoples’ lives around. And as an added benefit, all those symptoms that are often attributed to the menopause – hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, palpitations, and the feeling of a “fuzzy” head – can also be helped.

If you have any of the symptoms listed and they don’t respond to changes in diet, rest, more sleep, less stress etc, it’s a good idea to get a comprehensive thyroid test done which includes testing T4 and T3.

Work with a doctor who is prepared to look at your symptoms from a holistic view point or find a nutritional therapist/naturopath who can arrange for you to have the appropriate lab tests and can suggest glandular products to take.

Correcting your low functioning thyroid can make a huge difference to your enjoyment of life.

About Marian