Is Hashimoto’s Worse During Your Period?
Hashimoto’s disease is an autoimmune condition that affects the thyroid gland. The thyroid, located at the base of your neck, is responsible for making thyroid hormones that control many processes in your body.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. If you haven’t been officially diagnosed but believe you might have an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s, your doctor will give you a thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) test. It’s one of the most common tests used to diagnose thyroid conditions.
People with Hashimoto’s often deal with a number of health problems as a result of their immune system making antibodies that attack the thyroid gland. Many women with Hashimoto’s experience reproductive system issues related to impaired thyroid function – myself included.
Hashimoto’s affects about 5% of the population, and women are five to eight times more likely than men to develop the condition. It’s important for women to better understand the disease and how it affects the menstrual cycle so that they are more prepared to deal with their symptoms.
Is Hashimoto’s Worse During Period?
Yes, Hashimoto’s is often worse during your period. Hormonal changes are one of the most common causes of Hashimoto’s flare-ups, and your hormones tend to fluctuate quite a bit during your period.
Thyroid hormones and female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone) influence each other. And when your hormones are off-balance, as is often the case in Hashimoto’s, your thyroid will often make symptoms worse.
Plus, thyroid disorders can cause irregularities in your menstrual cycle, so it’s like a constant back-and-forth or never-ending cycle.
A Hashimoto’s flare-up happens when the immune system goes into overdrive to fight against a perceived threat. This immune response is meant to help protect your body from bacteria, viruses, and toxins. But in someone with an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s, the immune system is out of whack and instead reacts to perceived threats by attacking your own tissues, organs, and glands. Stress and hormonal changes are two common flare-up triggers.
Women with Hashimoto’s are often more prone to an inflammatory response during part of their menstrual cycle. Increased inflammation is a problem for people with Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune disorders because it can make symptoms worse and potentially cause a flare-up. In most cases, the inflammatory response happens during the first half of the menstrual cycle, and then a flare-up occurs during the second half as a result.
Menstrual irregularities are common in people with an autoimmune condition like Hashimoto’s.
Hashimoto’s Menstrual Irregularities
Menstrual irregularities related to Hashimoto’s include irregular or absent periods, heavy periods, and decreased fertility.
Irregular Or Absent Periods
Low thyroid hormone levels can cause irregular periods. A thyroid disorder, like Hashimoto’s, can contribute to absent periods (amenorrhea) or infrequent periods (oligomenorrhea).
A heavy period is defined as one or more of the following:
- Bleeding that lasts more than seven days
- Soaking through one or more tampons or pads every hour for several hours in a row
- Needing to wear more than one pad at a time
- Having to change pads or tampons overnight
- Menstruation with blood clots as big as a quarter or larger
Not having enough thyroid hormone can keep you from ovulating, which means a thyroid disorder like Hashimoto’s can make it hard for some women to get pregnant. Hashimoto’s also causes an increased risk of miscarriage.
How To Deal With Hashimoto’s Flare Up During Period
Symptoms of a Hashimoto’s flare-up include:
- A noticeably enlarged thyroid (goiter)
- Unexplained weight gain or bloating
- Brain fog
- Skin changes
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Digestive problems like constipation
- Decreased body temperature or cold intolerance
- Hair loss
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to ease these symptoms.
Get enough sleep.
Getting enough sleep is crucial to thyroid health. Insufficient sleep can trigger a flare-up or make the symptoms of an autoimmune flare-up worse. To ease your symptoms or help prevent a flare-up, try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
To improve the quality of your sleep, try to give yourself enough time before bed to slow down and relax. Instead of scrolling through your phone until you fall asleep, try reading a book or meditating. If you’re constantly struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep, talk to your doctor.
Eat a nutrient-rich, anti-inflammatory diet.
When you have an autoimmune disease, following a healthy, well-balanced diet is one of the best things you can do for yourself. An anti-inflammatory diet loaded with nutrient-rich foods before and during a Hashimoto’s flare-up can also help shorten the flare-up and ease your symptoms.
Drink plenty of water.
It’s important to drink plenty of water with an autoimmune disorder. It’s especially important during a flare-up when your immune system is working overtime to get rid of toxins. The more water you drink, the faster your body is able to flush those toxins.
Drinking more water can also help improve thyroid function and reduce the severity of several common flare-up symptoms like dry skin. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go so you’re more likely to drink water throughout the day.
I know… the last thing you want to do when you’re on your period and having a flare-up is exercise. But most of the time, light exercise is exactly what your body needs. To reduce flare-up symptoms like muscle and joint pain, soreness, and weakness, get up and move.
Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress, which you’ll want to keep to a minimum to avoid flare-ups. When I’m feeling particularly unwell, I tend to prefer exercises like yoga, a light walk, stretching, or an easy swim.
Talk to your doctor.
If you continue to struggle with flare-ups, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or endocrinologist for help. Talk to them about which options are available to help relieve your symptoms. Your healthcare provider might mention options like thyroid medication or hormone replacement therapy.
If there’s one thing you take away from this post, I hope it’s this: you are not alone.
If you’re living with Hashimoto’s, you know all-too-well how challenging things can be. This is especially the case when you’re dealing with a flare-up related to your menstrual cycle. But remember, you’re not alone. There are millions of women experiencing the same challenges as you, which means you have all the support in the world to help you through it.
I strive to make the most of every day, even when my Hashimoto’s tries to hold me back. To read more about how I overcome challenges related to my autoimmune condition and effectively manage even the most uncomfortable symptoms, check out the blog.