It may come as a surprise to you that PCOS – a bringer of chaos and anarchy in the land down under – is associated with thyroid disorders – conditions related to a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. This association can in turn change a lot of things about your PCOS or thyroid diagnosis.
While researchers aren’t quite sure how these two conditions are related, it is clear that there is a bidirectional relationship between them. For example, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are three times more likely to suffer from thyroid disorders than normal people. At the same time, thyroid disorders are known to affect the ovaries in a similar way as PCOS, causing the enlargement of the ovaries and the formation of cysts.
Hold up! Before proceeding further, let’s rewind a little: What does the thyroid even do? Yeah, let’s get to that first.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that produces hormones responsible for controlling your body’s metabolism – the process by which your body changes food into energy.
To make this possible, the thyroid works with the pituitary gland located in the center of the skull. The pituitary gland monitors the levels of thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) in your blood stream; if it senses a deficiency, it will release thyroid stimulating hormones (TSH) for the thyroid. In a perfect world, the thyroid will take this information and produce the right amount of hormones to keep your body’s metabolism running at the right rate.
But this isn’t a perfect world, if it is, we wouldn’t be here.
You must be already familiar with this condition who’s finding increasing mentions in casual talks, health journals, lifestyle magazines, and the likes. To sum up PCOS in a single line: It’s a hormonal disorder that disrupts the ovulation process in women and causes irregular periods.
Some Facts About Thyroid and PCOS
PCOS is associated with Hyperthyroidism
Not much of a surprise when the entire blog is about PCOS and thyroid. As we mentioned before, PCOS and thyroid share a bidirectional relationship. PCOS and thyroid disorders are both inflammatory conditions, and it is believed that if someone has one inflammatory condition, they will likely develop other inflammatory conditions.
Researchers also speculate that a specific combination of risk factors, such as full body inflammation, and family history of PCOS or thyroid disorders, puts you more at risk of developing one or the other condition.
Your thyroid navigates your body
Your thyroid takes care of the metabolism rate in your body, which essentially means it navigates your entire body. And when things get rocky with your thyroid, there are three common conditions it can give rise to:
PCOS and hypothyroidism are like nail and flesh, most of the thyroid related problems associated with PCOS will zero in on hypothyroidism. In hypothyroidism, your thyroid doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones resulting in a slower metabolism rate.
How does metabolism rate work? You know those people who complain about how they barely eat anything, yet they gain weight? Yeah, that's because of the slower metabolism rate in which their body burns calories at a slow rate when they are at rest or during activity. Over time, enough calories will accumulate all over your body to label you overweight.
Your thyroid produces too much thyroid hormones resulting in fast metabolism. People with fast metabolism can eat anything without getting fatter. Now don't go around wishing your thyroid worked overtime, these two food examples are here just to put metabolism in a perspective you can understand. Both hypo and hyperthyroidism have their unique set of complications that you are better off without.
The thyroid disorder women with PCOS are especially prone to. In Hashimoto's disease, your body mistakes your thyroid gland for a foreign body (something that doesn’t belong in your body) and sends antibodies to attack the cells in your thyroid. This results in your thyroid not producing enough thyroid hormones and it’s the same story as hypothyroidism again.
TSH Testing on its Own is Insufficient
Relying solely on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test may not be enough for an accurate diagnosis of your thyroid conditions. The TSH test measures the level of TSH hormones in your blood, and high TSH levels often indicate hypothyroidism. But if your TSH test comes back as irregular, then you would have to take at least one of the following tests:
FT3 and FT4 test
T3 and T4 are the two hormones your thyroid produces to navigate your body. Elevated T4 levels in the bloodstream may be a sign of hyperthyroidism, while a low level may indicate hypothyroidism.
The thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) level test measures the amount of TSI in your blood. High levels of TSI can indicate the presence of Graves’ disease – an immune disorder that can cause hyperthyroidism.
This test measures the level of anti-thyroid peroxide antibodies and thyroglobulin antibodies in your blood, which are produced by your immune system to target specific areas of your thyroid gland. Which means, their presence could be a sign of autoimmune disorders like – Graves’ disease or Hashimoto’s disease.
Iodine is an essential nutrient
To make thyroid hormones, your thyroid needs iodine. Iodine is an essential mineral not naturally made by the body, so it must be obtained from food or supplements. You can find iodine in foods like dairy products, egg, chicken, iodized salt, fish, and seaweed.
If your hypothyroidism is caused by iodine deficiency, then iodized salt should solve your problems. But if your problem isn’t related to iodine deficiency, then consuming iodine can actually worsen your condition.
Thyroid and PCOS patients can still get pregnant
There are a lot of myths surrounding thyroid problems and pregnancy. Yes, it is true that the thyroid secretes hormones that help your body work. And it is also true that thyroid disorders if left untreated can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Now if we add it with the irregular periods caused by PCOS, we got ourselves a problem in our hand. But even this does not mean that women suffering from PCOS and thyroid disorders cannot get pregnant. With proper diagnosis and treatment, the chance of fertility increases by a lot.
Since PCOS and thyroid disorders are both inflammatory conditions, there are a few ways you can start healing on your own. Engage in physical activity, follow an anti-inflammatory diet, manage your stress, and aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Get more personalized advice from your doctor, because there still are many ways to look great, and live great with both conditions.
If you have any more doubts or queries, reach out to us in the comments below and we’ll see to it that your questions are answered.
FAQs Related to PCOS and Thyroid
1. Can PCOS cause thyroid issues?
Researchers still aren’t sure what’s the relationship between PCOS and thyroid issues is, but it is true that if you are diagnosed with PCOS, you are more at risk of developing thyroid issues and other inflammatory conditions than others.
2. How do you treat PCOS thyroid?
Even though they both are inflammatory conditions, they are still two separate medical conditions that require different treatment approaches. But apart from medications and therapies prescribed to you by your doctor, there are some lifestyle changes you can make to improve your symptoms. Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise regularly, manage stress, and get adequate sleep.
3. Which food is good for thyroid and PCOS?
Just aim to build an anti-inflammatory diet. Which means add whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, beans, fish, and dairy. All these foods will help you manage PCOS and thyroid disorders effectively in the long run. Limit inflammatory foods and foods high in added sugars.
4. What should thyroid patients with PCOS avoid?
Just avoid foods generally seen as unhealthy:
Junk and fried foods like samosa and pizza.
Sugary beverages, such as sodas and sweetened tea and coffee.
Processed meats, such as kebabs and nuggets.
Solid fats, such as butter, cheese, palm oil, coconut oil
5. How do I know if I have PCOS or thyroid?
Even though thyroid and PCOS symptoms can be similar on certain fronts, at the end of the day, they are two separate medical conditions with different methods of diagnosis and treatment. If you are suspecting you might have PCOS or any thyroid disorders, make an appointment with your doctor and get yourself screened.