PCOS and hypothyroidism are two of the most common endocrine (hormonal) disorders among females.
And although the conditions are clearly different, there are some clear similarities. There’s also a definite connection between the two with studies have shown that around 22.5% of women with PCOS also have hypothyroidism, in particular, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, compared to around 8% of the general female population.
Your thyroid gland, which sits in your neck is responsible for;
- Regulating your metabolic rate
- Heart and digestive function
- Muscle control
- Brain development
- Bone maintenance.
Hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is not able to produce enough thyroid hormone. The thyroid helps to manage your metabolism so a person with hypothyroidism will struggle with weight issues because, the lower your thyroid, the slower your metabolism.
Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include; fatigue, dry skin, constipation, muscle weakness, thinning hair, increased sensitivity to cold
Hashimoto's, the most common form of hypothyroidism is especially prevalent in women with PCOS. Hashimoto’s occurs when your immune system attacks your thyroid, damaging it to the point where it cannot produce enough thyroid hormone for your body.
The exact cause of the connection between PCOS and hypothyroidism is still yet to be discovered, but certain factors such as genetics, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and stress all play a role. It’s not hard to find connections between your thyroid and PCOS as they are connected via your hormonal system.
Insulin resistance, which triggers a hormonal imbalance of insulin levels found in around 50-70% of women with PCOS is also associated with thyroid function as studies have found that increased levels of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) correlate with an increase in insulin resistance.
Hypothyroidism also triggers excess androgens via decreasing the levels of SHBG (sex hormone-binding globulin), meaning there is more free testosterone roaming in your bloodstream to cause trouble.
SHBG also binds to estrogen so when you have low SHBG levels you will have a higher ratio of estrogen to progesterone. The ratio imbalance seems to be directly involved in high thyroid antibody levels in women with PCOS.
Another link is the LH/FSH ratio that heavily impacts the menstrual cycle. In women with PCOS, the LH-FSH ratio is higher than in women without PCOS. Likewise, research has found that the LH-FSH ratio is higher in people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis.
Hypothyroidism increases the size of the ovaries and promotes cyst formation, it also causes the deposit of mucopolysaccharides within various organs. Material deposited in the ovaries hampers ovarian function and hormone synthesis, resulting in disrupted menstrual cycling.
An important note is that a recent study showed that Hashimoto's thyroiditis significantly increased the chances of women with PCOS to be resistant to Clomid (fertility medication).
Due to the high correlation between Hypothyroidism and PCOS, it’s very clear that if you haven’t been tested already, you need to have your doctor run a full thyroid test for you where they test your levels of TSH, FT3, FT4, Anti TPO, Anti TG.
The health of your thyroid will have a profound impact on all aspects of your PCOS so it’s vital you get it checked.
How To Optimize Thyroid Health
- Follow a healthy, nutrient-dense diet - this means plenty of vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean proteins
- Manage your stress levels, whether that be through meditation, slow walking, stretching, taking a hot bath, or just taking 10 minutes to sit and concentrate on your breathing.
- Make sure you get in regular workouts - aim for 3 - 6 workouts per week.
- Supplement with vitamin D, zinc, iodine, omega-3 fats, selenium,
So, in summary;
1. Women with PCOS have a higher risk of also having hypothyroidism
2. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include; fatigue, dry skin, constipation, muscle weakness, thinning hair, increased sensitivity to cold.
3. Factors such as genetics, nutrient deficiencies, insulin resistance, inflammation, and stress all play a role
4. Hypothyroidism also triggers excess androgens
5. Hypothyroidism increases the size of the ovaries and promotes cyst formation
6. It’s vital you get your thyroid checked
About Drew Baird
Drew Baird is the founder and owner of Drew Baird Fitness and Healthy PCOS. Drew has worked with over 24,000 clients on his online programs and helped his clients lose over 263,000kgs over the last 7 years. He's best known for his knowledge of PCOS and the metabolic/hormonal state in which it creates.
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