Why is Hypothyroidism More Common in Women?

Why is hypothyroidism more common in women? Just how common is hypothyroidism or other thyroid problems in women?

Nearly 1 in 3 people have thyroid disease, the majority of which are women. Yet more than half of those with a thyroid gland condition don’t know they have it.

Top Reasons Hypothyroidism is More Common in Women

  • Hormone imbalance
  • Hormone fluctuations (menstrual cycles)
  • Estrogen, progesterone & testosterone immune influence
  • Autoimmune susceptibility

Women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have thyroid disease.

It can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, but doctors don’t necessarily think to order the testing or know that they need to test beyond a single marker.

When you’re a patient navigating a thyroid condition, it can feel like you’re all alone on the journey. After all, “you look normal, so shouldn’t you feel normal” is a common misconception many people have about thyroid disease.

It can be hurtful statements like these that can keep women from getting the help they need. Which means they struggle with their fatigue, infertility, depression, hair loss and other symptoms for far too long.

When I was a new mother struggling with undiagnosed hypothyroidism I struggled to make it through my day, but despite my concerns my doctors were quick to dismiss me. After restoring my thyroid health I set out on a mission to help more women get the help they need.

Why is Hypothyroidism More Common in Women?

There are several types of diseases that affect the thyroid gland, with the most common being hypothyroidism. Hypothyroid disease is when there is too little thyroid hormone being produced or available to the body.

Common Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dry skin
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Infertility
  • Hair loss
  • Joint pain
  • Constipation
  • High cholesterol

Hypothyroidism is most often due to an autoimmune disease known as Hashimoto’s. Autoimmune disease is when the body begins attacking itself, which results in the destruction of tissue.

In the case of Hashimoto’s, your body destroys your thyroid gland, resulting in an inability to produce sufficient hormones. This is the most common way hypothyroidism occurs.

Download You Hypothyroid Guide E-Book  and learn more about how optimizing thyroid health

What does this have to do with being a woman?

Well, as women we do something really unique — something men are not biologically able to do.

We menstruate.

Yes, we have periods…which means we have hormone cycles. And in a perfect world those cycles make us feel great the entire month, with maybe a little more needed rest during our moon.

But in a not so perfect world…

Hormone imbalances occur and therein lies the trouble.

The most common hormone imbalance I see clinically is estrogen dominance. And this makes sense — since stress drives progesterone down and allows for estrogen to move about the body unchallenged. You see, there is this delicate balance among all the hormones and without enough progesterone that estrogen is not blocked from affecting your tissues.

Estrogen has the ability to enhance the inflammatory process of the immune system. This means estrogen could contribute to the attack on your thyroid gland.

The interaction between our fluctuating hormones and the immune system may be the very thing that puts us at risk.

thyroid gland panel, thyroid panel

And We Make Babies!!!

It is well documented that pregnancy puts stress on the thyroid gland, as the demand for thyroid hormone increases following conception. Hypothyroidism can occur anytime during the pregnancy and should be monitored for that reason.

But one common thyroid secret is that giving birth can be a trigger for autoimmune thyroid disease. In fact, studies have shown that as many as 1 in 12 women develop postpartum thyroiditis. 

The shift in hormones and the immune system both during and after pregnancy put women at risk of developing a thyroid condition.

Here's a short clip from The Thyroid Secret documentary to explain more:

So what to do next if you suspect a thyroid condition?

If you identify with any of the symptoms above or even suspect you could have a thyroid condition, please take action. Educating yourself about your health will enable you to advocate for your wellbeing and find a doctor who will work with you as you heal.

4 Important Steps to Take Now

1. Eat Thyroid Supportive Diet

I am going to recommend you meet with your doctor to have lab testing, but you also need the to know how to restore your energy and take back your health. One of the fastest ways to do that is with some awesome “food is medicine” strategy!

Your body requires specific nutrients like the B vitamins, iodine, selenium, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin D and more to make and use thyroid hormone.

I have an article for you here on 10 foods you can start eating to improve thyroid health. I also share a lot more about this on my Instagram often. Definitely come follow my page and join the conversation!

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Yes, your thyroid needs iodine, but that’s not all it needs. And giving iodine can make things get cray quick. I’m talking… Hair falling out Fatigue Skin turning dry and flaking Anxiety Painful joints And so much more Iodine has been shown in studies to flare Hashimoto’s (number one cause of hypothyroidism) when given in higher doses or when someone has a selenium deficiency. Want to learn more? I have several articles at www.drbrighten.com and a video on YouTube about this. Yup, resources are there for you to get your questions answered and see the research. So does that mean you should avoid iodine altogether? Not necessarily, but the idea that the only thing your thyroid needs is iodine and so higher dose will correct low hormones is wrong. In fact, high dose iodine is how we shut down your thyroid function with HYPERthyroidism. Your thyroid needs B vitamins, selenium, zinc, vitamin E, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron, tyrosine and iodine to function properly. In the article linked @drjolenebrighten I give you the run down on how to support your thyroid with food and supplements. Yes, if you’re in a healing phase then you’re probably going to need supplements that support your thyroid, adrenals and lowers inflammation. It’s a trifecta to optimizing thyroid health. Check out the link in my profile and tag a friend who could use this info! Looking for more thyroid info? Scroll my feed. There’s a ton more to read! #drjolenebrighten #hypothyroid #periodproblems

A post shared by Dr. Jolene Brighten (@drjolenebrighten) on

2. Get a Full Thyroid Panel

Having a complete thyroid panel is the best way to understand your thyroid health.  Even if you've had lab testing completed in the last year, you may need to retest if you are now having symptoms.

Here's the Comprehensive Thyroid Lab Testing I Recommend in My Clinic:

  1. TSH
  2. Total T4
  3. Total T3
  4. Free T4
  5. Free T3
  6. Reverse T3
  7. Anti-TPO
  8. Anti-Thyroglobulin

A comprehensive thyroid panel is a must to identify your current status and get your baseline. But these results also need to be correlated with your symptoms. 

If you’re in need of affordable lab testing, please visit my lab testing page here.

Only once you have your blood work can you evaluate your thyroid health and understand if your thyroid is the cause of your symptoms.

If your doctor is not able or willing to order these labs, please find a doctor you can work with you will support you on this journey. Having a doctor you can partner with is a crucial step.

When working with new patients the first question they have is ‘My thyroid does what? Thyroid disease can be misdiagnosed doctors and often goes overlooked in the standard medical community. Understanding your risk and how your symptoms may be related to your thyroid can empower you to get the necessary help you need.

Download You Hypothyroid Guide E-Book  and learn more about how optimizing thyroid health

3. Investigate Your Gut

Your gut and thyroid and intimately connected. To heal your thyroid you must heal your gut. 

Your gut is a major site of thyroid hormone conversion — meaning it activates your thyroid hormone to increase your energy, mood, metabolism and so much more.

And your gut is where your immune system lives!

If we know that the majority of thyroid disease is due to immune dysfunction and 60-80% of your immune system is in your gut, then it makes sense that you would need to heal gut to balance the immune system and heal your thyroid.

Testing is necessary to understand the health of your gut. Some of the common tests I recommend include:

4. Take the Right Supplements

There are certain supplements that can make your thyroid better, but there are others that can make it worse. Iodine alone is not the answer! You always want iodine coupled with selenium to avoid potential autoimmune thyroid flares.

BTW, even if your thyroid antibodies are negatives does NOT mean it isn’t autoimmune. And if you’re a woman, odds are it is autoimmune. More about that in this article if you’re curious!

When choosing thyroid supplements you want them to do 3 things:

  1. Feed your thyroid
  2. Support your adrenals
  3. Drop inflammation

This is exactly how I designed the Thyroid Support Kit!

It includes…

Thyroid Support: An all-in-one formula for the nutritional support of thyroid function. The non-stimulating adaptogenic botanical American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) helps maintain healthy cortisol, blood glucose and insulin levels, along with a balanced conversion of peripheral thyroid hormone. Essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients work synergistically to provide a premium thyroid product in just two capsules a day.

Adrenal Support: A combination of standardized adaptogenic herbs and nutrients which are known to contribute to rejuvenating the adrenals. This product is designed to help support healthy cortisol levels, hypothalamic and pituitary function (HPTA axis), and catecholamine production (dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine).

Omega Plus: Omega Plus provides a potent 1500 mg of EPA/DHA per serving (two softgels), and also includes lipase, a digestive aid to ensure maximum absorption. EPA is an omega-3 fatty acid that supports your body in regulating inflammation. Healthy cells have minimal inflammation and are able to use hormones they receive.

You can check out the complete Thyroid Support Kit to help meet your supplement needs here.

Healing hypothyroidism is possible.

I've personally reversed my autoimmune disease and have restored my health. And I've helped thousands of other women do the same.

I help people heal their autoimmune and hormone imbalances every day!

If you've been struggling to find the answers to recover your health, I want to invite you to download my free recipe guide, meal plan and all around hormone balancing digital kit!

Here's to amazing thyroid health! 

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.