Depression is an increasingly common health problem that is thought to affect one in five Australians. Women experience depression around twice as often as men. This is thought to be due to the effects of female hormones.
There are a number of hormonal factors that predispose women to depression, including menstrual cycle changes, pregnancy and the postpartum period, as well as menopause.
Sometimes an undiagnosed thyroid condition can cause depression. According to the Thyroid Society, approximately ten to 15 percent of people with depression have an undiagnosed thyroid hormone deficiency.
Symptoms of an under active thyroid gland:
Along with depression, the following may be symptoms of an under active thyroid gland:
A heavy feeling in the limbs
Lack of motivation
Lack of libido
Heavy menstrual bleeding
Unfortunately these symptoms often persist for many years before they are traced to an under active thyroid. Obviously there are many possible causes of depression, and thyroid disease is only one of them. If you do experience these symptoms it is vital you see your doctor because depression can be effectively treated.
Have a thyroid function blood test. The ideal level of the hormone TSH is between 0.50 and 2.5 mIU/L. According to research, this range may be necessary to effectively alleviate depression and other symptoms of hypothyroidism in most people.
Ask your doctor to also give you a blood test for free T4, free T3 and thyroid antibodies. This is a much more reliable indicator of your thyroid hormone levels. Some people have difficulties converting inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into its active form (T3). This can cause all the symptoms of hypothyroidism but would never be detected if only TSH and T4 are tested. Most cases of hypothyroidism are caused by autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis), and that’s why it’s important to check for thyroid antibodies. If they are present, we need to work on improving the health of the immune system, digestive system and liver. Just normalising thyroid hormone levels will not make you feel much better if you haven’t addressed the autoimmune component of the disease. See the book Healing Autoimmune Diseasefor detailed information on how to do that.
Have a blood test for reverse T3. This is an inactive form of the thyroid hormone T3. People with high reverse T3 can suffer with depression, fatigue and all the symptoms of hypothyroidism. Reverse T3 can become too high if you’re selenium deficient; if you have insulin resistance, are trying to lose weight on a very low calorie diet, or as a side effect of some medications.
Try T3 hormone supplementation. Many people find that their depression improves when they take T3 in addition to T4 hormone replacement. This requires a doctor’s prescription.
Inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten, dairy products and alcohol can all worsen mental health problems and autoimmunity. Try to base your diet on animal protein, natural fats and vegetables.
The vast majority of thyroid problems are caused by autoimmune disease, nutrient deficiencies and poor liver health. It’s important to address these factors for overall improved health, including better mental health.