My soberish Hashimoto's menopausal health update

My soberish Hashimoto’s menopausal health update

Nikki Parkinson Health, Life 18 Comments

Before I deep dive into my soberish Hashimoto’s menopausal health update, I’ll preface this post like I always do when discussing anything health related: I am not a health expert. Anything I talk about is to share my experience and encourage you to seek out professional health care should anything I discuss bring up anything for you. This applies both to physical and mental health. 

Ok, so that’s out of the way. If you’re new around here, you might be wondering why I’m talking anything health related at all. The simple answer is that my entire adult life – 30 years plus – has been spent managing my health. It all started with a particularly nasty strain of glandular fever in my early 20s, rolled on into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a couple of years later and emerged after my second pregnancy not long after I turned 30 as Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. 

My soberish Hashimoto's menopausal health update

You can deep dive into what I’ve shared about my Hashimoto’s journey HERE. If that’s your journey too, my hot tip is don’t settle for feeling like crap if you’ve been treated in the stock-standard way and don’t feel listened to by your health professional. Find yourself a GP and/or endocrinologist who specialises in thyroid disorders and someone who will listen, understand and work in partnership with you to feel the best you can feel. Managing Hashimoto’s is more than medication; it’s about lifestyle factors as well.

I was fortunate to find an integrative thyroid specialist GP when arriving in Brisbane in 2014 (I Googled integrative thyroid specialist GP Brisbane!). Not only has he worked with me to get my thyroid hormonal system working for me, he always looks at the complete health picture whenever I’m getting my thyroid hormone levels tested.

It was as part of one of those extensive blood tests in June 2020 that it was discovered my liver, who I’ve affectionately named Linda, was not at all happy with the wine I consumed during the COVID lockdown. You can read all about that HERE

By August 2020, my mental health had caught up with my physical health. And by meaning caught up, I was really struggling. I wrote about that HERE

On top of all that – and definitely contributing to the storm that was brewing inside of me mentally and physically – has been peri-menopause. Isn’t that a treat? What a time to be a woman!

So in this IGTV Lunchtime Live I’m sharing what I’m doing in all aspects of my health life: thyroid, liver, anxiety and menopause. Have a watch/listen. I’ve linked to some of the things I’ve referenced in this chat below.

Thyroid help

I’ve learned more from working with my GP on how to best help my individual situation. Hashimoto’s is an auto-immune disease and in my case it attacked and “ate” my thyroid. Recent scans show there’s not much there and it’s not doing much. So, yes I rely on a combination of T3 and T4 medication to function.

If you are wanting to read up on the condition, Hashimoto’s Protocol is a good start.

Become a member of the Australian Thyroid Foundation.

I don’t recommend joining any of the myriad of Facebook groups out there if you’re struggling to get answers for yourself right now. Seek out that supportive GP, one who is integrative in their approach to treatment.

Soberish life

I stopped drinking completely for three months last year. That’s how long it took for my liver enzymes to get back into “normal” range. It wasn’t easy. Our culture is so innately linked to drinking alcohol. I now can have a couple of drinks a couple of times a week. That works for me and I’m ok with it. I refuse to drink rubbish. And I always have my fridge stocked with my favourite alcohol-free drinks. It excites me that there is a growing alcohol-free (AF) movement happening. There’s even an alcohol-free bar opening in Melbourne this year

I really enjoyed reading these books:  The Sober Diaries and The Sober Lush 

Wherever you are with your relationship with booze, can I please ask you one thing: do not judge anyone who chooses to NOT drink or make disparaging comments guised as humour. Just support them in their choices. 

Mental health

Oh my, I’m in such a better place than I was last year but I’m not kidding myself that it’s a slippery slope back to where I was. Just like exercise for physical health, keeping mentally fit has been essential. Getting an almost three-week break from work over Christmas was part of it but it’s the daily stuff that’s crucial. I don’t want to be over-scheduled – in work and life. I want to cherish my sleep. I want to protect myself from the anxiety, adrenal fatigue and burn out I experienced last year. 

This was the root cause of the TMJ disorder (I’d been clenching my jaw in my sleep) I ended up with. I’m pleased to say that it’s under control thanks to wearing a splint every night, physio and doing the stuff required to treat the root cause.

So, I try to tread gently and purposefully in my daily life. I’ve swapped running and HIIT classes for walking and yoga.

I see my psychologist regularly. I’ve also seen a Reiki healer regularly. This combo of traditional with woo-woo has really helped me to unpack a lot of sh*&t. It’s been like peeling back the layers of an onion. It’s not easy by any stretch of the imagination but I’m determined to do the work so I’m a better human, a better wife, mum, friend and boss.

I was “fortunate” that I was well enough to pick up the phone and make the first call to make an appointment with my GP to discuss a mental health plan, to actually go to that appointment and to persist when the first psychologist was not a match and to find one who was. I say fortunate because there have been many times in my life that I should have seen a psychologist but I haven’t because it was too difficult. If that’s you, get a friend or family member to organise the appointment for you and take you there. 

One or two sessions are unlikely to be all that you need – particularly if you’re starting this work as a 40 or 50-something. Keep going, consistently! Take medication if you need and it’s right for you. Life’s too bloody short.

Books I’ve found helpful: Burnout (the secret to solving the stress cycle) and I’m So Effing Tired.

Menopause

Oh MY, when you throw peri-menopause into the already health Sh*&t Show, that’s fun! Said no woman ever. I’ve been in the peri or pre-menopause years for about seven or eight years, so started about age 46. How did I know? I’d been blessed with never having horrendous periods ever. Then suddenly there were so bad I couldn’t even leave the house on day two without double tampons and period-proof underwear in place (with backups in my bag). 

I knew a period was on its way because about 10 days out my boobs would become so painful, I’d swear I was pregnant again. 

Keeping my iron levels at normal was tricky and something my GP tested regularly. I had a number of infusions to help. Plenty of people I know have gone down the Mirena IUD route and that’s helped them immensely. For me, I was trying to avoid it as hormonal control has historically not been good for me and my Hashimoto’s.

I’ve not had a period since last August – I know I’m jinxing that situation just by putting it down in words – but I sincerely hope that it was my last. 

I know that losing progesterone in peri-menopause does also bring with it things like anxiety (TICK), heart palpitations (TICK), night sweats (TICK) and migraines (TICK). It also can bring insulin resistance and weight gain (TICK TICK). As someone who already has a slower metabolism thanks to Hashimoto’s, this was definitely a reality for me over the past few years. 

Stopping and now cutting back the alcohol have definitely helped. I rarely have a night sweat these days. Working on the root causes of my adrenal fatigue has helped with reducing anxiety. And re-visiting intermittent fasting as a lifestyle under my GP’s supervision has been instrumental in reducing insulin resistance and inflammation in my body.

(This is the intermittent fasting book I recommend if it’s something you’d like to explore: Fast. Feast. Repeat. It’s absolutely not suited to everyone so please talk to your GP first)

I’m not here to talk about weight loss. I don’t know what weight I am because I haven’t weighed myself since 2013. Yes, my shape has changed but that’s just a by-product of all the things I’m doing for my health that I’ve talked about above.

At the end of the day, I’ve got many years (hopefully) left in me and I just want to wake up with energy and minimal brain fog and I’m prepared to do the work to make that happen.

(Books that I’ve found useful for understanding hormone and menopause: The M Word and Hormone Repair Manual.)

So, how are you feeling right now mentally and physically on a scale of 1-10? And does your bookshelf look a little like this? HAH.

My soberish Hashimoto's menopausal health update

Comments 18

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your storyNikki, and in particular for later sharing the link to the interview with Julie Goodwin (and for sponsoring such an important topic). I am currently experiencing something very similar in my own life and this podcast and discussion really resonated with me, I also ignored my own red flags but it’s never too late! Xxx

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      It’s so never too late Jill … I’m glad that you had a chance to read and listen. The more we talk about these things, the more we can help others and take away any shame that women might feel about needing help. x

  2. I’m glad you are feeling a bit better Nikki and that you have a great GP.
    I am post menopausal but that in itself comes with challenges,I’ve now got a Vitamin D deficiency that I hope will get back to acceptable levels with time.
    My mental health is pretty good I am on a anti anxiety medication that has really helped me.
    I also have to keep a very thorough check on my thyroid meds because I had a thyroidectomy when I was 35.The levels do fluctuate quite a bit though.

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      Thanks Nic … I think more women in their 40s and beyond need to talk about this stuff. It shouldn’t be taboo and we can all help each other. You’re helping me with your fabulous Adapt drink!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story and suggestions. Us females so need to share share and share some more. Gin Stephen’s books on IF and podcasts have changed my health in so many ways. Here’s to our fabulous 50’s and beyond x

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  4. I’ve just found myself a good GP who’s across women’s health. So important with the ol’ peri-menopause thing. I too have slowed down heaps on my alcohol consumption because it’s one of my migraine triggers – migraines being something that’s come with peri-menopause for me. Oh the joy! Thanks for sharing your experience, and the book recommendations.

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  5. One of the lightbulb moments for me in all the reading I’ve done re menopause, is that we will never start producing more oestrogen – it’s decreasing in our body forever. Any other depletion in our body, such as pancreas, thyroid, we would replace, so it’s worth considering replacing the oestrogen. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but definitely worth considering, especially as oestrogen has anti inflammatory properties and affects many body parts including brain, heart, joints, and new research shows it helps protect against heart disease, osteoporosis, dementia. I’m an ‘au naturel’ gal, but got to the point I’d try anything to feel better, especially mentally, and HRT had really helped me, tho I know it’s not for everyone! Just putting it out there that is worth considering at some point perhaps! I recommend Dr Louise Newson’s ‘Balance’ app to record symptoms and access research re menopause xxx

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  6. Thank you for sharing, i don’t feel quite so alone. I moved to Brisbane 15 months ago and am finding that my anxiety coupled with peri plus covid slammed me, and without my gang of gals every day is a “battle”. Very hard making new friends (at age 55) in a big city (compared to Cairns) and social anxiety and extreme driving anxiety, restricts opportunities to meet new women. Adapting to my new normal is challenging. Anxiety, night sweats and weight gain disguise my true self. Vx

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  7. Awesome post Nikki- you’re sharing something a lot of us go through. I am 55 and am now post menopausal. Gin Stephens book Delay Don’t Deny changed my life- I didn’t even recognise who I had become. I now feel myself again. I also have cut back on alcohol as it’s not serving me. I appreciate your recommendations for non alcoholic alternatives. May I recommend This Naked Mind by Annie Grace. It caused a big mind shift for me- you don’t feel like your missing out on alcohol after reading this.

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