Last Updated on September 24, 2023 by Anna Baumann
How To Cope With Perimenopause and Graves Disease
For my fellow Gravesters that are of a certain age, do you find it hard to decipher whether what you’re feeling is related to Perimenopause or Graves Disease? I’m in my late 40’s. Overall I’ve been feeling pretty good since my thyroidectomy. Except for some weight gain. And random spells of night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, bloating, and periods that leave me looking like the victim in a slasher movie. Since many of my symptoms appear pre-menstrually (not sure if that’s a word?) I thought I should blame them on Perimenopause. But because they’re so intense, I thought maybe Graves needed to take some of the responsibility. My final verdict is that I’m definitely dealing with Perimenopause and that Graves is aggravating it.
I’m not sure how long this phase of life lasts. I first got a period at age nine so, I believe I’m due some extra credit and things should end much sooner for me. Mother Nature didn’t get the memo. Right now I have about two full ‘feeling good’ weeks per month. Which I’m thankful for don’t get me wrong! I’ve felt much worse than this without an end in sight. So I’m making the best of it and learning how to cope with Perimenopause and Graves Disease.
Watch your diet.
I’m not suggesting that adding or eliminating certain things will definitely make you feel better. I have yet to find a foolproof formula, and nothing works the same for everyone anyway. (A bit more on that here.) Even though I haven’t found a specific way of eating that makes me feel good. I have found some things that make me feel worse.
My cycle is all over the place. Calendars don’t help anymore, so I tune in to my body’s signals. Like out of nowhere I’ll get bloaty and develop intense cravings for chocolate, sugar, and salt. (Preferably all at the same time and in large quantities.) But sugar and caffeine are huge triggers of Graves-like symptoms for me. I get really jittery, my heart races, all of my joints get achy, and I feel like I just want to crawl out of my own skin. Cravings are annoying, but they aren’t worth all that.
Plus, I don’t want to gain weight during my “bad weeks” because then I’ll be even more uncomfortable, and annoyed with myself to enjoy my “good weeks”. So, I substitute things I like for the things I’m craving.
- Fruit. Pineapple, pears, and organic berries. Even blend them with coconut milk for smoothies. The sweetness I need without the refined sugar.
- Organic grape tomatoes with a light sprinkling of sea salt and Italian seasoning. (Odd but really good!) Sometimes I throw in fresh basil and some of those little mozzarella balls. The tomatoes and cheese are cute, and the colors make me happy.
- Roasted chick peas. Lots of benefits with a big, satisfying crunch. You can either buy them or make them. Biena Chick Peas are awesome!
- Water infused with lemon and lime wedges. It’s refreshing and helps with the bloat!
- Tea. Decaf Green, Herbal, Tulsi. They taste amazing and the whole ritual of making and drinking tea soothes the soul like nothing else!
The key is to not only find your favorite craving substitutes but to keep them around all of the time. You never know when you’ll need them, and it’s too easy to grab for the bad stuff when you’re not prepared.
‘I will not feel deprived when I turn down junk food but empowered that I made a healthy choice.’
Isn’t it annoying when you tell someone you aren’t feeling well and they tell you to stop thinking about it and you’ll feel better? Well, get ready to be annoyed because that’s what I’m about to tell you. Mind over matter is very powerful, and sometimes it actually works for me.
I think this is the perfect time in our lives to start a new hobby! But if Graves brain fog is preventing you from focusing on something new, then treat yourself to some fun magazines and sit on the patio with a nice cup of tea. You’re still re-directing focus from how you’re feeling, to what you’re doing.
At work, I keep a little list of things to keep me busy during those times when there’s a lull in the action. I’ll rearrange cabinets, go through magazines in the reception room, run a report and personally contact overdue patients. Whatever I have to do to keep from crawling under my desk and taking a nap.
If I’m at home it’s easier because I can stay busy without actually being ‘busy’. Reading is the best distraction for me. I escape into a book for an hour or two. Then feel ready to do something more productive like clean the house or take a walk.
‘It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.’
Talk to your doctor.
Some women sail through perimenopause without a care in the world. I’ve learned that most of them are on some type of hormone replacement therapy or birth control.
I tried a low dose of birth control but it didn’t agree with my body. This could be Graves-related because I took birth control pills for several years when I was in my twenties and had no issues. But now besides making me feel worse (dizzy, nauseous, bloated), they also raise my blood pressure. I even tried a pill that didn’t have any estrogen in it and still felt gross. But there are some hormone replacement options that really work for a lot of women.
It’s worth it to have the conversation with your OBGYN and see if you’re a candidate for trying some things. Even if they don’t work at least you know you gave it a shot.
Find your tribe.
There are tons of great support resources online. Not specifically about Graves AND Perimenopause. But you’ll find a lot about one or the other in Facebook groups, Blogs, and Forums. If you can’t find a group, then start one of your own! Facebook Groups in particular are perfect for reaching out in the middle of the night when you just can’t get back to sleep.
Get together with friends who are the same age and deal with at least some of the same things. Everyone complains that they don’t have any time. I think we can’t ever really find time for things, we have to make it. If it helps, start a club. Make it a book club, Mom’s club, or wine club. Something that you all enjoy, and meet up once a month. The friendships we have at this age are so important, and I know they’re helping me survive this madness.
I was recently given this advice. It came from a friend who already passed through the peri-menopause storm. I always say we can’t give up. But she pointed out that loving ourselves in every phase of life, is not giving up. It’s accepting what we can’t change. That’s a line right out of the Serenity Prayer, and it really had a great impact on me.
It’s easy to get discouraged. And if we need to hold a pity party for a day or two, we’re entitled. But we’re still the same BEAUTIFUL us! So let’s do what we need to, to take care of our body and mind. Learn new things, treat ourselves, and be grateful for all of the things that make us feel good.
‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. The courage to change the things I can. And the wisdom to know the difference.’- Reinhold Niebuhr
Are you living with Graves, Perimenopause, or both at the same time? Please feel free to share your experiences right here.
Disclaimer: This post is based on my own personal experience. It is not intended as medical advice. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or medical condition.
“Making tea is a ritual that stops the world from falling in on you.” ~ Jonathan Stroud