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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brian Lum

Optimize Thyroid and Adrenal Function to Lose Weight After Menopause

Weight loss can be challenging at the best of times. Very strict diets can create imbalances and cause a person to regain weight quickly after the diet stops.

Frequently, stubborn weight is a combination of many factors like hormones, underlying infection and blood sugar regulation.

During or after menopause, women can find it even more challenging to get rid of excess weight.

It is often not simply a matter of 'eat less, exercise more.'

Even doctors frequently miss treating these 3 important components to healthy weight loss - your adrenal glands, your liver and your thyroid.

Blue background with a scale. Text overlay how to lose weight after menopause Functional Healthcare Institute

The Adrenal Connection

When post menopausal women have trouble losing weight, I have found that it is usually because of the following scenario.

In menopause, estrogen and progesterone levels are lower and the body holds onto fat in effort to make up the difference in the progesterone and estrogen levels.

If the adrenal gland is not working as well as it should due to stress, this is called adrenal fatigue and it makes weight loss even harder because the body wants to hang on to the fat to make up for the drop in the levels of progesterone and estrogen.

Adrenal fatigue is also detrimental to overall health because your adrenal glands are responsible for producing our stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol).

When our adrenal glands are in 'fatigue' they can't keep up with our stressful lives anymore and it can feel like we can never really 'recharge'.

Post menopausal women have to rely upon their adrenal glands, rather than their ovaries, to produce progesterone and estrogen.

If the adrenal glands are down, the 'back up system' is fat tissue.

When the adrenal glands are strong and healthy, the body can then start to lose fat because it no longer needs the fat to act as a hormone production center. 

Fat tissue is the often-overlooked hormone producing 'organ'. Excess fat produces hormones as well as inflammation by increasing the production of cytokines (inflammatory compounds).

Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?

  • Do you feel like you are stressed out most of the time over work, relationships, finances, or your health?

  • Is it hard for you to physically relax and stop ruminating (thinking about things over and over)?

  • Does this rumination prevent you from sleeping?

  • Do you get anxiety or panic attacks?

  • Has it been a long time since you felt recharged and refreshed after sleep?

  • Do you feel more irritable than you have in the past?

  • Do little things stress you out that previously did not affect you?

  • Do you crave salty or sweet foods?

  • Do you have fat accumulation around your midsection?

Answering 'yes' to 2 or more of the above questions indicates that adrenal fatigue is a strong possibility.

Adrenal fatigue happens when your body is consistently dumping adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream because it perceives your daily stress as an 'emergency.' In the short term, this will help you pull through a stressful situation.

If, however, the stress continues, then your constant demand for adrenaline and cortisol will eventually fatigue the adrenal glands that is producing them.

At this point you may need caffeine to get through the day, your sleep won't be restful and it feels as though you never 'recharge' at night.

If you are trying to lose weight and you have adrenal fatigue, not only will your efforts feel futile but you may actually be worsening the situation.

The 3 Components Of Weight Loss

The key to successful weight loss for menopausal women is to treat underlying adrenal fatigue, while fine tuning thyroid and liver function.

1. Support Healthy Adrenal Function

After assessing your adrenal health, we can begin to systematically reestablish normal adrenal function. How we do this will vary based on your other health conditions and the severity of your adrenal fatigue.

For all of my patients, I would start with some dietary changes. Usually, this is no time for Keto or intermittent fasting longer than 12 hours.

Thats because fasting, or a lack of carbohydrates can cause your body to secrete adrenaline to get you through fuel deprivation. This can tire out your adrenal glands even more.

Most patients with adrenal fatigue will need to eat every four hours, others will need to eat every 2.5 hours.

Supplements For Adrenal Fatigue Recovery

  • DHEA

  • Pregnenolone

  • Licorice Root (caution for those with high blood pressure and certain forms are better than others)

  • Ashwagandha

  • Rhodiola

  • Other adaptogens and glandulars

These are just a few supplements employed to rebalance and heal the HPA axis (the hypothalamus pituitary axis) to shift your brain and body into a thriving healing state.

Not all of these supplements will work for everyone and under no circumstance should you put together your own treatment plan, herbal supplements can have potentially dangerous interactions and choosing the wrong form, dosage or quality can damage your health.

Also be sure not to get a supplement off the shelf that promises 'adrenal support' - most likely it will not be the right form you need or be a high enough grade to do you any good.

A functional medicine doctor will be able to calibrate your treatment so that you will be able to treat the multiple factors contributing to your condition - including adrenal fatigue.

Read more about adrenal fatigue

2. Fine Tune Thyroid Function

Low thyroid function will hold you back from losing weight. Unfortunately, low thyroid function is usually treated inadequately.

Symptoms Of Low Thyroid Function

  • Dry Skin, Dry Eyes

  • Abdominal Upset, Constipation

  • Weight Gain

  • Muscle Weakness, Fatigue

  • Temperature Regulation Problems, feeling cold all of the time

Usually, a patient has symptoms of low thyroid function and has trouble losing weight so they go to their doctor. Their doctor then performs a basic test called a complete blood count (CBC) and a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test.

Her TSH comes back as 7.5 and her doctor says that her thyroid is low and that she needs synthroid (synthetic thyroid hormone medication).

She starts taking it, does not feel better or lose weight so her dosage is increased. The dosage is increased until her TSH markers are in the normal range but she still does not feel better and has not lost weight.

Like most patients, thyroid medication alone was not enough to get her body back to optimal function because other factors were not addressed.

Also, very importantly, her doctor did not perform a comprehensive thyroid evaluation.

TSH is only an indirect evaluation of thyroid hormone production - it does not actually measure how much thyroid hormone is being produced nor does it identify a potential autoimmune cause of hypothyroidism.

Taking thyroid medication is necessary for some patients but is too often applied to those who do not need it.

Low thyroid production is often the result of adrenal fatigue, treating the adrenal fatigue first will resolve thyroid imbalances in many patients.

Comprehensive Thyroid Panel

The most active form of thyroid is called free T3 which can and should be measured. The thyroid itself makes T4 which is then converted into the more metabolically active form, free T3.

It's best to shoot for a free T3 of 3.5 or higher. Certain nutrients like B6, selenium, zinc and others can help the conversion of this more active thyroid marker.

The more T3 you have in your bloodstream the better your metabolism and energy will be.

There are many other therapies and factors that can be implemented to increase T3.

Addressing digestive health is also key to ensuring this more active thyroid hormone is optimal - since 20 percent of the thyroid's production of T4 is converted to T3 in the gut.

Markers Tested In A Comprehensive Thyroid Panel

  • TSH

  • T4

  • T3

  • Reverse T3

  • Free T3

  • Free T4

  • Anti-TPO

  • Anti-TG

Treating low thyroid or high thyroid is not a matter of 'finding the right medication dosing for you,' it has to involve an expert investigation in finding the core problem why thyroid production is not optimal.

To get real results a doctor should do a thorough look into potential toxicity, nutrient deficiencies, underlying infections, adrenal gland status, and inflammation levels,

3. Optimize Liver Function

The liver helps you lose weight by burning fat for fuel. It also filters out the thousands of chemicals and pollutants that we are exposed to on a daily basis.

If your liver is overburdened with a high level of toxins it will become less efficient at burning fat.

People usually think about their liver when they think about drinking too much, and yes, alcohol is processed in the liver, but so are pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals in makeup and contaminants in your water.

Many doctors are seeing an increase in liver congestion in the last year due to the popularity of the Keto diet.

While appropriate for some, it can be hard on the liver's of those who have a high toxic burden.

Signs Of A Underlying Toxicity

  • Sensitivity to perfumes and scents

  • Regular headaches and migraines

  • Skin sensitivity, rashes

  • Chronic sinus issues

  • Dark circles underneath the eyes

  • Digestive upset

  • Pain

  • Dizziness

  • Brain Fog

Liver Function Testing

The first step if you have suspected low liver function or toxicity is to test your liver function.

Serum glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT/AST) and alanine aminotransferase (SGPT/ALT) are common tests but will often miss underlying liver dysfunction.

Heavy metal and chemical testing is often necessary for those with a history of high toxin exposure.

Avoid 'cleanses' that promise to clean up your liver. These often release toxins into the bloodstream without giving your body the tools to escort them out of your body.

Doctor supervision is required to do any kind of chelation so the toxins do not get redistributed throughout your body.

A burdened liver will directly impact thyroid function, adrenal function, and your metabolism.

If you're sensitive to medications and or supplements a 'sluggish' liver could be why.

Read more about Toxicity

Functional Medicine Consultation

Navigating treatment by yourself can be daunting. I offer functional medicine consultations over the phone (or through the computer) and in-person appointments at my office.

I can even work with your primary care physician to coordinate testing and treatment plans.

You can talk to me directly by scheduling a Free 15 Minute Consultation or you can call or text my office at 913-728-5291.


If you think that you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.  No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information. Nor should you ever delay seeking medical advice or treatment due to the information contained on this Website.


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