Millions of people are diagnosed with thyroid conditions each year. Thyroid conditions are on the rise and too often we fail to make the connection between the thyroid and the adrenals. The two organs are directly related and impact one another. Many people suffer from high stress which leads to adrenal fatigue. Poor functioning adrenals can impact your thyroid’s capability to function as it should which can play a role in your energy levels, sleeping patterns, and your weight. In order to help one we need to make sure the other is supported. Keep reading to find out why you should look at your adrenals if you thyroid issues.
The Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands are two small glands that are located at the top of each kidney. The kidneys and adrenals are closer to your backside than to your front. The hormones produced by the adrenal glands influence every major physiological process in the body including fat, protein, carbohydrate metabolism (weight loss), blood sugar level regulation, inflammation control, hormone regulation and immune competence.
The adrenal glands are designed to enable your body to deal with stress both internally and externally. However, when the adrenal glands are compromised alterations in the body at a cellular level cause changes in your digestion, metabolism, disordered function of many vital organs, deranged hormone production and impaired fluid and electrolyte balance.
The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland, which is located in the front of the neck, just below the Adams apple. The thyroid gland is wrapped around the windpipe. The thyroid gland produces two primary hormones called Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are vital in regulating metabolic processes and energy expenditure.
If the thyroid gland is compromised and becomes overactive or sluggish you can experience unexplained weight gain, a swollen neck, increased heart rate, severe changes to energy (anxiety, problems sleeping, sluggishness, tired and depression), hair loss and hot flashes.
These common symptoms are easily misdiagnosed and around 20% people will experience thyroid dysfunction are some point in their life, with women being more susceptible than men.
The Relationship Between Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
The adrenal glands produce a hormone called Cortisol, which I recently wrote about here, Cortisol is an important hormone that helps us respond to stress whether it be physical, psychological or emotional.
Simply put – when the body is under stress the adrenal glands produce cortisol to enter the bloodstream and return the body to natural balance. Unfortunately, our culture has developed into a fast paced and high-stress culture, causing our bodies to put too much pressure on the adrenal glands.
When under too much stress the body produces high amounts of cortisol. The thyroid can only produce these high amounts for so long. Eventually, the thyroid becomes worn out and it begins to decreases in its capability to produce cortisol – this is what we refer to as adrenal fatigue. When adrenal fatigue happens the adrenals lose capability to compensate for even small amounts of stress in your life.
- Adrenal fatigue can lead to the following, common symptoms:
- Feeling of constant burnout and exhaustion
- Cravings for sweet and salty snack foods
- Loss of concentration and memory loss
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Mid-morning and early afternoon slumps, along with increased bouts of energy later in the evening
- Decreased sex drive
How Does Adrenal Fatigue Lead to Hypothyroidism?
When the adrenal glands are weakened from being over stressed and over worked this puts the body into a state of catabolism. Catabolism is a series of metabolic pathways that breaks down molecules into smaller units to release energy. Essentially, your body begins to break down, which isn’t a good thing.
As I mentioned above the thyroid gland controls the metabolism of the body. When the body is in a state of catabolism the thyroid gland will slow down in order to slow down the metabolism process. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland slows down in order to slow down the metabolic process. When the body’s metabolic process slows down (hypothyroidism) this can lead to many undesired symptoms.
My plan with this article isn’t to go deep into the physiological causes or effects, I just want to give you a better understanding of the entire process so I’m going to keep things quite simple. More than anything I want you to remember the stress – adrenal fatigue – hypothyroidism connection as you are working to optimize your health and the health of your loved ones.
Support the Adrenals and Thyroid to Avoid Adrenal Fatigue and Hypothyroidism
1. Quit Caffeine and Processed Sugars
People suffering adrenal fatigue will often use caffeine and sweets such as chocolate or sugary drinks to get through low points of the day. Sound familiar? Caffeine and processed sugar kicks your body into overdrive which is not good when you are suffering adrenal fatigue. With adrenal stress, your body produces minimal amounts of cortisol to aid with stress. Caffeine “masks” the stress you experience and causes further damage being done to the adrenals.
2. Add in these adrenal boosting superfoods
- Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
- Fatty fish (e.g., wild-caught salmon)
- Chicken and turkey
- Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
- Seeds, such as pumpkin, chia and flax
- Kelp and seaweed
- Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
These foods help overcome adrenal insufficiency because they’re nutrient-dense, low in sugar and have healthy fat and fiber.
3. Holy Basil
Holy Basil reduces cortisol, improves the immune system and lowers cholesterol. Holy Basil can be a helpful adrenal fatigue supplement. It has anti-stress properties but does not appear to have the negative stimulating effects of Rhodiola or Ginseng. This makes it a fairly safe herb for adrenal fatigue treatment. In addition to lowering cortisol during exposure to stress, Holy Basil also lowers total cholesterol and boosts your immune system. If you are struggling with insomnia or anxiety you may want to try Holy Basil. Note that it also goes under the name Tulsi.
Ashwagandha root has been used in Indian culture for over 4,000 years and is particularly useful for stress-induced sleeping problems. Ashwagandha is used to rejuvenate, provide strength and calm the nerves.
Adrenal fatigue can be a debilitating condition, and when combined with hypothyroidism, it can make you feel even worse. The good news is that most people with adrenal fatigue will respond nicely to natural treatments. So if you have the symptoms of adrenal fatigue try incorporating some of these medicines to regain balance and prevent hypothyroidism.