Did you know there is a connection between thyroid and adrenals?
“Think of the Thyroid as the gas pedal in your car, and the Adrenals as the engine. Both have to work, and communicate with each other.”1
People given medication for a low-functioning thyroid may respond negatively as increasing metabolism can worsen a condition of adrenal insufficiency, which may lead to a belief that the treatment is incorrect or insufficient. Or it can unmask an underlying adrenal issue, if the adrenals are considered. Finding the correct treatment can take time and much fine-tuning. For optimal thyroid health, including adrenals in a health approach is essential.
The Role of Stress
Chronic stress plays a big role in our general well-being. The simplest way to understand this is to remember that the body is intelligent. When faced with a threat, the body goes into fight-flight-freeze mode to ensure the highest chances of survival. This means the body is focused on channelling resources to the most vital functions to fight tooth and nail, run (ok fly) like a bat out of hell, or freeze and hope for the best.
Being in this constant state of fight-flight-freeze mode pulls energy away from the functions that allow us to thrive and not just survive. This means many systems in our body slow down – digestion, immune system, reproduction, and thyroid function. The body cannot fully rejuvenate and heal under these conditions.
What can a stress hormonal imbalance feel like?
* Extremely and chronically exhausted, even with full night’s sleep
* Feeling irritated and overwhelmed
* Just can’t get up in the morning
* Having difficulty remembering and concentrating and battling mental fog
* Skin issues
* Experiencing mood swings and depression
* That extra hard-to-lose weight around the middle
* and issues with craving, digestion, fertility, etc
(Many of the symptoms for thyroid dysfunction and adrenal fatigue are similar.)
According to Dr Amy Myers, chronic stress affects thyroid function in the following ways:2
* Cortisol’s negative feedback loop with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands means that when cortisol enters the bloodstream, these glands are signaled to slow down and as they also regulate the thyroid, thyroid function is affected.
* Stress hormones disrupt the balance of Free T3 (FT3) and Reverse T3 (RT3). Dr Myers explains FT3 as the gas and RT3 as the break for metabolic processes. Under stressful conditions, the body converts more T4 into RT3, rather than FT3.
* Underactive thyroid symptoms can occur as a result of the thyroid receptors being less sensitive to thyroid hormones under stress. This is true even if thyroid hormone levels are normal or if thyroid medication is being taken.
* Too much cortisol for too long can increase estrogen levels, which increases thyroid binding globule levels, which means more thyroid hormones can become attached to this protein and be inactive and unavailable for conversion to Free T3, the active form.
People understand the pressures of stress, and live it. If you don’t, think of the trash compactor scene in Star Wars. Our world is fast-paced, the speed of data exchange and the number of stimuli having skyrocketed exponentially. The old socioeconomic cultural structures in place are no longer there or are not suitable. (The discussion of modern life on our mental health and emotional stability is for another article.)
To resign to the idea that chronic stress is just part of life and to declare a state of helplessness is part of the larger issue of self-betrayal. So let’s find delve in to see how we can reduce stress and specifically support and rebalance the adrenals.
First is to recognize there is a problem.
More on Adrenal health
1 Do you have low adrenal function?
Watch this video where Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, author of Beat Sugar Addiction Now, explains about adrenal fatigue, the symptoms, his “Feed Me Now” test, how adrenal fatigue is tested, and what he suggests, including increasing water, salt, B5, licorice, and Vitamin C.
2 Dietary Clean Up
When we are stressed, we gravitate to the sweet, caffeinated, and starchy which gives us (temporary) satisfaction. This combo leads to tired but wired. So what to do? Low sugars, grains, and carbs, moderate clean proteins, and higher fats, with high-quality plant food, is a way to lower the burden on the body. And then there is bone broth. This comes highly recommended by Jordan Rubin, co-founder of Garden of Life, health expert, and author of books such as Patient Heal Thyself. Protein, in the form of collagen as bone broth, is adrenal-and thyroid-friendly. 3
Here is a meal suggestion from Jordan Rubin3:
– appetizer of kimchi or sauerkraut. Add an avocado.
– Try a one-pot meal. Cook either purple or black rice or quinoa in bone broth with onion (which is anti-inflammatory). Sauté fish in coconut oil with vegetables – mushrooms, onions, and add everything to the rice/quinoa.
The ideal foods in TCM for adrenals, according to Dr Josh Axe, are the dark coloured ones – black, purple, and red such as cranberries, blackberries, blueberries, and pomegranates. Dr Steven Gundry, world-renowned heart surgeon and best-selling author of Dr Gundry’s Diet Evolution, also loves these dark fruits, high in polyphenols which boost energy production and metabolism.4 With the correspondence of these foods with the Water Element, the adrenals and kidneys also benefit from good sources of fish and seaweed.
Other recommendations from Jordan Rubin to consider:3
– HERBS – ashwagandha (or winter cherry), an amazing adaptogenic herb that decreases cortisol and boosts DHEA; ginseng, a yang adrenal booster; and rhodiola (arctic root), an energy booster; and cortisol reducer, and fertility helper.
– SPICES – Licorice, cortisol levels balancer; nutmeg, for great for skin, immune system, sleep, digestion, etc; and Allspice. Others – cardamon, clove, and cinnamon.
– ESSENTIAL OILS – Holy Basil for brain health, mood, and blood sugar; Rosemary as mood and energy booster and helps with stress resilience; and Lavender to balance cortisol levels. Anoint your head every morning with these oils or massaging your scalp with them.
Need a pick up? Reach for your peppermint essential oil (also great for digestion).
– MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS – Reishi, a powerful adaptogen that amplifies the benefits of everything else; cordyceps, another adaptogen that reduces stress and provides vitality; and chaga, that contains powerful intracellular antioxidant.
– NUTRIENTS – top ones are Vitamin B12, Vitamin B5, and Vitamin D3.
– SUPPLEMENTS – collagen, probiotics, digestive enzymes (“We are what we digest”), and adaptogenic herbal mushroom.
3 Adrenal Issues, a Miscommunication Problem
Dr Carrie Jones discusses on High Intensity Health the issue of adrenal “malfunction” as a problem of miscommunication, often stemming from the hypothalamus and pituitary. The causes of this miscommunication? Chronic stress, inflammation, and obesity. In this video, learn about cortisol production, cortisol from fat, how sometimes it is a rhythm issue (timing of cortisol production) and not an adrenal problem, the role of the liver, and more.
Tips? Milk Thistle, choline, and detox tea to support the liver. Go with your natural rhythms and minimize exposure to blue light, mobile phone, radiation, which all disrupt melatonin production. Turn off your router at night, detox your environment of radiation toxins, and bring down the brightness in the bedroom for sleep. Stop hassling – have downtime. Get to why you are stressed.
4 Find your sources of stress
For some people, where their stress is coming from is obvious. For others, journalling to see the patterns may be productive. Finding out what causes us stress and why is the only real long-term approach to adrenal health.
Learn to say yes when you truly want to say yes. We have all said yes because it’s the “nice thing to do” or we don’t want to disappoint or somehow we feel pressured.
While pressures appear from the outside – last minute changes to a project deadline, your children getting sick on an important work day when you are holding down the fort yourself, for example, the most intense pressures come from within. Do interior work to discover where the inner judgment comes from, what are we trying to avoid, and where and why we yearn for belonging. Perhaps dedicated inner child work through meditation, regression, and EFT may be the next step for you. Perhaps it is dreamwork. Or…
What we think is causing us stress is usually a symptom or a reflection of something going on inside. Next time someone “makes” you to feel like demolishing a punching bag (or a whole tiramisu), take a deep exhale (several times) and feel where this tension is showing up and follow it to see what is being triggered.
➝ Are you over-caring? Here is an article for caregivers.
5 Tools for Resilience
There is a lot of research on meditation as an effective method to reduce stress. With so many kinds of meditation, you can simply start by watching your breath for 10 minutes and experience how your body-mind responds. “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now” so a Chinese proverb reminds us.
The Institute of HeartMath has decades of research behind them. Feeling a state of appreciation, for example, can start a cascade of positive hormones in the body and can bring on a state of coherence. You can find more information on their website and their shop for resilience-building technology.
The core of Jin Shin Jyutsu is the Self-Help. These are simple and effective gentle holds that you can apply to yourself and others. Simply holding each of your fingers is a Self-Help that can bring balance to your organs, harmonize your attitudes (worry, fear, anger, grief, and trying), and more. Much more. Another wonderful Self-Help to do before sleep or upon waking is the Main Central Vertical Flow, the source of our life energy.
➝ Learn how to do the Main Central Vertical Flow
6 Live Your Truth
High Maintenance cocreator Katja Blichfield shared in the January 2018 edition of Vogue how she suffered from anxiety and depression until she got honest about her identity (especially with herself).
One day, I could barely get out of bed and I couldn’t stop crying. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life, but this was different. Ben [her then-husband and co-creator of High Maintenance and my best friend, Russell, called a therapist and practically dragged me to her office….
Katja Blichfield, Girl, Interrupted
Many people in the world are not very accepting of what is different or what is considered a sin by their religious teachings. As long as we agree to disagree, each to their own, this may not be an issue. It is unfortunate (understatement) that some people take this to a violent end and that of course plays an understandably considerable part in whether we live openly as who we are. It can be anything, any aspect that makes us different, from our spiritual leanings to our gender identity. Seeking counseling, coaching, and other support is highly recommended for any and all of us to truly walk our talk.
1 The Hidden Link Between Thyroid and Adrenal Problems on the Beverly Meyer on Diet and Health website.
2 The Adrenal-Thyroid Connection Amy Myers MD
3 7 Ways to Combat Adrenal Fatigue with Dr Josh Axe and Jordan Rueben on Ancient Medicine Today.
4 Dr. Steven Gundry shares the phenomenon of polyphenols in this video. They help with the heart, metabolic function, inflammation,cholesterol, blood sugar levels, joint pain, digestive discomfort, skin, and immune system in positive ways. Polyphenols also boost the production of energy so we do not depend on external (and unhealthy) sources of energy. In his thesis which was on the history of human diet, Dr Gundry learned that our ancestors ate an abundance of berries, packed with polyphenols.
Understanding the Adrenal-Thyroid Connection by Ken Holtorf. Holtorf Medical Group.
cover photo by Vladislav Muslakov