Blood sugar imbalances and poor gut health are known to lead to symptoms of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s syndrome. The harmful effects of adrenal stress They complete the triad.
Adrenal stress as a cause of symptoms of hypothyroidism
The Kidney glands They are two walnut-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They secrete hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine, that regulate the response to stress. But these hormones play other crucial roles, many of which are directly related to thyroid health. In fact, as we will see in this article, Proper thyroid function depends on the health of the adrenal glands.
Most people are aware of the obvious forms of stress that affect the adrenal glands: impossibly full schedules, driving in traffic, financial problems, arguments with spouse, job loss, and many other emotional and psychological challenges of modern life.
Other factors besides stress that load the adrenals
But other factors not commonly considered when people think of “stress” place a similar burden on the adrenal glands. These include:
- blood sugar changes
- bowel dysfunction
- food intolerances (especially gluten)
- chronic infections
- environmental toxins
- autoimmune problems
All of these conditions set off alarm bells and cause the adrenal glands to pump harder. stress hormones. In this context, stress is broadly defined as anything that disturbs the body’s natural balance (homeostasis).
The adrenal stress is probably the most common problem, because almost everyone is dealing with at least one of the factors listed above. The symptoms of adrenal stress they are diverse and non-specific, because the adrenals affect all the systems of the body.
Symptoms of Adrenal Stress
But some of the most common symptoms are:
- decreased immunity
- Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up
- Humor changes
- Sugar and caffeine cravings
- Irritability or dizziness between meals
- Eat to relieve fatigue
- Dizziness when going from sitting or lying down to standing up
- gastric ulcers
Weak adrenal glands can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism in the thyroid gland itself. In such cases, treating the thyroid is unnecessary and ineffective, and treating the adrenal glands themselves is the key to improving thyroid function.
The most significant indirect effect the adrenal glands have on thyroid function is through their influence on blood sugar. High or low cortisol, caused by any of the chronic stressors listed above, can cause hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or both. And as we saw in a previous article, blood sugar imbalances cause hypothyroid symptoms in a variety of ways.
5 Mechanisms That Result From Adrenal Stress Affecting Thyroid Function
But adrenal stress also has a more direct impact on thyroid function. The following five mechanisms are the most important.
Adrenal stress disrupts the HPA axis
Many people have already heard of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It’s a complex network of interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands that regulates things like temperature, digestion, the immune system, mood, sexuality, and energy use, as well as controlling how the body reacts to stress and trauma.
Countless studies show that the chronic adrenal stress depresses hypothalamic and pituitary function. And since these two organs direct the production of thyroid hormone, anything that disrupts the HPA axis will also suppress thyroid function.
Adrenal stress reduces the conversion of T4 to T3
Although 93% of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland is T4, it is inactive in that form and must be converted to T3 before it can be used by cells. Inflammatory cytokines (from adrenal stress) not only disrupt the HPA axis, but also interfere with the conversion of T4 to T3.
Adrenal stress promotes autoimmunity by weakening immune barriers
The GI tract, lungs, and blood-brain barrier are the body’s main immune barriers. They prevent foreign substances from entering the bloodstream and brain. Adrenal stress weakens these barriers, weakens the immune system in general and promotes poor regulation of the immune system.
When these immune barriers are broken, large proteins and other antigens can get into the bloodstream or brain where they don’t belong. If this happens repeatedly, the immune system goes haywire and we become more prone to autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s disease.
Adrenal Stress Causes Thyroid Hormone Resistance
For thyroid hormone circulating in the blood to have a physiological effect, it must first activate receptors on cells. Inflammatory cytokines have been shown to suppress thyroid receptor site sensitivity.
If you’re familiar with insulin resistance, where cells gradually lose their sensitivity to insulin, this is a similar pattern. It is as if the thyroid hormone is knocking on the door of the cell, but the cells do not respond.
While there is no practical way to measure receptor site sensitivity in a clinical setting, previous research suggests that it is decreased in autoimmune and other inflammatory conditions.
A perfect example of this in practice is Hashimoto’s patient who is taking replacement hormones but still suffers from symptoms of hypothyroidism, often despite repeated changes in dosage and type of medication. In these patients, inflammation is depressing thyroid receptor site sensitivity and producing symptoms of hypothyroidism, although laboratory markers such as TSH, T4, and T3 may be normal.
Adrenal Stress Causes Hormonal Imbalances
Cortisol is one of the hormones released by the adrenal glands. during the stress response. Prolonged elevations in cortisol, caused by chronic stress, decrease the liver’s ability to remove excess estrogen from the blood. Excess estrogen increases levels of thyroid binding globulin (TBG), the proteins that thyroid hormone binds to as it is transported through the body.
When thyroid hormone binds to TBG, it is inactive. It must be separated from TBG to become the “free fraction” before it can activate cell receptors. (These free fraction thyroid hormones are represented in laboratory tests as free T4 [FT4] and free T3 [FT3]).
When TBG levels are high, the percentage of free thyroid hormones falls. This shows up in labs as low T3 uptake and low free T4/T3.
Besides of adrenal stressthe most common causes of elevated TBG secondary to excess estrogen are birth control pills and estrogen replacement (ie, Premarin).
Balance the adrenals
Here it is the complication of adrenal stress: It is almost always caused, at least in part, by something else. These causes include anemia, blood sugar swings, intestinal inflammation, food intolerances (especially gluten), essential fatty acid deficiencies, environmental toxins, and of course, chronic emotional and psychological stress.
When they exist, these conditions must be addressed or any attempt to directly support the adrenal glands will either fail or be only partially successful. With that in mind, here are some general guidelines for adrenal health:
- Avoid or at least greatly minimize stimulants.
- Stabilizes blood sugar (through a moderate or low carbohydrate diet).
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques.
- Have fun, laugh and make pleasure a regular part of your life.
- Avoid dietary causes of inflammation (particularly refined flours, high-fructose corn syrup, and industrial seed oils).
- Ensuring adequate intake of DHA and EPA
Specific nutrients such as phosphatidylserine and adaptogenic botanicals such as Panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, Ashwagandha, and holy basil leaf extract are also helpful in modulating stress response and support the adrenal glands. However, these are powerful medications and should be taken under the supervision of a trained physician.