What if your thyroid disease isn't only about your thyroid, but it could be all about both your adrenals and your thyroid? In this post we'll discuss the adrenal-thyroid connection, and how stress affects them both, and how to address it so you can get on the road to feeling better.
When you have symptoms that match thyroid disease, doctors look at your thyroid, and at your TSH test and determine that you need to take thyroid hormones.
But is it REALLY just your thyroid that is the problem?
What if it's something else?.......
For example, say that you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism. You may be placed on thyroid replacement hormones and yet you still have some of the following thyroid symptoms.
- Brain fog
- Brittle nails
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Cold hands & feet
- Dry skin
- Hair loss
- Hot flashes
- Low Blood Pressure
- Poor memory
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
It doesn't make sense, does it? Supposedly the problem is your thyroid, but you still feel bad.
Something else must be going on.
One possibility is that it's the interaction between your adrenals and thyroid. Learning about this adrenal-thyroid connection can help you to understand what is going on in your body and why might not be getting well.
The Adrenal-Thyroid Connection
You need thyroid hormones in every cell in your body in order to produce energy. If you are low on thyroid hormones, consequently you will experience symptoms.
The simple explanation is the fact that the thyroid gland works in conjunction with the adrenal glands, the liver, and the gut.
So--if you have hypothyroidism, is it that your thyroid is at fault or are your adrenal glands to blame?
The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and they produce the main stress hormone cortisol. However, nowadays people are under a lot more stress than in the past because of a lot of issues.
We experience more stressors on our systems than did people in "simpler times."
- the use of herbicides and pesticides in our food
- chemicals in our water such as chlorine and fluoride
- polluted air
- unhealthy food choices such as the consumption of sugar, refined flour, refined salt, fried foods and diet sodas
- stresses at home
- environmental "natural" toxins such as mold
- food allergies and sensitivities
- and a stressful work environment which often times result in digestive problems and down the road in disease processes.
Stress and Your Digestive System
Any kind of illness is stressful to the body and weakens the adrenal glands. Then, as I mentioned, after the adrenals deal with so much stress, the digestive system gets affected.
Once the digestive system is weakened one can develop:
The list of stressors our body has to endure is long and oftentimes overlooked.
Due to years of living with chronic stress, the adrenal glands will get weak and tired and cannot produce as much cortisol as they did before they were run down by stress.
This weakness can also manifest as hypothyroidism.
How can that be?
Is it Really Hypothyroidism?
The adrenal glands are connected via a feedback loop to the hypothalamus, which is a section of the brain. The hypothalamus sends signals to the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland gets hormonal signals from the pituitary.
In short this is called the HPA axis, or the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
So it's not just the adrenals and thyroid that are connected, but the pituitary gland is in the loop too.
The thyroid has a similar feedback loop through the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid axis, which is also called the HPT (hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid) axis. If the thyroid is working at an optimal level, your cells have enough energy. However, since the adrenal glands are already weak and putting out less and less cortisol they are not able to keep up with the demand. As a result, you wear out the adrenal glands which then produce less and less cortisol.
Even though it seems to be a problem, the truth is--we can’t live without cortisol. We would die without it. So if your cortisol is too low, your physician would likely give you medication to replace your own cortisol production.
When you see the whole picture, you can see that the adrenal and thyroid connection is huge.
Your Body Is Wise
Here is the wisdom of the body at work. Your body could be slowing down the thyroid gland in order to protect the adrenals and in the end, possibly it is protecting your life.
Instead of suffering for a long time and ending up on some kind of medication that suppresses symptoms, I would recommend working with a health coach early enough, before the adrenal glands are very fatigued. You can then look for underlying causes of the problem and improve adrenal function before you do serious damage to these vital glands.
You can see more here about stress causing hypothyroid symptoms.
Your body is complicated. Likely if you have thyroid disease, there are other things involved and your pituitary, in addition to the adrenals and thyroid connection should not be ignored. Taking a holistic approach to your health and recovery is important.
Adrenal issues can be tested using a functional saliva test. In my health coaching practice we look at these test results and then work through a protocol to improve underlying function.
For more information on hypothyroidism or secondary hypothyroidism go to my website, Exclusively Holistic, and ask for the Free EBook and fill out the contact form to get a Free Health Consultation.
Do you, or does someone you know, have thyroid disease?
What do you think about this?
Linda came with her family to the USA in 1996 from Germany. In 2009 she was diagnosed with Hashimoto Thyroiditis. After taking Armour thyroid her adrenal glands became overactive and her thyroid globulin antibody count rose to >15000. From there on she dealt with adrenal issues, insulin resistance, brain fog, digestive problems, and muscle pain to the degree that she was not able to care for herself. She is now off thyroid medication since 2010 and hasn't had an autoimmune flare up since the summer of 2010. She became a Functional Diagnostic Practitioner to get herself well and help others to support her body to heal itself by removing underlying causes of symptoms and disease.