With an estimated 30 million Americans struggling with thyroid diseases, this small gland is causing some big problems. Thyroid dysfunction is tied to fatigue, weight gain, sluggish metabolism, anxiety, brain fog, changes in mood, appetite and hearty rhythm, and more. And, if left untreated, patients with thyroid diseases are at higher risk for heart disease, infertility, osteoporosis, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, arthritis and anemia.
The thyroid, however, isn’t acting alone. The adrenal glands, thyroid, and female hormones are a tightly regulated triad. A malfunction in one system can cause a dysfunction in one of the other two systems. While many doctors, and patients, look to treat specific problems – from hypothyroidism to infertility – directly, it’s important to understand just what might be causing the imbalance itself.
In my experience, people are too often treating only thyroid issues, or only female hormone problems while overlooking adrenals. These tiny, but important glands control our fight or flight response. They respond to perceived danger and trigger the sympathetic nervous system to secrete hormones to deal with the stressful situation at hand.
In our cave-dwelling days, the immediate dangers we faced were typically short-lived. When the adrenal system got activated as a result of these dangers, our bodies secreted cortisol, which mobilized blood sugar to fuel our muscles. The breath became rapid, and heart rate accelerated. This gave us a lot of energy. Once safe, the chemical process resolved and we went back to normal. Insulin was then released to gather the excess sugars. Our breathing and heart rates returned to normal and our muscles relaxed.
Today our body reacts to the numerous, daily stressful events as if they were ancient predators, threatening our existence. These events can be big or small, like a situation at work, money issues, relationship drama, and illness. No matter the stressor, the reaction is the same: our bodies and snap into high gear. This overstimulates the adrenal glands, causing a continuous release of cortisol. When overstimulation occurs, we can exhibit various symptoms such as low energy, sugar cravings, weight gain, irritability or anxiety, digestive complaints and frequent infections. These symptoms are then often linked to thyroid and female hormonal issues, which might not get at the root of the imbalance: adrenals.
My own thyroid imbalance was a direct result of my stress. Once I nourished my body with good food, the proper nutrients, and a little self care, my hormonal system started to shift and things got better. So next time your doctor tells you it’s because your hormones are out of whack, or that your thyroid is berserk, examine your daily stressors and see how they make your body react. It might be time to work with your practitioners to find ways that you can adjust your lifestyle and get back into a healthy balance.
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.