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What Is Adrenal And Thyroid Disorders

Dr Meaghan Mccollum Nd

Heal Your Thyroid and Adrenals – The Adrenal Thyroid Connection

I am a strong advocate of integrated healthcare. To me this means bringing together all forms of healthcare from your healthcare team and communicating to help you reach your health goals. I work along side all types of practitioners and treatments.


1. Samuels, MH. Effects of variations in physiological cortisol levels on thyrotropin secretion in subjects with adrenal insufficiency: a clinical research center study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2000 85:1388-1393.

2. Hangaard J, et al. Pulsatile thyrotropin secretion in patients with Addisons disease during variable glucocorticoid therapy. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1996 81:25022507.

3. Hangaard J, et al. The effects of endogenous opioids and cortisol on thyrotropin and prolactin secretion in patients with Addisons disease. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1999 84:15951601.

4. De Nayer, P et al. Altered interaction between triiodothyronine and its nuclear receptors in absence of cortisol: a proposed mechanism for increased thyrotropin secretion in corticosteroid deficiency states. 1987 17:106-10.

5. Abdullatif, HD, Ashraf, AP. Reversible subclinical hypothyroidism in the presence of adrenal insufficiency. Endocr Pract. 2006 12:572-575.

Unbound Thyroid Hormone The Effect Of Cortisol

Elevated cortisol levels in the body affect many things. One of the ways it can affect thyroid is by causing excess estrogen to accumulate which in turn increases the level of thyroid binding globulin TBG.

TBG is a protein that assists thyroid hormones to move within your body. However, when thyroid hormones attach to TBG they are not in their active forms. This means T4 cannot be stored or convert to Free T3 to be utilized by your body in energy production.

Adrenal Dysfunction And Subclinical Hypothyroidism

The adrenals, thyroid, and pancreas are tightly linked in the triad of modern medicine. An abnormality in any of these areas should be assessed in concert with your entire system. In the reductionist mainstream model of care, however, each body part is viewed individually.

Stress is the primary cause of adrenal dysfunction. External stressors drive our adrenals to produce stress hormones, including cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline. The overproduction of stress hormones for prolonged periods of time deregulates the axis between the brain and adrenal glands. The body will allow for increases of cortisol for many months or years. Over time, however, the brain will lower the bodys production of these stress hormones. This has been coined adrenal fatigue, but we refer to it as hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal dysfunction. Simply put, the brain and adrenal glands are not communicating well anymore. This system malfunctions can lead to weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, sex hormone dysfunction, and immune dysregulation.

Because many conditions in the body impact thyroid function, correcting nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalances can often regulate thyroid function without the need for thyroid medication. If you do need thyroid medications, our physicians are trained in compounded T4/T3 supplements, glandular or desiccated thyroid, and pharmaceutical grade thyroid hormones.

Recommended Reading: Does Graves Disease Go Away After Thyroid Removed

Can I Live A Normal Life With A Thyroid Disease

A thyroid disease is often a life-long medical condition that you will need to manage constantly. This often involves a daily medication. Your healthcare provider will monitor your treatments and make adjustments over time. However, you can usually live a normal life with a thyroid disease. It may take some time to find the right treatment option for you and control your hormone levels, but then people with these types of conditions can usually live life without many restrictions.

Is Your Low Thyroid Function Related To Adrenal Fatigue Understanding The Adrenal & Thyroid Connection

Whats Really Behind Thyroid Fatigue?

I was working with a new patient the other day, and she had already been to see a number of other practitioners and specialists. She was taking various medications for various diagnoses, but she was still feeling, as she described it, a little off.

I asked her which symptoms were bothering her, and the first thing she mentioned was feeling tired all the time. This is one of the most common symptoms I hear about in my practice, and this patient was a hardworking mom, so I wasnt surprised!

She had recently started to learn about adrenal fatigue , and when she was talking about how tired she felt, she said that she wasnt sure whether it was because of the adrenal fatigue she suspected she had, the hypothyroidism she had recently been diagnosed with, or the anxiety disorder shed had for years.

I come across this kind of situation all the time. Conventional medicine has basically trained us to see all of our health concerns, diagnoses, and parts of the body as separate entities, so when we encounter a symptom, we try to match it up to a clear condition with a label.

My patients persistent fatigue was not an isolated symptom of her adrenal dysfunction, hypothyroidism, or anxiety, because all of those things are connected and intertwined.

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The Adrenal And Thyroid Dance

The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system, just like the thyroid. They handle many hormones that are important for a lot of bodily processes, such as handling stress. This where cortisol is produced.

According to Dr. Wilsons book on Adrenal Fatigue, the adrenals first respond to stress by providing you with extra cortisol, but the body can only keep up with high cortisol for so long. So after this, the cortisol starts to fall, leading to low cortisol. In between this, you could have combined highs and lows. You could have high, low or combined high and low cortisol causing these symptoms. This is referred to as adrenal fatigue. Cortisol has a variety of important functions, including: the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, affecting blood sugar levels in your blood, helping reduce inflammation and helping you deal with stress. The latter is especially huge.

In thyroid patients of all ages, many of them may be labeled with psychiatric issues such as mental health issues, when they are actually due to hormonal insufficiencies such as adrenal fatigue. In one study, it was concluded that by correcting the underlying hormonal imbalance, many patients mental health improved, with some patients having a total reversal of psychiatric symptoms.

A Note From Dr Sean Zager

And I would encourage you to work with your healthcare provider to talk about how to most appropriately for you incorporate these into your healthcare regimen or even into your diet. Some of these herbs can be used for cooking, meal preparation, smoothies, what have you? So anyway, in sum, I just want to say that

I think that thyroid and adrenal hormone balance is as central as anything you could talk about with your healthcare practitioner, to your sense of energy, to your sense of stress management, to your sleep quality, and so many other of our experiences in our body and in our health. So please work with your healthcare provider to make sure that you are

taken care of in an optimal way. And of course we’re always here at Paloma to help you out. I hope this has been helpful and happy holidays to everybody. Bye-bye.

Also Check: Atrophic Thyroiditis

Chronic Stress & Thyroid Health

With chronic stress, which occurs more frequently than ever in todays fast-paced society, the body doesnt always return to a normal state of functioning right away which can cause issues with things like thyroid health.

With chronic stress, the adrenals are constantly secreting stress hormones which include cortisol. When cortisol is constantly being pushed out in large quantities, it can be difficult for the adrenal glands to keep up which can ultimately lead to adrenal fatigue This is where major issues come in with thyroid health. The sudden large quantities of stress hormones followed by a decline when the adrenal glands cannot keep up can cause thyroid imbalance.

When there is an imbalance in your cortisol levels, thyroid hormone production can slow down. Not only that but with an imbalance in your stress hormones, T4 and T3 can be affected as well. Now, keep in mind that when talking about T3, there is Free T3 referred to as FT3 and then there is Reverse T3 referred to as RT3. Reverse T3 is an inactive form and when we are chronically stressed out, there is a higher conversion of Reverse T3 as opposed to the active form of T3. When this happens, many of the metabolic processes in the body can be significantly slowed down and you may even begin to experience symptoms of hypothyroidism.

Can I Check My Thyroid At Home

Is it your adrenals or your thyroid? Or both?

You can do a quick and easy self-exam of your thyroid at home. The only tools you need to do this self-exam are a mirror and a glass of water.

To do the thyroid self-exam, follow these steps:

  • Start by identifying where your thyroid is located. Generally, youll find the thyroid on the front of your neck, between your collar bone and Adams apple. In men, the Adams apple is much easier to see. For women, its usually easiest to look from the collar bone up.
  • Tip your head back while looking in a mirror. Look at your neck and try to hone in on the space you will be looking once you start the exam.
  • Once youre ready, take a drink of water while your head is tilted back. Watch your thyroid as you swallow. During this test, youre looking for lumps or bumps. You may be able to see them when you swallow the water.

Repeat this test a few times to get a good look at your thyroid. If you see any lumps or bumps, reach out to your healthcare provider.

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What Causes Adrenal Disorders

Adrenal gland disorders are caused by problems with the glands themselves that cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones. They are also caused by problems in other glands, such as the pituitary gland. Genetics can also play a part in certain adrenal disorders. In many cases, no one really knows why the disorders develop.

The Solution: Fix Both The Adrenals And The Thyroid

The key steps I tell my clients:

  • Start the Paleo Diet today. . This diet stabilizes blood sugar and inflammation two keys to repairing the adrenals.
  • Have your TSH, Free T4 and Free T3 tested. Hashimotos Antibodies too if you can If your levels are off just a small amount, work on the Adrenals before starting Thyroid hormone
  • Adopt stress reduction measures like your life depends on it! It does! Stress signals the body for more and more Cortisol. This is why your Adrenals are worn out!
  • Test Cortisol. You cannot treat adrenal dysfunction if you dont know your numbers and pattern. I offer Salivary Cortisol testing to my local and Virtual clients. In fact, I run this simple test on a majority of my clients.
  • Read some of the many articles on my website about Adrenal Fatigue, testing Adrenals, testing the Thyroid, and nourishing the Thyroid. Check my online store for supplements that may help
  • Surprisingly, the way to have more energy overall is to stop wasting it on anxiety, worry and bad sleep. I highly recommend this Passion Flower and other herbs in my store.
  • Once youve done this, I have great supplements to help the thyroid and the adrenals. My articles will tell you more about them but you can find them here in the online store.

    Heres a few helpful articles on the web on the link between Thyroid and Adrenal Issues:

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    What Does The Thyroid Do

    Your thyroid has an important job to do within your body releasing and controlling thyroid hormones that control metabolism. Metabolism is a process where the food you take into your body is transformed into energy. This energy is used throughout your entire body to keep many of your bodys systems working correctly. Think of your metabolism as a generator. It takes in raw energy and uses it to power something bigger.

    The thyroid controls your metabolism with a few specific hormones T4 and T3 . These two hormones are created by the thyroid and they tell the bodys cells how much energy to use. When your thyroid works properly, it will maintain the right amount of hormones to keep your metabolism working at the right rate. As the hormones are used, the thyroid creates replacements.

    This is all supervised by something called the pituitary gland. Located in the center of the skull, below your brain, the pituitary gland monitors and controls the amount of thyroid hormones in your bloodstream. When the pituitary gland senses a lack of thyroid hormones or a high level of hormones in your body, it will adjust the amounts with its own hormone. This hormone is called thyroid stimulating hormone . The TSH will be sent to the thyroid and it will tell the thyroid what needs to be done to get the body back to normal.

    How Long Does It Take To Recover From Thyroid Surgery

    How to heal your thyroid and adrenals

    It will take your body a few weeks to recover after your thyroid is surgically removed . During this time you should avoid a few things, including:

    • Submerging your incision under water.
    • Lifting an object thats heavier than 15 pounds.
    • Doing more than light exercise.

    This generally lasts for about two weeks. After that, you can return to your normal activities.

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    Is It Your Thyroid Or Adrenal Fatigue

    Your body is talking to you, but you’re not sure how to interpret the message: You’re inexplicably tired all the time, you can’t concentrate, and you’re crankier than usual. Your skin is also dry, your hair seems to be thinning, and you’re gaining weight. What’s going on?

    A quick consult with doctor Google will point you toward a number of possible diagnoses, with hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue likely topping the list. The only way to get to the root of your problem is to see a real live MD, who ought to take a thorough history, do a physical, and perhaps run a few tests. In the meantime, here’s some insight into whether a thyroid or adrenal issue might be to blame.

    Think thyroid first.

    Thyroid disorders are extremely common, says Antonio Bianco, MD, PhD, professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center and president of the American Thyroid Association. He notes that 11 million people in the US have an underactive thyroid . Women are more likely than men to develop this problem the risk also goes up after age 60.

    Of course, these symptoms can point to other conditions as well, so the only way to be certain you have hypothyroidism is with a TSH blood test. “If TSH is high, you have hypothyroidismsimple as that,” says Bianco. Your doc will likely prescribe a daily dose of a synthetic thyroid hormone to replace what your body is missing.

    If your thyroid checks out, then maybe it’s time to consider adrenal fatigue.

    MORE:10 Silent Signals You’re Stressed

    Slow Down Of Thyroid Production

    When you are facing a stressor your adrenal glands produce a whole cascade of hormones, including cortisol to help you deal with the threat you are facing. Bodily functions not required at this immediate time are slowed down or placed on hold temporarily until the stressful situation has been dealt with. This means functions like the immune response, digestion and thyroid production are all slowed down.

    However, ongoing stressors from daily life means your adrenals are on overdrive for extended periods of time constantly pumping out cortisol until your adrenal glands eventually become exhausted.

    As one of the hormones produced in the HPA axis, cortisol is controlled in a negative feedback loop with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Once in your bloodstream, cortisol signals its presence and both glands slow down so that no further stress hormone is produced.

    However both the hypothalamus and pituitary glands as part of the HPA axis, also regulate thyroid hormone production and this is also slowed down leading to the many symptoms of hypothyroid.

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    From This We See That Both Low And High Cortisol Can Create Symptoms Of Low Thyroid Function

    Lets focus a bit more on the low cortisol situation as that is what we see most commonly. When researchers look at patients with adrenal insufficiency they present with high TSH and hypothyroid symptoms and over time a decrease in T4. These people will not respond favourably to thyroid medication unless the cortisol levels are treated as well . This makes sense when we know that cortisol is needed to allow thyroid hormone to work properly in the tissues. This highlights the importance of adequate cortisol levels to have a well functioning thyroid system. Not too much and not too little.

    For these reasons, for any patient suffering from thyroid symptoms or already diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, I like to investigate what is happening with their cortisol levels throughout the day. After testing many patients cortisol levels, I find it very common in my practice to see low cortisol levels. Now we know that with low cortisol we can see elevations in TSH and in some cases low thyroid symptoms may show up.

    Often if we can restore adequate cortisol levels, the TSH will normalize. Sometimes patients can lower their dose of thyroid medication if they are on it or they just feel a lot better and we see a reduction or elimination of the low thyroid symptoms theyve been suffering from.

    The Thyroid And Adrenals Work Together


    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.

    If your engine is not working right , it doesnt matter how much gas you give the car. Its not going to perform.

    The reverse is true too.

    If your engine is sound, but you have no gas, youre not leaving the driveway!

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