Thyroid & Adrenal Dysfunction
Your hormones fluctuate monthly, as well as over the course of your life, which is why many people notice they feel different as the years pass. Hormones are special chemical messengers created and secreted by the endocrine glands, such as your thyroid and adrenal glands. They play an extremely important role in optimum health because they control most of your major bodily functions, from hunger to sleep, emotions and mood, to complex systems like reproduction and physical growth.
The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate the metabolism of every cell as well as heart and digestive function, hormone balance, muscle control, brain development, mood and bone maintenance and weight regulation. The thyroid and its hormones are fueled by iodine.
There are many reasons why the thyroid may become unbalanced but with less fresh seafood in our diets and many of us relying on more processed and genetically modified foods, we can become iodine deficient. Other nutrients have been implicated in the ability to maintain a healthy thyroid and normal function as well. Low levels of iodine and other nutrients can lead to thyroid dysfunction. An abnormally low level of thyroid hormones is called hypothyroidism and various symptoms include:
Inability to tolerate cold
Dry or cracking skin and brittle nails
Weight gain or inability to lose weight
Thyroid enlargement (goiter)
Women are more likely than men to develop thyroid dysfunction in their lifetime. Multiple interactions exist between the thyroid gland and the rest of the body. There are many more blood values to consider in evaluating thyroid function besides thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) but these are often overlooked when patients are initially screened for thyroid disease by many providers. Hypothyroid disease is treated with thyroid hormone replacement therapy which usually is lifelong.
Abnormally high levels of thyroid hormone are called hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can result in symptoms such as:
- Fine, brittle hair
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased sensitivity to heat
- Excessive sweating
- Anxiety and irritability
- Increased appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat, or palpitations
A common factor in the development of thyroid disease today is autoimmunity. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is one of the most common autoimmune diseases which typically causes hypothyroidism. There are many factors that can contribute to this problem including genetics, poor gut flora or leaky gut, toxicity and inflammation. Thyroid dysfunctions are among the most commonly under-diagnosed and undertreated disorders. Grave’s Disease is another autoimmune disorder that causes hyperthyroidism. The possibility of reversal of these diseases is greater if the underlying root causes that initiated the autoimmune process are identified and treated. This will entail removing those things that caused the inflammation within your gut and autoimmune responses within the body.
Our adrenals are glands in our body that sit on the kidneys and are responsible for releasing hormones and other chemicals required for our bodies to function in times of stress. The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is an integration of the endocrine system and the central nervous system and it is the “stress response system.” This system regulates your body’s fight or flight response, which prepares the body for a quick response to potential danger. When stress occurs, a series of hormones are released from this axis, culminating in cortisol being released from the adrenal cortex. There is also release of two alarm chemicals, epinephrine, and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla.
With normal stressors, the body will report back to stop releasing cortisol when the source of the stressor has been relieved, and everything then returns to normal. Cortisol is the primary hormone released in response to stressful situations, but it is also necessary for life and helps keep us motivated and responsive to the world around us. Our cortisol levels become imbalanced in times of chronic stress, infections, sleep deprivation, and chronic illnesses. Chronic fatigue is often a result of these problems.
With repeated or prolonged stress, the HPA axis remains active, releasing cortisol along with epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream which can lead to major health issues like:
Anxiety or depression
High blood pressure
Damaged blood vessels
Blood sugar dysregulation
Decreased immune function
Poor memory and concentration
Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
Increased fat storage and weight gain
There are some easy steps you can take right now to bring your cortisol level down. Weaning yourself off excessive caffeine or switching from coffee to tea can help balance cortisol levels. Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation and going to bed earlier can also help naturally lower your stress hormones. What is more, taking a magnesium supplement and making sure you get your B vitamins can help you deal with stress more effectively.
If you are ready to begin a natural, therapeutic way to address your hormonal imbalances, Willowbend Health & Wellness is an excellent place to start. We believe in guiding you through identifying the root cause of your hormonal imbalance and the necessary steps towards correcting these to alleviate the symptoms you are experiencing.