By Dr. Jeff - June 19, 2015
Have you or someone you know been prescribed thyroid medications because you’re tired or suffer daily fatigue? It’s a very common medication used to address a number of symptoms including fatigue which can be an indication of hypothyroidism (low thyroid strength). Other symptoms of hypothyroid are weight gain, feeling cold, dry skin or hair, constipation and having memory or concentration difficulties. These medications are also necessary in more serious conditions such as for a goiter or after removal of part or all of the thyroid gland. Sometimes there will be a blood test performed to determine TSH levels (thyroid stimulating hormone). Aside from the more serious conditions, it’s a very common medication to address the symptoms of low energy or weak hormone strength. However, the condition of fatigue or just running out of energy through the day is often not the fault of the thyroid. And while the medications may help with the symptoms, they’re not addressing the cause of your lack of energy.
A much more common condition that many of us are suffering from is adrenal fatigue. In fact it is estimated that approximately 85% of the population shows weakened adrenal levels. When our adrenal glands are under constant demand, they can eventually get burned out and not able to support our energy demands. This can lead to stress being put on other hormone systems and causing additional symptoms. But what is it that causes the adrenals to become so overtaxed? In this day and age, there are not many of us who can avoid stress. In fact for most people, stress is a daily experience.
Long, long ago we would experience, brief events of stress, the kind our body is designed to handle. We would encounter something stressful, like coming upon a dangerous animal while out foraging for food for example. We would scream, our adrenal glands would release adrenalin into our blood stream giving us a burst of energy, and we would run to safety! Stress over. Then our metabolism would return to a restful state. While this is a simple and somewhat silly example, it represents how our body is designed to respond to a stress demand, whether it’s physical or even emotional.
However, in our busy, modern world the nature of our stress has changed quite a bit. We are more likely to be experiencing constant levels of stress day in and day out. While it may not be ‘quick burst of energy’ kind of stress, it’s more of a constant level of demand from the kids, money, jobs, family, etc. – they accumulate and constantly burden our adrenal glands. You see, another vital function of these glands is to produce cortisol. Cortisol is necessary to keep us energized through the day and allow us to get restful sleep at night. It is also responsible for us producing the adrenalin we use during more urgent energy needs. Healthy cortisol production follows a regular daily pattern. When you get up in the morning, you should have your highest level of cortisol that has built up during sleep. As the day goes along, your cortisol level goes down in a fairly even pattern until bedtime when it should be low which allows the body to rest and go to sleep. It builds back up during restful sleep and the cycle repeats itself.
However, most people’s cortisol levels don’t follow that pattern. It’s more common to see cortisol levels that fall way too low during the day or oscillate up and down instead of a normal slow decline. Sometimes in more chronic cases, the pattern starts to fluctuate so much that it becomes elevated at the end of the day, causing abnormal sleep which further interferes with the ability to replenish normal levels for the next day. This ongoing imbalance of cortisol and the resulting stress it puts on the other adrenal hormones is called adrenal fatigue.
As this imbalance continues, not only are adrenal hormones affected, but others such as the androgen hormones, testosterone and estrogen, become sacrificed at the expense of the adrenals struggling to produce more cortisol. Eventually, the over-taxed adrenal glands put stress on the thyroid to help support other metabolic needs. Hence the weakened thyroid can often be a result of worn out adrenal strength. If this dysfunctional adrenal pattern is taking place, then supporting or ‘feeding’ the adrenal glands is a most appropriate treatment. Once adrenal hormone strength is restored and cortisol rhythm is brought back to balance, other adrenal hormones as well as the sex hormones will benefit and likely be restored as well. When the adrenal system, which may have been the source of stress to the thyroid, is back on track, it’s easy to understand how repairing this system can therefore be an effective means to supporting and even restoring overall thyroid health.
Depending on a person’s symptoms and nature of their condition, I use various specific nutrients and herbal supplements to feed the adrenal glands. Supporting and balancing other hormones may also be necessary, but the approach that I prescribe is typically easy to follow. The best part – the results are often quite remarkable. Restoring the health of this specific, but very important metabolic pathway has quite a significant effect on many other essential hormone functions of the body.
If you find yourself subject to daily fatigue, you get energized at times when you would expect to be relaxed, perhaps you have difficulty getting to or staying asleep, or you’re just stressed out and want to find out more about how this all works, please give us a call. Feeding and balancing your body’s fundamental needs is a far superior means to restoring your health than treating symptoms.