The adrenal glands are two parts of your body that are located on top of the kidneys. They are mainly responsible for burning fats and proteins, controlling your blood sugar levels, regulating the blood pressure, and helping you effectively cope up with stress.
On the other hand, the thyroid gland is the butterfly-shaped organ found along the base of your neck. This works hand in hand with your adrenal glands to control the way that your body utilizes energy.The brain stimulates the adrenal gland to release adrenalin. Adrenalin is the hormone responsible for your flight or fight reactions. While the adrenals are at it, they also secrete hormones that help bring balance to your body. Some of these include testosterone, DHEA, cortisol, estrogen, and pregnenolone.
When this mechanism is overused, you are at risk for adrenal gland damage. The gland damage is typically inflammatory and autoimmune in nature. Autoimmune, meaning your body organs think another part of your body does not belong there.
There are various factors that can negatively affect the adrenals.
In a nutshell, adrenals encompass most of your daily activities. Its functions even affect the tiniest details such as a deep sigh or a food you just ate for snack time. Some of these factors may be divided into four main categories.
- Life issues – These are any events and emotions that are related to your daily activities.
- Financial pressures
- Death of a loved one
- Emotional stress
- Negative attitudes and beliefs
- Marital stress
- Psychological stress
- Unwanted unemployment
- Body issues – These are your current and past medically-related problems that may somewhat alter how one or more parts of your body function.
- Infections: acute and chronic
- Prescription drugs
- Wound healing
- Lifestyle – These are related to the activities that you do every day.
- Lack of excessive exercise
- Lack of sleep
- Over exertion
- Lack of relaxation
- Poor eating habits
- Diet – This includes the food you consume each day.
- Lack of good food
- Products made with white flour such as bread and pastries
Aside from these factors, anything that can cause you stress can bring problems to your adrenal glands.
A good analogy that can represent the adrenal function is a glass of water.
Each glass of water has a maximum capacity, and so does your adrenal system. If you add factors that affect the adrenals (like smoking, drinking alcohol, and staying up late at night, etc.), these will also fill the “glass” of water. Doing too much of these activities regularly can make the “glass” fill up more readily until such time that it overflows – we don’t want that to happen because it can cause adrenal fatigue.
Cortisol is a hormone that typically takes care of a vast array of body processes.
Some of the functions that it regularly oversees include the immune system response and metabolism. The brain usually “summons” this hormone as a response to anything stressful that you experience.This can provide you with a lot of benefits:
- Maintains blood sugar levels by carbohydrates, fat, and protein metabolism.
- Enhances immune system responses.
- Improves anti-inflammatory properties to fight off swelling and tenderness and speed up healing.
- Blood pressure regulation.
- Helps maintain heart and blood vessel tone.
- Central nervous system activation.
When your body is exposed cortisol for extended periods, it may not go so good for your body because of these effects:
- Dampens thyroid functions.
- Imbalances in blood sugar levels.
- Decreased bone density that may lead to injury like fractures.
- Increased blood pressure.
- Weakened immune system functions.
- Slow wound healing.
- Increased abdominal fat.
- Cognitive disorders.
- Insulin resistance that may lead to disorders like Diabetes.
Similarities and Differences: Hypothyroid Symptoms and Adrenal Hypofunction Symptoms
What are the similarities?
- Weight gain. For adrenal hypofunction symptoms, there is initial weight loss followed by weight gain, just like in hypothyroid symptoms.
- Tired all the time, no energy, fatigue.
- Losing hair. For adrenal hypofunction symptoms, the hair loss is DHEA-driven.
- Feeling cold when others are not.
- In adrenal hypofunction symptoms, you may also experience diarrhea.
- Chronic pain.
- Dry skin.
What are the differences?
- Thinning of the outer 1/3 of the eyebrows.
- Not easily irritable.
- Cold hands and/or feet.
- High cholesterol and/or triglycerides.
- Puffy eyes.
- Slow heart rate.
- Sleeping more than normal.
- Not going to the bathroom as much.
Adrenal Hypofunction Signs
- Feeling dizzy when getting up fast.
- Easily irritable.
- More tired after meals.
- Bloating and/or stomach gas.
- Pale skin.
- Brittle nails.
- Chronic yeast infections like candidiasis.
- Trouble falling asleep even when tired.
- Craving for salt and sugar most of the time.
How Adrenal Stress Affect the Thyroid
Adrenal gland-related stress may be one of the most common problems that you can encounter because you are most likely exposed to at least one of the factors that may cause adrenal stress. When your adrenal glands start to wreak havoc, it affects the thyroid gland as well. Therefore, treating the manifestations of the thyroid gland without addressing any of the problems of the adrenal glands will eventually be useless.
Perhaps, one of the most notable but indirect effect of the adrenal glands on most of the thyroid functions is their influence on blood sugar levels. Here are some body system functions that can directly affect the thyroid gland due to adrenal problems:
- The stress from the adrenals can disrupt the functions of the hypothalamic and pituitary functions.
- It decreases the T4 to T3 conversion. Because of it, liver and gut problems may occur.
- It weakens the barriers of the immune system, thus promoting autoimmunity.
- This can cause thyroid hormone resistance that can eventually lead to insulin resistance and Diabetes.
- Adrenal stress can further cause imbalances of other hormones that, in turn, may give way to other body system problems.
The three-part treatment program helps promote balance for different aspects of your life.
These are mostly recommended to help fix your adrenals by reducing the stress levels. When the stress levels significantly decrease, it will be easier for you to manage the rest of the symptoms.
Treatment #1 – Lifestyle
- Discourage excessive exercise. The recommended frequency and duration is 3 to 5 times a week. Each session should last from 30 minutes to one hour.
- Reduce exposure to blue light sources such as computers and mobile phones.
- Avoid bad sleep patterns like bringing your work on your bed when it’s clearly time to hit the hay.
- Regularly check for chronic infections. You may ask for medical assistance if you have trouble doing this.
- Counselling is a part of most types of treatment, no matter what the nature of the illness is.
- Yoga is a good way to cope up with stress and strengthen your mind and muscles.
- Reduce work stress by taking it easy on your workload.
- Watch out for toxins such as cigarettes and alcohol.
Treatment #2 – Diet
- Minimize sugar and carbs such as pastries made of white flour. If you can’t avoid these altogether, just have a portion sparingly from time to time.
- Eat breakfast. Remember, you should aim for consistent blood sugar levels no matter what the time of the day it is.
- Eat frequent and small meals every 4 to 5 hours.
- Go for high-quality proteins and fats and not those that are already processed.
- Don’t fast as this can lead to very low blood sugar levels that can cause imbalances for your glands.
- Consume a good variety of veggies from A to Z because these are rich in antioxidants.
- Adjust your salt intake depending on your current blood pressure.
- If you have a high BP, consume less salt.
- If you have a low BP, consume more salt.
- Avoid food items that cause you allergies.
- Do not take any products that contain caffeine or any stimulants to reduce your stress.
- Eat some bone broth. They’re seriously good!
- Avoid grains as much as possible.
- Drink plenty of water. The recommended amount is about 80-100 oz. a day. Do not drink too much water, either.
- Take food with probiotics to promote better microbiome activity, especially for your digestive system.
Treatment #3 – Supplements
Here are some highly recommended supplements that you have to take:
- Phosphatidyl Serine
- Vitamin B Complex, C, and D.
- Adaptogenic Herbs
- Holy Basil
- Fish Oil
- Good multi or specifics per lab results. Depending on your lab results, you may go for multivitamins to cover for a lot of deficiencies or just focus on a vitamin that your body mostly lack at the time.
- Glutamine to strengthen the gut.
- Good protein source such as poultry, fish, and meat.