Of the millions of people who are diagnosed with thyroid conditions, many of these people also develop adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue is a condition that involves the adrenal glands becoming weakened due to numerous factors that I’ll be discussing here.
Let’s begin by talking about some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. There are many different symptoms people can experience, but here are some of the more common ones:
• Extremely tired, especially in the morning
• Find it difficult to obtain quality sleep
• Crave sweet and salty foods
• Feel stressed out most of the time
• Decreased sex drive
Once again, there are other symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue, but the ones listed above are some of the more common ones.
Many Thyroid Conditions Are Due To Adrenal Gland Problems
What’s important to understand is that in most cases, the malfunctioning thyroid gland isn’t the actual cause of the problem. Other areas of the body are usually responsible for the thyroid condition, and while different areas of the body can be affected, in many cases it’s the weakened adrenal glands that lead to the development of the thyroid condition. The reason this is important to understand is because when the adrenal glands are causing the thyroid gland to malfunction, if a healthcare professional aims their treatment directly at the thyroid gland and ignores the adrenals, there is absolutely no chance of restoring the patient’s health back to normal.
This is quite obvious, yet it still shocks me that just about every endocrinologist and general medical practitioner do the same exact thing when someone comes into their office presenting with thyroid symptoms: they take a case history, perform an exam, request a few thyroid blood tests, and then assuming the tests are positive, prescribe thyroid medication for the rest of the patient’s life (or sometimes RAI for those with hyperthyroidism). Why don’t they don’t evaluate the entire endocrine system, including the adrenal glands? The primary reason is because medical doctors aren’t trained to do so in medical school.
But how can weakened adrenal glands lead to the development of a thyroid condition? Before I answer this, I want to first discuss some of the causes of adrenal fatigue, which will allow you to better understand how it can ultimately affect the thyroid gland.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
As for what causes adrenal fatigue, in most cases this condition develops over a period of years due to lifestyle problems, most commonly due to poor eating habits and/or chronic stress. For example, someone who eats a lot of refined foods and sugars will have an imbalance in the hormones insulin and cortisol. As you probably know, insulin is secreted by the pancreas, and over time eating poorly can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes, although this of course takes years to develop.
As for the impact on the adrenal glands, the constant secretion of cortisol in response to eating poorly and/or dealing with chronic stress can weaken the adrenal glands, and eventually lead to adrenal fatigue. I’m obviously presenting a very basic scenario here, as the actual process is more complex than this. If you want to learn about adrenal fatigue in greater detail, I highly recommend reading the book “Adrenal Fatigue, The 21st Century Syndrome”, written by James L. Wilson.
In addition to lifestyle factors, one can also develop adrenal fatigue as a result of a severe trauma, which can be either physical or emotional in nature. For example, a car accident can trigger this disorder, as can the death of a loved one. This doesn’t mean that such traumas cause the immediate development of adrenal fatigue, but they can simply be the trigger that over time leads to the development of this condition.
So How Can Adrenal Fatigue Lead To The Development Of A Thyroid Condition?
Okay, back to the million dollar question. When the adrenal glands are weakened from one or more of the causes I discussed above, what happens is that it puts the body in a state of catabolism. What this means is that the body begins to break down, which as you can imagine isn’t a good thing. As you probably know, the thyroid gland controls the metabolism of the body. So when the body is in a state of catabolism, the thyroid gland will slow down in order to slow down the catabolic process.
As a result, most of the time it’s a hypothyroid condition that results when the adrenals are affected, since hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism. However, being that the body isn’t entirely predictable, there are people with hyperthyroidism who have adrenal fatigue as well. Although I personally never had what I would consider to be “full blown” adrenal fatigue, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease (an autoimmune hyperthyroid condition), I had an adrenal stress index test performed that clearly indicated problems with my adrenal glands, specifically low cortisol levels. And if these problems weren’t addressed, I very well might have developed severe adrenal fatigue.
This example also shows that it doesn’t take a severe case of adrenal fatigue to cause problems with the thyroid gland. What usually happens is that a person will develop weakened adrenal glands, which will then lead to the development of a thyroid condition, and then when the adrenal problem goes unaddressed for a period of months or years, it will lead to the condition known as “adrenal fatigue”. Once again, this is just a basic version of what can happen, as my goal here isn’t to go deep into the physiology, but just to cover the basics so you will have a better understanding of how adrenal fatigue can lead to a thyroid condition, and what you can do to cure these problems.
How To Diagnose And Treat Adrenal Fatigue
As for how one can diagnose adrenal fatigue, obviously the person’s symptoms will give a major clue as to whether they have this condition. In fact, in the book “Adrenal Fatigue” that I mentioned above, there is an entire chapter that consists of a questionnaire to help you determine whether or not you have adrenal fatigue. There is also a test called the Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) that shows the cortisol levels according to the circadian pattern, which is a great indicator as to whether someone has an adrenal problem. So if someone has positive findings with this test, and also has the accompanying symptoms, then it’s probably safe to conclude that this person has adrenal fatigue.
As for how to treat adrenal fatigue for someone who has a thyroid condition, the goal is to determine what is causing the weakened adrenals in the first place, and then obviously to address this cause. For example, when poor dietary habits and chronic stress are the factors that led to the development of this condition, then obviously one will need to begin by having the person eat better, take quality nutritional supplements, and do a better job of managing their stress. Obviously it’s a little more complicated than this, but it is amazing how changing the lifestyle factors can lead to much greater health.
When I followed a natural treatment protocol for Graves’ Disease, while I took some supplements and herbs aimed at the thyroid gland, I also took some adrenal support supplements. A great herb for adrenal problems is Eleuthero, which really can help people who deal with chronic stress. This was one of the herbs I took, and it helped a great deal with my recovery.
Although it may be tempting to self-treat your condition, it’s best to consult with a natural endocrine doctor. They will be able to evaluate your condition, and put you on an appropriate natural treatment protocol to help restore your health back to normal. While it might seem to be less expensive to visit your local health food store and purchase some supplements, just remember that taking nutritional supplements and herbs alone won’t cure your condition. It takes a combination of different factors to accomplish this, and you’re more likely to receive optimal results by consulting with a competent holistic doctor who focuses on endocrine disorders.
In summary, adrenal fatigue can be a debilitating condition, and when combined with a thyroid condition it can make you feel even worse. But the good news is that in most cases, people with adrenal fatigue will respond nicely to a natural treatment protocol. So if you have adrenal fatigue, consider consulting with a natural endocrine doctor, as there’s an excellent chance you can have your health restored back to normal again.
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