Thyroid and Adrenal Dysfunction

A Modern Undiagnosed Epidemic

The thyroid gland (located in the neck) largely controls the body’s energy production. Many people suffer from weight gain, depression, constipation, cold hands and feet, and slowed mental functions, all of which are all symptoms of low thyroid function, yet are told their thyroid levels are “within normal limits.” This is because the “normal range” is much too wide, and actually includes many people who could greatly benefit form proper hormonal support. There is a big difference between the published “normal ranges” and optimal function.

Even when the treated, the standard thyroid medications for low thyroid function may not help, or may only help for a little while. This can be due to several different conditions. In Wilson’s syndrome, (a persistent failure of conversion from T4 to T3) slow release T3 is needed to correct the difficulty.( At the 21st joint meeting of the British Endocrine Societies in 2002, Anthony Toft MD, a prominent thyroid expert emphasizes the importance of  treating patients with low T3 levels). Alternatively, when the adrenal glands are stressed, the body cannot use thyroid hormones normally, and the adrenal glands must be supported first. In fact, many cases of low thyroid symptoms, as well as other common symptoms such as infections, allergies, anxiety and insomnia and are actually related to disturbed adrenal function.

Possible therapies include synthroid, cytomel, armour, SRT3, Nature-throid  along with  nutritional support.

Common symptoms of low thyroid system function

  • Low oral mid day body temperature below 98.6
  • Cold hands or feet
  • Sleepiness and fatigue. Increased need for sleep
  • Weight gain. Difficulty losing weight even when strictly dieting
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin, hair loss
  • Depression
  • Slow mental functioning, difficulty concentrating
  • Reproductive system problems: infertility, heavy vaginal bleeding
  • High cholesterol and triglyceride levels despite a good diet
  • Ruddy complexion, puffy eyelids, loss of the outer third of the eyebrows

Common symptoms of low adrenal function include:

  • Extreme fatigue and difficulty coping with stress. Lack of stamina.
  • Uneven energy and temperature fluctuations.
  • Food and environmental allergies. Sleepiness after meals.
  • Weakened immune function: sinusitis, bladder, skin, and respiratory infections
  • Gastrointestinal infections such as Candida overgrowth.
  • Digestive problems: indigestion, bloating and gas, malabsorption, leaky gut
  • Pale skin, thin brittle nails. Pallor and fine wrinkles around the mouth. Sunken eyes.
  • Low blood pressure. Dizziness when standing. Hypoglycemia
  • Dilated pupils, sensitivity to light
  • Intolerance of heat and cold. Excessive or reduced sweating.
  • Anxiety, exaggerated startle response, palpitations, insomnia.

The endocrine system is a tightly coordinated web that works through a chain of command residing within the brain. The hypothalamus integrates information concerning stress, needs, and available resources, and instructs the pituitary. The pituitary then synthesizes various “stimulating hormones” that instruct the endocrine glands, including the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testes, pancreas, thymus, and others, to produce their hormones. For example, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), orders the thyroid to produce Thyroxin (T4, which contains 4 molecules of iodine). The various tissues of the body (muscles, etc) then convert the T4 into the active form, T3 (containing 3 molecules of iodine), which stimulates general metabolism and energy production.

The causes of clinical hypothyroidism can thus occur at 3 different levels: 1) the pituitary, 2) the thyroid gland, and 3) the tissues which respond to the glandular hormones. A problem at any level will produce the same end result: low thyroid system activity, and the typical hypothyroid symptoms.

The adrenal hormones (located above the kidneys) help the body handle stress. They go into high gear to help meet challenges from physical, chemical, nutritional, or emotional stress. When the body is stressed, the adrenal glands at first produce tremendous amounts of adrenalin, then DHEA and Cortisol. High levels of cortisol prevent the conversion of T4 to T3, and cause the body to produce Reverse T3, which puts the brakes on metabolism. If the stress continues, such as in adrenal dysfunction or in calorie restriction during famine or severe dieting, the conversion of T4 to T3 may be persistently impaired. When this becomes chronic TSH will gradually be lowered to conserve energy. In this case, even though the thyroid gland itself may be healthy, thyroid hormone levels will be low because the thyroid obediently reduces its output in response to low TSH.

Once the adrenals are exhausted and cortisol levels are very low, the cell receptors do not respond to T3. The immune suffers, and may develop initiate autoimmune and hyperallergic responses. The resulting low metabolic energy (low body temperature) affects every system. In the brain, it causes depression; in the intestines, malabsorption; in the colon, constipation; In the connective tissue, slow-healing sprains and injuries; in the bones, osteoporosis; and in general, weight gain. With a combination of increased nutritional need and intestinal malabsorption, the body exhausts supplies of key vitamins and minerals, the enzymes cannot function, and the cells can no longer perform vital biochemical functions. Various disease syndromes will appear according to genetic predisposition and the specific type of stress.

If your oral mid-day temperatures run below 98.4, or your morning temperature runs less than 97.4, you have some degree of low metabolic energy and could probably benefit by thyroid and adrenal assessment.

Treatment can involve the following approaches:

  • Hormonal replacement when indicated
  • Diet and nutrition. Intestinal support and healing
  • Immune support. Treatment of any ongoing infections.
  • Reducing autoimmune responses
  • Detoxification: of bowel, liver, and kidneys. Removal of toxic metals and chemicals.
  • If you think you may have a thyroid and/or adrenal problem, speak to our staff. We can suggest specific tests to diagnose the problem and help you construct an individualized program to balance these vital glands and restore normal body function.

    - Susan Silverman CFNP

    Contact the Lee Clinic Today
    540 542 1700
    Locations in Winchester and Leesburg Virginia

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