Hormones, Thyroid, and Adrenal Fatigue

Hormones regulate various biological activities in your body including growth, development, reproduction, energy use, and more.

Keeping your hormones balanced contributes greatly to your overall health. Let’s take a look at some of these hormones.

 1. Estrogen 

Estrogen is a female sex hormone responsible for menstruation, menopause, reproduction, sex drive, and even bone and blood health. One of the hormones it works in concert with is progesterone, another female sex hormone. The two need to be in balance for good health. 

 2. Testosterone

Testosterone is an important male sex hormone although women product this hormone as well in lower levels. Testosterone is responsible for regulating sex drive, muscle strength, fat distribution, bone mass, and the production of red blood cells.

 3. Insulin

Produced by the pancreas, insulin is responsible for converting sugar, or glucose, from the carbohydrates you ingest into energy. Or it can also help store the glucose in the liver for future use. Insulin is the hormone that keeps your blood sugar levels from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).

Diabetes, one of the most common diseases in the US, is caused by the body’s ability, or inability, to produce and process insulin.

 4. Cortisol

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland. It mainly functions as a response to stress. It kicks in to put your body in survival mode in dangerous situations. It also controls inflammation and blood flow.

Too much cortisol can result in hypertension, anxiety, high cholesterol, autoimmune problems, and a condition called Cushing’s syndrome.

 5. Human Growth Hormone

Often referred to as HGH, growth hormone is produced by the pituitary gland. As the name suggests, it stimulates growth as well as cell reproduction and regeneration. It also boosts metabolism.

 6. Serotonin

This hormone is involved in memory and learning ability, sleep regulation, some muscle functions, and digestion.

 7. Adrenaline

Another hormone that works on the nervous system is adrenaline. This hormone helps you to think act quickly in situations that are perceived as dangerous.

Adrenaline has also been known to block pain. Prolonged continual stress can lead to the overproduction of adrenaline which can cause high blood pressure, palpitations, rapid heartbeat, weight loss, anxiety, irritability, and dizziness. 

8. Thyroid Hormones

These hormones manage the metabolism of all of your body’s cells. This can affect metabolism, weight gain and loss, energy levels, and body temperature. 

An imbalance of thyroid hormones can lead to serious thyroid disorders such as Hashimoto’s disease and Grave’s disease.

Thyroid Health

Many women have read or been told that their unexpected weight gain may have something to do with their thyroid health.  It is not always the case, but it is certainly a possible factor.

Our thyroid gland is one of the major key players of how our body regulates our metabolism and how it uses the nutrients from the foods we eat. Studies also show that even the slightest changes that occur with our thyroid gland can have an impact on our weight. Many will need thyroid support in their lifetime.

Factors that Affect Thyroid Health

The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly shaped gland located in the lower front side of your neck and is involved in so many complex processes that take place inside your body. It affects your health in so many ways.

  • It plays a crucial part in controlling your metabolism, regulating your body temperature and for energy production. 
  • It also has an enormous influence on your mood and emotions.
  • It is also involved in your body’s fat and bone metabolism.
  • Your cholesterol and triglycerides, gallbladder and liver functions and your body’s fat burning capability are also influenced by how well your thyroid gland functions.

If you want to make sure that your thyroid gland is functioning at its optimum level the following key health issues have to be taken into consideration:

Blood Sugar

Having too high or too low levels of blood sugar can negatively impact your thyroid health. Individuals who have difficulty keeping their blood sugar levels within normal or healthy levels will most likely be suffering from dysglycemia.

Poor diet is one of the major reasons why an individual will have too low, too high or fluctuating blood sugar levels all throughout the day. If nothing is done about this, a person puts themselves at a high risk of insulin resistance or diabetes.

Unfortunately, if a person has difficulty managing his own blood sugar levels his adrenal glands will also be affected. Poor blood sugar control not only wreaks havoc on your adrenal and thyroid health but it can also cause inflammation in your digestive tract.  When this occurs, a leaky gut may start to take place thereby weakening the immune system which also causes further undue stress to the thyroid gland. 

Consequently, the thyroid will no longer function properly resulting in hypothyroidism – all these health issues because of poor blood sugar control.

Adrenal gland health

Night shifts at work, competition, workplace pressure and relationship tension are just some of the many contributing factors that lead to too much stress which can definitely put one’s adrenal glands under siege. In addition to emotional stress there are also other things that can affect the health of your adrenal glands and these may include environmental toxins, chronic viral and bacterial infections and food sensitivities.

Adrenal stress can cause thyroid dysfunction especially when cortisol levels become too high. The adrenal and thyroid glands are very dependent on each other.  Incorrect function in either will affect the proper operation of the other.

Gut health

Most of our diseases usually begin in the gut.  This is because our intestinal lining comprises almost 70% of our immune system. Therefore, if an individual has a gut problem, then it also means that he has an immune system problem. When a person is suffering from a food intolerance, gut infection or leaky gut he also becomes at risk of having autoimmune diseases such as hypothyroidism.

Bio-identical hormones

These bio-identical hormones are often used mostly by women such as hormone creams, pills and lotions, estrogen patches and birth control pills. If a woman’s body has accumulated too much of these bio-identical hormones her thyroid hormone will find it difficult to penetrate the cells to perform its function.  Therefore, even if the woman is on thyroid medication she will still be at risk of hypothyroidism because the thyroid hormones will be deprived of the chance to do their job as they are no longer granted access to the cells.

Hormone creams can accumulate inside the body, putting added burden on the liver as it tries to detoxify these unwanted hormones.  These products can also adversely affect the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland.

Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid gland is located at the base of our neck.  It is responsible for the production of thyroid hormones namely thyroxine or T-4 and triiodothyronine or T-3. These hormones are crucial for maintaining the rate of fat and carbohydrate usage in our body. These are the same hormones which also play a key role in controlling body temperature, heart rate, and in regulating the body’s protein production.

Symptoms

There are cases when people will have toxic thyroid nodules that look like lumps in the thyroid. This occurrence will lead to the overproduction of thyroid hormones which is a condition commonly referred to as hyperthyroidism. 

In most cases these nodules may not be cancerous but if left untreated can lead to several symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, rapid weight loss, irritability, increased appetite, frequent bowel movements, muscle weakness, memory and other cognitive functioning problems.

Many symptoms of hyperthyroidism can also be similar to hypothyroidism but some of the most distinct symptoms of hyperthyroidism may include shortness of breath, hyperactivity, anxiousness, severe weight loss and attention deficit disorder.

Causes

Grave’s Disease is one of the most common causes of hyperthyroidism. Grave’s Disease is a type of autoimmune disorder that allows the production of antibodies in the immune system to stimulate the thyroid to produce excessive amounts of T-4 hormones.  Those antibodies produced by your immune system are supposed to protect your body against disease-causing microorganisms. 

In the case of Grave’s Disease these antibodies mistakenly work against your thyroid glands.  Studies have yet to determine the exact cause of Grave’s disease. Thyroiditis is also another cause of hyperthyroidism. This condition refers to the inflammation of the thyroid gland which leads to the leakage of those excess thyroid hormones that are being stored inside the gland into the bloodstream. Other causes of hyperthyroidism also include toxic adenoma, multi-nodular goiter and Plummer’s Disease.

Complications 

When hyperthyroidism is left untreated it can lead to several complications. 

  • Excessive production of thyroid hormones can adversely affect the amount of calcium that should be absorbed by your bones. As a result, your bones will become brittle leading to osteoporosis.
  • If hyperthyroidism is caused by Grave’s opthalmopathy, an individual can be at risk of having bulging or swollen eyes. They may also experience blurring and increased sensitivity to light. 
  • The most serious complication of hyperthyroidism includes heart problems such as congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation.

Reassuringly, these complications can be reversed once an individual undergoes proper treatment.

Treatment

Treatments for hyperthyroidism may include the use of oral anti-thyroid drugs that help prevent the thyroid glands from producing too many hormones. However these drugs can also cause side effects such as joint pain and skin rashes.

Radioiodine therapy is another form of treatment for hyperthyroidism in which radioactive iodine is taken as a drink. There are also cases when surgery is needed to remove the thyroid glands. An individual diagnosed with hyperthyroidism must see to it that their thyroid hormone levels are checked regularly.  There are cases when patients who have been treated for hyperthyroidism subsequently develop hypothyroidism but this can be prevented when thyroid hormones are being checked on a r

Hypothyroidism

The prevalence and severity of hypothyroidism may vary and increase with age. Hypothyroidism can affect men but it is more common among women. It may range from no apparent symptoms at all to experiencing organ failure and coma.

Since the thyroid hormone directly acts on a person’s brain it is not unusual for people with hypothyroidism to also experience problems with their other major systems of the body. This is why individuals with hypothyroidism may also suffer from a wide range of health problems including weight gain, hair loss, depression and infertility.

Primary and Secondary Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is a condition that is caused by the inability of the thyroid gland to produce sufficient quantity of the thyroid hormone. The human body produces liothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Primary hypothyroidism is characterized by insufficient production of the T4 hormone.

A major cause can be autoimmune thyroid disease which is commonly known as the Hashimoto disease. Another cause of hypothyroidism can also be iodine deficiency which is very rare among developed countries.

There are also secondary cases of hypothyroidism that may occur due to a hypothalamic disorder, however, the majority of hypothyroidism cases fall into the primary hypothyroidism category.

Hypothyroidism as an Autoimmune Disease

Normally, the immune system produces antibodies that will help fight against viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms in the body.  If an individual has an autoimmune disease such as hypothyroidism their body can produce antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid tissues.

This can then lead to a reduction of a person’s thyroid hormone levels resulting in hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroid Co-morbidity

Co-morbidity refers to a disease or disorder that is co-occurring with another primary disease. Hypothyroidism is among the list of disorders that have very high co-morbidity with other kinds of diseases.  This would mean that in most cases hypothyroidism exists in the presence of another disease.

This is one important fact that health care providers will take into consideration when diagnosing and treating people with hypothyroidism.

Dealing with menopause, andropause, adrenal fatigue, adrenal dysfunction, insulin resistance and PMS can be further complicated if there is a co-morbidity with hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism and Depression

Hypothyroidism is often accompanied by slow thought process, drowsiness, slow motor function and diminished cognition. As hypothyroidism affects mood, many people who have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism were also found to be exhibiting symptoms of depression.

To be able to determine whether depression is really caused by hypothyroidism, the patient has to undergo several screening tests for thyroid disorders. Diagnostic blood tests that show the levels of thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH must also be performed in order to confirm the presence of hypothyroidism.

Hypothyroidism and Weight Gain

Weight gain may be a symptom of a thyroid disorder, more often if you are female and more so as you age. The body of an individual with severe hypothyroidism will usually look very different to people who have gradual weight gain, says endocrinologist Elizabeth J. Spatola. If you notice yourself drastically gaining much weight; say 15 pounds or more within three months, then this could be a tell-tale sign that you have a thyroid problem. If this occurs, consult a doctor for a diagnosis.

Sudden weight gain and hypothyroidism

Although not everyone can blame their thyroid for unexpected weight gain there are others who have found their difficulty in losing weight can be attributed to hypothyroidism.

If a person has hypothyroidism, it means their thyroid gland is functioning in a sluggish manner. This sluggishness leads to an impaired ability of the gland to produce the right hormones. As a result, the ability to use the nutrients provided by food in a properly functioning manner will also slow down.

The reason more women are prone to having issues with their thyroid health and weight gain is because the thyroid glands are linked to other systems in their body. Some of the key systems which impact on thyroid function are the neurotransmitters, adrenal glands and reproductive hormones.

How can you avoid weight gain and thyroid problems?

One obvious answer to this question is to maintain a healthy and balanced diet. When it comes to nutrition, consistency is very important. 

If you are diagnosed with hypothyroidism it is very important that you are consistently only eating healthy foods all the time, not just when the urge takes you.

It is an all-too-common scenario to embark on a healthy food program only to relapse, then repeat the cycle.

This yo-yo dieting can adversely affect metabolic rate, weight gain and overall health.

How to support thyroid health

Thyroid health or otherwise is not a random event and there are steps you can take to care for your thyroid. Here are some recommendations.

  • Eat whole foods to obtain essential vitamins and minerals. Selenium, iodine, zinc, copper and iron are some of the nutrients required for thyroid health.
  • Those people who follow a low-salt diet and those who live in northern climates will possibly suffer from iodine and vitamin D deficiencies. Please consult your doctor before taking any vitamin D and iodine supplements.
  • Always observe your eating time for regular meals and snacks.  Avoid skipping meals and ensure that you eat breakfast to kick-start your metabolism. 
  • Protein and fiber should always be present in every meal. Learn which foods are good sources of fiber and protein so you can plan your meals to include them.
  • Foods made from gluten, sugar, processed foods and alcoholic beverages should be strongly avoided because they contain substances that can negatively affect proper thyroid functioning.
  • Broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower are a few examples of goitrogens that should be eliminated from a sufferer’s diet because they contain thyroid-suppressing compounds.
  • Exercise for at least thirty minutes every day to maintain healthy circulation and improve the ability of the thyroid to distribute the needed hormones.

If you find yourself experiencing some or any of the symptoms of hypothyroidism such as dry skin, low energy, insomnia, weight gain, depression, joint pain, heart disease and allergies, it may be time to consult with your doctor.

With ongoing awareness and application it is very possible to alleviate the effects of hyperthyroidism, which will make weight control easier and lead to better overall health.

With our complex lives in the 21st century, more and more people are suffering from stress-related conditions. The negative impact of stress can affect many areas of health. One area in particular that can be adversely affected is the adrenal glands.

The adrenal glands are located near the kidneys and produce the hormones that are needed for the body to function properly. Stress adversely affects these glands because, when the body is under severe stress the glands start producing more hormones to help the body cope (this is the classic ‘fight or flight’ response). The main hormone is cortisol, which regulates metabolism and is a response to stress.

Of course, in some circumstances a stress response is needed, however, when stress is experienced over a long period of time, these glands weaken and this negatively affects the body and results in adrenal fatigue. So, what are the symptoms of adrenal fatigue?

5 Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue

  1. Excessive, unexplained tiredness. Adrenal fatigue makes a person very tired. This is because under stress the hormone levels are elevated, thus making it harder to sleep. Over time, the body’s cortisol levels are affected and this leads to the body being in an almost permanent state of alertness. All of this can affect the ability for a person to fall asleep or get a good night’s sleep. It could be that a person thinks he is getting enough sleep (the recommended 8 to 10 hours) but still wakes up feeling tired and fatigued.
  2. Cravings for salty or sugary foods. One way that adrenal fatigue affects the body is to lower the blood sugar level. When this happens cravings for energy foods increase and therefore a sufferer will eat more sugary foods. Foods high in sugar are also comfort foods and stress can cause a person to increase the intake of sugar-high foods. Adrenal fatigue can also result in cravings for salty foods. This is because the adrenal glands affect how the kidneys regulate mineral fluctuations. When we suffer from fatigue, the body releases more minerals in the urine. This in turn can increase the desire for salty snacks.
  3. Heightened energy in the evenings. An adrenal fatigue sufferer could find that he/she is tired all day but then in the late evening experience a surge of energy. Usually cortisol reaches a peak in late morning and then reduces during the day.
  4. Difficulty in handling stress. The normal body’s response to stress is to release specific hormones so that stress can be handled effectively. The three specific hormones are cortisol, adrenaline, norepinephrine, and knowing how these affect the body helps us understand the relationship to stress.
    1. Cortisol. Gives the body extra energy to         cope with the stress, it increases memory function and lowers sensitivity to pain. However, the body needs a rest period after cortisol has been released in a stress-related situation. If a person is suffering, from adrenal fatigue rarely gets to have the ‘rest period’, over time less and less cortisol is produced.
    1. Adrenaline. Probably the most well-known stress response hormone. This gives us the initial burst of energy needed to respond to stress. Once again, adrenal fatigue will affect the amount of this hormone and therefore the response to stress is reduced.
    1. Norepinephrine. This hormone helps the brain to focus on the stress. Without this active hormone, the response to stress could be described as lethargic.
  5. More infections. Cortisol helps to regulate the immune system in the body and cortisol works as an anti-inflammatory. Too much cortisol over an extended period of time hinders the response of the immune system and this results in having more infections. On the other hand if the adrenal glands are so weakened that they produce too little cortisol then the body’s response is to over react to infections resulting in certain autoimmune disorders.

7 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Adrenal Fatigue

In the late 1990s, Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ to refer to a condition where the adrenal glands in the body were stressed out due to a variety of factors. The consequence of such a condition was that the body would either produce too much cortisol (stress hormone) or too little… and at the wrong times.

There is much debate about adrenal fatigue. Some doctors say it exists and others say that it doesn’t. The reason for this is that the symptoms are mostly ‘felt’ instead of seen. The patient looks perfectly normal on the outside but could be feeling drained and worn out on the inside.

Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:

  • Lack of energy throughout the day
  • Feeling sleepy/unable to concentrate in the afternoon
  • Needs naps in the afternoon and feels energetic after naps
  • Lower sex drive
  • Cravings for junk food that are high in fat, sugar and salt
  • Triggered over trivial issues – inability to handle stress
  • A negative outlook on life – sighing more often
  • Mild depression
  • Waking up from bed feeling exhausted and only really feels awake after 2 or 3 hours
  • Body feels weak

These symptoms are not ‘shocking’ and could be mistaken as just being tired. However, adrenal fatigue goes far beyond that. It is persistent and wreaks havoc on the lives of people who have it.

It’s like being sick without being sick. It’s akin to having a dark cloud constantly hanging above your head and you have no idea what to do to make it go away.

In this article, you’ll discover 7 lifestyle changes that you can make to beat adrenal fatigue. This is not a life-threatening condition… and it doesn’t require medication.

All you need to do is de-stress and give your body the break it craves. Adhere to the tips below and that cloud that’s following you will disappear in no time at all.

  1. De-stress

We live in a society that’s like a pressure cooker. Deadlines, bills, family commitments, a hectic pace, expecting instant gratification all the time, etc. have worn most people out.

Our senses are constantly being assaulted by stimuli all around us. The pressure to perform at work, to balance your family life with your other commitments, etc. is enough to send anyone to an asylum. It’s a miracle that people cope with it all… and that’s why adrenal fatigue affects over 80% of the US population.

The first step is to de-stress. You can do this with meditation, deep breathing, Tai Chi, or any exercise that calms your body and mind.

Yoga is excellent because of the mind-body-spirit connection. The breathing techniques and poses will calm both your body and mind. You can do it upon waking or before bed.

  1. Put it on paper

Journaling is an excellent way to calm your nerves. It’s almost cathartic in nature. Write down your worries, goals, stress, issues you’re angry with, etc. Your emotions will have an outlet and you’ll feel much better.

  1. Experience nature

There’s nothing quite like the beach to lift your spirits. Most people feel wonderful when they’re walking barefoot on a beach watching the blue sea and listening to the waves gently curling and dissolving into foam on the shore. Some people reading this paragraph might feel a sense of relief just imagining it.

That’s how powerful nature is. Visit the beach or a park… or go for a hike in the woods, etc. and get in touch with nature. Get away from the madding crowd and take time to ‘smell the roses’.

The goal is to let go and just be. You may even meditate in these places to let a sense of peace rest upon you.

  • Exercise often

High intensity interval training (HIIT), weight training, etc. are great stress relievers. Do note that you shouldn’t do more than 20 minutes of HIIT. This is a stressful form of exercise.

If you overdo it, your body will release the stress hormone cortisol, and this is counterproductive. The goal is to stress less.

Walking is a great form of exercise. Walking outdoors in nature is even better than just walking on a treadmill where the scene never changes.

If you do walk on a treadmill, do NOT watch the news while walking. This is a common habit that makes people feel even worse off after absorbing 60 minutes of negativity from the media.

  1. Make time for fun

Watch a movie, have a laugh with your partner, go to the circus, ride a rollercoaster or do whatever it takes to make yourself happy. Laughter is the best medicine. In a world filled with hate and negativity, taking a break from all the madness to have some fun will do wonders for your soul… and your adrenal fatigue.

  1. Detox

Sometimes, your diet may be so bad that your body is suffering from inflammation. The best way to fix this issue is to eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet. You could go on a short 3-day fast or switch to a juice diet where you only drink freshly squeezed vegetable/fruit juice.

Your diet has a bigger impact on your body than anything else. If you think you have adrenal fatigue, you should immediately make changes to your diet and clean it up. You can’t expect to feel like a million bucks if you eat from the dollar menu.

  1. Find your sense of purpose

Spend time in self-reflection and ask yourself what you want from life. Are you drifting around like a coconut husk in a choppy sea? Bobbing here and there with no destination or purpose.

Millions of people feel this way. They’re lost, helpless, depressed and lack energy and vitality. They’ve not found their purpose in life. They know that they want to do more and achieve more – but they don’t know what it is they want.

You can only find these answers in silence. Spend time self-reflecting and ask yourself what is important to you. Where did the energy and excitement that you had as a child go? Did the worries of the world wear you down?

Did the naysayers drape your dreams in a wet blanket of pessimism? Have people whom you loved let you down?

Events and experiences mold our outlook and personality. With self-reflection, you can get to the root of the problem and fix the underlying issues. You’ll then find your purpose and move towards it with excitement and hope.

  1. Get your sleep

Stop burning the candle at both ends and get enough sleep. This is one of the best actions that you can take to remedy adrenal fatigue. Some people are so short on sleep that they may need 10 to 14 hours of sleep for the first 3 to 4 days just to make up for their lack of sleep.

Energy drinks loaded with caffeine should be avoided at all cost. These drinks keep you awake when your body really wants to sleep.

Go to bed at the same time everyday and wake up at the same time. Your adrenal glands need routine. If you’re struggling to wake, go to bed earlier.

Make sure your room is dark and cool. Ideally, the temperature of your room should be around 58 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may wish to consume a melatonin supplement to help you sleep better. Another option would be magnesium supplements which are considered as ‘Nature’s tranquilizer’.

Avoid using devices that emit blue light – mobile phones, tablets, laptops, TVs, etc. are to be avoided about two hours before bed. Don’t even think of using these items while in bed. The electromagnetic fields emitted by these electronic gadgets will stimulate your body.

These 7 tips may seem like common sense… and yet, so few people adhere to them. Do give them a try and you’ll be amazed at how your adrenal fatigue dissipates and is never seen again.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. (Old Chinese proverb)