Levothyroxine (Synthroid) is a commonly prescribed drug in the United States. If you’re taking it, there is a good chance you shouldn’t be. Patients who are taking thyroid medication often still don’t feel well. Their thyroid levels are acceptable, so they don’t think it has anything to do with their thyroid gland or medication. They don’t often consider that their body may not have been ready for the thyroid medication. For example, did the doctor test their adrenal glands before prescribing the thyroid medication? The answer is almost always no.
Why is that important? Those with insufficient adrenal function shouldn’t be taking thyroid medication. The drug inserts for these medications indicate this.
How will you know if you have insufficient adrenal function if you don’t test it? You won’t; you will never see long-term adrenal function. Your adrenal fatigue will keep coming back. The Swiss Watch Principle explains how all the body systems are connected. So adrenal fatigue won’t just affect the adrenals. Neither will thyroid dysfunction. Or an autoimmune issue. Or chronic stress. Every one of these areas affects several functions within the body.
What Causes Adrenal Insufficiency?
Because every person’s body is different, there is no one factor of adrenal insufficiency. But there are a few possible triggers. Let’s break a few down as examples.
Under functioning Adrenals
Adrenal insufficiency can happen when the adrenal glands are under-functioning. (1) They make certain hormones; if they’re not doing this, they’re underperforming. Adrenal insufficiency can be primary (Addison’s disease), secondary, or tertiary.
Secondary adrenal insufficiency happens when the pituitary gland doesn’t make enough ACTH. ACTH tells the adrenals, part of the endocrine system, to produce cortisol. People often recognize cortisol as the ‘stress hormone.’ While it does help regulate the body’s stress response, it is also integral to several aspects of your body. Cleveland Clinic (3) explains that this hormone is a glucocorticoid. In other words, it’s a steroid hormone. This group of hormones suppresses inflammation and affects circadian rhythms. They also control metabolism in your muscles, fat, liver, and bones. Cortisol helps regulate blood sugar, too.
Tertiary adrenal insufficiency starts in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus makes CRH, which tells the pituitary gland to make ACTH.
There are three types of stressors—traumas, toxins, and thoughts. The body doesn’t recognize the different kinds, just the stress. They all put stress on the body, eliciting the same internal reactions. Maybe you have Celiac and ate gluten. You may have a hormone imbalance. Or you might’ve moved recently, had a baby, or gone back to college, all of which could result in mental stress. Whatever type of stress you’re experiencing, the body prioritizes survival.
If you’re running from a bear, is your body as worried about metabolism? Blood pressure? Blood sugar? No, of course not. It wants to get you out of a bad situation.
Your adrenals aren’t the body’s priority if you’re under chronic stress. This stress can lead to a decrease in the production of adrenal hormones. Which, in its turn, causes adrenal dysfunction.
Other Possible Triggers
- The feedback loop isn’t working
- The adrenals are overworked
- Excessive cortisol levels
- Too much DHEA
The Swiss Watch at Work
Adrenal insufficiency is a pretty broad definition. And there are a lot of people that could relate. People with insufficient adrenal function should not be taking thyroid medication. So why aren’t they testing adrenal function before prescribing?
It could be because the doctors don’t know. Or it may be that they don’t know another option to help you. One problem with this is that the adrenals and the thyroid work together. It’s that Swiss Watch Principle again. If one goes up, the other must go down.
If you have low thyroid, the adrenals will try to compensate and go up. In extreme cases, this can lead to hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism comes from the opposite situation. What happens if your adrenals are low and you take medication to make them go up? The thyroid medication can exacerbate adrenal insufficiency. It can push you into adrenal or thyroid disease!
Adrenal disease can induce harmful effects like heart attacks. How can a thyroid medication have a heart attack as a side effect? The drug can cause adrenal problems. That can significantly affect the aortic function.
You have to be very careful. Thousands of our patients’ health problems have been made worse by their thyroid meds. Their TSH levels were normal. Because of that, they never connect it to their medication. They say, “my thyroid is great.” They don’t link it to the other problems they are having.
Furthermore, TSH stands for thyroid stimulating hormone. TSH isn’t a thyroid hormone. It is a brain hormone that impacts the thyroid. Thyroid hormones that can tell you the level of your thyroid function are T4, T3, and reverse T3. The other names for these hormones are thyroxine (T4), triiodothyronine (T3), and reverse triiodothyronine (rT3). When your doctor measures your TSH, he isn’t measuring the full scope of your thyroid health. Instead, he is measuring what the brain is asking for from the thyroid. To fully understand your thyroid health, you need to test all the thyroid hormone levels.
Symptoms Of Adrenal Insufficiency
- Pupil dilation
- Allergies and breathing complaints
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dry skin
- Joint pain
- Loss of muscle tone
- Blood pressure problems
- Low sex drive
- Poor circulation
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Feeling run down but having trouble sleeping
- Salt and sugar cravings
PubMed gives the following as symptoms of hypothyroidism(4):
- cold intolerance
- weight gain
- change in voice
- dry skin
Those symptoms for adrenal insufficiency are at least like those for thyroid problems. Others are the same. If you don’t get tested, your doctor could just put you on one of the most prescribed medications in the US. They might assume you have a thyroid condition when you have an adrenal condition.
WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU HAVE THESE SYMPTOMS? GET TESTED
Getting tested properly will tell you what is going on. Your doctor can only assess a functioning body if the testing is complete. You won’t know what your body needs to function normally and without medication.
START SHUTTING DOWN AT 9 PM
Your circadian rhythm impacts your adrenals. If you’re a night person, you’ll be very sick. You’re running on adrenaline, and you’re going to burn out. You need to get rest at night. Try going to bed earlier compared to later. Even if you get the same number of hours of sleep, you will feel more rested if you go to bed earlier! The number of hours you get before midnight can dramatically change your health. Make sure to sleep in a dark room and start turning lights and electronics off beforehand to get good sleep.
GET AN INVERSION TABLE
When you put your heart and head below your adrenals, it will let your adrenals rest. Where are your adrenals? Right above your kidneys. That’s why you can have lower back pain if your adrenals are stressed. An inversion table is something you can find cheaply online. You can also find other ways to get your heart and head below the adrenals. Try Pilates or put a board under the mattress at the bottom of your bed.
REDUCE EMF EXPOSURE
We are surrounded by radiation from electromagnetic fields all the time. Microwaves, WiFi, computers, and a phone in your pocket only increase that exposure. Reduce exposure by turning off the appliances and devices when you aren’t using them. Reduce the harm of exposure by regularly grounding. Get those feet on the ground and feel the grass between your toes.
Want to learn more about grounding? Check out this quick tip.
LEARN STRESS MANAGEMENT
Chronic stress is one of the easiest ways to make yourself sick, and it will drain your adrenals. It is crucial to find ways to manage your stress. Set firm boundaries and make priorities to ease some of that strain. Find time to build yourself and relax.
CBD oil is a supplement that can support your adrenals in a few different ways. It can help with stress, sleep, and your immune system. CBD oil can help you get the sleep you need for your body to repair itself. Take a little before bedtime if you have been waking up feeling exhausted. CBD oil has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. These will support your immune system to help you heal. CBD oil is great in so many ways. Look for a high-quality, full-spectrum oil like the one we make.
But it’s my Thyroid!
When they think of thyroid conditions, most people think of autoimmune thyroid disease. One of the most common autoimmune diseases is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Autoimmune disorders happen when your antibodies and immune system target your own body. We will talk more about Grave’s and Hashimoto’s later this month. For now, autoimmune disorders don’t have to be a life sentence. And they’re not the only ones that can cause trouble elsewhere. That’s the whole point behind the Swiss watch philosophy and the way we do healthcare. Thyroid and adrenal health have impacts on the rest of the body. They have just as much impact as cardiovascular health, heart rate, and menstrual cycles.
This clarity is why the urine and blood tests we do at The Wellness Way are so important. Knowing where you’re feeling the effects of something doesn’t mean you know the cause. Get these tests done to figure out which part of the body needs help. Work with a practitioner that knows how to read the tests and support your body back to homeostasis. Only then can you know you’re addressing something the right way.