Adrenal Exhaustion, Thyroid Issues
Answered by: Christine Dennis
Question from: Jeannine
Posted on: October 14, 2008

I am having alot of issues with my thyroid that are not being helped with conventional thyroid medicine. My doctor has recently >had my thyroid scanned and pictures taken . She told me that my thyroid is being flooded with all the hormones at the same time. >I was wondering if I could have adrenal exhaustion as well. This past year I noticed my full, dark eyelashes become white and >sparse. Could that be a symptom? Thanks for your time.

Absolutely!! Both the thyroid and your adrenals will need to be addressed. In many cases, both thyroid and adrenal issues are caused from stress. As a result, it is necessary to reduce the effects of the stress on the body.

To help you understand the relationship between stress and the adrenal glands and the thyroid gland, allow me to explain as this is a problem that I see on a weekly basis in my practice. When we are feeling stressed, we go into what is commonly referred to as a "fight or flight" response that is initiated from the adrenal glands. What this means is that the body has a mode that it goes into, that was originally built into our design, for when our stressors were from a tiger coming out of the jungle at us. What happens in this mode is that the body begins to throw adrenaline (causes the heart to speed up and our brain to be on high alert), fat (building blocks for long term energy requirements) and sugar (for instant energy requirements) into the blood stream. This gives the body the requirements it needs so that one can fight the tiger or flight from it. At the same time the body is making other decisions to preserve and focus its energy in other areas. As a result, the body decides that digesting is not important at that moment and the energy that would normally go into digesting food gets shut off.

Today, of course, most of us are not needing to worry about real tigers, but we still have "tigers" that stress us - work, bosses, partners, kids, finances, poor diets, etc. However, the body can not recognize between emotional stressors and physical stressors and responds that same way still as all stress is just perceived as "tigers". Furthermore, this mode was originally designed for just short encounters with "tigers" and not for encounters that last full weeks (teenagers, bosses, etc) or months (end of relationships, deaths in the family, etc). After a while of being in this constant stress mode, our adrenal glands begin to weaken and we can start to feel very tired, anxious and depressed. At this point, the entire endocrine system says to the adrenals "here, let us help" and in doing so the thyroid starts to not only do the normal work that it does everyday but it also helps to step up and do some of the work that that adrenals do but via different pathways. This then of course leads to erratic thyroid activity and eventually a hypo functioning thyroid as it too becomes weakened and burned out. At the same time, the body makes an executive decision saying that fertility is also not important because times are too stressful for a baby (This is common in the animal kingdom for survival of that specie.) Here we then see reproductive hormones changed with the precursors that makes these hormones going toward making stress hormones instead. Eventually this cycle becomes weaker and weaker and one gradually feels worse and worse.

For more information on reducing the effects of stress, please see: http://www.richters.com/qa-search.cgi?search=stress

Regarding the adrenal exhaustion, once adrenal burnout occurs, it can be a long road back to health if one is not diligent at stopping and taking care of themselves whilst listening to their body. Anxiety, sleeplessness, digestive upsets and panic attacks can be some symptoms of adrenal burnout.

The first thing I suggest is regular sleep. To do this calming herbs such as wood betony, lavender and passionflower are recommended. These can be taken 1 hour prior to bedtime. If waking up throughout the night is a problem, it is best to have a sleep aid formula ready and taken for up to 3 doses over the course of an 8 hour night. If waking up with anxiety and heart palpitations the following herbal tinctures could be ideal -- wild lettuce, linden flower, passion flower and scullcap. The other important factor is to keep blood sugar levels even throughout the night so that the stress response blood sugar swings are not waking one up. Smaller more frequent meals throughout the day comprised of complex carbohydrates, lots of vegetables, fiber, good fats and no refined foods, sugar or caffeine are key recommendations. A small handful of almonds before bed will also help here. Gentle exercise, whilst listening to your body will begin to help the adrenals get stronger again. Walking, swimming, cycling, yoga are nice examples. Deep breathing will help to naturally massage the adrenals and gently stimulate them.

Diet is very important. Good fats (Omega 3 essential fatty acids) such as fish, nut and seed oils such as salmon, anchovy, walnut and flax seed oils will provide the essential ingredients for the adrenal hormones -- 1 to 3 T of these essential fatty acids per day with meals. Avoid ALL refined foods as they just play havoc on blood sugar swings. Stick with a variety of whole grains, legumes, fish, eggs and chicken as man protein sources, a variety of vegetables and fruits and pure wholesome drinks such a nutritive herbal teas like long infusions of nettles, lemon in water, pure vegetable juice and only a small amount of pure fruit juices. Avoid all caffeine and artificial sweeteners and flavourings.

To support the nervous system whist making these changes and building yourself back up again B vitamins (a "B 50’s" supplement three times per day), magnesium (400 to 600mg three times per day - epsom salt baths are also a good source of magnesium) and essential fatty acids as stated before are a must. The calming herbs suggested can be taken throughout the day when you feel stressed or anxious. Nerve tonics like milky oat seed tincture would be very beneficial here.

My favourite herbs to help restore the adrenal glands would be nettle seed, milky oat seed, gotu kola, ashwaganda and siberian ginseng taken three time per day.

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