The Thyroid and Adrenal Relationship


These days it is very easy to sucked into the whole “adrenal fatigue” way of thinking.

To avoid getting sucked down this endless rabbit hole of supplements and destruction to your thyroid here a couple facts you need to consider:

A) Adrenal fatigue does not exist.

B) The common recommendations for treating adrenal fatigue often place a greater burden on the adrenal glands and burn out your thyroid.

The purpose of the adrenal glands is to help your body cope with stresses and survive. You cannot live without your adrenal hormones and how well you live depends a great deal on the relationship between both the adrenal and thyroid glands.

When the body is stressed it has a #1 priority in getting O2 and glucose to the brain and tissues as quickly as possible.  This is where the adrenals and thyroid share their most important relationship, their mutual control over metabolism.

The thyroid regulates the rate at which glucose, the body’s main fuel, is burned where the adrenals regulate the availability of that same fuel!

It is the glucocorticoids released from the adrenal glands, which control the release of glucose from several different areas; stored glycogen from the liver, fat and muscle tissue. Both thyroid and the glucocorticoids work in the nucleus of the cell to provide the body sufficient energy to meet the challenges it faces.

Under any stressful event the body requires extra energy. At this moment the adrenal glands begin releasing the signals (adrenaline) for the body to begin mobilizing glucose in preparation for the body to meet the crisis at hand. It is then thyroids job to handle the burning of this extra fuel the adrenals provide. When insufficient thyroid is available the body will have a difficult time meeting the demands it faces.

How do we know if the thyroid deficiency is primary or the adrenal deficiency is primary?

When the adrenal reserves are inadequate the body only has enough stored energy to support a short-lived crisis/stress. This can be anything requiring more energy demand then what is normal for any individual (ie. extra exercise, more work load then usual, visitors in town, manual therapy- massage, chiro, osteo, cranial).

When these glucose reserves are gone it can take hours for the glucocorticoids to release adequate amounts of glucose from the body’s long term stores to bring ready reserves of fuel back to what the body needs to have on hand.

Frequently a long recovery phase occurs after any stress when adrenal function is inadequate. Individuals with inadequate adrenal function crash and may have to rest for a couple days before their energy levels return to normal function.  This prolonged need for recovery often leaves these individuals tired when they wake up in the morning while those suffering with low thyroid function are more apt to have good energy upon waking but tire as the day progresses.

Deficiencies in thyroid or glucocorticoids produce symptoms that mimic the others deficiencies. Which can be very confusing and is why nutritional support and identifying personal stressors is essential in any healing program!

Establishing the proper balance between the thyroid and the adrenals is most important. There is an increasingly common trend of supplementing with T3 to support deficiencies in thyroid hormone. This can be a dangerous game when not fully understanding thyroid function. If an individual with low adrenal function is placed on thyroid replacement without #1, adequate nutrition in support of adrenal function, they can easily be pushed deeper into dysfunction due to the adrenal insufficiency.

Thyroid hormone increases metabolic activity of the adrenal hormones ridding the body very rapidly of what is has on hand which is already in deficit. This leaves the individual with an adrenal deficiency to support the needs of the body.  Unfortunately this can compound the problem because although the thyroid is necessary this response might lead someone (doctors) to wrongly assume the thyroid replacement was a mistake and the opportunity for better health can be missed.

On the flip side this could offer a lot of information to the underlying state of the adrenals where then both can be adequately and properly supported.

The function between the thyroid and the adrenals are closely intertwined and both must be considered when in cases of both, hypothyroidism and/or adrenal insufficiency.

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  1. […] EastWest Healing: Hypothyroidism EastWest Healing: The Thyroid: Part 1 EastWest Healing: The Thyroid and Adrenal Relationship […]

    November 9, 2014 • 12:25 pm •