Many hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue symptoms overlap, leading to confusion and misdiagnosis. In order to properly address these conditions and avoid confusion, it's important to understand how the thyroid and adrenals are related, and the impact they have on each other.
Hormones are one of the most influential elements of wellness. These chemical structures relay messages throughout the body to regulate numerous functions. There are multiple systems responsible for production and regulation of hormones. Two of the most important being the adrenals and the thyroid. In addition to be essential for healthy bodily function, these two systems have a significant degree of influence on one another. Therefore, to better maintain wellness it is important to understand the role of the adrenals, the thyroid, and their mutual impact over each other.
What are the Adrenals?
The adrenals are small but highly influential organs located just above both kidneys. These are the glands responsible for controlling the body’s stress response as well as producing hormones essential for healthy bodily function. Some of the most notable adrenal hormones include pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol – learn more about the adrenal hormones here. These and other adrenal hormones regulate areas such as metabolism, physical ability, libido, energy level, stress response, and much more.
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck. Like the adrenals, the thyroid regulates important areas of health including metabolism, mood, weight, neurological function, energy level, and more. The thyroid completes this complex task through the secretion of thyroid hormones. The most well-recognized thyroid hormones are thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones help to determine the activity level of virtually every cell and tissue in the body. It is for this reason that some refer to the thyroid as the body’s gas pedal.
Identifying Arenal and Thyroid Imbalances
Disruption of either the thyroid or the adrenals can result in a cascade of dysfunction throughout the body. There are several ways in which the adrenals and the thyroid may become dysfunctional including physical damage or trauma, chronic mental or physical stress, and chronic illness. These factors can contribute to hormonal imbalances that encourage the development of serious dysfunction such as adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism.
Many symptoms of adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are shared. Because of this, it is common for patients to be misdiagnosed. Fatigue, poor sleep quality or insomnia, depression, PMS, brain fog, sensitivity to cold, weight gain, forgetfulness, and loss of libido are just some of the shared symptoms of adrenal dysfunction and hypothyroidism. If you experience some, or all, of these symptoms, it is important to assess both adrenal and thyroid function.
The Shared Influence of the Adrenals and the Thyroid
Although they are two different systems, the adrenals and the thyroid have a great deal of overlap. Typically, this is beneficial as both systems can support each other. However, because they are so closely related, if one system fails or malfunctions it often leads to disruption of the other.
The adrenal glands are responsible for regulating the body’s stress response. When we experience stress the adrenals release cortisol. The increase in cortisol triggers elevated immune activity, increased inflammatory response, heightened physical ability, and greater alertness. These are all beneficial qualities when handling stress in the short term. However, constant activation of the adrenals encourages further release of cortisol. Excess cortisol can negatively affect thyroid function and contribute to hypothyroidism. In part, this is why many individuals suffering from chronic stress also experience a decline in thyroid function.
For the thyroid to effectively regulate bodily function, T4 must be converted to T3 and interact with tissues throughout the body. Studies show that certain adrenal hormones play an important role in the conversion process of thyroid hormones. Additionally, some experts suggest that adrenal hormones are needed to effectively deliver T3 into cells and tissues. Therefore, poor adrenal function and a lack of adrenal hormones may inhibit thyroid activity resulting in symptoms of hypothyroidism.
Both systems play a significant role in maintaining healthy metabolic activity. If either system faulters, the other must work harder to make up the difference. For example, if metabolic activity is failing due to an underactive thyroid, the adrenals must work harder to maintain proper metabolic function. If thyroid function remains defunct, the adrenals will ultimately become exhausted resulting in adrenal fatigue. With these two systems exhausted, the body is almost certain to experience a significant and long-lasting decline in functionality.
The Importance of Treating Both Thyroid and Adrenal Dysfunction
Because hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue both involve hormone deficiency, the conditions are treated in a similar fashion. The most common approach is to administer hormone therapy based on the individual needs of the patient. For example, if thyroid dysfunction is suspected, a patient may be given thyroid hormone supplements to increase their hormone values. Similarly, if adrenal signs point to adrenal fatigue, a doctor may recommend cortisol or other adrenal hormone supplements.
When treating the adrenals or the thyroid it is critical that diagnosis is accurate. For example, in the presence of adrenal malfunction, thyroid hormone therapies may actually cause greater disruption. This is because thyroid medication accelerates metabolic activity, which can place greater stress on the adrenals thereby contributing further to adrenal fatigue . Ideally, if a patient is presenting symptoms of either adrenal dysfunction or thyroid disease, both systems are evaluated, and a full gamut of tests are run to assess relevant hormone values.
Finding a Doctor That Understands the Adrenal-Thyroid Connection
The body is composed of an intricate web of interlocking systems, many of which have direct influence on one other. An excellent example of this is the relationship between the adrenals and the thyroid. Both systems are integral to overall bodily function and exert their influence through the production of hormones. Due to their high degree of interconnectivity, dysfunction of one can have a dramatic negative impact on the other. Therefore, if symptoms of either adrenal or thyroid dysfunction develop, it is important to consider and assess both systems. Being aware of the close relationship between the adrenals and the thyroid and their important role in bodily function can help you better preserve their function and maintain greater wellness.
At Holtorf Medical Group, our physicians are knowledgeable in both thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, and how the two are connected. Because of this, they are able to provide you with cutting-edge testing and innovative treatments to find the answers you deserve and a treatment plan that is personalized to you. If you are experiencing symptoms of thyroid or adrenal dysfunction, give us a call at 877-508-1177!
References1. Victor Parsons, DM and Ian Ramsay, MD. “Thyroid and adrenal relationships.” Postgrad. med. J. (May 1968) 44, 377-384.
2. Seck-Gassama et al. “Serum cortisol level variations in thyroid diseases.” Dakar Med. 2000;45(1):30-3.
3. Amy Myers, MD. “The Adrenal-Thyroid Connection.” Amy Myers.
How HMG Has Helped Others: Patient Testimonial
“Dr. Laufer has been my endocrinologist for about 3 years now, and I cannot speak highly enough of him. Not only does he go over all my medical information in detail each visit, he always asks me about my life, my stress, my eating and my exercise- all key ingredients into having a healthy life that can effect a thyroid condition. My traditional medical insurance could not and would not treat my condition properly. Dr. Laufer and the Holtorf Medical Center have saved my life and given me a level of wellness in my health that is priceless! If you are experiencing any thyroid or hormonal issues, this medical center will be able to help you. They are a state-of-the -art facility. Highly recommended – go see Dr. Laufer!” – Sherry L.