Thyroid and Adrenals: How are they Connected?

Are you tired all the time? Trouble tolerating the cold? Menstrual irregularities or PCOS? Do your symptoms come from an under active thyroid or from worn out adrenal glands (the walnut-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys)? Many people have a combination of adrenal and thyroid issues not just one or the other. The underlying cause of your symptoms may even be due to a dysregulation upstream from the thyroid and adrenals. The glands at the front of the line, the hypothalamus and pituitary, regulate the adrenals and thyroid. It is imperative to provide support to the hypothalamus and pituitary when working with someone who has a thyroid and/or adrenal issue.

With all the stress we experience in today’s world, it is no wonder that our adrenal glands are taking a beating and there are so many people with thyroid issues. The stress we experience day in and day out dictates the cortisol we produce from the adrenal glands. Cortisol is a very important hormone; it has anti-inflammatory actions and prevents cell damage and death. However, when there is an excess of cortisol, this can have negative effects (e.g., breakdown of protein, increased blood sugar, and fat buildup around the belly). The effects of chronic cortisol seretion does not stop there. It can also affect the functioning of the thyroid gland, which I have demonstrated in this diagram. Simply put, cortisol can inhibit the conversion to the active thyroid hormone (T3), and it can also inhibit the production of TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone, which is secreted from the pituitary. TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T4 (inactive form) to T3 (active thyroid hormone). Why do we need the active form of thyroid hormone? This is the form that can be picked up by the tissues of our body to elicit a healthy response. If T4 is not converted to T3, an unhealthy biological response can occur (e.g., weight gain, menstrual irregularities, memory loss, depression, cold intolerance, etc.).

Additionally, the trace minerals are very important to thyroid and adrenal health. These include selenium and zinc. Iodine is also an important mineral needed for thyroid health. The Standard American Diet lacks these critical minerals. Healthy nutrition comes down to so much more than just calories in, calories out. WHAT we eat matters, as well as how well we absorb it.