Each week women pour into my office tired but wired; stressed out and reporting symptoms such as hair loss, sensitivity to cold and difficulty losing weight. Doctors used to consider these classic hypothyroid symptoms, but only now practitioners examining the role of our adrenals in this complicated health conundrum.
The adrenals are the masters of all hormones. They regulate our body's stress response, also known as our fight or flight response. They work to secrete some of our most important hormones such as pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol. When our bodies are in a constant state of stress, we tax our adrenals and it can cause a hormonal ricochet effect. And low adrenal function (due to ongoing taxation) can cause a diminished thyroid function to become much worse.
According to my dear friend and doctor of Chinese medicine, Dr. Sarah Emily Sajdak, hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue are often caused by “Spleen Qi Deficiency.” In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Spleen is in charge of receiving food and fluids we ingest, and transforming them into useful nutrients needed to fuel our body. When the Spleen underperforms, you might experience fatigue, low appetite, and generally feel “slow.” Untransformed fluids will build up, causing weight gain, puffiness, bloating and/or constipation.
So what can we do about it?
- 86 the caffeine as it’s likely part of the reason your adrenals are fatigued to begin with. Caffeine stimulates the brain and each sip of coffee sends a message to your pituitary glands signaling your adrenals to produce cortisol and adrenaline. As a result, on-going consumption of coffee causes our bodies to be in constant fight or flight mode. No thanks!
- Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen and is a strong choice when it comes to adrenal support as it works to lower cortisol, the stress hormone. Holy basil and licorice roots are two other adaptogens know to provide powerful adrenal support.
- Get your B vitamins on: Low levels of B vitamins, especially B12, are linked with adrenal stress. (FYI, low levels of B vitamins are found commonly in women and also in vegetarians.
- Magnesium has also been reported to be a strong support when it comes to healthy adrenals. Plus, it can also lessen symptom of PMS and support sleep.
Manage your stress:
- Being under constant stress can make adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues go from bad to worse. Here at BHH we’re big proponents of meditation and breath work to manage stress. Getting yourself into a daily practice can really go a long way. See some of our exercises here.
Eat sea vegetables:
- For my hypothyroid patients, I commonly recommend a regimen that includes iodine-rich foods such as sea vegetables. Kelp, arame, hiziki, kombu and wakame are all iodine-rich options that can be worked into salads, buddha bowls or as great sides. They contain anywhere from 10-2000% the recommended daily value of iodine so they’re perfect foods for thyroid support.
Avoid raw cruciferous vegetables:
- Hypothyroid sufferers should be wary of cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, kale and broccoli. These foods, though very healthy for some, contain goitrogens which can prevent the absorption of iodine—a much needed mineral for healthy thyroid function.
- “Using acupuncture and Chinese herbs, I will usually boost the Spleen’s energy so it can better perform its function of transforming nutrients into energy,” says Sarah. “This can be roughly translated as boosting and strengthening the digestive system and overall metabolism.” Sounds good to us!
Check in with your doctor:
- Thyroid imbalances, especially hyperthyroidism, can be extremely dangerous. If you suspect you may have thyroid impairment, schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable endocrinologist in your area. They will likely test your TSH, T3, T4 and reverse T3 to get the full picture of how your thyroid is functioning.