In working with people with Hashimoto’s, I’ve noticed that most of them—around 90%—present numerous signs and symptoms of adrenal dysfunction, yet presume these symptoms to be a result of their thyroid imbalances.
If you have difficulty getting up in the morning, regularly feel tired despite getting enough sleep, have low blood pressure, low libido, and low blood sugar, feel faint when you get up too fast, experience poor memory and mental fog, consistently crave salty foods, and feel a general sort of malaise, you could have impaired adrenal function.
This underlying dysfunction creates its own brand of havoc, but can also worsen thyroid symptoms and even be the trigger for your thyroid disease. If you have Hashimoto’s and have treated it with thyroid hormones, but found only short-lived relief, one possibility is that your adrenals need attention before a complete recovery can be made.
The Adrenals at a Glance
The adrenal glands release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. These “stress hormones” impact many important functions throughout the body. They help establish your stress tolerance, tame inflammation, regulate blood sugar and body fat, control potassium and sodium levels (impacting blood sugar), influence sex drive and anti-aging…among other things.
When adrenal dysfunction occurs, there’s a lot that can go wrong—and a lot of ways it manifests in your body depending upon how advanced the dysfunction. Dr. Alan Christianson has defined three stages of adrenal dysfunction and their corresponding symptoms. They are:
Stage 2: Wired (overwhelmed, difficulty staying asleep, erratic mental function)
Stage 3: Crashed (exhausted, unrefreshing sleep, unable to generate ideas)
One of the most common causes of adrenal fatigue, regardless of the stage it is in, is chronic stress, which creates an unpredictable, intense demand for stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. When this demand doesn’t relent—because you always have somewhere to be in a hurry; your kids, family, and job need immediate attention; and not a single task on your list can wait—the adrenal glands become strained and the resources they rely upon to produce hormones get depleted.
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In this case, your stress or fight-or-flight response is always in the “on” position, an impossible position to sustain if you want robust overall health and well-being. This is because when a great deal of the body’s energy and resources is constantly dedicated to managing the stress response, the body will begin to shut down non-survival related functions.
Analyzing your adrenal health will help tell you whether your stress response needs a reboot. In my book Hashimoto’s Protocol, I provide readers with an adrenal assessment that is intended to indicate whether a person is at low, intermediate, or high risk of having adrenal dysfunction.
Of course, you can also be tested for adrenal fatigue; I recommend the saliva test to all my clients with Hashimoto’s. If you feel confident based on your symptoms that your adrenals need attention and you don’t want to wait for the results of an assessment or test, you can also just begin to implement strategies designed to encourage adrenal recovery.
The Adrenal Recovery Protocol
In Hashimoto’s Protocol, I identify three areas that require focused care: the liver, the adrenal glands, and the gut. Many of the vulnerabilities that open the door to Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune attack on the thyroid, are found in one of these parts of the body. Restoring the liver, adrenal, and gut can often provide the foundational strength and balance needed for the thyroid to heal.
There are five steps to the Adrenal Recovery Protocol:
- Rest. Here, I emphasize the importance of sleep. I recommend getting 10-12 hours of sleep during this adrenal-focused recovery period. There are also specific “bedtimes” you should honor and a few other strategies that might help ensure you get the suggested shuteye in.
- De-stress. This is a tough step, but believe it or not, there are steps you can take to make yourself more stress tolerant. Exercise is key, but it’s important to note that the right type of exercise for you will depend upon the stage of your adrenal dysfunction. In most cases, muscle-building activities such as Pilates or weight training are beneficial.
- Reduce inflammation. Inflammation is lowered only when you consistently stick with anti-inflammatory habits. In Hashimoto’s Protocol, I detail the Root Cause Paleo Diet, which excludes certain foods such as hot peppers and includes ingredients like pea protein. Each food is included or omitted based on its effect on inflammation.
- Balance the blood sugar. Balancing your blood sugar can create noticeable improvements in how you feel each day. Aim first and foremost to eat more fats and proteins and less sugary and starchy carbs.
- Replenish nutrients and adaptogens. If you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, you could be low in Vitamins B and C, which are utilized to meet increased demands for cortisol. There are minerals too, such as potassium and zinc among others, which might need replenishing.
Going through these five steps (detailed further in Hashimoto’s Protocol) will help most people with adrenal dysfunction feel significantly better. And this is true for people who have Hashimoto’s and those who don’t. In either case, restoring adrenal function can eliminate many of the symptoms that seem to have taken the wind out of your sails, the pep from your step. I hope some of the strategies I’ve touched upon here will get you on the road to feeling better–perhaps–better than ever!
About Dr. Izabella Wentz
Izabella Wentz, PharmD, FASCP is an internationally acclaimed thyroid specialist and licensed pharmacist who has dedicated her career to addressing the root causes of autoimmune thyroid disease after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis in 2009. Dr. Wentz is the author of the New York Times bestselling patient guide Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: Lifestyle Interventions for Finding and Treating the Root Cause and the new protocol-based book Hashimoto’s Protocol: A 90-Day Plan for Reversing Thyroid Symptoms and Getting Your Life Back. As a patient advocate, researcher, clinician, and educator, Dr. Wentz is committed to raising awareness on how to overcome autoimmune thyroid disease through The Thyroid Secret Documentary Series, the Hashimoto’s Institute Practitioner Training, and her international consulting and speaking services offered to both patients and healthcare professionals.