naturopathy for adrenal + thyroid health
Adrenal Fatigue or Burnout is being referred to as the 21st Century Syndrome. It lies behind today’s most common health complaints including Candida, exhaustion, allergies, uncontrollable cravings, weight-gain and anxiety.
Many of us are working long hours, juggling careers with raising children, keeping fit, maintaining a marriage or relationship, looking after elderly parents, as well as performing the many activities of modern life.
When extra stressors come along such as illness or death of a loved one, a car crash, financial losses on volatile markets, this stressor can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
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Do You Have Adrenal Fatigue?
There are 3 main stages of adrenal fatigue: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.
Dr. James L Wilson, author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome compiled a questionnaire to help you evaluate the likelihood of your having burnout.
Ironically, your adrenal glands are there to help you cope with stress. Under stress they release adrenalin as part of your “fight or flight” response, which gives you extra energy to run from a tiger or lift the bus off your child. The problem arises when you are faced with constant stressors and your adrenal glands become overworked.
There are three stages of adrenal fatigue:
- Alarm – you become stressed, but manage to re-balance yourself. Your adrenalin, cortisol, DHEA and insulin rise
- Resistance – typically cortisol is raised as you try to cope with long-term levels of stress. You can no longer re-balance yourself. Your hormones such as progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA become depleted in favour of producing more cortisol. You wake feeling exhausted and need a coffee to get going in the morning. You have regular infections and your libido plummets
- Exhaustion – This is the final stage when you exhaust your supplies of hormones and your cortisol levels crash. On a bad day you might not be able to get out of bed. Your brain is fuzzy, your memory poor, you lack energy to do the things you love, such as sport. You lose your sense of humour, maybe you have back ache, your digestion suffers, you become irritable and anxious, and you possibly suffer from insomnia
Long-term stress and adrenal exhaustion lead to many chronic health problems including digestive problems, leaky gut with subsequent allergies and intolerances, thyroid problems, weight-gain, low blood pressure, insomnia, glandular fever, chronic back pain, arthritic pains, and eventually auto-immune diseases.
What are your adrenals?
Your adrenals are about the size of a walnut and sit on top of your kidneys about halfway up your back.
What can I do?
Firstly, you need to address your lifestyle. This is the hardest aspect to improve. It is essential to recovery that you find a lifestyle that includes sufficient joy, as well as rest and relaxation for recovery. Stressors can be emotional or physical.
A health problem is just as much a stressor as an unhappy relationship or a job you hate. Do you feel you wake to an endless “To Do List” and a life that contains little joy and fun? It’s important not to lose sight of what makes your soul sing.
Part of recovering from burnout is learning to listen to your body and allowing yourself to sleep as long as you need to. Recovery may take months or years depending on how exhausted you are, how you take care of yourself, and how many stressors you still have in your life.
Balancing your blood sugar levels by avoiding refined carbohydrates, sugar and alcohol is very important. Include plenty of fresh organic vegetables and regular amounts of protein in your diet.
One symptom of adrenal fatigue is an aversion to eating meat because you no longer produce sufficient hydrochloric acid to digest it. Protein balances blood sugar levels and is an important part of your recovery plan. Taking Betaine HCL with protein under supervision can help in these cases.
Sugar and chocolate addiction are often part of the picture of burnout since our body craves instant energy foods. Chocolate contains magnesium, which becomes depleted with burnout. These foods raise cortisol levels and prevent adrenal recovery.
How can I find out if I am adrenally exhausted?
- Both the Adrenal Stress Plus by Genova and the DUTCH urine test indicate if and what stage of exhaustion you are in
- A hair mineral analysis test, which will show your overall mineral and adrenal status and offer a supplement protocol. I recommend and use ARL – http://www.arltma.com
Do I also have thyroid problems?
Secondary hypothyroidism or under-functioning of the thyroid is commonly caused by adrenal exhaustion. Low adrenal function leads to low thyroid function. Typically, you might have high levels of TBG (thyroid binding globulin), low free T4, low free T3, raised TSH and possibly raised rT3.
What are the symptoms of thyroid problems?
- Loss of hair at the end of your eyebrows
- Dry hair
- Dry skin
- Weight-gain and difficulty losing weight
- Muscle cramps
- Cold hands and feet
When your adrenals are exhausted they down-regulate the thyroid so it produces fewer hormones. This is to preserve energy for survival.
How do I find out if my thyroid is underactive?
I recommend the Thyroid Plus test by Genova, since the NHS typically only tests for TSH, which is not enough for a full picture of your thyroid health. You want to test for all of the following if you suspect thyroid issues:
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Anti-TGO and anti-TPO antibodies (for Hashimoto’s or Graves)
Sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between adrenal and thyroid symptoms as several of these overlap. The only way of knowing for certain is to run lab tests. With your lab results you can target and effectively support the organs that need assistance.
How could functional medicine help you?
Get in touch to set up a time to discuss your situation on Skype. I offer a free 20 minute chat so you can find out more about naturopathy and whether it might be the right approach for you.
References + Reading
- Dr. James L Wilson, author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome
© TARA ALEX ZENKER • CREATED BY KERI WILLIAMS
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