When you hear the word “stress” you probably think of never having enough hours in a day, rush-hour traffic, arguing, money problems, and many other problems we face every day. While these things surely have psychological and/or emotional problems in our everyday lives, there are other types of “stress” that can have an even greater effect.

There are other factors that people don’t usually think of that can be stressful on your adrenal glands. Things such as food intolerances, chronic infections, gut dysfunction, sugar swings, autoimmune problems, inflammation, and environmental toxins. Each of these can cause your adrenal glands to produce more stress hormones.

Both things we think about and don’t think about when we hear “stress” can disturb the natural balance of your body. Since practically everyone has to face at least one of these factors, adrenal stress is one of the most common medical problems. That’s why it’s important to recognize the symptoms. These include:
• Headaches
• Fatigue
• Decrease of immunity
• Sleep disorders—problems such as falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up.
• Cravings for sugar and/or caffeine
• Frequent mood swings
• Lightheadedness between meals
• Irritability
• Relieving fatigue by eating
• Gastric ulcers
• Dizziness when you go from a sitting/lying position to a standing position.

When you have weakened adrenal glands, it can cause you to experience symptoms of hypothyroidism even if you don’t have a thyroid disorder. It would be ineffective to treat the thyroid gland. Instead, treating the adrenal glands themselves will help to improve your thyroid function.

The adrenal glands have an impact on your thyroid functions in one or all of the following ways:

1. Disrupting the HPA axis—The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA, is the intricate network of interactions that take place between your hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. They help your body regulate things such as: mood, digestion, sexuality, energy usage, and immunity, as well as the way your body reacts to trauma and stress. Research has shown that chronic adrenal stress will depress the function of your hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Because both of these organs regulate thyroid hormone production, anything that disrupts them, will suppress your thyroid function.

2. Converting T4 to T3—A little over 90% of the hormone produced by the thyroid is T4. To become active, it has to be converted to T3. Anything that disrupts the HPA axis can also interfere with the body’s ability to convert T4 to T3.

3. Weakening immune barriers—Your body’s GI tract, lungs, and blood-brain barrier keep unwanted elements from making their way into your bloodstream and brain. When adrenal stress causes these barriers to weaken. When this happens, your entire immune system will weaken and cause you to be more susceptible to autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s.

4. Resting thyroid hormone—If the thyroid hormone is going to do you any good, it must activate receptors on cells. It becomes as if the thyroid hormone is ringing the doorbell, but your cells fail to answer. When this happens, you may be taking the thyroid replacement hormones and your TSH may be normal, but you will still suffer symptoms.

5. Causing hormonal imbalances—During stressful times, one hormone released is cortisol. Chronic stress leads to prolonged cortisol elevations. This decreases your liver’s ability to remove excess estrogens. When there’s too much estrogen it increases your body’s levels of thyroid binding globulin or TBG. This is the protein your thyroid hormone attaches to as it goes through your body. While thyroid hormone is attached, it is inactive. This causes your T3 uptake and free T4/T3 to be low on your lab reports.

Adrenal imbalances are almost either partially or totally caused by something else. It is important to address the initial problem or trying to balance the adrenals will be ineffective. Here are a few guidelines you can follow to help promote healthy adrenal glands:
• Reduce stimulants
• Keep blood sugar stabilized
• Use relaxation and stress management techniques
• Take time to have fun and make pleasure a part of your life
• Avoid inflammation causing foods such as: refined flours, industrial seed oil, high-fructose corn syrup, etc.
• Keeping adequate levels of DHA and EPA