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The Role of Adrenal Health in Thyroid Function

Have you been dealing with high stress or a lack of energy? Are you sick of the ups and downs, not feeling like your full self? Would you like to find a completely different approach to medicine and try something new? Discover how Dr. Radawi of Tri-Cities Functional Medicine takes a holistic approach to figure out the root cause of adrenal issues as related to thyroid function and then works toward restoring balance in the body.

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The intricate interplay between various systems in our body can significantly impact overall health and well-being. But when it comes to thyroid function, another vital player enters the stage — the adrenal glands. Your adrenal glands are actually tiny glands that sit on top of the kidneys and produce hormones that are crucial in managing stress, metabolism, and energy levels. And understanding the relationship between adrenal health and thyroid function is essential for achieving optimal wellness.

Here, we’ll highlight the significant role of adrenal health in thyroid function — and how adrenal insufficiency can influence your overall health.

What is the Adrenal-Thyroid Connection?

The human body is an organism that doesn’t function without a cohesive relationship between the tiniest cell to the largest organ. As such, each part of your body affects every other part. And this is also true with the adrenal glands and how they affect the thyroid gland, hormones, and the overall functionality of your body.

In addition, the adrenal glands are the gatekeepers of stress. As such, they are the kings of the endocrine system — responsible for producing hormones like cortisol, commonly known as the “stress hormone.” And cortisol helps our bodies manage stress — mobilizing energy reserves and increasing alertness in response to challenging situations — much like regulating our fight-or-flight response. However, chronic stress can also lead to imbalances in cortisol levels affecting other systems in the body — including the thyroid.

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) Axis

The HPA axis is a complex network involving the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland function. And this axis plays a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions — including stress response and hormone production.

Essentially, when the body experiences stress, the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which signals the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). As a result, ACTH then stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. And dysregulation in this axis can have cascading effects on the thyroid gland and its function.

Cortisol’s Impact on Thyroid Hormones

Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with thyroid hormone production in the body. In particular, it can inhibit the conversion of the inactive thyroid-stimulating hormone T4 (thyroxine) into the active form, T3 (triiodothyronine). T3 is the more potent thyroid hormone responsible for regulating metabolism and energy levels. When cortisol levels are consistently high due to chronic stress, the conversion of T4 to T3 may be impaired, leading to suboptimal thyroid function.

Adrenal Fatigue and Thyroid Dysfunction

The adrenal glands secrete hormones as well. And prolonged exposure to stress can lead to a condition known as adrenal fatigue or adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal gland struggles to maintain cortisol production in response to chronic stress. This condition can impact the HPA axis and lead to disruptions in thyroid function.

The Thyroid-Adrenal Connection in Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune thyroid condition, provides a clear example of the thyroid-adrenal connection. In this autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, leading to inflammation and thyroid hormone imbalances. As a result, chronic stress and adrenal dysfunction can exacerbate the autoimmune response — further impacting thyroid function and worsening Hashimoto’s symptoms.

Symptoms of Poor Adrenal Health

Poor adrenal health, often referred to as adrenal fatigue or adrenal dysfunction, can manifest through a range of symptoms. It’s also essential to note that these symptoms can vary in intensity and may overlap with other health conditions. But as always, if you suspect you have poor adrenal health, it’s crucial that you consult with a functional medicine provider for proper evaluation.

Some common symptoms of poor adrenal health include:

  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Handling StressSleep Issues
  • Low Energy Levels
  • Brain Fog
  • Cravings for Salty Foods
  • Weight Fluctuations
  • Mood Changes
  • Digestive Issues
  • Reduced Immune Function
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Decreased Libido
  • Muscle and Joint Pain
  • Cravings for Sugar and Caffeine
  • Hair Loss
  • Skin Changes
  • Sensitivity to Cold
  • Menstrual Irregularities

It’s important to remember that many of these symptoms can be associated with various other health conditions. As such, a comprehensive evaluation by a functional medicine professional is essential for accurate evaluation.

At the end of the day, from a functional medicine perspective, addressing poor adrenal health often involves adopting lifestyle changes, stress management, managing the gut microbiome, and typically targeted supplementation to support adrenal function.

How Do You Know When Poor Adrenal Health is Affecting Your Thyroid Gland?

3 indicators that your adrenal gland is affecting your thyroid infographic

Identifying when poor adrenal health is affecting your thyroid can be challenging because the symptoms of both conditions can overlap. For example, an autoimmune thyroid disease (such as Hashimoto’s disease) can mimic symptoms associated with poor adrenal health. However, certain clues and patterns may suggest a connection between the two glands.

A few indicators that poor adrenal health might be affecting your thyroid include:

1. Changes in Stress Response

Poor adrenal health often leads to an altered stress response in the body. As a result, you may notice that you become more sensitive to stressors that once had a minimal impact on you.

In a nutshell, everyday tasks and responsibilities may feel overwhelming — and you might find it difficult to maintain your usual level of productivity. Additionally, individuals with poor adrenal health may experience increased anxiety and a heightened fight-or-flight response, which can further impact thyroid function and disrupt hormone balance.

2. Cortisol Rhythm Disruptions

Like most bodily processes, cortisol follows a natural daily rhythm — with levels typically highest in the morning and gradually decreasing throughout the day. In cases of adrenal dysfunction, this rhythm may be disrupted, leading to irregular cortisol patterns. For example, you might experience low energy levels in the morning and feel more awake and alert later in the day. These cortisol fluctuations can interfere with thyroid hormone levels regarding conversion and regulation, contributing to thyroid imbalances.

3. Temperature Intolerance

The thyroid gland plays a vital role in regulating body temperature. When the thyroid is affected by poor adrenal health, individuals may experience temperature intolerance. You might find yourself feeling excessively cold in moderate temperatures or struggle with heat intolerance, feeling hot even in cooler environments. These temperature fluctuations can be a result of the thyroid’s reduced ability to maintain a stable body temperature, influenced by adrenal dysfunction.

Let Tri-Cities Functional Medicine Help With Managing Adrenal and Thyroid Health

Do you have signs or symptoms of chronic stress or low energy levels? Would you like to get to the source of the problem and get back to a healthier life? If so, we invite you to Tri-Cities Functional Medicine. At Tri-Cities Functional Medicine, we provide a science-based approach to care as well as providing patient-centered programs to help treat adrenal fatigue.

At Tri-Cities, Dr. Radawi finds the root cause of your adrenal or thyroid dysfunction and, together with our Tri-Cities team, provides expert care and a path forward to healing.

If you are constantly feeling fatigued, or if you’ve experienced some of the symptoms associated with poor adrenal health, we welcome you to Tri-Cities Functional Medicine to find holistic, personalized care you can trust. You can get started by watching our free webinar. Then, if you like what you see, schedule a free discovery call with us.

Here’s how you can take the first step:

  • Watch our free webinar to learn about our approach to the health concerns you are facing.
  • Schedule a free discovery call to discuss your health concerns and goals to see if our practice is a good fit for you.
  • After your discovery call if we are a good fit, you’ll schedule a consultation with our doctor to dive deeper and formulate an individualized treatment plan for you.

Tri-Cities Functional Medicine is located in Johnson City, Tennessee, and serves patients throughout East Tennessee and into Virginia and North Carolina. These areas include but are not limited to: Washington County, TN, Sullivan County, TN, Carter County, TN, Greene County, TN, Knox County, TN, Bristol, TN, Holston Valley, TN, Tri-Cities, TN, Walnut Hill, TN, Elizabethton, TN, Greeneville, TN, Morristown, TN, Blountville, TN, Bluff City, TN, Kingsport, TN, Jonesborough, TN, Colonial Heights, TN, Limestone, TN, Knoxville, TN, Bristol, VA, and Abingdon, VA