The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and weigh just 5 grams each. But per gram of tissue the adrenals have one of the highest rates of blood flow and the highest concentration of vitamin C. There are two parts of the adrenal gland: cortex and medulla. The cortex produces the steroid hormones cortisol, dehydro epian drosterone (DHEA helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen) and aldosterone (which main role is to regulate salt and water in the body, thus having an effect on blood pressure). The medulla produces epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are flight/fight hormones released when the body is under extreme stress.
The adrenals function based on a circadian rhythm. The greatest amount of hormones are produced early in the day and then decrease as the day progresses.
When we first become stressed the adrenals pump out a lot of cortisol and adrenaline but over time they become exhausted. A deficiency of all these hormones can result in adrenal fatigue. Anything that creates stress to the human body can lead to adrenal fatigue: infections, food allergies, leaky gut, excessive caffeine intake, sugar, alcohol, long working hours, rumination, loss.
Some of the symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue are:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Low blood sugar
- Migraine headaches
- Sleep problems
- Poor memory
- Low sex drive
- Low body temperature
- Out of balance immune system
- Thyroid problems
- Weight gain and difficulty losing weight
Hypothyroidism and Adrenal Fatigue symptoms resemble each other. People with hypothyroidism often have weak adrenal glands. Adrenal glands and thyroid work together to supply essential hormones and deliver them where they are needed in the body. When adrenal glands aren’t producing enough cortisol and someone has a thyroid problem, this can make worsen his/her health.
How to know if your adrenals are working well?
One way is to measure cortisol is to test it at several points during the day, as cortisol levels fluctuate naturally over a 24 hour period.
Other form is to make use of DUTCH hormone testing. This is a spot urine test which additionally to the actual hormone levels provides also information about all of their metabolites.
Many definitions of stress. What is yours?
Physical and psychological distress play a role in the development of autoimmune disease as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Many studies confirm the effect of different stressors on the function of the immune system. Studies have shown that up to 80% of patients reported uncommon emotional stress before disease onset. In addition to the fact that distress causes disease, the disease itself causes considerable distress in the patients, creating a vicious cycle.
The immune system plays a role in sensing external threats. But what happens when it has been programmed to stay in constant alert? And what are the factors that influence this programming?
Early adverse circumstances are shaping the developmental trajectories, particularly in the areas of stress reactivity and physical or mental health. The childhood adversities, even subtle forms of childhood stress (e.g. having a depressive parent) leads to changes in the brain in size and volume, altering the expression of the genes that control a stress hormone output, triggering an overactive inflammatory stress response and predisposing to adult disease. Early life stress can induce multiple changes across the brain-gut axis that contribute to the susceptibility to develop stress-related disorders. How the gut functions: digestion of food, presence of food sensitivities and/or allergies, and processing of stress may be a sign of earlier difficult life experiences. The scientists state that the signals the gut and its microbes get from the brain of someone with an early adverse event history may lead to lifelong changes in the gut microbiome. The environment in which a person grows up has a considerable impact on the development of hormonal responses to stress.
Adverse early experience has an continuous impact on the responses to stress, which is marked by an abnormal metabolism of thyroid hormones, which reprograms how the axis responds to stress later in life. Early life trauma is associated with decreased peripheral levels of thyroid-hormone T3 in adolescents. The quality of maternal care is associated with changes in the relationship between the precursor thyroid-hormone T4 and the more active T3. Good maternal care is associated with increased conversion of T4 to T3.
What treatments are helpful?
A good way to start reprogramming your response to stimuli is Hashimoto’s heart program. Figure out which stimuli and in what circumstances are triggering you and be aware of your learned responses. Furthermore based on evidence based methods you will be able to reprogram your immune system.
Furthermore, I highly recommend journaling, spending time with yourself and in the nature, and going to bed consistently at the same time every night to help deal with stress. Being on a restricting diet and over exercising can also put stress on your adrenal glands. Thus, eat small portions every 3 hours. Eat a balanced diet with high quality protein, vegetables, healthy fats at each meal. Avoid sugar and processed foods which spike blood sugar and stress the adrenals. Caffeine and alcohol can also be adrenal stressors. Exercise daily in moderation.
Adrenal adaptogens are herbal medicines that can help support our body’s ability to adapt to stress: Rhodiola rosea, Panax ginseng, Phosphatidylserine and Ashwagandha root. Vitamins B, Zinc, and vitamin C are additional supportive nutrients for adrenal stress.
Be sincere to yourself. Find your definition to stress. What does stress mean to you? What are the triggers? Where are their origins? Start reprogramming your response to stimuli. Looking forward supporting you during Hashimoto’s heart program.