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The intricate web of the endocrine system

You’ve heard about this domino effect before. Chronic stress and ensuing adrenal dysfunction can adversely affect thyroid function, leading to fatigue (especially in the morning), disrupted sleep, body aches, low blood pressure, light-headedness, salt and sugar cravings and brain fog.

But did you know that the reverse is also true? Low thyroid hormone activity can lead to adrenal gland dysfunction. In fact, all parts of the endocrine system are interrelated and impact each other. It’s best known as the “HPA” axis- the intricate web of the endocrine glands- the Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal glands.

“Experimentally induced hypothyroidism is associated with mild but significant adrenal insufficiency and involves components in all three of the HPA axis,” writes one prominent researcher. These HPA endocrine organs interact in intricate ways to maintain balance in our bodies. They secrete a long list of hormones that work in both the central nervous system and tissues throughout our bodies. They help control everything from blood pressure to fertility, with many complicated feedback loops to regulate each other.

Because of the complexity, it’s easy for this delicate system to get out of balance. Even a good endocrinologist isn’t going to pretend to know everything about how this system works. And we still have a lot to learn.

One thing we need to keep in mind is that low thyroid hormone function can cause adrenal fatigue (and vice versa). When the adrenals aren’t top notch, It affects our ability to bounce back from stress. It makes us more sensitive to stress’s harmful physical and mental effects, like depression, anxiety, fatigue, infertility, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. In short, low thyroid hormone function can diminish our overall quality of life. We need to address it in order to bounce back and feel “normal” again.

Unfortunately, the usual screening test for low thyroid hormone function, Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) can miss people with this problem. It won’t detect whether you have a problem converting T4 to T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) for instance, or whether your cells are resistant to allowing thyroid hormone to move through cell membranes.

I believe that you may not need a long list of expensive tests to find out if you have low thyroid function. I suggest, first, that you take your body temperature. (For instructions on how to do this correctly, see See “How are body temperatures measured” on our website.) If your body temperature is consistently low—below 98.5 F., or 36.94 C, but typically lower than 97.8 F, or 36.56 C.— there’s a good chance that you have low thyroid hormone function.

I’ve found that people with low body temperature can improve dramatically if they get supplemental thyroid hormone in the form of T3. This is the case even if they have normal blood levels of TSH or have been taking T4 (Synthroid.) Normalizing body temperature with T3 can improve mood, energy level, ability to drop excess weight, and a host of physical symptoms. It can help your adrenal gland function better, too.

Adaptogenic herbs can also help your adrenal gland recover. These herbs, such as Holy Basil, rhodiola, licorice, ashwagandha, Eleuthero, astragalus, and others, have a long and safe history of use for increasing energy and restoring calm focus in the face of stress.

If you’re someone who might benefit from these therapies, share this article with your doctor, who can call us at 800.420.5801 to get more information about how to use T3, along with herbs to support thyroid and adrenal health, and to discuss your individual case. You can also use our website to find the health care practitioner closest to you who is trained in T3 treatment.

Johnson EO, Kamilaris TC, Calogero AE, et. al. Effects of short- and long-duration hypothyroidism on function of the rat hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. J Endocrinol Invest. 2013 Feb;36(2):104-10.

Johnson EO, Calogero AE, Konstandi M, et. al. Effects of short- and long-duration hypothyroidism on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function in rats: in vitro and in situ studies. Endocrine. 2012 Dec;42(3):684-93.

Tohei A, Studies on the functional relationship between thyroid, adrenal and gonadal hormones. J Reprod Dev. 2004 Feb;50(1):9-20.

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  1. Nancy Russell June 25, 2015 at 6:10 am - Reply


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