Those of us with Hashimoto's often blame our thyroid for the many signs and symptoms we experience. Hair loss? Thyroid! Weight gain? THYROID! Fatigue? It's gotta be the thyroid!
Treating hypothyroidism without treating the adrenals is one of the biggest reasons people continue to feel exhausted despite receiving treatment with thyroid hormones. Patients may initially report feeling more energetic after starting thyroid hormones, but this is usually followed by feeling worse and worse until they are right back to where they were before they started the thyroid medications. They will go back to their physicians to check blood work and will be told that everything is normal.
The patient begins to feel crazy … but that’s when another layer of what is broken in Hashimoto’s becomes unraveled. Many symptoms of hypothyroidism actually overlap with symptoms of underactive adrenals, however, physicians don’t routinely check adrenal function in those with Hashimoto’s.
Symptoms of poor adrenal function may include the following: feeling overwhelmed, feeling tired despite adequate sleep, difficulty getting up in the morning on most days, craving for salty foods (a.k.a. “I just ate a whole bag of chips syndrome”), increased effort required for everyday activities, low blood pressure, feeling faint when getting up quickly, mental fog, alternating diarrhea/constipation, low blood sugar, decreased sex drive, decreased ability to handle stress, slowed healing, mild depression, less enjoyment in life, feeling worse after skipping meals, increased PMS, poor concentration, reduced ability to make decisions, reduced productivity, poor memory … do any of these sound familiar?
Stress is not your friend!
Stress causes our adrenals to pump out extra hormones, and shifts our body from a relaxing, digesting, healing state to a fight or flight state. The body's energy is shifted from doing "useless" things like growing beautiful hair, metabolizing, making hormones, digesting and repairing itself, and instead, all of the body's resources are reserved to make cortisol and adrenaline that is pumped through our veins so that we can keep going.
This mechanism comes in really handy when you are chased by a bear, not so much when the mechanism gets triggered by traffic or loud television shows.
Eventually, we run out of nutrients that are required for proper adrenal function and we get to a state of adrenal fatigue. This is when our body is no longer able to heal itself and we feel drained.
There are four types of stress that turn on our fight or flight response:
- mental/emotional stress
- sleep disorders
- metabolic/ glycemic dysregulation
- chronic inflammation
Recovering from adrenal fatigue
Replenishing nutrients and using adaptogens, that balance out the adrenals can be helpful for everyone. I like to use the Daily Stress Formula from Pure Encapsulations. It contains nutrients and adaptogens.
Stabilizing the blood sugar through diet is also important.
Adrenal saliva testing can also be done to determine which stage of adrenal fatigue the person is in, and supplements can be used accordingly. I have a whole chapter dedicated to the adrenals in my book, Hashimoto's: The Root Cause and it is the longest chapter in the whole book, as matter of fact. I discuss testing, interpreting tests, what to do in each stage as far as supplements go and explain the who physiology behind the adrenals.
But the most important strategy for combating adrenal fatigue does not involve dieting, supplements, medications or testing. This strategy however, is often the hardest to implement. That strategy is...stress reduction. It was probably the hardest lifestyle change for me to implement. I only had two settings "GO" and "SLEEP". I did not know how to relax, smell the roses, turn-off or unwind.
I came up with this list of strategies to make myself more relaxed and shift my body into a state of relaxing, digesting and healing. I hope some of them will resonate with you, but many of you will need to come up with your own list. Many of these items may be really difficult to implement, especially for those of us with responsibilities like jobs, children, or elderly relatives who need our care, but somehow, you HAVE to schedule time for yourself.
We often expect our doctors to heal us, but the healing comes from within just the same.
No one else will do it for you. Put it in your planner if you must.
Some strategies to reduce stress include:
- Do your best to eliminate, simplify, delegate, automate.
- Be more resilient by being more flexible. Bruce Lee once said “Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
- Do the things that you like.
- Orderliness and predictability are your friends. Plan your life that way when you can. Catch up on bills, checkbooks, and your long to-do lists. Keep your space neat and clean. Schedule times to clean the house and catch up on life, not just big events. Make sure you schedule down time as well.
- Avoid burning the candle at both ends.
- Massage, acupuncture, meditation or tai chi may help get you relaxed.
- Avoid multitasking. Do one thing at a time and keep your full attention on it before you move on to the next task. Take a small break in between tasks.
- Start a journal, make your own list, be mindful of what makes you feel better, what makes you feel worse.
I wish you the best of luck in your healing journey!
Your Thyroid Pharmacist,
Dr. Izabella Wentz, Pharm D.
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