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, and 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, 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…
1. Read self-help books on relaxation, overcoming stress, etc. “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living” by Dale Carnegie is a great classic.
2. Find one thing to be thankful for each day.
3. Listen to books on CD while doing things you don’t enjoy. For example I despise traffic and cleaning the house. Listening to a book on CD keeps my busy mind engaged instead of worrying about the traffic or the house.
4. Music: Try the Spa station on Pandora for instant relaxation!
5. Meditation, yoga, and tai chi are all relaxing hobbies.
6. Cut out toxic people …
7. Get organized and simplify your life.
8. Consume less: turn off the TV, get off the Internet, stay out of stores.
9. Take time for yourself … daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.
a. Daily: Try a yoga class, hot bath, or closing your eyes for 15 minutes to meditate.
b. Weekly: Schedule a day off from work—a day when you just do what you want to do. You are forbidden from running errands, doing chores, or work. Do you feel like reading all day? Do it! Do you want to stay in bed all day? Do it! Do you want to get a mani-pedi? Go for it. It’s your time, your body, your health. One strategy for those of us who are lucky enough to have time off from work is to “schedule” your sick days. Schedule work responsibilities around the planned sick day.
c. Monthly: Schedule a message/spa day with the girls.
d. Yearly: Schedule a beach vacation, schedule a staycation!
10. Control freaks … learn to let it go. You can’t rest the weight of the world on your shoulders. Retire from your position as CEO of the Universe. You will be much better off and surprisingly, the world will go on.
11. Mindfulness: Pausing, and being present and observant of how things are affecting you can be a great way to learn how to relax yourself.
12. Avoid getting overtired and/or overexcited
13. Laugh several times a day
15. Do your best to eliminate, simplify, delegate, automate.
16. 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.”
17. Do the things that you like.
18. 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.
19. Avoid burning the candle at both ends.
20. Massage, acupuncture, meditation or tai chi may help get you relaxed.
21. 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!
PS. You can also download a free Thyroid Diet Guide, 10 Thyroid friendly recipes, and the Nutrient Depletions and Digestion chapter for free by going to www.thyroidpharmacist.com/gift . You will also receive occasional updates about new research, resources, giveaways and helpful information.
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Your Thyroid PharmacistIzabella Wentz, PharmD