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Stressed Out Thyroid

Goodness ! Already that time of the year for another blog. I hope you all had a great February and are feeling the rhythm of Spring in your being (for those of us on this side of the hemisphere).

Without hesitation I am diving into the thyroid story. If you missed January’s blog then you may want to have a quick read of it here,  .

The traditional test for the thyroid in the UK is ‘TSH’. A hormone that does not really tell us much about the state of the thyroid, because one can still have a sluggish thyroid even though the TSH is ‘normal’. Naturopathically, we look at the whole person, their symptoms, life-style, nutritional intake, work-home life etc. in order to try and get to the ‘core’ of the imbalance.

One way of getting an idea of whether your thyroid is slightly under ‘par’ is by taking your under arm temperature (known as the Barnes Basal Body Temperature Test) first thing before getting out of bed.  This temperature should be taken on any 3 consecutive days of the month if you are male or a post-menopausal female.  Otherwise, take this temperature on days 2, 3, and 4 of your cycle. Temperatures should read around 97.8-98.2  °F. Temperatures below 96.6 °F guarantee a sluggish thyroid.

One can be hypo-thyroid and slim, in other words not standard text book hypo-thyroid. Let me explain why…We have a set of glands called the adrenal glands (aka fight or flight glands, more details on these can be found in my book Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat), without these we would basically die. Usually most individuals who have an under-active thyroid tend to have an adrenal imbalance. Generally those with under active-thyroid who are not overweight tend to have ‘flagging’ adrenals.  In other words the adrenals have been over-worked and are tired.

Individuals with flagging adrenals tends to have a few of the following traits; perfectionists, high achievers, work long hours, love  stimulants like coffee, sugar, fruit smoothies (yes indeed) they may well be runners, gymnasts, ‘super-mums’, and super-CEOs, some can even be your health conscious vegans (who do not get enough protein or fat to feed the adrenals). So when the adrenals are worn down, they will put a brake on the thyroid gland. This is because the adrenals think the body is under ‘threat’ and needs to escape, re-directing all the body’s energy to survive (no thriving going on here).

This so-called ‘threat’, can be an unhappy work environment, unhappy home life,  a life style that may be fast-paced, perfection oriented, stimulant driven and so on.

When one’s adrenals are in fatigue or in over-drive, cortisol, (your natural anti-inflammatory released by the adrenals), blocks the thyroid hormone from doing it’s job.  Cortisol in itself can ‘wire’ the metabolism, so the body is like a ‘nervous wreck’ burning un-necessary calories. Therefore you do not get the ‘text book style’ weight gain with a ‘hypo-thyroid’ diagnosis.

…Let me share a classic adrenal –hypothyroid case….I say classic as this is pretty common in clinical practice.  A 38yr old female client, Valerie, came to clinic for treatment for fatigue, mood swings and so-called ‘candida’ (a systemic yeast infection).  2 years prior she was put on thyroxine after experiencing severe low moods after the birth of her second child.  The low moods cleared after having started the thyroxine. However, over the next two years her thyroid medication dose was increased as her mood kept dropping and she would feel overwhelmed with sadness to the point she could not function.  The higher dose of thyroxine would again stabilize her mood for a short while but it was not helping long term. By the time she came to clinic she was already on a maximum dose of thyroxine.

Valerie was your typical hard working, high-powered ambitious lawyer and mum. At this time she was not working as a lawyer but as a full time mum. She was transferring her ‘workaholic lifestyle’ to her home life. She would crash about 4pm but then get a second wind (as they say) about 9pm. This was a daily occurrence. At weekends she was exhausted and let her partner take care of the children whilst she slept in most of the Saturday morning. She could not physically function without her morning coffee followed by a chocolate bar at about 11am.

Knowing all the above (also confirmed by the adrenal stress saliva test), her adrenals were supported through balancing her nutritional intake of protein, carbohydrates and fats. She was also recommended some adrenal supplements, such as high doses of Vitamin C, B vitamins, some selenium and zinc and some adapatogenic nourishing herbs for the adrenals. Valerie was also advised to start taking half a teaspoon of un-refined French sea salt in her water daily to support the stressed adrenals and not the standard salt, lo-salt, rock salt OR regular sea salt for that matter (more on salt next month).

Within 2 weeks she was feeling better and her mood swings had more or less balanced out. It had taken a few more months before she started to feel much more stable in terms of energy, mind and overall well being. Five months following her second session she started to feel ‘hyper’, very hot and restless with slight anxiety (which she had not experienced before). On seeing her doctor she was advised to come off her thyroxine medication, as her blood test was indicating ‘HYPER-thyroid’ readings. This is not uncommon, as once the adrenals are more nourished and well balanced they take the ‘brakes’ off the thyroid and the thyroid tends to bounce back.

Another year down the line, Valerie remains medication free and has had her adrenal stress test done twice. Valerie’s adrenals still require more support but she now has more energy and no more low moods.

So if you or any one you know is on thyroid medication, they may well be adrenally challenged. An adrenal saliva stress test is worth a mention as  thyroid medication may be just a ‘one-size fits all’ approach which unfortunately can mask other key health issues.

Next month I will be blogging on the importance of having salt daily NOT avoiding it to maintain and/or achieve optimum health.

To great health!


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