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Understanding the Adrenal and Thyroid Connection

Holtorf Medical Group

Are you always tired, no matter how much sleep you get? Do you feel like your brain is in a fog? Are you cold when others are not? Do you find that you cannot lose or keep weight off despite dieting? You may be suffering from a thyroid deficiency, or hypothyroidism. Your thyroid gland is like your body’s gas pedal. When it is cruising at the right speed, you feel great. But when it is not “giving enough gas” – or not producing enough thyroid hormone – you feel like you’re driving in slow motion with one foot on the brake pedal.

But many hypothyroid symptoms are so similar to adrenal fatigue that the two are often confused or misdiagnosed.

On top of this confusion, tests for thyroid and adrenal problems are often difficult to interpret correctly. Some doctors believe that even if you had low thyroid function, it could be adrenal stress causing the problem to begin with.

What Role Do the Adrenal Glands Have with Proper Thyroid Function?

The adrenals are your “lifesaving” organs because they control your body’s hormones and help you survive in stressful situations. They act as control organs for your “fight or flight” response and secrete many of our most important hormones including: pregnenolone, adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and cortisol.

When your adrenals are constantly stressed, this sets off an autoimmune, inflammatory response in your entire body. The adrenal-hypothalamus-pituitary feedback loop regulates the secretion of cortisol. All of your organs and your immunity are impacted negatively by the resulting constant assault of cortisol. Low adrenal function can cause someone’s thyroid problem to be much worse than it would be otherwise.

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Which Are the Symptoms of a Low Thyroid?

The thyroid is located below your Adam’s apple at the front of your neck. Thyroid disorders can affect your sense of well-being, metabolism, and ability to ward off viruses and bacteria. Many people experience a constellation of symptoms and signs suggestive of an underactive thyroid gland and/or adrenal dysfunction. Some of the most common symptoms include: fatigue, weight gain, depression, sensitivity to cold, muscle or joint aches, brain fog, poor memory, brittle hair and nails, shortness of breath, thinning hair, PMS, significantly calloused heels, chronic yeast infections, low libido, infertility.

If low-thyroid people with these symptoms are put on thyroid hormone alone, they sometimes respond negatively. These people may have coexistent, but hidden, low adrenal levels. If they take thyroid hormone by itself, the resultant increased metabolism may accelerate the low adrenal problem.

Also, interactions between the hormones are sometimes as important as the direct action of the hormone itself. Some adrenal hormones assist in the conversion of T-4 to T-3, and perhaps assist in the final effect of T-3 on the tissues. Some scientists believe that even the entrance of the thyroid hormone into the cells is under the influence of adrenal hormones. Thus, if your adrenal level is low enough, you might do well to take both adrenal and thyroid hormones together. Ultimately, this delicate balance should be only established by your expert in bioidentical hormone therapy, considering the right interpretation of your test results.

Testing and Treatment Of Thyroid Disorders

The reality is that many conventional medical doctors use an outdated reference range to evaluate thyroid function. Thyroid deficiency is extremely common but goes undetected by standard thyroid tests. Standard testing does not pick up 80% of patients who have low thyroid!

Studies have demonstrated that standard thyroid tests do not correlate with tissue levels of thyroid and so they provide inaccurate diagnosing. Most physicians and endocrinologists incorrectly feel the TSH is the best indicator of the thyroid status of an individual. They fail to understand that a person may suffer from significantly low thyroid despite having a normal TSH, free T3, and free T4.

Even when a patient is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, most doctors treat the disorder improperly or sub-optimally with T4-only medications such as Synthroid, Levoxyl, or Levothyroxine. This treatment can cause the patient’s lab results to look “normal” while the patient still feels exhausted or cannot lose weight.

Experts at Holtorf Medical Group specialize in comprehensive testing, including Free T4, Free T3, reverse T3, sex hormone-binding globulin (SHGB), leptin, computerized measurement if tissue thyroid levels, and basal metabolic rate. The treatment options are efficient and include customized bioidentical thyroid hormone combinations of T4/T3, as well as time-released T3 and important nutritional supplements that can help regulate thyroid balance, support a healthy metabolism, and improve weight loss, energy, and mood.


Holtorf Medical GroupThe Holtorf Medical Group specializes in optimizing quality of life and being medical detectives to uncover the underlying cause of symptoms, rather than just prescribing medications to cover-up the symptoms. We are experts in natural, prescription bioidentical hormone replacement and optimization, complex endocrine dysfunction, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and Lyme disease. We’ve dedicated our practice to providing you the best in evidenced-based, integrative medicine that’s not only safe and effective, but provides measurable results.


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