Living with low or inconsistent energy sucks! If you know me, you might be asking, “how the heck would you know?!” because I tend to have a high level of steady energy (now)…but that wasn’t always the case. I struggled with my health in my teens and 20’s…an age range where that usually isn’t the case. My symptoms are what urged me to become the practitioner I am today. And today, I want to share an important connection with you that I consider to be the key to better energy.
In the past I’ve written about the connection between your thyroid and adrenal glands in connection with your gut, but today I want to share with you how closely tied your thyroid and adrenal glands are connected and how you can use this information to support your energy and wellbeing at the root level.
Your Adrenals & Thyroid
Your adrenal glands are little walnut-sized glands that sit atop your kidneys and are one of the most overworked and under appreciated parts of your body. Our adrenals play many roles in our health. A big one is making sure you have steady energy throughout the day.
The adrenal glands have two main components, the cortex and medulla, that perform such diverse functions that some scientists consider them to be two separate glands.
The adrenal medulla synthesizes epinephrine and norepinephrine, allowing your body to respond to stress. The adrenal cortex synthesizes important hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone and androgens. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down tissue (like muscle) and high cortisol levels raise blood sugar, which raise insulin–all to our detriment, making us prone to storing fat rather than losing it. Weight gain in the midsection that is resistant to weight loss is a classic indication of someone under chronic stress.
DHEA is a key hormone from which testosterone and the estrogens are made. It mitigates some of the negative affects from high cortisol and it also promotes the growth and repair of tissue (especially muscle). When you’re in a chronic state of stress, the demand for cortisol creates an imbalance in your DHEA. DHEA levels decline and the whole hormone system begins to break down. And you feel it! Low or inconsistent energy, appetite imbalance, poor sleep, weight gain (especially in the midsection), and often digestive issues are all connected to this imbalance.
What’s more is that when cortisol levels are high, they interfere with the functioning of your thyroid gland.
What is the thyroid & what’s it do?
The thyroid gland is a 2-inch long butterfly-shaped gland located in the middle of the lower neck. Despite its small size, it produces hormones that affect every cell, tissue, and organ of the body. These hormones control metabolism–the chemical processes in your body that break down what you eat to make energy.
I will give you a simple explanation of how thyroid hormones affect your metabolism. Your thyroid gland actually produces three hormones: Thyroxine (T4), Triiodothyronine (T3), and Calcitonin. We will not be focusing on Calcitonin, but this hormone is responsible for the formation of bones. T4 and T3, on the other hand, are what most people call the “thyroid hormones,” which are manufactured by the thyroid gland using the building blocks iodine (a trace mineral) and tyrosine (an amino acid).
T4 and T3 cannot be released to the bloodstream unless there is a stimulus from the brain, particularly from the pituitary gland–that pea-sized body connected to the base of the brain, the major endocrine gland responsible for your body’s growth and development as well as the functioning of other glands such as the thyroid. So this pituitary gland will release a hormone called Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) which tells the thyroid gland to release thyroid hormones into your circulation. Once they’re out, they act on every cell in your body to increase cellular activity, converting food into energy–this is metabolism. These hormones can affect how fast your heart beats, how deep your breath goes, your energy level, your digestion, and whether you gain or lose weight.
Now here’s the kicker: “Cortisol functions in a negative feedback loop with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland. Once it enters your bloodstream, its presence signals to your hypothalamus and pituitary gland to slow down so that they don’t trigger any additional stress hormones. These organs also regulate thyroid hormone production, so that slows down as well,” Dr. Amy Myers.
And there’s more: your immune and inflammatory response is affected by the stress response and this makes your thyroid receptors less sensitive to your thyroid hormones. This can be a real problem! Your body isn’t going to be responding to the thyroid hormones you’re making and if you are taking thyroid medication, this can interfere with the ability of the medication to work effectively.
And lastly, chronic stress/prolonged cortisol imbalance also make it so the thyroid hormones you make become bound to TBG (thyroid-binding globulin) and therefore unavailable to you (this is via excess cortisol causing excess estrogen which increases TBG).
So in multiple ways, elevated cortisol can reduce TSH as well as T4 and T3 production, as well as get in the way of those thyroid hormones working effectively in your body–essentially chronic stress and chronically imbalanced adrenal hormones interfere with your thyroid’s ability to do its job!
10 Great Ways to Support Your Adrenals & Thyroid
Stress is inevitable. Life can really seem like a juggling act! Stress management therefore is all about reducing the amount of objects you are juggling at any one time as well as hitting the pause button so that your system gets the message that it doesn’t need to be on red-alert. Because essentially, if your body thinks that it is in danger, it’s going to make changes to protect you in the moment…but that will take a toll on you in the long-run.
Simple things like sitting down to eat, not eating on the run, chewing food thoroughly, help your system hit the pause button.
Breathing in through your nose, taking deeper breaths, are amazing as well.
And then there are all of the diet and lifestyle factors that are going to help you reduce the amounts of things you are juggling. Here are some factors that you can get dialed in that will positively impact your adrenals, thyroid and your energy!
- Get plenty of sleep. Your body needs 7-8 hours of sleep each night and possibly even more if you are dealing with thyroid and adrenal imbalance (click here for guidelines and tips).
- Eat a healthy diet of high quality, whole foods (tips here) and avoid or minimize caffeine, sugar, and alcohol.
- Stay hydrated with clean/filtered water and avoid plastic water bottles (and plastic in general as they are a known hormonal disruptor).
- Support your microbiome. Current research shows that lactobacillus and bifidobacterium-based probiotics play a role in supporting thyroid function and reducing thyroid antibodies (when your own body attacks your thyroid). Click here for more tips.
- Emotional self-regulation techniques like HeartMath are extremely effective. So is meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, movement, journaling, therapy and more.
- Get outside in nature whenever possible. Natural light helps support the proper balance of your hormones.
- Move your body throughout the day. If you are struggling with low energy, I don’t recommend hard exercise, but moving your body will actually help balance your energy levels. If possible, also incorporate some exercise, but really listen to your body. Here are some good tips and reminders.
- Set boundaries, delegate when possible, and don’t overextend yourself. Here are some tips.
- Consider HIDDEN sources of stress (hormonal, immune, detoxification (elimination of toxins both in and out of your body), digestion (including dietary food sensitivities), environmental & emotional, and neurotransmitter balance). Structural/musculoskeletal imbalance doesn’t fit my acronym for HIDDEN stress, but I encourage you to explore your alignment as a possible source of stress and energy drain (customizing my approach to factor in for my scoliosis and leg length discrepancy was/is a big deal in my healing & self-care).
- Don’t guess: TEST! As you can see, there are plenty of general ways that you can support your body to rebalance and be healthy. However, if you’ve been at this for awhile, you will get a lot of value out of testing and targeting your approach to your specific needs.
I hope that this information empowers you towards the diet and lifestyle changes that can help you feel better and have sustained energy.
It is my passion to work with people like you whose health symptoms are getting in the way of you living life fully and with a sense of freedom in your body. I can help you to regain your health so you can feel great and free to enjoy life fully.
If you’re ready to discover where your best health has been hiding, I’d love to connect with you!
Apply for a complimentary Unstoppable Health Discovery Session. http://bit.ly/schedulinghealth (subject to availability).
Until next time, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!