Supplements and Nutrients that Restore Your Thyroid-Adrenal Balance
Many holistic practitioners have documented proof of improvement in patients who have a constellation (combination) of stress-related symptoms, after giving them oral supplements and nutrients that support thyroid and adrenal function.
Chronic Stress Bombards Your Body with Cortisol
Ever since the work of stress researcher Hans Selye, health practitioners have been aware that chronic stress often results in over secretion of ACTH from the pituitary gland. That in turn has shown to cause a greater release of cortisol from the adrenal cortex as a common response to the alarm and adaptation stage of the stress response.
What are the Signs of Too Much Cortisol?
High circulating levels of cortisol have been documented to contribute to a number of health problems and complaints, such as:
- A tendency to gain abdominal fat
- Frequent flus and other respiratory illnesses for extended periods of time
- A reduced sex drive
- Lightheadedness when arising from a horizontal position
- A lack of energy in the a.m. and p.m., between the hours of 3 to 5.
- Difficulties getting up in the morning
- An increased need for coffee and other stimulants in the morning
- A sense of sudden restored health briefly after meals
- Increased PMS symptoms with heavy cycles stopping on the 4th day to increase again on the 5th or 6th day.
- A sense of restoration when stress is relieved, such as being on vacation
- A significant loss of strength and lean body mass
Many of these symptoms and complaints are due to over-stimulation of cortisol on various tissues. For example, high levels of cortisol are known to increase the deposition of fat in abdominal fat stores, weaken the immune system and compete with testosterone and other reproductive hormones for binding sites on nuclear receptors in many cells, thus breaking down lean mass and impairing sex drive.
High Cortisol Contributes to Major Illnesses
High levels of cortisol also cause bone demineralization (mineral loss), which can contribute to osteoporosis and produce insulin resistance with high sugar levels (blood glucose), thereby aggravating or promoting diabetes or metabolic syndrome.
High Cortisol Creates Thyroid Resistance
It’s important to note that cortisol has a key interaction with thyroid hormone. One of cortisol’s more important functions is to act in concert or synergy with the thyroid hormone at the receptor-gene level. But as stated by David Zava, Ph.D. (biochemist and author), “Too much cortisol – again caused by the adrenal glands’ response to excessive stressors – causing tissues to no longer respond to the thyroid hormone signal.
It creates a condition of thyroid resistance, meaning that thyroid hormone levels can be normal, but tissues fail to respond as efficiently to the thyroid signal. This resistance to the thyroid hormone signal caused by high cortisol is not just restricted to thyroid hormone but applies to all other hormones such as insulin, progesterone, estrogens, testosterone, and even cortisol itself.
When cortisol gets too high, you start getting resistance from the hormone receptors, and it requires more hormones to create the same effect. That’s why chronic stress, which elevates cortisol levels, makes you feel so rotten—none of the hormones are allowed to work at optimal levels.”
High Cortisol Symptoms often Confused with Low Thyroid
As a result, many patients with high cortisol levels caused by chronic stress show signs of low thyroid that often overlap with symptoms of high cortisol levels, like:
- Easy weight gain
- A slower metabolism
- Changes in hair, skin and nails
- A lowered resistance to infection
- A chronic feeling of fatigue not remedied by rest
Thus, it is easy to see why many people who go to their doctor with adrenal symptoms are often suspected to have an under active thyroid condition. And when thyroid function tests come back normal, their doctors are stumped as to the cause of the symptoms. Too often they will next blame the problem on mild or moderate depression, mistakenly placing their patients on antidepressant drugs.
Thyroid and Adrenal Support Supplements Help
If you have a combination (or constellation) of vague symptoms that are centered on any of the health complaints above, you can try taking supplements that support adrenal and thyroid function. The right combination of adaptogen herbs and specific vitamins and minerals can decrease the release of cortisol from your adrenal glands and help support your adrenal health, just in general.
Adaptogen Herbs are Key to Restoration!
To date, there are no drugs that can tame the impact of stress on the body, but nature has provided us with “adaptogens” that are proven to improve the body’s natural ability to combat emotional and physical stress.
Adaptogens were first discovered in 1947 by Russian scientist Dr. Nicolai Lazarev. Dr. Lazarev noted a significant decrease in the output of cortisol during chronic stress and that it had other invaluable effects on the physiology of the immune system, brain and other tissues.
Adaptogens can be invaluable to our health, but herbs such as ginseng and licorice that contain adaptogens should be avoided at all costs, due to the documented serious side effects and drug-nutrient interactions that can be associated with their use. The three most effective and safest adaptogen herbs include:
- Ashwagandha - This is a medicinal Indian herb shown to decrease blood cortisol levels by up to 26% in chronically-stressed individuals. A 2005 study in Extension Magazine, June 2006, reported that after taking Ashwagandha, individuals showed a significant decline in fasting blood sugar levels with an improved lipid profile. The active ingredients Ashwagandha are also powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, and have been shown to boost immune function, improve mental functioning and enhance libido – all features of an anti-stress adaptogen.
- Rhodiola – This herb grows in cold regions and it has been shown to exert anti-fatigue effects, increased mental performance and the ability to concentrate in chronic fatigue sufferers ((Darbinyan et al., 2000; Spasov et al.,2000b; Shevtsov et al., 2003).
Rhodiola has been categorized as an adaptogen by Russian researchers because of its ability to help us increase our resistance to a variety of chemical, biological and physical stressors. Its purported benefits include acting as an antidepressant, an anticancer agent and having cardio-protective and central nervous system enhancement abilities. (Kelly GS. 2001).
- Schisandra - Extensive experimental research in Russia has documented the many adaptogen properties of this herb, including the positive effects it has on the central nervous, sympathetic, endocrine, immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems and prevention of atherosclerosis, high blood sugar and other outcomes under periods of chronic stress (Panossian A et al. 2008).
The adaptogens in schisandra have shown to control cortisol levels during chronic stress and to increase our ability to exercise, along with improving mental function in both animal and human studies (taken from Herbal Medicine Healing Cancer by Donald R. Yance, Jr.)
The Adrenal Support Formula
In addition to these stress-fighting herbs, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, magnesium, vitamin C and zinc are critical to the prevention of adrenal fatigue and adrenal damage during chronic stress.
I recommend the following Adrenal Support Formula:
- Rhodiola – 100 mg - (standardized to 3.5 total rosavins)
- Ashwagandha – 375 mg (standardized to 3% withanolides)
- Schisandra – 100 mg (standardized to 2% schisandrins)
- Vitamin B6 – 25 mg
- Pantothenic acid – 25 mg
- Magnesium – 100 mg
- Vitamin C – 50 mg
- Zinc – 5 mg
For the above dosages, I normally prescribe (1) capsule, twice a day and sometimes I will double the dosage, at least for the first two weeks.
What if I’m still Sick After Thyroid Test is Normal?
When thyroid function tests come back within normal range but you still are having symptoms that accompany a low thyroid, include in your daily regime a supplement that will support your thyroid gland and thyroid hormone function containing the following:
- Coleus Forskohlii – an herb shown to increase the release of thyroid hormone from the thyroid gland in experimental studies
- Iodine – an essential mineral that is a critical component of thyroid hormone
- Tyrosine – the amino acid that is the essential building block from which thyroid hormone is made in the thyroid gland.
- Gum Guggul – an herb shown to increase conversion of T4 to T3, the most active form of thyroid hormone
The Thyroid Support Formula
Here is outline to follow for dosage recommendations of the above Thyroid Support Formula cocktail.
I recommend taking (1) capsule, twice a day of the following:
- Coleus Forskohlii – 250 mg (standardized to 10% Forskohlii content)
- Iodine – 150 mcg
- Tyrosine – 250 mg
- Gum Guggul – 150 mg (commiphora mukul) (standardized to 2.5% Guggulsterones)
Begin Restoring Your Health Today
If you are having some or a combination of the symptoms that are similar to an underactive thyroid or low thyroid blood levels, ask your doctor to place you on the above-mentioned adrenal – possibly to include thyroid – support supplement regime.
As in many cases, you can notice an improvement and feel better within the first 4 to 6 weeks of supplementation. It can give you back your life!
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- Modern Nutrition In Health and Disease (10th edition) Shils M et al Editors. Chapter 15: Iodine (pp 300-311
- http://thyroid.about.com/cs/basics_starthere/a/thyroid101.htm (tyrosine and iodine)
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