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The Thyroid-Adrenal Stress Cycle

Have you felt like you've been under chronic stress for a long time now? Most of us have stress from so many sources now, it's hard to avoid. We often have elevated stress hormones that can damage our inner systems, especially damaging the thyroid gland. As a Naturopathic Doctor I now understand why so many of us have thyroid imbalances, yet many are undiagnosed.

Weight gain, especially belly fat is common. Hypoglycemia and insulin resistance can become an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed before it gets worse! When you become hypothyroid, your liver can't store and release sugar efficiently and you become hypoglycemic. When your blood sugar drops, more stress hormones are produces creating a vicious cycle, contributing to more damage to your thyroid hormones. If it is not addressed properly, diabetes can show up next!

Many women can also have estrogen dominance, which activates your adrenal glands and increases your stress hormones. I wish I had know this when I was younger and dealing with estrogen imbalances! The doctors never made the association. Excess estrogen activates your adrenal glands increasing adrenocorticotropic hormone. Depression can also be a symptom of estrogen imbalance.

The adrenal glands are often the first thing people become concerned about as they help us regulate our stress levels. But did you know that the high levels of cortisol and adrenaline actually can damage the thyroid gland? They also produce more free radicals creating oxidative stress damage to our cells and aging our bodies faster than ever, like rusting on the inside.

Other symptoms can include food sensitivities, sluggish metabolism, skin rashes, hair thinning, poor sleep, irritable bowel, chronic inflammation, sluggish liver, and more. If we are to only address the adrenal glands, and relax the stress in the body, we are falling short of the actual target. The thyroid gland can continue to be damaged and worsen even further.

What I am commonly seeing in my natural therapy practice with people with chronic excess stress, is high inflammation in the thyroid. There are a number of ways to help support and reduce the inflammation, reduce the stress and support the thyroid, as well as other endocrine glands. Dietary changes are often most effective and essential for ongoing improvement.

Studies have found the 89% of people with Hashimoto's thyroiditis experience some improvements by eliminating gluten from the diet. Sugar and dairy products can also highly be highly problematic, creating more inflammation in the thyroid and systemically and may need to be eliminated. Imbalances in the gut with our digestion and intestinal systems is also fairly common and need to be corrected. Did you know that 30-80% of those with thyroiditis have a form of the Epstein-Barr virus?

Providing the thyroid with proper support and reducing the stress in the body are essential, as well as determining and eliminating the causes of stress, often hidden. Reducing the stress hormones throughout the body is another must. This whole process should be taken in STEPS and followed through so that all systems are supported and returned to a balanced, healthy state. It is not about taking a one-size fits all supplement.

For this reason I am changing my Comprehensive Health Analysis into a two-part more in-depth intake, followed by a protocol series to help address these issues in the following few months. I will also be offering a simpler health assessment for more short term needs. Stay tuned for more info!

Jane Smolnik is a Naturopathic Doctor and Iridologist with a natural therapy practice in Asheville, NC. You can find out more and contact her on her website at:

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