I have a feeling that if I polled my Hypothyroid Mom readers that the vast majority struggle with adrenal problems and they have no idea. Our fast stressful lifestyles make us vulnerable to adrenal issues. Add to that our adrenals and thyroid hormones are so closely connected that when one is out of whack it throws off the other too.
Written by Alan Christianson, NMD
One of the top keys for hypothyroidism health is having healthy adrenal glands.
The thyroid gland
I hosted a Facebook live event on my page Dr. Alan Christianson. Here I am with makeup on my neck to show the thyroid gland.
What is this little thyroid gland?
The thyroid is a gland, part of the endocrine system. This gland makes hormones and hormones are chemical messengers. They are made by the thyroid gland but they have influence on other parts of the body. The thyroid gland is a ductless gland. There are no pipes to transport thyroid hormones. They ooze out into your bloodstream and carried all over the body. The hormones that it makes, this is a bizarre things, the physical mass of it is literally microscopic. You can take everything the thyroid gland makes in a day and you wouldn’t even see it if you put it in your hand all by itself. However if that little speck was missing, it would take no more than a few days for your whole body to shut down and go into a coma. That microscopic speck that this thyroid gland makes is life or death.
Where is the thyroid located?
It is located at the base of the neck as I show in my picture. There are variations. Not everyone has these real pronounced lobes like this. For some it can be a little larger. For some it can be a little smaller. This is the average size and location. The Adam’s Apple is usually right on top of the isthmus (the part that connects the 2 lobes). You get kind of a butterfly shape.
What about the study of the thyroid in history?
The word thyroid comes from the Greek word meaning shield. Way back in history, doctors and anatomists who studied the body knew that this funny little thing existed and that is was shaped like a shield, so they called it “thyroid” or shield. In ancient times they had breastplates (thōrakas | θώρακας) as part of their armour when soldiers went into battle.
Also in history, China’s physicians knew that this thing enlarged for some people, called scrofula or goiter. Goiter has always been a common condition in areas of iodine deficiency. 25 hundred years ago or more Chinese physicians knew that you could take burnt seaweed powder and you could cure goiter.
What does the thyroid do?
It does a lot. Think of it like a gas pedal or a thermostat. It controls how much energy your body makes. When you are not making a lot of energy, you are burning fewer calories. When the thyroid gland is under-active (hypothyroidism), you are more tired, the brain is more fatigued, and weight can be harder to manage.
It’s also controlling how we are repairing our body. Skin, hair, nails, tendons, ligaments and bones, they are always breaking down. Hair can thin. Skin can be dry. You injure yourself more easily.
What do your adrenals have to do with your thyroid?
What are the symptoms of unhealthy adrenal glands?
Picking at skin or fingernails
Hard to concentrate
Blood pressure too low
Blood pressure too high
Lack of joy or enthusiasm
Heart rate rapid even when resting
Intolerance to cold weather
Mid-body weight gain
Fatigue in the afternoon
Gas and bloating
Sensitivity to bright lights
Dizziness upon standing up
Irritability when meals are delayed
Cravings for heavy or fatty foods
Thankfully a clinical trial has shown that simple foods can measurably improve adrenal function in as little as 30 days. When you’re healthy, your adrenals make a burst of cortisol in the morning, then they shut it off at night. This is called the cortisol slope. If this slope is off in any of the 3 ways below, you have adrenal dysfunction.
WIRED BUT TIRED
Also, if cortisol is always too high or too low, it can prevent you from making T4 into T3 and absorbing T3 across your cell membranes. If you’re not absorbing T3, you will feel tired and not be able to lose weight – even if you are already taking thyroid medicine. How can food help with your cortisol slope? Cortisol is called a ‘glucocorticoid hormone.’ This means that it raises blood sugar. Your body relies on cortisol to raise your blood sugar if you are eating too little food, eating too little carbohydrate, or waiting too long between meals. What that means is that eating glucose can lower your cortisol. Here are examples of the highest sources of glucose.
Food – Glucose value per 100g
Kidney beans 0.23
Navy beans 0.21
Wild rice 0.2
Pinto beans 0.13
Whole oats .1
Sweet potato 0.05
Here’s how you can use this cortisol – glucose relationship to your advantage.
- Have 1/4 cup of a good carb high in glucose with breakfast to keep cortisol high
- 1/2 cup with lunch – to start lowering cortisol
- 3/4 cup with dinner when you want cortisol lowest
Please note that these results came from good carbs with glucose like squash, legumes, and paleo-friendly pseudograins (sprouted buckwheat, teff, quinoa, whole oats), not carbs with fructose like sugar, fruit, or sweeteners. In a clinical trial published in my book The Adrenal Reset Diet, this trick caused a 54% reduction in cortisol variation regardless if it was too high, too low, or just backwards. This was done without meditation, adrenal herbs, stress reduction, or anything else. This was the first time diet alone was shown to be able to fix cortisol patterns. The correction in cortisol led to benefits such as weight loss, improved sleep, and improved energy. For those who do not wish to lose weight, please increase the serving of glucose rich carbs at dinner as needed to maintain body weight. How would this work in terms of specific foods? Here are some recipe ideas.
Adrenal reset recipe ideas
The Adrenal Reset Diet provides more recipe ideas.
TASTY BREAKFAST SKILLET
28 oz Turkey Sausage
1 Tbls Olive Oil
1/2 Large onion, chopped
1 Sweet Bell Pepper, chopped
1/2 baby zucchini, chopped
2 handfuls of chopped kale
6 cloves of garlic
1 Tbls Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup white navy beans per serving
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
- Heat oil in skillet. Cook turkey sausage in skillet until fully cooked.
- Add onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes or until tender.
- Add kale and mushrooms and cook until wilted and tender. Season with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper.
- Remove from heat, serve atop 1/4 cup navy beans and enjoy!
RASPBERRY LIME POPSICLES
4 cups raspberries, washed
stevia or monk fruit added to taste
1/3 cup water
1 tsp lime zest, minced
1 Tbsp lime juice
- Combine all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth.
- Strain to remove raspberry seeds then pour the mixture into the popsicle molds.
- Freeze overnight (or until solid). Enjoy!
Makes 6 popsicles.
TURKEY TACOS IN LETTUCE WRAPS
1 lb. ground turkey
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of chili powder
Red pepper chili flakes to taste
One 15 ounce can of rinsed, unsalted black beans
Handful of chopped cilantro
10-12 chilled lettuce cups, romaine or iceberg
Chopped tomatoes, for garnish
Chopped green onion, for garnish
Lime wedges for garnish
1. Pour olive oil in pan on medium heat. Once heated, add turkey meat and chopped onion. Season with salt, pepper, garlic, chili powder and pepper flakes (if desired).
2. Sautee until turkey meat is fully cooked.
3. Add cilantro and beans to turkey mixture.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Fill prepared lettuce cups with turkey and bean mixture.
6. Garnish with tomato, green onion and lime.
Makes about 12 lettuce cup tacos.
About Alan Christianson, NMD
Dr. Alan Christianson is a New York Times Bestselling Author and a Phoenix, Arizona-based Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) at Integrative Health Care who specializes in natural endocrinology with a focus on thyroid disorders. He frequently appears on national TV shows like Dr. Oz, CNN, The Doctors and The Today Show as well as print media like Women’s World, USA Today, Newsweek, and Shape Magazine. He is the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease, Healing Hashimoto’s: A Savvy Patient’s Guide, and The Adrenal Reset Diet: Strategically Cycle Carbs and Proteins to Lose Weight, Balance Hormones, and Move from Stressed to Thriving.
As a child raised in rural Minnesota, Dr. Christianson was an avid reader. He loved spending time with his family’s encyclopedias and medical textbooks. His health, however, was a struggle. Cerebral palsy left him with seizures, poor coordination, and obesity. In 7th grade, he was compelled to change after a classmate made a cutting comment in gym class. He became determined to reset his health and his life.
Christianson, A. Adrenal Reset Diet. Random House 2014. Pp 58 – 61.
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