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Thyroid & Adrenal Basics

Michael E. Doyle, MD

Thyroid & Adrenal Basics

Thyroid & Adrenal Basics

Thyroid & Adrenal Basics

Darien Integrative Medicine
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Thyroid & Adrenal Basics

The thyroid gland is a small gland in the front of the neck that produces the hormones that drive the metabolism of every cell in the human body. There are four thyroid hormones—T1, T2, T3, and T4. Our metabolism is driven primarily by T3. T4 is the predominant thyroid hormone in our bloodstream and much of this is later converted to T3. Low thyroid function is a relatively common problem and is referred to as hypothyroidism. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • Feeling cold, cold hands and feet, low body temperature
  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Hair loss
  • Brittle or breaking fingernails
  • Constipation
  • Pale, dry skin
  • Swelling or puffiness of face (esp. around the eyes,) hands and feet
  • Hoarse voice
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Joint pain, stiffness or swelling
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heavy menstrual periods or infertility
  • Depression

Some experts such as Broda Barnes, MD are convinced that low thyroid function is a major cause of early heart disease.

Adrenal Basics

The adrenal glands are a pair of small glands located just above the kidneys. They secrete many important hormones including adrenaline, but the most important adrenal hormone is cortisol. This natural form of cortisone is so important that we must produce it on a daily basis in order to stay alive. It is a stress hormone that helps our bodies adapt to every type of stress, including emotional and physical stress. Cortisol functions in many important ways including: reducing inflammation, maintaining normal blood sugar, maintaining a normal blood pressure, and enabling normal thyroid metabolism. Cortisol is also necessary for a normal immune response. Failure of the body to produce enough cortisol is called Addison’s disease, hypocortisolism or adrenal insufficiency. Typically, this diagnosis is only made when severe or life threatening adrenal failure occurs. Fortunately, a brilliant Harvard endocrinologist named William McK. Jefferies recognized that health was impaired even by low-grade deficiencies of cortisol that were not immediately life threatening. Some common symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low blood pressure, dizziness and palpitations
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Decreased tolerance to cold
  • Reduced ability to fight infections
  • Loss of pubic and underarm hair

Dr. Jefferies also wrote that conditions such as allergies and autoimmiune disorders reflected adrenal insufficiency.