In Part I of this series, “Glands, Hormones & Chemical Messengers: Restoring Balance,” we looked at how glands secret hormones, and their vital role in health and wellbeing. In Part II, we will focus on thyroid and adrenal function, outlining how to detect and balance common sub-acute or subclinical hormonal dysfunction.
The adrenal glands lie above each kidney. Their main purpose is to produce the right amount of stress hormones, allowing y ou to respond appropriately to perceived stressors. There is an intrinsic link between the thyroid and adrenal glands, creating a negative feedback loop, often referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-thyroid (HPAT) axis, or sometimes simply HPA. It acts as the body's stress management system, which extremely controls the level of cortisol and other stress-related hormones. HPA suppression can result in fatigue, depression, dehydration, and reduced immune function.
Signaling for release of these hormones starts in the hypothalamus , an area of the brain that sends hormonal messages to the pituitary , a tiny gland in the brain. Any excess metabolic activity is perceived as a stress by the adrenal glands, and this affects the actions of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and thyroid. When the adrenal glands are too weak to handle the stress of the body's normal metabolic energy, they force a down-regulation of energy production, and you feel fatigued.
The pituitary gland also plays a vital role in regulating body function. It is called the “master gland,” because of its control over the activity of most other hormone-secreting glands. The thyroid is considered the “master gland of metabolism.” Located on the neck, this small butterfly-shaped gland's main purpose is to produce the right amount of thyroid hormone, which sends a message to cells on how fast to burn energy and produce proteins.
A dysfunctional thyroid can affect every aspect of health, and in particular metabolic and energy use. This hormonal misfiring will create vague and uncomfortable symptoms, such as fatigue, exhaustion, depression, brain fog, weight gain, dry skin and hair, cold intolerance, constipation, muscle cramps, menstrual problems and fertility issues as seen in an under-active thyroid . An over-active thyroid can cause nervousness, irritability, racing heart, panic disorder, shaky hands, brittle hair, sweating, heat intolerance, insomnia, and muscular weakness.
Thyroid and adrenal dysfunction create low metabolic energy in the body, which interferes with the communication between cells and their ability to receive nutrients and hormones. Since every process inside the body requires energy, when the body does not have enough for proper functioning, each will malfunction in its own distinct way, resulting in unwanted symptoms.
Nutrition plays a key role in all gland / hormone function. Try to limit, or avoid:
- “White” food such as refined sugar, flour, rice, and grains
- Food sensitivities or allergies
- Highly processed foods
- Carbohydrate heavy meals
These small changes in diet create the valuable nutritional support that can help rebalance glandular health, and reduce symptoms. Because even the healthiest diet can not supply the complete spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients needed for optimum balance, it is recommended that a multivitamin and mineral supplement be taken daily to support gland / hormone health. Look for supplements including beta-carotene, zinc, copper, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, and others.
Many nutrients and herbs, including iodine, selenium, sage, ashwagandha, bacopa, ginseng, and others, help the body manage the adverse effects of fluctuations in hormones. Phytotherapy involves the use of plant extracts to provide natural support for hormonal health. Daily use of a phytonutrient support formula has been shown to alleviate moderate to severe symptoms in some users.
To allow for more optimal thyroid function, try consuming:
- Adequate depths of protein at every meal
- Foods rich in selenium
- Foods rich in iodine
- Whole natural foods
- Balanced nutritional vitamin, mineral, and phytonutrients supplements
- Cruciferous vegetables, such as cage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips, or Brussels sprouts, cooked or steamed to reduce the goitrogens found in the raw version.
Maintaining emotional wellness plays an important part in overall hormonal balance. Because of the effect of stress on hormonal function, finding ways to de-stress, unwind and deal with tension are essential. Things such as reading, yoga, prayer, meditation, or focused relaxation can be better than medication to help you stay in balance.
Exercise also plays an important role in glandular health, by allowing the body to work at optimum efficiency. Because fatigue is such a problem, finding a gentle form of exercise that you can do consistently, and that you find enjoyable, will improve not only body functioning, but also mood.
From this overview, you can see the vital role that glands and hormones play in how you feel each day. Learning to support your hormonal health can make a significant difference in your mood, comfort, and energy levels. For some, the cure may seem more painful than the cause, and they will continue the lifestyle choices that create their hormone / gland dysfunction.
Neverheless, for those who are sick and tired, of feeling sick and tired, here is yet another reason to manage your stress, eat smarter, move more and take nutritional supplements. It is not all in your head! Invest in yourself daily. Managing your hormonal balance, by consistently supporting glandular function, will pay dividends in your daily energy, attitude, and mood.