Restoring adrenal function often goes hand in hand with treating the thyroid. Thyroxine (T4) is the main hormone produced by the thyroid. It travels throughout the body bound to proteins. Receptors for T4 are found on the cells and T4 is then converted into the active thyroid hormone Triiodothyronine (T3) inside the cell with the enzyme 5’-deiodinase. Selenium is an accessory nutrient necessary for this enzyme to work.
The adrenals produce hormones involved in stress response, electrolyte balance, and sexual function. Cortisol, involved in the response to stress, is up regulated when the thyroid begins to slow down. Increasing cortisol inhibits conversion of T4 to T3, instead creating reverse T3 (rT3) which is an inactive thyroid hormone. When the cell cannot properly convert T4 to T3, this may lead to thyroid resistance. TSH and T4 measurements may appear normal, but there may still be symptoms of hypothyroid due to the body’s inability to utilize r T3 and inadequate levels of T3.
When adrenal function suffers, it can be necessary to supplement with small doses of hydrocortisone, called “physiologic” doses. The signaling hormone in the pituitary, ACTH, normally tells the adrenals to make cortisol. With the constant ACTH signal trying to force the adrenals to make as much cortisol as possible, the adrenals burn out and can no longer do their job. Cortisol measured in saliva tests may have abnormal patters or there may be an overall lack in the total amount produced. By giving a small dose of cortisol, in the form of hydrocortisone, the ACTH signal calms down. The adrenals can then stop working so hard and are allowed to rest. During the adrenal rest and rejuvenation period, further support can be given in the form of nutrition. Vitamins such as vitamin C and B vitamins are especially important for adrenal function. Herbal supplementation may also be used and may include herbs like ashwaganda, licorice, Siberian ginseng and rhodiola. To reduce stress, relaxation techniques such as yoga, ti-chi, mediation, and deep breathing can be utilized. Adequate sleep is also necessary to regulate stress hormones.
In summary, regulating thyroid hormone involves more than simple replacement. Considering the whole body and other hormones interaction with the thyroid is important in finding optimal treatment.