Adrenal Dysfunction & Subclinical Hypothyroidism

In the triad model of medicine, the adrenals, thyroid, and pancreas (which secretes insulin) are tightly linked to one another. An abnormality in any of these areas should be assessed in concert with assessing the entire system. Since medicine has adopted a reductionist model, this is not the model that the mainstream follows. Reductionism is where the body is broken down into individual parts, and each part is assessed individually. This may be an easy way to learn about the body, but the body does not function as separate parts.

Adrenal dysfunction is primarily driven by stress. External stressors drive our adrenals to produce stress hormones including cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline. Overproduction for prolonged periods of time creates a dysregulation of the axis between the brain and adrenal glands. The body will allow for increases of cortisol for many months or years, but over time, the brain will “short circuit the system”, and lower the body’s production of the above named hormones. This has been coined in the past as “Adrenal Fatigue”, but we prefer the more modern, scientific term of “Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Dysfunction”. Simply put – the brain and adrenal glands are not communicating well anymore. The problems that arise when this system malfunctions include weight gain, fatigue, insomnia, sex hormone dysfunction, and immune dysregulation.

Mainstream medicine more commonly accepts deficiencies in thyroid gland function. The TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test has long been used as the marker for thyroid over or under production. This test is not actually evaluating thyroid function, but rather, the brain’s interpretation of the terrain in the body. If the TSH goes up, the body feels there is not enough thyroid hormone, and if it goes down, the brain feels there is too much hormone. Again, the body is not so simple. For example, estrogen and cortisol can directly affect TSH. Thus, one needs to evaluate the thyroid beyond a simple TSH test to truly understand how the body feels.

The thyroid gland has garnered so much attention since it is a master regulator energy production at the cellular level in virtually every body system. It is extremely sensitive and even mild reductions in thyroid function can produce symptoms. Subclinical hypothyroidism refers to when conventional thyroid testing indicates normal or borderline results while clinical symptoms are apparent. Such symptoms include constipation, hair loss, weight gain, low energy, brittle nails, and many more. As thyroid function is affected by many conditions in the body, correcting nutritional deficiencies and hormone imbalances can often correct thyroid function without the need for thyroid medication. If one does need thyroid medications, our physicians are trained in compounded T4/T3 supplements, glandular or dessicated thyroid, and pharmaceutical grade thyroid hormones.