How to support adrenal and thyroid glands through diet.
How does STRESS affect your Adrenal and Thyroid Glands?
Stress, it is real and it will affect your adrenal and thyroid glands. And now more than ever most of us are feeling the affects of a year like no other.
Adrenal and Thyroid glands are two very important glands in the body that control the body’s response to stress and regulate the metabolic rate. The two are very much linked together. If we become very stressed for prolonged periods of time the adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol. High cortisol will increase insulin secretion in the body and insulin is a fat storing hormone that encourages the body to store fat even if you’re not eating fat! It will cause an imbalance in blood sugar and create cravings for sugary foods, stimulants and starchy carbohydrates. High cortisol will also lead to Hypothyroidism and this will slow down the metabolic rate and lead to weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, and poor mood and memory. When the body is producing cortisol in high amounts it can make other hormones work less efficiently especially the sex hormones, Oestrogen, Progesterone and Testosterone. This can further exasperate problems with weight, mood, skin problems and more.
Some signs and symptoms that could indicate Adrenal or Thyroid dysfunction and high cortisol:
Symptoms of long term high cortisol:
• Tired but still wired
• Blood sugar problems
• Feeling tired on waking
• Weight gain around the middle
• Depression and negative emotions
• Digestive problems
Symptoms of stressed out adrenals:
• Excessive sleep but still tired
• Often feel better after 9pm
• Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression, tearfulness
• Muscle or joint pain
• Low mood
• Poor memory, concentration and motivation
Symptoms of sluggish thyroid:
• Weight gain
• Morning stiffness
• Poor memory
• Cold hands and feet
• Dry skin
• Hair loss
• Low sex drive and infertility
• Loss of outer third of eyebrows
What affect does long term high cortisol have on the body?
• Affects the availability of thyroid hormones
• Suppresses the immune system
• Contributes to digestive problems
• Can increase fracture risk
• Can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and depression
• Cause problems with the sex hormones
• Will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue
Adrenal fatigue is associated with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and is a factor in chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, SAD and fibromyalgia. Adrenal fatigue is also a contributory factor to a low thyroid function.
So you see how stress can wreak havoc on the body, how one thing leads to another and it is not just treating one symptom that will help but looking at the whole picture to see where the problem stemmed.
Low thyroid function is now becoming a recognised causative factor in cardiovascular problems and poor pregnancy outcomes.
What to do?
Ok so stress is the problem, but we are all stressed these days, there is no getting away from it, be it financial, emotional, work, or sickness it has to be dealt with. We have to take the pressure off the body and help it deal with and cope with that stress more efficiently and hopefully stop it producing all that cortisol.
So how can diet help?
Start by following these simple guidelines:
• Eat low glycemic foods to keep the blood sugar more balanced. When the blood sugar is low the body is being starved of energy, so it instructs the adrenal glands to produce adrenalin and cortisol to deal with the stress of the starvation. The cortisol tells the liver to break down stored glycogen to use as energy to restore the blood sugar to normal. So you can see how not just stress but the food choices you make can have an effect on your cortisol level. Keeping blood sugar balanced is important, eat low glycemic foods, eat little and often and have protein with every meal.
• Regular protein is important especially food high in Tyrosine. Tyrosine is essential for thyroid health and is found in sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, dairy products, fish and egg white
• Include high mineral foods in your diet, the adrenal and thyroid glands wont function properly if you are deficient in the following minerals:
1. Magnesium found in, spinach, kelp, squash, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, nuts and seeds and green leafy vegetables
2. Iron found in, lean red meat, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruit
3. Zinc found in, lean beef, pork, venison, lamb, crab, poultry, seeds, wholegrain and sea vegetables
4. Selenium found in, Brazil nuts, meat, poultry, and wholegrains
5. Iodine found in, shellfish, seaweeds especially kelp and iodised salt
Other food choices should include foods high in B Vitamins, eat foods already mentioned but especially nuts, seeds, wholegrains and green leafy vegetables. Eat foods high in Vitamin C as Vitamin C is found in high concentration in the adrenal glands. Also important are the essential fatty acids omega 3,6,9 and Vitamin A. Herbal teas such as liquorice, chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, holy basil and green tea are all useful.
So now we know what to eat, so what should we not eat?
• Avoid stimulants like, coffee, smoking, alcohol, sugar and refined carbohydrates
• Avoid foods that you are sensitive to (you may need a food sensitivity test)
• Cut out processed foods
• Cutting out gluten may help some people
• Soya may disrupt the thyroid function so you may benefit cutting it out
So there, diet is covered. If you can clean up your diet and make more of the right food choices you will definitely help lesson the effects that stress has on your body. Lifestyle factors have a role to play too and getting enough sleep is important, so if you’re not sleeping during the night try to get a rest during the day. I know it is almost impossible but even 40 winks will help.
Other lifestyle factors:
• Talk to friends and family make sure you have a support group and people to socialize with
• Be aware that chronic stress can lead to addiction and making the wrong choices especially when it comes to sugar, alcohol, cigarettes and other stimulants.• Be careful with exercise, while it is important exercising to the point of extreme fatigue is not useful in adrenal fatigue, sometimes a more gentle form is required.
• Learn some meditation and breathing exercises.
• Asses your exposure to outside toxins such as Mercury, Lead etc.
Supplements that are beneficial.
- Higher Nature Alert is great if you have no motivation, your mood is a bit low and the energy levels are down.
- Bio Care TH207 is the one to go with if you think your Thyroid is slightly under-active or if your GP has told you it is, you can try this to see if it will get the hormone levels up.
- Bio Care AD206 is a special formula for adrenal glands and this is good if you are stressed, over worked, maybe a bit of an obsessive compulsive.
- Magnesium for stress, sleep problems, and digestive problems.