Do you find it hard to get up in the morning? How about moderate to severe fatigue in the afternoon that just makes you want to put your head on your desk? If either of these sound familiar and you also live with even mild levels of chronic stress, then you may have an adrenal and/or thyroid imbalance. It’s estimated that 27 million Americans have a thyroid disorder and up to 60% of those affected aren’t aware of the problem. Other studies have shown adrenal insufficiency affects 66 to 80% of the population at one time or another.
What does this all mean exactly and why is this an issue that should concern you if you suffer from fatigue?
Let’s take a step back and quickly review a little simplified physiology. The adrenal glands and the thyroid all act like gas pedals for the body. They do similar things, but in very different ways. Think of them as warring brothers; similar, yet prone to being at odds at any given moment. The primary job of the adrenal glands is to create cortisol. Normally, cortisol levels should start to rise early in the morning to help you wake and then start to decline in the afternoon so you can be ready for bed at night. The thyroid produces two hormones (T3, the most active form, and T4), which can bind or react with any one of your 10 to 30 trillion cells. This goes to show just how important proper thyroid function is to every single cell of your body as they all have the potential to respond to it’s output.
Unfortunately, we are all very different with vastly different normal values for such hormones and therefore the laboratory ranges must be quite broad to allow for these differences. The large window of normal laboratory values is likely why so many adrenal and thyroid disorders go undiagnosed every year.
Let’s take a quick look at normal values for thyroxine or thyroid hormone. The numbers vary slightly according to the lab, but generally range from 3 to 12 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl total thyroxine). This doesn’t really sound like a large range at first glance and compared to some other values it’s not. However, when considering the actual importance of these hormones one can get into serious trouble and still be considered in the ‘normal’ range.
Let’s say, for example, your thyroxine level is moderately in the middle at 8.0 ug/dl and for whatever reason be it illness, improper signaling from the brain, or chronic stress, your level drops to 4.0 ug/dl. Essentially, your thyroid is now functioning at 50% of where it should be. You’re going to feel terrible. You may have everything from extreme fatigue, to cold hands and feet, to constipation or even depression. Yet, your laboratory values are in the normal range. The same problem exists regarding the adrenal glands.
We simply don’t have good ways to easily measure the functional output of these organs due to the great variability between individuals. Therefore a person can have some pretty intense symptoms and yet consistently test ‘normal.’
You may now be wondering ‘just how does stress play a role in all this? Dr. Bowman offers the rest of his story in Face the Current March edition pages 104-108. Digital or print? You can purchase either or both! Or to subscribe, just click here!
About the author
Vaughn is a board certified Naturopathic Physician licensed in the state of Connecticut. For nearly two decades he has treated patients of all ages with a myriad of different conditions from the common cold to debilitating autoimmune conditions. The goal is to always locate the underlying cause for any one illness rather than treat superficial symptoms and by doing so Dr. Bowman has led many patients back to health.
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