Thyroid Dysfunction

 HPT Axis


We all know that stress isn't good for our health, but what we often don't know is that there is an intimate connection between stress, adrenal function and thyroid gland function.  Continuous stress leads to high levels of stress hormones, which can have a negative impact on thyoid function, especially if levels stay high over the long-term.


Thyroid medications alone are not often effective. 70% of people taking thyroid replacement medications continue to complain of symptoms.  Those who were diagnosed as hypothyroid after emotional trauma, a traumatic or stressful event or infection should be especially monitored if thyroid treatment alone is not helping.


Hypothyroidism can be primary or secondary.  In conventional medicine, primary hypothyroidism can easily be cured with administration of thyroid replacement therapy.  If hypothyroid symptoms such as low body temperature, fatigue, dry skin and weight gain persist despite thyroid replacement therapy (regardless of laboratory values), then it is important to look elsewhere for the cause of the low thyroid function.


Secondary hypothyroidism is low thyroid function caused by malfunction of another organ system.  One of the most frequently overlooked causes is adrenal fatigue.  Over long periods of physical, emotional or mential stress, the adrenal glands become exhausted and so does the person.  If long periods of stress are not balanced by healthy food, plenty of rest and recuperation, the adrenal glands are not fully able to maintain energy, organ function, immune function, and prevention of inflammation.  This can contribute to a a range of chronic health prolems and low immunity.


In particular, low adrenal function often leads to low thyroid function, classically evidenced by high levels of thyroid finding globulin (TBG), low free T4, low free T3, high TSH, slow ankle reflex, and low body temperature.


Chronic stress prompts the brain to release CRH (corticotrophin-releasing hormone), and as a result the pituitary gland instructs the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.  Both CRH and cortisol can inhibit thyroid-stimulating hormine (TSH) and the conversion of thyroid hormone T4 to T3.  As every cell in the body is dependant on T3 for healthy function, the decrease in T3 can lead to symptoms such as:  fatigue, cold intolerance, weight gain, memory loss, poor concentration, depression, infertitlity, hair loss, etc.


It is very important to treat the stress in your life, and to ensure that your adrenal function is optimised for good thyroid health.  Please refer to the 'Anxiety / Stress' section in this website for further information.


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Information taken from 'BASBRM - Biological Medicine VOL., 24'; Stress, the adrenal glands and thyroid function - it's all connected'. 2012