By Lynda Buitrago
Saturated fat is still being blamed as a cause of many health problems, but the real culprit is the large amount of sugar and processed carbohydrates in the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Sugar and Its Effect on the Adrenal Glands
You may have issues with blood sugar balance, such as hypoglycemia or insulin resistance (a rarely-tested precursor to diabetes) if you are experiencing these issues:
- Trouble losing weight
- Craving sugar, especially after meals
- Brain fog
- Headaches or migraines
- Feeling irritable and/or spacey when you miss a meal
- Inflammation/pain that recurs or does not resolve
While the human pancreas is capable of releasing a spike of insulin to normalize blood glucose levels, the human body is not designed to thrive on the high amounts of sugar in the standard American diet In nature, sweets are only found in the warm time of year when the fruit is on the trees. We’re not meant to eat sugars year-round.
With a daily diet that includes high levels of sugar and processed grains, over time the pancreas will start to produce too much insulin all the time. This can cause very low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Hypoglycemia is seen as a stress by the body, actually producing a “flight, fight or flee” response that signals the adrenal glands to release extra cortisol.
Essentially, this is telling the adrenal glands to get the body ready for a sprint to get away from danger. Even though there is no physical danger present, the stress primes the body for action. Even though you may be sitting at a desk all day, your adrenals are sprinting. If you are challenging your adrenal glands with sugar and grains all day, day in and day out, you are commanding your adrenal glands to sprint for the entire marathon, so to speak. Over time, your body can no longer keep up and is no longer able to keep blood sugar stable. This in turn, continues to stress out your adrenal glands, leading to adrenal insufficiency and adrenal fatigue.
When Adrenals Are Fatigued, They Slow Down the Thyroid
As cortisol levels leave the normal range – low or high – thyroid function drops and utilization of existing thyroid hormones becomes a lot less efficient. With adrenal fatigue, the body will tell the thyroid to produce less thyroid hormone in order to ease some of the stress on the worn-out adrenal glands. This metabolic brake is your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take care of yourself, but in modern life we rarely stop to do that, so you soldier on with your life and your hypothyroid symptoms just get worse.
Adrenal dysfunction is a common example of secondary hypothyroidism, meaning that the “thyroid symptoms” such as weight gain (especially around the belly) are caused by a system other than the thyroid.
Adrenal Hormone Imbalances Affect Thyroid Hormones
There are a few ways that adrenal fatigue directly affects your thyroid hormones:
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Trouble Losing Weight?
- As mentioned earlier, low cortisol lowers thyroid hormone production.
- Low or high cortisol produces elevated levels of Reverse T3 (RT3), which interfere with your cells’ ability to use the active thyroid hormone you produce.
- Low pregnenolone or low progesterone (aka “estrogen dominance”) interferes with the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) into active thyroid hormone (T3).
- High estrogen: Excess estrogen binds to thyroid transport proteins in the blood so that T3 can’t get delivered to the cells. This is why weight gain often happens to women on birth control pills or estrogen replacement therapy.
- High testosterone also binds to thyroid transport proteins, interfering with T3 uptake by the cells. In women, this is most often found in PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
Both the thyroid and adrenal glands are critical to a properly-functioning metabolism. As you can see, sugar and processed foods are a major stressor to the adrenal glands, and in turn, the thyroid gland.
If you struggle with weight loss and low energy, first cut the sugar and processed foods. Don’t allow yourself to go hungry. An important part of this means eating breakfast first thing in the morning, even if you’re not feeling hungry yet. Eat protein and good fats with every meal. Avoid fruit juices and caffeine, and never let your blood sugar get too low by allowing yourself to feel starved.
This alone is a great start. When you start eating the right foods to crowd out the bad foods, your blood sugar with become more stable. This in turn will improve your adrenal and thyroid function to some degree. In addition, get 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Also, for deeper healing, get your adrenal and thyroid function tested.
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