*Guest post from Thyroid Central*
Both the Adrenal glands and the Thyroid gland play vital roles in human life, with both types of glands secreting hormones that are crucial in organ and overall human function.
When the Adrenal glands or the Thyroid gland is affected by a disease, injury, medication or, in some cases, genetics, they can secrete too much or too little of certain hormones. In turn, the excess or deficiency of these hormones can lead to a variety of symptoms developing, which can adversely impact the well-being and quality-of-life in the affected individual.
Even though located in completely separate parts of the human body, scientists have discovered that there is a strong relationship between the Thyroid gland and the Adrenal glands.
In this post, we would like to take a closer look at the connection between the Thyroid and the Adrenal glands. It has been well-documented that conditions affecting the Adrenal glands can greatly contribute toward a worsening in the functionality of the Thyroid gland.
We will take a look at each of these two gland types, discuss what their functions are in the body, and consider how they work together in order to bring about a better balance in hormones.
Furthermore, we will also point out some important symptoms that may indicate a problem with either of these glands – sometimes both at the same time – that should not go unnoticed.
The Adrenal Glands
Let’s start by looking at the Adrenal Glands.
It is firstly important to note that the Adrenal gland produces hormones that the human body is unable to survive without; thus these particular glands serve a vital function in the body.
Without an optimally functioning set of Adrenal glands, numerous adverse reactions may occur, leading to the development of unpleasant symptoms and the possibility of complications.
MedlinePlus1 explains that the human body contains two Adrenal glands, and that these glands are located on top of the kidneys in the body.
There are numerous hormones produced and secreted by these two glands, including:
Each of these hormones has their own function to play in the human body, as explained above.
There are numerous disorders and conditions that can have an adverse effect on the functionality of the Adrenal glands; thus causing these glands to produce too much of certain hormones, or too little of them.
What Causes Adrenal Gland Malfunction?
The National Institutes of Health2 explains that there are a variety of conditions that can affect the function of the Adrenal glands. Some of these conditions include:
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Pituitary Tumors
- Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
- Addison’s Disease
Symptoms Of Adrenal Gland Malfunction
There are numerous symptoms that a person experience which may indicate problems with the function of their Adrenal glands.
Knowing about these symptoms is the first step to identifying a problem with the Adrenal glands and obtaining an official diagnosis, which may be followed by an appropriate treatment approach.
Unfortunately, it is relatively difficult to provide a specific set of symptoms that may signal problems with the Adrenal glands, as these glands are responsible for the production of different hormones. Different conditions affect the production of different hormones.
The Hormone Health Network3 explains that a condition known as Adrenal insufficiency is the most common issue experience with the Adrenal glands. In this case, an inadequate amount of cortisol and aldosterone are produced and secreted by these glands; thus leading to symptoms such as:
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
There are many other conditions that can also lead to symptoms due to their effect on the Adrenal glands. Cushing’s Syndrome4, for example, can cause obesity in the upper body, thinning legs and arms, skin-related problems, high blood pressure, bone weakness, depression and elevated blood glucose levels.
Pituitary tumors5 may cause headaches, vision problems and a low sex drive, as well as erectile dysfunction in male patients.
Treatments For Adrenal Gland Malfunction
When the Adrenal glands malfunction, it is vital to obtain a diagnosis and to undergo appropriate treatment options. This will help to alleviate the symptoms experienced, as well as reduce the risk of developing complications due to the effects that the change in hormonal balance has on the body.
A diagnosis will first need to be obtained prior to the treatment phase, which is usually done through a series of blood tests to identify levels of hormones in the blood – the hormones tested will be the ones that are produced by the Adrenal gland.
If Adrenal gland malfunction is detected, it is also important for a healthcare professional to diagnose the particular condition that is causing the problems with these glands.
Once a condition has been diagnosed, appropriate treatment options will be provided to the patient. In cases where a reduction in certain hormones is found within the patient’s blood circulatory system, hormone replacement therapy may be utilized in order to help restore a better balance of the hormones that are present in too little concentrations.
The Thyroid Gland
We should also provide an overview of the Thyroid gland before we take a closer look at the Thyroid-Adrenal connection.
The Thyroid gland is located in the neck area, in front of the windpipe. The shape of this gland is often associated with a butterfly. Similarly to the Adrenal glands, the Thyroid gland is also part of the endocrine system and produces important hormones in the human body.
EndocrineWeb6 explains that the two primary hormones produced by the Thyroid gland include:
- Triidothyronine, or T3.
- Thyroxine, or T4.
These hormones play a vital part in numerous bodily processes. The two primary hormones secreted by the Thyroid gland have a role to play in breathing, heart rate, body weight, body temperature and in muscle strength.
They also contribute to the functionality of the peripheral nervous system and the central nervous system. T3 and T4 also assist with regulating cholesterol levels, and amongst women helps with the regulation of their menstrual cycles.
Common Conditions That Affect The Thyroid Gland
There are two particular conditions that are known to affect the function of the thyroid gland. These two conditions include hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a term used to describe the excessive production of T3 and T4 hormones in the human body, while Hypothyroidism is used to describe a deficiency in these two hormones.
Different factors can contribute to the overproduction or underproduction of these hormones.
When a patient suffers from Hyperthyroidism, they may experience symptoms such as anxiety, hand trembling, hair loss, nervousness, moodiness, irritability, hyperactivity and sweating. Some people also develop a sensitivity to hot temperatures.
Women often suffer from light menstrual periods and, in some cases, may also miss their menstrual period.
Hypothyroidism can also cause a number of different symptoms. According to Thyroid Advisor7, many people who suffer from this condition experiences sleeping problems, combined with fatigue and constantly feeling tired. Dry hair and skin, poor mental performance, and depression are also common symptoms – get the full list of hypothyroid symptoms here.
Additionally, many patients also suffer from muscle pain, joint pain and a sensitivity to colder temperatures. It should also be noted that women may also experience heavier periods and their periods may be more frequent.
How These Glands Are Connected
We have now covered the basics of the Adrenal glands and the Thyroid gland. Understanding the functions of these glands is vital for better understanding how they are connected.
According to Everyday Health8, doctors are starting to realize more-and-more that Adrenal fatigue, a condition where an excessive amount of stress is placed upon the body; thus making it hard for the Adrenal glands to keep up with the hormonal requirements of the body, have an effect on the Thyroid gland as well.
The relationship with these glands starts with the symptoms that are produced when either of them is not functioning at their optimal level. People tend to experience depression, dry skin, forgetfulness and other similar symptoms when they suffer from either hypothyroidism or Adrenal fatigue.
This makes it quite difficult for healthcare professionals to accurately diagnose the condition a patient is suffering from – as they have to look at the functionality of both gland types in order to determine which is causing these symptoms. Furthermore, it is also vital to know that when the Adrenal glands fail to produce an adequate amount of cortisol, and a patient is suffering from thyroid-related conditions as well, then their symptoms may become even worse.
According to the Holtorf Medical Group9, when the Adrenal glands are constantly under stress, they will produce an excess amount of cortisol. In turn, this can lead to an inflammatory response in the entire human body. Several other parts of the body are then adversely affected by the excess cortisol, including the pituitary gland and, of course, the Thyroid gland. This can then lead to a thyroid condition becoming worse than it was before.
With this connection in mind, individuals suffering from the symptoms that are often associated with both Adrenal fatigue and Hypothyroidism should not be tested for a malfunction in a single gland, but rather obtain accurate tests to determine how well both their Adrenal glands and their Thyroid gland are functioning.
Different hormones should be tested, as well as tissue thyroid levels and the basal metabolic rate of the patient. The combination of these tests will provide the healthcare provider with details regarding what exactly is causing the problems and will lead to a more appropriate treatment as compared to only testing the functionality of either the Thyroid gland or the Adrenal glands alone.
The endocrine system is crucial for the functionality of organs and tissue in the human body. The system consists of numerous organs that secrete certain hormones to assist with ensuring the human body is able to function at an optimal level.
The Adrenal glands and the Thyroid gland holds a particularly interesting connection. In many cases, problems with one of these glands may contribute to issues developing with the other.
It is important to realize the symptoms that may signal issues with either of these glands, as well as to ensure optimal treatment are obtained in order to avoid potential complications. In this post, we discussed how these glands are connected, what symptoms to look out for, and we provided an overview of the treatment options available to assist with improving the functionality of these glands.
1. Adrenal Gland Disorders. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/adrenalglanddisorders.html
2. What causes adrenal gland disorders? Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. National Institutes of Health. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/adrenalgland/conditioninfo/causes
3. Adrenal Disorders. Hormone Health Network. https://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/adrenal
4. Cushing Syndrome. Mayo Clinic. 4 January 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cushing-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20351310
5. Signs and Symptoms of Pituitary Tumors. American Cancer Society. 2 November 2017. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/pituitary-tumors/detection-diagnosis-staging/signs-and-symptoms.html
6. Bridget Brady, M.D. Thyroid Gland, How it Functions, Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. EndocrineWeb. https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid-nodules/thyroid-gland-controls-bodys-metabolism-how-it-works-symptoms-hyperthyroi
7. Thyroid and Insomnia Relationship. Thyroid Advisor. 2 February 2018.
8. Beth W. Orenstein. The Link Between Hypothyroidism and Adrenal Fatigue. Everyday Health. 4 March 2015. https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/healthy-living-with-hypothyroidism/adrenal-fatigue/
9. Kent Holtorf, M.D. Understanding the Adrenal-Thyroid Connection. Holtorf Medical Group. https://www.holtorfmed.com/understanding-the-adrenal-thyroid-connection/
Thyroid Central is a free resource with a wealth of information and breaking news about thyroid health and other health and lifestyle issues. The site was created by people who have a genuine concern for those dealing with thyroid issues and their loved ones. Thyroid Central is a one-stop shop that can help educate you about all things thyroid.