The Missing Link for Thyroid Health

Thyroid & Adrenal Balance

Why Your Thyroid Imbalance Could Actually Be an Adrenal Issue—And the Nine Nutrients You Need Every Day

Are you struggling with an imbalanced thyroid, whether it’s overactive or underactive? Have you tried what feels like a million different treatments, diets and approaches to try and fix it, but still find yourself struggling with symptoms like fatigue, autoimmune, weight issues, or mood swings? 

You might be overlooking a key player in this hormonal balancing act: your adrenal glands.

As a reader of my site, you’ll know that acidity, inflammation, and oxidative stress are at the root of practically all sickness and disease. 

But with the thyroid, whether it is hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism, we can rapidly address the imbalance, and get incredible results, quickly, when we start with the adrenals. 

Concentrating solely on the thyroid overlooks the intricate dynamics of the endocrine system, especially the vital role of what is known as the “HPA-axis”. Addressing and healing this axis can lead to a whole host of other really incredible health benefits, and don’t worry, we’ll dig into this later!  

So today we are going to cover:

  • The Get-Started Essentials: What are the adrenals and thyroid, and what roles do they play in your body?
  • The 7 Ways They’re Linked: Discover the surprising connections between these two sets of glands, from hormonal interactions to shared symptoms.
  • The HPA and HPT Axis Tango: Uncover the intricate dance between two powerful systems in your body, and how they are so closely tied that a misstep in one could throw the other off balance.
  • The Cortisol-Thyroid Connection: Learn how cortisol, the “stress hormone,” could be silently sabotaging your thyroid function.
  • Symptom Overlap and the Fatigue Puzzle: Find out why you’re still tired despite thyroid treatments and how adrenal fatigue might be the missing piece of the puzzle.
  • The Autoimmunity Web: Delve into shared triggers for conditions like Addison’s and Hashimoto’s, and why treating one can have beneficial ripple effects on the other.
  • PLUS: The Four Nutrients You Need Now: The must-have nutrients to heal your thyroid and adrenals and how to get them every day with no extra effort.

If you’re ready for a deeper, more holistic approach to thyroid health, read on. This could be the missing link that changes everything for you.

Let’s go…

The Dynamic Duo of Hormones – Understanding the Adrenals and the Thyroid

Let’s start at the start and get an understanding of these glands and the hormones they produce.  

What Are the Adrenals?

The adrenal glands may be small, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to your overall health and well-being. Located atop your kidneys, these glands are responsible for producing a variety of essential hormones, including:

  • Cortisol: Known as the “stress hormone,” cortisol helps regulate metabolism and helps your body respond to stress.
  • Aldosterone: This hormone plays a crucial role in blood pressure regulation by balancing salt and water levels.
  • Adrenaline and Noradrenaline: These hormones prepare your body for ‘fight or flight’ in stressful situations.

Roles in the Body

Beyond hormone production, your adrenal glands have far-reaching impacts on your body, influencing your:

  • Energy Levels: By controlling cortisol, adrenals help regulate your sleep-wake cycle.
  • Immune System: They help modulate body responses to stress and inflammation.
  • Blood Sugar and Metabolism: Through cortisol, they help regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and assist in blood sugar regulation.

What is the Thyroid?

Situated in the front of your neck, your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is equally essential, albeit for different reasons.

The main hormones produced by the thyroid are:

  • Thyroxine (T4): This hormone is a precursor that gets converted to the active form, T3, in tissues around the body.
  • Triiodothyronine (T3): The active form of thyroid hormone, crucial for metabolism and energy.
  • Calcitonin: Helps in regulating calcium levels in your blood.

Your thyroid serves several critical functions, including:

  • Metabolism: Both T3 and T4 hormones are integral to maintaining your body’s metabolism.
  • Temperature Regulation: Thyroid hormones help regulate body temperature.
  • Heart Function: Proper thyroid function ensures that your heart rate is neither too slow nor too fast.
  • Digestive Function: Your thyroid even impacts how efficiently your body digests food.

And at this stage, while we’re covering the basics, let’s quickly dive into the difference between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.

Understanding Thyroid Imbalances: Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism

What is Hyperthyroidism?

Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is overactive, producing excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. This can lead to a rapid metabolism and symptoms like:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Weight loss
  • High body temperature
  • Tremors

What is Hypothyroidism?

On the other end of the spectrum is hypothyroidism, which occurs when the thyroid gland is underactive, leading to inadequate production of thyroid hormones. The symptoms are generally the opposite of those for hyperthyroidism and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling cold
  • Sluggishness
  • Depressed mood

Both are caused by imbalances in the body, driven by acidity, inflammation and oxidative stress.  Sometimes it will be a direct imbalance of the thyroid, adrenals or other areas of the endocrine system.  Other times it will be imbalances of the immune system, causing an autoimmune issue (such as Graves, Hashimoto’s and so on).

We’ll get into all of this very soon, as we dig into the action plan. 

The 6 Ways the Adrenals and Thyroid Are Linked

While we don’t think often about our endocrine system until something goes ‘wrong’,  when we do, we often don’t see it as a whole, interconnected system.  We’ll often focus just on our pancreas, or our adrenals, or indeed our thyroid.

These systems are incredibly and intricately linked.  This counts for double when we’re looking at the thyroid, and the adrenals are so critical.  

Understanding these six most impactful ways they interconnect and communicate is so important to understanding how to heal the thyroid.

Of course, as we’ve covered before, an acid-forming diet is absolutely terrible for both the adrenals and the thyroid individually (and the entire endocrine system), but when you look at them together, the need for an alkaline-forming diet is huge (and we’ll get onto the actions for this later in the guide, of course!).

The Studies, Alkaline Living and Hormonal Health

You know I love the data, and I know this level of research is important to you too.  SO without getting too deep here are a handful of the studies around the alkaline diet, acidosis and endocrine health:

Lee, Kyung Won, and Dayeon Shin. 2020. “Positive Association between Dietary Acid Load and Future Insulin Resistance Risk: Findings from the Korean Genome and Epidemiology Study.” Nutrition Journal 19 (1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-020-00653-6.‌

Esche, Jonas and Remer, Thomas. 2016. “Higher diet-dependent renal acid load associates with higher glucocorticoid secretion and potentially bioactive free glucocorticoids in healthy children” Kidney International. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2016.02.033

Xu, Hong, Ting Jia, Xiaoyan Huang, Ulf Risérus, Tommy Cederholm, Johan Ärnlöv, Per Sjögren, Bengt Lindholm, and Juan-Jesús Carrero. 2014. “Dietary Acid Load, Insulin Sensitivity and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes in Community-Dwelling Older Men.” Diabetologia 57 (8): 1561–68. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-014-3275-z.

Osuna-Padilla, I.A., G. Leal-Escobar, C.A. Garza-García, and F.E. Rodríguez-Castellanos. 2019. “Carga Ácida de La Dieta; Mecanismos Y Evidencia de Sus Repercusiones En La Salud.” Nefrología 39 (4): 343–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nefro.2018.10.005.

Wu, Tianying, Phoebe Seaver, Hector Lemus, Kathryn Hollenbach, Emily Wang, and John P. Pierce. 2019. “Associations between Dietary Acid Load and Biomarkers of Inflammation and Hyperglycemia in Breast Cancer Survivors.” Nutrients 11 (8): 1913. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11081913.

Jafari, Alireza, Mahtab Ghanbari, Hossein Shahinfar, Nick Bellissimo, and Leila Azadbakht. 2021. “The Association between Dietary Acid Load with Cardiometabolic Risk Factors and Inflammatory Markers amongst Elderly Men: A Cross‐Sectional Study.” International Journal of Clinical Practice 75 (6). https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcp.14109.

Daneshzad, Elnaz, Seyed-Ali Keshavarz, Mostafa Qorbani, Bagher Larijani, Nick Bellissimo, and Leila Azadbakht. 2020. “Association of Dietary Acid Load and Plant-Based Diet Index with Sleep, Stress, Anxiety and Depression in Diabetic Women.” British Journal of Nutrition 123 (8): 901–12. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007114519003179.

 

How the Adrenals & Thyroid Are Linked:

1. HPA and HPT Axis Interactions

The Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid (HPT) axes are foundational to the endocrine system, acting like the command centers for hormone regulation in the body. The HPA axis, which involves the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, primarily regulates the body’s stress response through the production of cortisol. On the other hand, the HPT axis, which involves the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and thyroid gland, is mainly responsible for metabolic rate, energy usage, and heat production through thyroid hormones.

Now, it’s critical to understand that these two axes are not isolated systems; they are interconnected and influence each other. For instance, cortisol produced by the adrenal glands can interfere with thyroid function by inhibiting the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to its active form (T3). Similarly, an imbalance in thyroid hormones can affect adrenal function by influencing how the body reacts to stress.

An acid-forming diet is absolutely shocking for both the HPA and HTA axes. When your diet has a high Dietary Acid Load (DAL), it initiates a stress response in the body, which, in turn, activates the HPA axis. Prolonged activation of the HPA axis overworks, overstimulates and imbalances to the degree that the functioning of the HPT axis suffers massively. 

One outcome is the inhibited enzymes responsible for converting inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to its active form (T3). What’s more, this also disrupts the feedback mechanisms of the HPT axis. This means that the hypothalamus and pituitary gland may not accurately gauge the body’s thyroid hormone levels, leading to further imbalances and irregularities in the secretion of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).

2. Cortisol and Thyroid Function

Cortisol is often termed the “stress hormone,” and for good reason. Produced by the adrenal glands as part of the HPA axis, cortisol has a profound effect on various physiological processes, including metabolism, immune responses, and circadian rhythms. One less commonly discussed but crucial function of cortisol is its impact on thyroid function, specifically the conversion of inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to its active form (T3).

Under normal circumstances, cortisol plays a balancing role; it helps the body adapt to stressful situations. However, chronic stress or high levels of cortisol can throw this balance off-kilter. An acidic diet causes this stress and chronically elevates cortisol.  

Elevated cortisol levels inhibit the enzyme 5′-deiodinase, which is responsible for the conversion of T4 to T3. When this conversion is reduced, even if your thyroid is producing an adequate amount of T4, the amount of active T3 can become insufficient. This can lead to hypothyroid symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and cognitive issues, despite having “normal” thyroid lab tests.

As we’ve mentioned, under conditions of high DAL, the adrenal glands produce far more cortisol than normal to help the body buffer acidity.  With this happening day-in, day-out in an acidic diet, this condition can lead to cortisol resistance at the cellular level, where tissues become less responsive to cortisol, causing the HPA axis to produce even more of the hormone to elicit the desired physiological responses. In the long run, this can lead to adrenal fatigue, another form of endocrine imbalance, which can further impact the function of the HPT axis and thyroid hormones, as previously discussed.

And in a cruel twist of nature, cortisol resistance also contributes to driving blood pH down (putting the body into more of an acidic state…and up goes cortisol production again).

We need to break this cycle.

3. Adrenal Fatigue and Hypothyroidism

Adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism are conditions that often coexist and can exacerbate each other’s symptoms. Adrenal fatigue is a term used to describe a set of symptoms such as fatigue, body aches, weight gain, and digestive problems, which occur when the adrenal glands function below their optimal level. It’s often precipitated by chronic stress, which can stem from various sources, most commonly a diet high in acid-forming foods that contribute to a high DAL.

On the flip side, hypothyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland is underactive, leading to a reduced production of thyroid hormones. Symptoms often include fatigue, weight gain, and mental fog. Now, let’s delve into how these two conditions intersect, especially when compounded by high DAL.

Adrenal fatigue can make the symptoms of hypothyroidism worse for several reasons. One is the compromised conversion of T4 to active T3 due to the elevated cortisol levels, a point that was elaborated upon in earlier sections. But another angle to consider is the body’s energy regulation. Adrenal fatigue often leads to dysregulation of blood sugar, which in turn puts extra stress on the body, activating the HPA axis and triggering cortisol production. This creates a vicious cycle, further depleting adrenal reserves.

In the context of a high DAL, this cycle can become particularly detrimental. Acid-forming foods can increase cortisol production and elevate the body’s metabolic “stress load,” further draining the adrenals. Moreover, a diet-induced high DAL can also affect gut health, causing inflammation and an increased permeability of the gut lining, commonly known as “leaky gut.” This not only exacerbates adrenal fatigue but also contributes to autoimmune reactions, which are often the underlying causes of conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common form of hypothyroidism.

4. Autoimmune Conditions: Addison’s, Hashimoto’s, and Shared Triggers

Autoimmune conditions such as Addison’s disease (affecting the adrenals) and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (affecting the thyroid) may seem like isolated issues, but they often share common triggers and underlying mechanisms. Understanding this interconnectedness can offer new insights into managing these conditions effectively, especially when considering the influence of diet.

Addison’s disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis involve an autoimmune response where the body’s immune system mistakenly targets the adrenal or thyroid glands, respectively. Both conditions can lead to hormone imbalances and a range of debilitating symptoms. While Addison’s is relatively rare compared to Hashimoto’s, the factors that predispose individuals to autoimmune reactions are worth exploring for both.

In the setting of a high DAL, the body’s physiology can shift in ways that might facilitate or exacerbate autoimmune responses. For instance, a high acid load in the diet can lead to inflammation and oxidative stress, two factors that have been implicated in the onset and progression of autoimmune diseases. This is significant for both Addison’s and Hashimoto’s because inflammation can act as a catalyst for autoimmunity by disrupting cell signaling and impairing tissue function.

Additionally, as mentioned in the previous section on adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism, a high DAL can contribute to “leaky gut” or increased intestinal permeability. This is important because the gut is the largest immune organ in the body, and a compromised gut lining can allow substances like toxins, bacteria, and undigested food particles to enter the bloodstream. 

These foreign substances can trigger an immune response, exacerbating existing autoimmune conditions and potentially serving as a catalyst for new ones.

It’s a big and complex topic, but thankfully the solution is simple…and you guessed it: moving away from acidity and to a more alkaline diet. 

5. Impact of Medications: How Thyroid and Adrenal Treatments Influence Each Other

This is a very tricky one, and a tough one to balance.  Medicine can be absolutely incredible and lifesaving.  I am in no way saying ‘all medication is bad’ at all.  It has saved every one of our lives (or at least 99.9% of people reading this).  

However, when it comes to endocrine medication it should be used with a big picture solution in mind, rather than just as a solution in and of itself.   Endocrine medications, while they can support one gland, or hormone, can easily imbalance another, leading to a new problem further up the road. 

Thyroid medications like levothyroxine (for hypothyroidism) or antithyroid drugs like methimazole (for hyperthyroidism) aim to balance thyroid hormone levels. While they may effectively do so, they can sometimes inadvertently stress the adrenal glands. 

This is especially the case for hypothyroid medications, which by elevating the levels of thyroid hormones, can speed up metabolic processes. For individuals with already-weakened adrenals, this sudden shift in metabolic rate can be an added stressor, further straining the adrenal glands and leading to a potential increase in cortisol production as a stress response.

Conversely, medications like corticosteroids, used to treat various adrenal imbalances and inflammatory conditions, can also affect the thyroid. Corticosteroids can suppress the release of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), leading to a drop in thyroid hormone production, potentially exacerbating symptoms of hypothyroidism for those who are already prone or pushing someone into a hypothyroid state.

The key takeaway here is that when managing thyroid and adrenal issues, it’s critical to consider the impact of medications on the entire endocrine system and have a longer-term solution you are working towards. Consulting healthcare providers for a comprehensive treatment approach and considering dietary measures, such as adopting an alkaline diet to support gut and immune health, can help mitigate some of the longer-term risks of these medications.

6. Feedback Loops: The Self-Perpetuating Cycle of Imbalance Between the Adrenals and Thyroid

The concept of feedback loops is essential in understanding the relationship between the adrenals and the thyroid. These two glands don’t operate in isolation; they are part of a complex endocrine system that constantly communicates through a series of checks and balances to maintain homeostasis.

For instance, when cortisol levels rise, this sends a signal to decrease the production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH), leading to decreased thyroid hormone production and vice versa. Similarly, thyroid hormones can influence the secretion of cortisol, making it a two-way communication channel. This intricate dialogue ensures that when one gland is out of balance, it can quickly tip the other out of balance, setting off a chain reaction of endocrine dysfunction. In essence, imbalances in one system can perpetuate imbalances in the other, creating a self-perpetuating cycle that can be challenging to break.

The role of a high Dietary Acid Load (DAL) in this dynamic is noteworthy. An acidic environment can contribute to inflammation and stress at the cellular level, affecting the delicate balance of these feedback loops. Increased stress can stimulate the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, thereby affecting thyroid function as described above. Similarly, thyroid imbalances can amplify adrenal dysfunction, creating a vicious cycle that is further exacerbated by an acidic diet.

Breaking this cycle involves a comprehensive approach that includes dietary changes. By adopting an alkaline diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, you can help your body combat inflammation and stress, supporting the intricate balance of these feedback loops. Lowering the body’s acid load can be a valuable component in restoring balance to these tightly interconnected systems, thereby aiding in breaking the cycle of endocrine dysfunction.

So let’s get into that now!

Action Steps to Heal: The Nutrients You NEED to Include Daily to Heal the Thyroid & Rebalance the Adrenals

alkaline foods to heal the thyroid and adrenals

1. Vitamin C

How it supports: Lots of people really underestimate the power of vitamin C.  Vitamin C is indispensable when it comes to adrenal health because it’s used by the adrenal glands in the production of all of the adrenal hormones, most notably cortisol. Cortisol helps your body respond to stress and also regulates metabolism, which is essential for thyroid function. Moreover, Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that neutralizes harmful free radicals, helping to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that often accompany thyroid disorders like Hashimoto’s.

Alkaline Foods: Bell peppers, kale, strawberries, grapefruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, parsley.

RecipeThe Triple-A Juice (Ross’ Fave)

2. Magnesium

How it supports: Magnesium is a calming mineral that helps regulate the body’s response to stress by acting as a cofactor for enzymes that convert inactive hormones into their active state, including thyroid hormones. It also directly interacts with the HPA-axis, helping to reduce elevated cortisol levels, which can be detrimental to thyroid function. In essence, it’s a linchpin for both cortisol and thyroid hormone synthesis and regulation.

Alkaline Foods: Spinach, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, almonds, Swiss chard, collard greens, beet greens and avocado.

Recipe: The Magnesium-Rich Super Smoothie Bowl

3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

How it supports: Omega-3s are potent anti-inflammatory agents. They help to downregulate the inflammatory pathways that are often activated in autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s and Addison’s. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, they also help to regulate cell membrane fluidity, thereby facilitating better cell signaling including that of thyroid hormones.

Alkaline Foods: Chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, hemp seeds, leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach, and algae oils.

Recipe: Alkaline-Keto Pasta Alfredo

4. Selenium

How it supports: Selenium is essential for the enzymatic reactions that lead to the activation of thyroid hormones, converting T4 to the more potent T3 form. This is crucial for metabolic regulation. Moreover, Selenium’s antioxidant properties protect the thyroid gland from oxidative stress, which is often elevated in thyroid disorders, particularly Hashimoto’s disease.

Alkaline Foods: Sunflower seeds, chia seeds, spinach, brown rice, and Brazil nuts.

Recipe: Butternut Squash & Tahini Dip

5. Zinc

How it supports: Zinc plays a multifaceted role in both adrenal and thyroid health. It is crucial for the conversion of thyroid hormones and is essential for maintaining cellular sensitivity to thyroid hormones. Furthermore, zinc is critical for the synthesis of adrenal hormones and can even modulate how the brain responds to stress, thereby influencing the HPA-axis directly.

Alkaline Foods: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, chickpeas, lentils, sesame seeds, oats, asparagus, and quinoa.

Recipe: Alkaline Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

6. Quercetin

How it supports: Quercetin helps in modulating the body’s stress response by supporting adrenal health. It also stabilizes mast cells, which is significant in autoimmune conditions where immune response can go awry. By reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, Quercetin contributes to creating a more conducive environment for thyroid and adrenal healing.

Alkaline Foods: Capers, kale, buckwheat, asparagus, peppers, red onions, and tomatoes.

Recipe: Soothing Gut-Healing Soup

7. Curcumin (Turmeric)

How it supports: Curcumin has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that make it invaluable in treating both thyroid and adrenal imbalances. Research has shown that curcumin can inhibit the proliferation of thyroid cancer cells and also modulate cortisol levels, making it a comprehensive choice for endocrine health.

Alkaline Foods: Turmeric! 

Recipe: TWO Anti-Inflammatory Turmeric Latte/Teas 

8. Glutathione

How it supports: Often referred to as the ‘master antioxidant,’ Glutathione is essential for quelling oxidative stress and supporting detoxification pathways in the liver, where much of the conversion of inactive to active thyroid hormone takes place. Glutathione also plays a role in modulating immune responses, which is crucial in autoimmune thyroid disorders.

Alkaline Foods: Asparagus, avocado, garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, and spinach.

Recipe: Creamy Detox Dressing

Now is the Time to Get Started!

You’ve seen the studies, you’ve seen the foods, you’ve seen the recipes!  It’s go-time!

I hope this has set a few lightbulbs off, and that you’re looking forward to digging into the recipes above.

I’d love to see you on the live training, and if you have any questions at all to cover on the session, put them in the comments below!

Let’s do this,
Ross

 


order the alkaline life

Ask Me a Question or Leave a Comment Here - I'd Love to Hear from You

*

  1. Shi Reply

    Hello,
    My thyroid was slow for the last 2 and half years with reverted antibody- hashimoto.. I manager it by taking supplements and my last bloodwork is showing overactive thyroid. My tsh is low and get t4 high. What do you suggest? I’m open to start the alkaline diet, any offer supplements? Thanks.

  2. Vilija Jurksaite Reply

    will there be a recording? If yes – where it will be?

    • ross Reply

      Yes, if you register you’ll be sent the replay 🙂

  3. Cat Reply

    I had thyroid cancer so had half my thyroid removed in April. They now want to remove the other side, and I really don’t want to. Anything advice to heal a cancer-prone thyroid?

«