Adrenal, Blood Sugar, Thyroid Issues

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The Thyroid Adrenal Pancreas Axis

Dr. Nikolas Hedberg

In addition to gastrointestinal and blood sugar disorders, adrenal gland dysfunction is one of the most commonly seen imbalance in today’s society. Adrenal gland imbalances are also one of the major factors that cause thyroid hormone imbalance. Stress from work, relationships, electronics, poor diet choices such as consumption of refined carbohydrates and trans fats, infections, and environmental toxins all contribute to adrenal disorders. Let’s discuss the thyroid-adrenal-pancreas axis in detail so you can understand this complex connection.

The Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands are about the size of a walnut and lie on top of the kidneys. The outer adrenal cortex comprises eighty percent of the gland and produces many hormones including cortisol and DHEA from cholesterol. Ninety percent of the cholesterol in the body is made by the liver and only ten percent comes from the diet. Cholesterol converts into the hormone pregnenolone in the adrenal cortex which then converts to cortisol, the stress hormone, or DHEA, the sex hormone source, immune enhancer and anabolic. Cortisol is our “fight or flight” stress hormone. Cortisol slows down digestion, suppresses immune function and raises blood sugar as a survival mechanism when we are under stress. The problem arises when this becomes chronic and over time, elevated cortisol will tear down your body. Cortisol is secreted on a circadian rhythm with highest production in the morning that slowly tapers off as the day progresses. Sleep is when our bodies repair and rejuvenate but high cortisol during sleep will prevent this from happening.

Hormones Secreted by the Adrenal Glands


DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a precursor to estrogens, progesterone and testosterone. DHEA is extremely important for immune system function and anabolic (building up) processes in the body. DHEA levels begin to decline after age thirty-five but cortisol can remain elevated during continuing periods of stress. Low DHEA levels are also found in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and of course, thyroid disorders.

Healthy adrenal glands are required for the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3. When the adrenals have reached a state of fatigue, they are no longer producing sufficient cortisol or DHEA. This leaves individuals more susceptible to chronic diseases from an inability to compensate for the stresses they encounter on a daily basis. It is very important to treat the adrenal glands before commencing treatment of the thyroid. Increasing thyroid hormone production while the adrenals are in fatigue can overwhelm the adrenals and lead to further exhaustion. I have found that once the adrenal glands are healthy and the other related system/factors associated with thyroid imbalance are optimized, there is no need to treat the thyroid directly. More....

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