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Before Taking Any Hormones, Consider Trying This First....

Last month, we discussed bioidentical hormones and the role they can play in our health beyond just affecting the sex hormones. We focused specifically on the thyroid and how even small variations in your thyroid hormone levels can significantly affect your quality of life. We also discussed how periods of chronic stress can affect your thyroid and keep supplementation from being effective.

If you have any symptoms of thyroid issues, such as unexplained fatigue, weight gain, or depression, go back and read last month's newsletter to get all the information you need to have healthier thyroid function. If your symptoms persist, consider seeing a naturally oriented health care practitioner who will help you address better thyroid health. Thyroid dysfunction is one of the most straightforward health "fixes" in the hands of a capable practitioner.

But don't stop there. There are times when you may appear to have symptoms of hypothyroidism that are actually pointing to a different issue. In fact, it's quite possible it's not your thyroid at all. It most likely is the function of your adrenal glands. If you have problems with your adrenal glands, it could mean you're deficient in adrenal hormones, and suffer from something referred to as adrenal fatigue. While you may have heard of this in the past, there are more effective ways to treat it now.

A few years ago, the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research published a case report of a 35-yearold man who had experienced generalized weakness, fatigue, and a low-grade fever for six months. These symptoms can easily point to hypothyroidism, so the doctors were quick to check for that. Although he had elevated thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) levels (20.9 mcg/ml compared to a normal level of below 10 mcg/ml), his physicians also noted that his cortisol levels were abnormally low. Once they resolved the cortisol issue by supplementing him with corticosteroids, his thyroid returned to normal within a month. This report was intended to remind other physicians to watch out for adrenal issues even when the thyroid might initially seem to be the problem.

This case illustrates how closely related thyroid and adrenal hormones can be. We know that a prolonged period of stress can tax the body and cause thyroid dysfunction. And you probably already know that it can do the same thing to your adrenals. Our bodies weren't designed to be constantly pumping out fight or flight adrenal hormones. So when we put them in that position, they can get tired, in fact, exhausted. Think of a fire burning for too long and think of the devastation that remains.

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands are no longer producing sufficient cortisol. Its symptoms include chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss or gain, and sometimes abdominal pain or seriously compromised digestion.

Although we tend to think of cortisol as negative because we associate it with stress, this hormone actually plays a vital role in the body. Some doctors think of it like Goldilocks--you don't want too much and you don't want too little. When you keep it just right, it helps keep your blood pressure at a healthy level so that your heart and blood vessels function smoothly. It also slows inflammation so that the immune system doesn't overreact. It facilitates many factors that affect our body's metabolism.

And, yes, it helps in our response to stress. The key word there is helps. We tend to bemoan the presence of cortisol because it signals that we're stressed. But stress is the enemy, not the cortisol. Stress without a cortisol response is bad news, as you can see from the symptoms of adrenal fatigue listed above.

That was certainly the case for one of my patients. Jocelyn was a 45-year-old actress when she first came to see me. While we tend to think of acting as a glamorous career, it can be a very stressful career, with long hours and a lot of difficult work in difficult work conditions. It was certainly taking a toll on Jocelyn, who complained of feeling tired, depressed, and generally miserable. She had arthritic-like aches and pains as well as intermittent hot flashes. Her business manager had sent her to several specialists, including a cardiologist, a psychiatrist, an internist, a rheumatologist, and an endocrinologist.

Her internist had rightly diagnosed her with hypothyroidism and the beginnings of osteoporosis, but didn't realize that her thyroid wasn't the only hormone that was out of balance in her system. Thyroid medication helped her levels get back to where they should be. But after about three weeks stopped helping her feel better. In fact, it made her feel more exhausted than ever. She relied heavily on caffeine to try to get through the workday, but admitted she felt "worthless" by the late afternoon.

I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what the problem was, and sure enough, urine and blood tests revealed that she had low cortisol. People who feel tired in the mornings and anxious in the evenings often have low cortisol in the morning (when it should be higher to help them tackle the day) and high cortisol in the evening (when it should be low to help them wind down). Like Jocelyn's perpetually low cortisol, this is also a sign of a hormone imbalance. So it's important for your doctor to take note of the time of day he or she administers the test. (Some salivary tests have you note the time of day as you give multiple samples of saliva.)

We began using adaptogenic herbs twice daily, which I'll tell you more about below, to treat Jocelyn's adrenal fatigue. She responded well. In fact, after about three weeks, she reported that she was starting to feel better. However, she was only about 40% of the way there. She was definitely noticing an improvement, but she wasn't quite back to her old self.

Correcting adrenal fatigue often provides a clean slate to begin addressing other hormones. In Jocelyn's case, her tests also revealed low estrogen, low progesterone, and low testosterone. We started her off with a very low dose of bioidentical topical estrogen and testosterone in the morning and bioidentical topical progesterone in the evening. Her gynecologist felt this was fine and told her the dose was so low that she did not believe that it would make any difference in the way she was feeling. (Oftentimes when you support bioidentical hormones with adaptogenic herbs, you can use considerably less hormones.)

Jocelyn returned to my office a month later a new woman. She looked and felt like herself again. She told me that she had much more energy, was in a better mood, and she slept better. As a bonus, she had lost four "critical" pounds, which she hadn't expected to be able to lose without "killing herself." In addition, one year later, her DEXA scan (a measure of bone quality) showed a 25% improvement over the year before.

The sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone tend to get the lion's share of the attention when it comes to hormones, particularly bioidentical ones. And they are certainly important, as they were for Jocelyn. But if we hadn't corrected her low cortisol first, I don't think she would have had nearly as good of a result. Her body just wouldn't have been ready to handle additional hormones.

We treated Jocelyn's low cortisol with an adaptogenic herb blend. I like to do this because it gives the body the resources it needs to bring itself back into balance you don't necessarily need to just pump more cortisol into the system. If you've developed adrenal fatigue after a period of prolonged stress or just feel hopelessly fatigued, pumping cortisol (your own) into your system is what got you in trouble in the first place!

This adaptogenic blend of herbs, called Advanced Adaptogen Complex, contains eleuthero, cramp bark fruit, Rhodiola, hawthorn, and schisandra (plus five other adaptogenic herbs). All of these, especially in unison, will help rebalance your adrenals. They're called adaptogens because they can help your body adapt to life's stresses. That means they're highly effective at helping restore your adrenal function and your energy.

They can help with a variety of stressors, including exercise, fatiguing tasks, relational stress, work stress, and even grief. But they don't just protect you from these stressors. They also help restore your body after the stress. So they provide excellent support before, during, and after the stressful event. This adaptogenic herb supplement gives your body more energy and stamina in one easy, convenient liquid formula. I prefer the liquid because it appears to have superior absorption.

But that's not all. There are other ways to help your body overcome adrenal fatigue. One of my favorite products for treating adrenal fatigue is Advanced Adrenal Factor. Here's why it's such an effective product:

First, it contains pantothenic acid. This is a B vitamin that supports both cortisol and progesterone. Plus, it helps you make the critical amino acid, dopamine. Dopamine is a mood-boosting hormone that can help you feel less stressed and result in a considerably better mood. Second, it contains licorice root, which is a source of glycyrrhizin. Your body turns this into glycyrrhetinic acid in the intestines, where it slows the cortisol breakdown process.

If your body doesn't burn through the cortisol in its system as quickly, it won't feel the need to keep churning out more at the same rapid rate. (Note: if you have hypertension you must discuss this formula with your doctor or simply not use it. Some hypertensive individuals may have a hypertensive reaction to licorice root.)

Advanced Adrenal Factor also contains liver concentrate, cordyceps, eleuthero, and ashwagandha to support healthy energy levels and enable you to handle everyday stress more effectively. Plus it boasts an Adrenal Cortex Extract, the traditional support for adrenal health. Taken together, these nutrients can make a big difference in your body's response to stress and ability to recover from adrenal fatigue.

It is possible for a prolonged period of adrenal fatigue or damage to the adrenal glands to lead to adrenal insufficiency. If this occurs, the adrenal glands are no longer able to produce enough cortisol, and you will need to replace cortisol with a corticosteroid. It's also possible for adrenal insufficiency to create an adrenal crisis, which requires immediate treatment.

If you are diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency, your doctor can give you more information about what to watch out for and how to prepare for an adrenal crisis. The bottom line is that an adrenal crisis can be life threatening--don't take your adrenal hormones for granted. If you suspect that you've developed adrenal fatigue, talk to your doctor. Don't wait until your adrenal glands can no longer recover.

One note: Many doctors don't really recognize "adrenal fatigue." So if you're exhausted and your doctor has told you "nothing" is wrong with you, you may want to try one or both of these products. I've received letters from readers who are using one or two adrenal tablets in the morning and the herbs in the afternoon and after two to three months they feel "renewed." And they've done it without medication.

Our hormones play key roles in practically every aspect of our health, but we often overlook their role in the day-to-day functions of life.

Women in particular often associate hormonal issues primarily with menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. While hormones are certainly drivers of all of those, the sex hormones aren't the only ones that matter. Women do not have to live with the side effects of chronic stress, such as fatigue, depression, or fluctuating weight issues because they don't realize a hormonal imbalance is the cause.

Women occasionally tell me that they don't want to put drugs in their body just to have more energy, and I can understand that mindset. But as we've discussed, many of these issues can be solved with bioidentical hormones that mimic what already is (or should be) in your body or with natural herbal solutions. And if you catch an imbalance early, these natural fixes are often all you need.

Our bodies and our lives are complex, so we need plenty of energy to deal with our daily activities. And even a small variation from your normal hormone levels can make energy and vitality seem out of reach. But once you've identified the imbalance, the solution is often very simple. Don't resign yourself to a lifetime of not feeling like yourself. You can order Advanced Adaptogen Complex and Advanced Adrenal Factor by calling 800791-3395. Don't forget to use special offer code WHC317 when you order.

For a complete listing of Dr. Zand's recommended dietary supplements and nutraceuticals, please go to: Or call toll free 800-791-3395 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
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Title Annotation:Nutrition Detective; treating thyroid diseases
Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Dec 1, 2017
Previous Article:ASK DR. ZAND.
Next Article:How to Avoid Valve Problems in Your Heart.

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