Have you ever read through posts or articles (even the ones on The Detox Diva) on adrenal fatigue and thought, “Wow! I have EVERY symptom!!” You go about finding ways to increase this supplement or that nutrient thinking “Ah, this is going to be the answer to all my prayers!”. The problem is, the very next day you read an article on hypothyroidism and scratch your head thinking “Yep, that’s me to a tee!”. If that’s not bad enough you read yet another article about estrogen dominance and every single symptom on the list is something you experience every day….
It’s enough to give you a Charlie Brown “AAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGGHHHHH” moment.
Are you that broken that you can have multiple systems broken in your body?? Is it even humanly possible to be so messed up that you could have estrogen dominance, adrenal fatigue, AND thyroid issues?? How can you possibly have ALL the symptoms in your body at once?
Well, my beauties, the short answer is one that most doctors fail to take into account. Every system in your body is interconnected. I have said it before and I am saying it again. You do not SELECTIVELY get sick and you cannot SELECTIVELY heal your body. Before you come back at me with the argument that cancer is localized let me assure you it’s just not. Breast cancer, for instance, does not start in the breast. Many breast cancers are estrogen dependent so that means the liver, which should be detoxifying, is not working properly, and the ovaries, (or testes in men, and yes, guys, you have estrogen in your body), which is where estrogen is produced, are not performing properly.
The ovaries, adrenals, and thyroid form what is called the Ovarian, Adrenal, Thyroid Axis or OAT Axis. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Dr. Michael Lam, a specialist in nutritional and anti-aging medicine, who was the first to coin the term OAT Axis Imbalance, we now understand the critical interlink between these three systems in the body and how these systems are co-dependent on one another in order to function at optimal levels. Bottom line, if there is an imbalance of any kind in the ovaries (hormones), adrenals (stress), or thyroid, you won’t feel “well”. (For men this becomes a TAT imbalance because the testes are involved where the ovaries are involved in women.)
What makes this even more critical, when you bear in mind that the liver plays such a crucial role in thyroid function (T4 converts to T3 in the liver), ovarian function (estrogen is broken down, utilized, and detoxified by the liver), and adrenals (which are charged with keeping glucose levels in balance, i.e utilizing glycogen stored in the liver), understanding the bombardment of refined carbohydrates, toxins, medications, and food sensitivities (as in gluten) on the liver further gives a bird’s eye view into how interconnected these systems truly are and how proper nourishment and limiting exposure to chemicals when possible can play a profound part in balancing health.
How do these systems interconnect??
Let’s take a look at hypothyroidism and the administration of thyroid hormone such as synthroid. While Synthroid might alter the function of the thyroid it also, quite probably, will lead to an unrecognizable change in the other two organs. When Synthroid is taken (especially if the lack of T4 is not the underlying cause of thyroid dysfunction) it will often cause menstrual irregularities, governed by the ovaries. Synthroid can also cause a diminished ability to deal with stress, governed by the adrenals.
Estrogen dominance, on the other hand, leads to an increase in CBGs (Cortisone binding globulins) which makes less cortisol available (thus causes a decreased ability to handle stress) which, if not balanced, will lead to adrenal fatigue which will lead to low free T3 and T4 (thyroid dysfunction).
Adrenal insufficiency occur in 4 stages, with stage 3 being exhaustion. For those that know how to utilize stress relieving techniques and follow a healthy diet FREE of refined carbohydrates, even in times of stress, the body would, maximum get to stage 2 which would be feelings of fatigue and the body’s need to sleep a bit more. If, however, stress builds, it gets to stage 3 which would be exhaustion and it is in THIS phase OAT Axis Imbalance begins to produce palpable symptoms (though oddly enough, it remains in the sub-clinical state where most doctors will not recommend treatment).
In stage 3 of Adrenal Fatigue, where cortisol production is supressed (or utilizes production inefficiently), the creation of a condition of multiple organ resistance, especially in the ovaries and in the thyroid but also the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and even the pancreas (responsible for insulin production) where the organs lose the ability to “listen” to the hypothalamus that control them.
Few hormones are allowed to function at optimal levels when adrenal fatigue is present in the body. A myriad of hormones including insulin, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone become affected as the body breaks down further. The normal negative feedback loop in place can be disrupted. The ability of each hormone to regulate and fine tune its target organ to achieve balance is compromised. Blood pressure can becomes erratic, blood sugar levels may experience wide swings, bipolarity, depression and anxiety can be triggered, and menstrual flow can become irregular.
Are you getting the picture of how the body works? Or has your head exploded?
Let’s look at how the adrenals and the OAT Axis affect ovarian function specifically. With today’s stressful lifestyle, in general, when a woman hits her mid-thirties or early forties, the high stress environment of career, financial struggles, and even the competitive world of modern child rearing, her adrenals are exhausted. We already know stress is regulated by the adrenal glands. In the early stages of adrenal fatigue, the body pumps up the volume on cortisol production. When too much cortisol is produced, progesterone levels fall which can be just as much a cause of estrogen dominance as too much estrogen from perimenopause or xenoestrogen exposure as progesterone opposes estrogen to create balance. Low progesterone means estrogen goes unopposed and is allowed to wreak havoc on the body. It is no coincidence that we see a proliferation of conditions associated with excessive estrogen such as PMS, fibroids, unexplained infertility, and pre-menopausal syndrome when women reach their mid thirties and early forties. In fact, these symptoms are happening to much younger women nowadays.
Let’s look at that loop closely.
In Adrenal Fatigue early stages, cortisol production is high-too high. This triggers progesterone levels to fall which creates estrogen dominance. That estrogen dominance triggers CBGs to “eat” the cortisol causing low cortisol (adrenal fatigue stage 3) which causes low free T3 and T4 which affects ovaries. This is why hypothyroidism sometimes can be the reason for missing periods and infertility. Let this go on too long without balancing the adrenals and all the organs just stop listening to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland causing “organ resistance”.
Doctors don’t realize or just fail to see the importance of addressing multiple systems in the body . Generally speaking, adrenal recovery should be the first step in normalizing the OAT Axis. Unfortunately, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications rarely work and, even if they do, it is only temporary and increasing dosage is necessary to sustain any kind of effect. (We will be getting into exactly WHY I don’t believe anti-depressants really work in subsequent posts.)
That’s a lot of information to take in all in a day. Do NOT email me and yell at me about not including more on how to treat the OAT Axis imbalance today. Let the information about how it works sink in and I promise I will talk more about how to bring this axis back into balance.
Until then consider reading these posts::