OAT Axis:: When Your Body Sends You Mixed Signals

OAT Imbalance

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::

What is Your Thyroid and is it Out of Whack?

Estrogen Dominance Examined

Are You Tired and Wired?

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Melissa McCrohan says

    Thank you so much for posting on this. It made me cry to read it and finally make a connection and understand better why I feel the way I do. I am looking forward to future posts on the correct way to “heal” from this. I have done so much reading but feel lost and overwhelmed with what to do. I am so glad that I stumbled upon you a couple of weeks ago! :)

    • thedetoxdiva says

      When you finally “get” what’s really happening in your body it really hits you hard, doesn’t it? I am so glad I could help. I will be posting more on the OAT as well as the HPA and HPT Axes. I am always available for a consultation and can help you work out a program that would get you back on the road to balanced health.

  2. mary says

    Thank you for painting the bigger picture. My head hasn’t exploded but it was getting close. It is crazy not to take on board that all these things are inter-related. I’ll look forward to what is next. There are ways through and out of the other side….thanks for helping me through some hard times with a lot of this stuff.

  3. Dawn says

    Thank you! I am currently going through all of this and your article helps make it a little bit more clear. I have been seeing a LNP who is treating me for the OAT imbalance and I actually started menopause at 39 and found out about Hashimotos and adrenal fatigue. Talk about a triple whammy! I look forward to your future articles! Thank you!!!

    • thedetoxdiva says

      Unfortunately, that triple whammy is the norm when one system goes out of balance! If your LNP is treating your adrenals first, you are on the right track!!

  4. says

    This article lifted a weight off my shoulders. The first paragraph hit the nail on the head! It’s really hard to be motivated to fix yourself when what’s wrong is making you unmotivated lol It’s a vicious cycle! Thank you for putting this into the universe :)

  5. Janina says

    Hi, this is a great article, thank you so much! Is there any information in the meantime on how to treat OAT imbalance?? Thank you in advance :)

    • thedetoxdiva says

      There are follow on articles right after this article Janina. You have to read a bit more. I don’t recommend self-treatment of OAT imbalance. It can be confusing to try to come up with a plan of action. Get your nutritionist involved in your treatment or you can arrange a consultation with me and we can look at all of your symptoms and figure out the best place to start!

  6. Michelle says

    Oh my goodness, I think this is what is wrong with me! I had the Mirena IUD, but took it out because I felt crazy, then I felt even crazier after it was removed. It’s been almost a year, and I feel out of control. I believe the Mirena removal may have put me into a hormonal imbalance, such as estrogen dominance, however, I am a mother, wife, and a full-time student, and I feel I can’t get anything under control. My husband wants me to take anti-depressants or hormone replacement therapy from a conventional MD, however, I would like to talk to a doctor of Naturopathy because I believe I have a hormonal imbalance caused by stress and estrogen dominance. I don’t want to put my body into more of an imbalance from the artificial hormoned or other meds. I am looking forward to reading further because I really need to get my life under control- I feel like I am about to lose my mind!

    • thedetoxdiva says

      I have a suggestion. Why not start with a consultation with a nutritionist with a knowledge of hormonal/thyroid/adrenal issues? Naturopaths help tremendously but they tend to be very supplement happy. You CAN get things under control and often it takes tweaking in what and HOW your are eating with some lifestyle changes which are so simple they can be fun but have such a positive impact! Anti-depressants exacerbate problems and NON bio-identical hormones also do so, especially since most doctors throw estrogen at you. You aren’t going to lose your mind. I promise you. I am always available to answer your questions!

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