Thyroid and Endocrine Health Awareness

14 Physical Signs You May Have a Thyroid Disorder

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Emma Bryce

Nestled in the tissues of your neck is a small, unassuming organ that wields enormous power over your body: the thyroid. Emma Bryce explains how the thyroid, like the operations manager in a company, is tasked with making sure that all the cells in your body are working properly.

3 Steps to Overcome Adrenal Fatigue

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe


It’s time to do something about adrenal fatigue, because chances are you’re dealing with it. (Or will at some point of your life.)

Many proponents of this Adrenal Fatigue - Dr.Axecondition estimate that almost every person can experience adrenal fatigue, also known as hypoadrenia, to some degree at a particularly stressful point in his or her life.

According to James Wilson (author of “Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome“), chronic stress and lifestyle affect the body’s ability to recuperate from physical, mental or emotional stress.

Because of the vast influence of the adrenals on the body, symptoms of adrenal fatigue can mimic a number of disorders and isn’t always easily recognizable. Most sources agree that adrenal fatigue symptoms include symptoms such as extreme fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, insulin resistance and others (more on that below). While the mere fact you feel fatigued is not necessarily indicative of adrenal fatigue, and adrenal fatigue tests aren’t always straightforward, there is evidence that high cortisol levels found in saliva are associated with reduced immune function, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate and delayed growth in children. (1)

These symptoms and more can be indicative of a few different disorders and are often overlooked by doctors, but more and more people are starting to realize that a combination of these could indicate the onset of adrenal fatigue.

Some people at high risk for the symptoms of adrenal fatigue include busy new parents, students in college or post-graduate studies and caregivers, such as nurses or family members caring for invalid relatives.

If you have adrenal fatigue, it can also be a major cause of excess fat storage and low energy levels. Luckily, you can heal adrenal fatigue with three simple steps: start an adrenal fatigue diet, taking supplements and reducing stress. So, let’s talk about exactly what your adrenal glands do and how you can overcome adrenal fatigue in these three simple steps.
What is adrenal fatigue?

A relatively new term, “adrenal fatigue” was proposed as a new condition in 1998 by Dr. James L. Wilson, a naturopath and chiropractor. His assumption was that an overstimulation of the adrenal glands (or “adrenals”) by chronic stress over time could lead to an inconsistent level of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the bloodstream, sometimes far more than normal and at other times, far too low. In addition to this overload or improper cortisol level, people with adrenal fatigue often don’t have enough DHEA, the “parent hormone” responsible for the creation of many necessary hormones in the body.

Unlike other endocrine disorders that are caused by physical damage to parts of the adrenal glands, hypoadrenia is seen by many in the natural health world as a “middle ground” syndrome with simple and easy-to-implement solutions. Currently, no official diagnosis exists for adrenal fatigue and people are either considered to have normal endocrine function or total endocrine failure, like that seen in Cushing’s syndrome or adrenal insufficiency/Addison’s disease. Some postulate that this occurred in the 1950’s when doctors over-prescribed adrenal steroids and saw dire consequences, leading to an overcorrection and generalization of endocrine issues. (2)

Dr. Wilson describes the unique progression of adrenal fatigue throughout the day as follows: you wake up and are unable to function without a significant amount of caffeine, finally feel a boost of energy during the early part of the day, then your energy levels crash around 2 PM, rise around 6 PM, fall again around 9 PM and then finally peak again at 11 in the evening. (3)

Is adrenal fatigue real?

As you can see, this presents a number of issues, namely, the inability to distinguish this pattern and its resulting symptoms from other disorders. Wilson’s parameters for this condition are nonspecific which, unfortunately, has led to a great controversy around this topic, even though the very nature of cortisol and bodily hormones is that their effects are far-reaching.

Indeed, an article from a São Paulo university was released in 2016 with the title: “Adrenal fatigue does not exist: a systematic review.” According to this review, results of acceptable studies available to them at the time had “conflicting results” and could provide no definitive proof of the disease, nor diagnostic criteria or adrenal fatigue treatment. (4)

While this may be discouraging to some, one issue I have with this assessment is that the main issue seemed to be study design, rather than hard results. The failure of scientists to conduct adequate tests does not immediate equate to the falsity of adrenal fatigue as a whole. In addition, a diagnosis for this condition is difficult because these cortisol levels fall in what conventional medicine would call “inside the normal range,” although the symptoms are clear to those suffering from the condition. Lastly, treatment for adrenal fatigue consists mainly of diet and lifestyle adjustments, which traditional doctors do not see as legitimate medicine. (That’s okay; we know that food is medicine, no matter how much the medical community chooses to turn its head.)

Regardless, this topic remains a heated one in the medical community. The Hormone Health Network released a scathing piece on the issue of adrenal fatigue, essentially warning patients that it is a false diagnosis, peddled by those who profit from the “expensive” treatment methods they suggest when diagnosing the disease, with no thought for the serious dangers they may put someone in by telling them adrenal fatigue is their problem.  They also (incorrectly) remind people that supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA. (5)

Actually, the FDA closely monitors producers of dietary supplements, ensuring they make no false claims about their products, have the scientific evidence to back up the claims they do make and are properly labeling the exact ingredients included in each supplement. But that’s a discussion for a different day.

Another oft-quoted piece of evidence against the existence of adrenal fatigue is Todd B. Nippoldt’s interview with Mayo Clinic stating essentially the same concerns. (6) Again, it is stated that consistent levels of chronic stress have no effect whatsoever on the adrenals and the only true endocrine disorders are those caused by other diseases and direct damage to the adrenal glands.

To that, all I can say is that adrenal fatigue is something I’ve seen personally. It is my opinion, through years of healthcare practice and supporting scientific evidence, that hypoadrenia is very real and associated with a number of complications. In addition, adrenal fatigue treatment is relatively non-invasive and is beneficial to your health, no matter the diagnosis. Of course, you should be under the care of a qualified medical professional you trust and see them about any symptoms you experience (of any disease) so that they can determine appropriate treatment.

What are your adrenal glands?

adrenal glands above kidneys

Your adrenal glands (adrenals) are two thumb-sized organs that sit above your kidneys and are part of the endocrine system. Also known as the suprarenal glands, they’re involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, many of which are essential for life.

Hormones affect every function, organ and tissue in the body directly or indirectly. They react to each other as well as respond to conditions in the body in an intricate and highly sensitive balancing act. The adrenal glands work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis). (7)

Normally, the adrenal glands release cortisol on a diurnal rhythm, referring to the process of boosts of cortisol throughout the day that help wake us up, with a decline in this hormone level in the evening to aid the body in sleeping. This rhythm, however, doesn’t always apply when external stress occurs.

Adrenal glands play a huge role in stress response. Your brain registers a threat, whether emotional, mental or physical. The adrenal medulla releases cortisol and adrenaline hormones to help you react to the threat (the fight-or-flight response), rushing blood to your brain, heart and muscles. The adrenal cortex then releases corticosteroids to dampen processes like digestion, immune system response and other functions not necessary for immediate survival.

Your adrenal glands are also responsible for balancing hormones, such as:

Glucocorticoids – hormones that balance your body’s blood sugar, help with energy and food metabolism, help your body relieve stress and manage your immune response (e.g., cortisol).

Mineralocorticoids – hormones that maintain healthy blood pressure, manage your blood hydration level, and keep your blood healthy by keeping salt and water in balance (e.g., aldosterone).

Sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone.

Adrenaline/Epinephrine – hormones that affect your heart health, make sure that all parts of the body are getting blood and convert glycogen into glucose in your liver.

What causes adrenal fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Sometimes misunderstood as an autoimmune disorder, adrenal fatigue can mimic some precursors to other common illnesses and disease.

Wellness doctors and practitioners believe that an episode of acute stress or prolonged, chronic stress can cause adrenal glands to become overloaded and ineffective, then improperly release cortisol. They believe that hypoadrenia can be caused by:

    Stressful experiences like death of loved one, divorce or surgery
    Exposure to environmental toxins and pollution
    Prolonged stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or work environment, and other conditions that entail feelings of helplessness
    Negative thinking and emotional trauma
    Lack of sleep
    Poor diet (including crash diets and inconsistent nutrition) and lack of exercise
    Pain (8)
    Food sensitivities
    Reliance on stimulants like caffeine or energy drinks
    Rheumatoid arthritis (9)

But can stress cause extreme fatigue? Yes, it absolutely can. One study found that students undergoing chronic, long-term stress when prepping for medical exams at the end of their educational careers impaired the students’ cortisol awakening response. (10) By limiting this surge in cortisol that naturally occurs every morning when you wake up to help you feel alert, stress inhibits your ability to wake up fully, no matter how much sleep you get.

Another study, released in 2005, found that students diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome had “alterations in adrenal function,” particularly in females, suggesting that their adrenal glands were no longer receiving a normal amount of stimulation. (11) And it’s not just about the amount of sleep you get – researchers at Brandeis University discovered that the quality, rather than the quantity of sleep, affects the body’s normal cortisol responses when exposed to stress. (12)

Depression may also play a role in the development or effects of adrenal fatigue. After a major depressive episode, cortisol responses do not easily readjust to normal levels and might be somewhat responsible for a recurrence of depression. (13)

Patients with diabetes might be at increased risk for adrenal fatigue. Research from the University of Delhi found that diabetes patients “display significantly higher chronic stress and stress responses when compared to subjects with [normal glucose tolerance].” (14) This suggests that impaired glucose tolerance might have a connection with taxing of the adrenal glands.

Scientists in China have designed a cohort study to examine the interaction of genetics, biomarkers and environmental exposures with health metrics lead to chronic diseases. A validated questionnaire, along with a large battery of tests, has led them to develop a classification referred to as “suboptimal health.” This phase is essentially a step between optimal health and diagnosable illness or disease characterized by “the perception of health complaints, general weakness, chronic fatigue and low energy levels.”

It is the observation of these scientists that suboptimal health, as an “in-between” status before disease, is a precursor to many health conditions and has been exacerbated by the culture shifts in the last several decades like western lifestyle habits, pollution, poor diet and tobacco use. This study, intended to expand over subsequent years by large numbers, is an effort to legitimize some of the oft-ignored benefits of traditional Chinese medicine. (15)

I find it curious that suboptimal health status (SHS) has many of the same tenets as what we refer to as adrenal fatigue. Actually, people classified as having SHS have “significantly higher levels of plasma cortisol,” and confirm the correlation between stress and suboptimal health. This has led those studying SHS to realize that reducing the stress in work environments may help to prevent chronic diseases in the future. (16)

According to the Mayo Clinic, severe adrenal fatigue symptoms may actually be Addison’s disease. This disease occurs when your adrenal glands stop producing sufficient amounts of cortisol permanently, due to autoimmune disease or damage to the adrenal glands or pituitary glands. Unlike adrenal fatigue, Addison’s disease is marked by unexplained weight loss, rather than gain. The Mayo Clinic urges anyone with symptoms such as hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin), severe fatigue, unexplained weight loss, major gastrointestinal issues, lightheadedness/fainting, salt cravings and muscle or joint pain to see a physician immediately.

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms

What happens when the adrenal glands stop producing hormones efficiently? Every bodily function is affected, and as adrenal hormone levels ebb and flow abnormally, even the normal “get-up-and-go” you get from them disappears. Adrenal fatigue symptoms include: (17)

    Autoimmune conditions
    Chronic fatigue (always feeling tired)
    Brain fog
    Hair loss
    Hormone imbalance
    Weakened stress response
    Insulin resistance
    Decreased sex drive/libido
    Moodiness and irritability
    Muscle or bone loss
    Skin ailments
    Sleep disturbances
    Weight gain
    Sweet and salty food cravings

As you can see, there are a number of symptoms that might be related to other underlying disorders. Fortunately, the ways to combat these issues are very similar and will benefit your overall health. If you’ve experienced any of these adrenal fatigue side effects, take heart, for there are now many natural ways to treat and support your adrenal system.

3 Steps to Overcome Adrenal Fatigue

Treatment for adrenal fatigue involves reducing stress on your body and your mind, eliminating toxins, avoiding negative thinking and replenishing your body with healthy foods, supplements and ways of thinking. If you’re asking, “How can I help my adrenal glands?” the answer may be closer than you think – adrenal fatigue treatment looks a lot like the healthy diets to help combat the underlying issues causing a number of conditions.

3 Step Adrenal Cure Info Graphic Chart

1. Follow the Adrenal Fatigue Diet

In every case of adrenal recovery, diet is a huge factor. There are a number of foods that offer adrenal support, helping to replenish your adrenal energy so your system can come back to full health. But first, you must start by removing any hard-to-digest foods and any toxins or chemicals in your environment.

The idea is to remove anything that taxes your adrenals. Foods to avoid include:

Caffeine: This can interfere with your sleep cycle and make it hard for your adrenals to recover. If you must drink coffee or a caffeinated beverage, then have a limited amount in the morning before noon.

Sugar and sweeteners: Includes avoiding high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners as well. Avoid sugary foods, cereals, candy, sweets, etc. Be aware that sugar is an additive in many breads, condiments and dressings. Try to avoid as much extra sugar as possible. Seek the benefits of raw honey or stevia as an alternative, and always use sweeteners of any kind in moderation.

Carbohydrates: While carbohydrates aren’t all bad for you, the inflammation they can cause is particularly problematic when experiencing adrenal fatigue. Many people crave carb-heavy foods when they’re stressed, which offer a momentary satisfaction but end up taxing the adrenal glands more. If you’re overwhelmed and stressed out, try kicking the gluten and starchy carbs for a period of time to see if that may regulate your tiredness and energy levels.

Processed and microwaved foods: First of all, the microwave has its own dangers, but additionally, most microwaveable foods have many preservatives and fillers that are hard to digest and wear out your body’s energy and digestion cycle. Try to buy food on the outer walls of your grocery store and prepare your own food whenever possible.

Processed meats: An overload of protein can stress your hormones more than you might think, and the added hormones and lacking nutrition in conventional, processed meats (particularly red meats like beef and steak) can throw your system out-of-whack in quick succession. When buying meats for adrenal support, stick to grass-fed beef and free-range chicken or turkey, and eat these protein-heavy meats only in moderation.

Hydrogenated oils: Vegetable oils like soybean, canola and corn oil are highly inflammatory and can lead to adrenal inflammation. Try to only use good fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, organic butter or ghee.

Next, you want to add nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest and have healing qualities. Some of the top superfoods for adrenal health include:

    Avocado and other healthy fats
    Cruciferous vegetables (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.)
    Fatty fish (e.g., wild-caught salmon)
    Free-range chicken and turkey
    Bone broth
    Nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
    Seeds, such as pumpkin, chia and flax
    Kelp and seaweed
    Celtic or Himalayan sea salt
    Fermented foods rich in probiotics
    Chaga and cordyceps medicinal mushrooms

These foods help overcome adrenal fatigue because they’re nutrient-dense, low in sugar and have healthy fat and fiber.

See also my healing diet for more food suggestions.

2. Take Adrenal Fatigue Supplements and Herbs

Another big key to overcoming adrenal fatigue is taking the right supplements using supporting herbs. I always recommend eating the right foods to heal your body. However, it can still be a challenge to get enough of every nutrient you need every day. Therefore, it can be useful to wisely use dietary supplements for vitamins and minerals particularly vital for adrenal support.

In addition, there are certain herbs, spices and essential oils that can help to fight adrenal fatigue and support an energetic, vibrant life.

Adaptogenic herbs ashwagandha, rhodiola rosea, schisandra and holy basil: Research indicates that adaptogen herbs may help to lower cortisol levels and mediate stress responses within the body. (18, 19, 20) By using these herbs in food preparation, you can alleviate some of the strain on your adrenal glands.

Licorice root: This spice is available in extract form and helps to increase the DHEA in your body. (21) Licorice root is associated with some side effects and may sometimes be avoided by taking DGL licorice. (22) Pregnant women and those with heart, liver or kidney problems should avoid licorice root. Don’t take it for more than four weeks at a time. (23)

Fish oil (EPA/DHA): There are a large number of benefits of supplementing with fish oil (or, for people on vegan or other plant-based diets, algal oil). Several of these include counteracting a number of adrenal fatigue-related symptoms and complications, such as diabetes, mental dysfunction, arthritis, immune system function, skin issues, weight gain and anxiety/depression.

Magnesium: For some time, magnesium has been understood as one of the necessary nutrients for fighting adrenal insufficiency, a medical condition I’ll dive into below. (24) While the mechanisms of this aren’t fully understood, you may benefit from supplementing with magnesium if you are suffering from adrenal fatigue.

B-Complex Vitamins: Research has found that Vitamin B12 deficiency may be associated with stress on the adrenal cortex in some animals. (22) Vitamin B5 is another commonly deficient vitamin in people with adrenal stress. Especially if you’re reducing or eliminating meat from your diet in order to fight adrenal fatigue, it may serve you well to take a high-quality B-complex vitamin supplement.

Vitamin C: Known as a “stress-busting” nutrient, vitamin C has been found to minimize the effects of stress on people as well as reduce the time necessary to bounce back from stressful events. (25)

Vitamin D: In addition to maintaining homeostasis between magnesium and phosphorus in the body and supporting strong bones, Vitamin D has also more recently been seen to have impact on other conditions, including adrenal dysfunction and disease. (26)

Selenium: At least one animal study has found that selenium deficiency can negatively impact adrenal function. (27)

Lavender oil: Human and animal studies show that lavender essential oil has a calming effect that can reduce stress. (28) Research also suggests that it may lower high cortisol levels when inhaled. (29, 30)

Rosemary oil: Rosemary essential oil (along with lavender) can help to decrease cortisol concentrations and reduce oxidative stress on cells. (31)

I always recommend using whole-food-based supplements from reputable companies and using only 100 percent, therapeutic grade, USDA Certified Organic essential oils. Make sure you trust what you’re purchasing.

3. Reduce Adrenal Fatigue Stress

The last and most important key to restoring your adrenal function is to heed your mind and stress needs. Pay attention to your body!

    Rest when you feel tired as much as possible.
    Sleep 8–10 hours a night.
    Avoid staying up late and stay on a regular sleep cycle — ideally, in bed before 10 p.m.
    Laugh and do something fun every day.
    Minimize work and relational stress however possible.
    Eat on a regular food cycle, and reduce your caffeine and sugar addiction.
    Exercise (even moderate exercise and walking can help). Yoga, in particular, can help to improve quality of life and reduce stress responses. (32)
    Avoid negative people and self-talk.
    Take time for yourself (do something relaxing).
    Seek counsel or support for any traumatic experiences.

Let’s talk about “self-talk” for a minute. Our bodies are made to heal. However, the words we say have a great impact on our body and our ability to heal. Regardless of what diet and supplements you take, your environment is one of the most important components.

So, be kind to yourself. Try to avoid saying negative things about yourself and others. It’s important to choose to be around positive people and stay positive about yourself as well.

Many people roll their eyes at such advice, but it’s scientifically proven that it’s possible to reduce pathological worry by practicing “thought replacement,” a positive self-talk practice that involves verbally reciting positive outcomes to stressful situations. (33)


Signs of When to Go to the Endocrinologist for Adrenal Fatigue

Many people go for some time without consulting their general physician or endocrinologist about some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. However, experiencing high cortisol symptoms over a long period of time can really take a toll. In addition, some symptoms can be indicative of more serious conditions.

It’s probably time to visit the endocrinologist if:

    You experience one or a combination of adrenal fatigue symptoms for an extended period of time
    Your symptoms have begun interfering with normal life relationships and/or activities, such as work, family time or school
    Dietary and lifestyle judgments have not significantly improved your symptoms
    Your sleeping patterns have shifted into insomnia and/or you are no longer able to get restful sleep, no matter how long you’re in bed
    You experience hyperpigmentation, or patches of darker skin on your body
    You are a woman who has ceased menstruating
    You experience dizziness and/or overall weakness for multiple consecutive days with no explainable cause (such as flu, concussion or excessive exercise)
    You are unsure of how or unable to study adrenal fatigue supplements to safely take them, or unsure of how to structure an adrenal fatigue diet

Because of the controversial nature of this condition, you may need to seek out a naturopath who will help you treat adrenal fatigue with a combination of dietary advice and supplement recommendations, as well as any hormonal or other medications necessary. An oral dose of 20 milligrams of hydrocortisone is recommended by some for routine cortisol management, while an occasional dose of 50 milligrams may be prescribed but should not be taken regularly or in higher doses. (34) Your physician or endocrinologist should help you understand the potential side effects of this and any other medication they recommend.

Adrenal Fatigue Tests

Tests for adrenal fatigue are, unfortunately, another source of confusion for many. You should know ahead of time that these tests must be done by someone who understands the nature of adrenal fatigue and that tests for adrenal fatigue are rarely definitive.

The most common of these tests include testing bodily fluid for cortisol. Blood tests are almost never helpful in this regard, but a 24-hour salivary panel may help your doctor recognize abnormal cortisol patterns, including a lack or overload of stress response. Many doctors also test thyroid function in conjunction with cortisol levels because of the way these hormonal systems are interconnected.

Other tests that may be used to help diagnose or confirm adrenal fatigue include: (35)

    ACTH Challenge
    TSH test (thyroid stimulating hormone)
    Free T3 (FT3)
    Total Thyroxine (TT4)
    Cortisol/DHEA ratio
    17-HP/Cortisol ratio
    Neurotransmitter testing

There are also two safe home tests you can try. The first is known as the Iris Contraction Test and was developed in 1924 by a Dr. Arroyo. His theory was that the iris would not be able to properly contract when exposed to light in people with weakened adrenal function, so the test involves sitting in a dark room and shining a flashlight briefly across the eyes repeatedly. If you have adrenal fatigue, it’s possible that the eye contraction will last no more than 2 minutes and the eyes will dilate even when still exposed to direct light.

You may also try the Postural Low Blood Pressure test. In healthy individuals, blood pressure rises when rising from a laying position. Using a blood pressure monitor, you can test your pressure when laying down and then after standing. If you see no rise or a drop in blood pressure, it’s possible your adrenals have been weakened.

How Adrenal Fatigue and Osteoporosis are Related to One Another

A relatively new area of understanding, there are some who make the connection between adrenal fatigue and osteoporosis. It’s well-known that osteoporosis is often a result of imbalanced hormones. However, the sex hormones that are often named as the transgressors aren’t the only problem. Abnormally high or low cortisol levels are also associated with bone loss and osteoporosis risk. (36, 37, 38)

One possible reason for this is the mineralocorticoids regulated by cortisol and aldosterone, during your body’s response to stress. When these hormones don’t manage the mineral balance via these mineralocorticoid hormones, bone loss can occur.

Nutritional deficiencies can exacerbate or speed the development of osteoporosis as well, so improving your diet to remove pro-inflammatory foods can improve your risk factors for both of these disorders.

While there is not proof as of yet that adrenal fatigue directly causes osteoporosis, the evidence of the connection between abnormal cortisol levels and osteoporosis should give you pause about loading up on non-nutritious foods and ignoring symptoms of hypoadrenia.
Adrenal Fatigue vs. Adrenal Insufficiency vs. Addison’s Disease vs. Cushing’s Syndrome/Disease

When discussing problems with adrenal function, it’s important to understand that adrenal fatigue is not the same thing as adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease or Cushing’s syndrome/Cushing’s disease.

Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison’s Disease

Symptoms found in adrenal insufficiency that are not found in adrenal fatigue include major digestive issues, weight loss, low blood sugar, headache and sweating (as well most of the symptoms common in hypoadrenia, save weight gain).

Primary adrenal insufficiency is what is known as Addison’s disease and occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged by some type of trauma and can’t produce enough cortisol or aldosterone. The much more common type of adrenal insufficiency is known as secondary adrenal insufficiency and occurs when the pituitary gland stops producing adenocorticotropin (ACTH). ACTH is what stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, so it stops this process from moving along. (39)

The skin darkening that concerns endocrinologists most often occurs in Addison’s disease, but not secondary adrenal insufficiency. The latter of these conditions is often not diagnosed quickly because people ignore symptoms until they are drastically obvious. People with adrenal insufficiency do experience severe fatigue, often not reflected by salivary cortisol levels. (40)

Those with adrenal insufficiency may suffer an adrenal crisis if symptoms of adrenal disease are ignored. An adrenal crisis (known sometimes as an Addisonian crisis in those with Addison’s disease) is marked by symptoms like severe, sudden pain in the legs, back or abdomen, severe vomiting/diarrhea, dehydration, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness.

What differentiates adrenal insufficiency from adrenal fatigue? More often than not, adrenal fatigue is modeled by an overabundance of cortisol, often at the “wrong” times, while adrenal insufficiency is a consistent inability to produce cortisol. They are related, though – many natural medicine practitioners, such as myself, see adrenal fatigue as a precursor to adrenal insufficiency. In fact, a description of adrenal insufficiency from the Cleveland Clinic states that “its early clinical presentation is most commonly vague and undefined, requiring a high index of suspicion.” (41)

The largest difference between them is that people with adrenal fatigue usually have cortisol levels that fall in “normal” levels but not “optimal,” while adrenal insufficiency patients have cortisol levels consistently outside the normal range. In addition, most conventional doctors would say that stress is not a causative factor in adrenal insufficiency (which is “always caused” by damage from other, unknown sources), which seems unlikely.

Immune responses are limited in people suffering from adrenal insufficiency, who cannot physiologically respond to pathogens like healthy individuals. (42)

Cushing’s Syndrome/Disease

An extremely rare condition, Cushing’s disease is an overproduction of cortisol, outside the normal levels, that most often affects women between 25-40. Sometimes, Cushing’s is a result of tumors, while other times it can be idiopathic (no known cause). In these cases, it’s possible that adrenal fatigue and/or diet and lifestyle habits may have contributed to the condition.

Cushing’s can be reversed and is defined as a “curable” condition by the National Institute of Health, although those with previous tumors need regular checkups to assess any future tumor growth, and those who have had Cushing’s in the past are at a higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol. (43)

Unique symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome (called Cushing’s disease when caused by a pituitary tumor) include abdominal/facial weight gain, male impotence, failure to menstruate, increased risk of miscarriage, high blood sugar and high blood pressure. (44)
How long does it take to recover from adrenal fatigue?

It’s not an easy question to answer, because adrenal fatigue recovery time has never been studied. Recovery for adrenal fatigue can take a little while, though. After all, it took months, maybe years, to wear out your adrenals; so it takes a little time to build up their strength again. For full adrenal recovery, you can expect it to take:

    6–9 months for minor adrenal fatigue
    12–18 months for moderate fatigue
    Up to 24 months for severe adrenal fatigue

The best approach is to make solid changes to your lifestyle for lasting results. Some people notice a difference in their overall well-being after just a few weeks of better foods that aid in detoxification of the body and adrenal fatigue supplements. If you aim for a balanced lifestyle with a healthy level of sleep, exercise, fun and a positive environment, then you are most likely to keep your adrenal system going strong!


Many doctors are concerned with adrenal fatigue diagnoses and their legitimacy, in part, because they don’t want people to improperly “treat” themselves for a condition and end up worse than they were to begin. That’s okay, because I don’t want you to be in a worse state, either!

First, remember that any new dietary regimen or addition of supplements in your lifestyle should be implemented under the supervision of a physician/naturopath you trust. In general, introducing more plant-based foods into your lifestyle and eliminating stimulants, sugary foods and processed items with a ton of sodium or chemicals added to them is going to help you feel and live better, regardless of conditions you may or may not have.

The larger concern comes when referring to herbs, spices, supplements and essential oils used to combat adrenal fatigue. Keep these precautions in mind and don’t blindly use these without medical supervision or proper education on how, how much, how often and how long to use these supplements.

Medicinal Mushrooms: Because of the way mushrooms such as cordyceps and chaga interact with the body and various medications, it is recommended that pregnant or nursing mothers never use them. In addition, anyone with autoimmune conditions, diabetes or a bleeding disorder should use medicinal chaga or cordyceps. These is one case report of chaga supplementation causing kidney damage in a woman with liver disease who took chaga every day for six months. This mushroom also contains oxalates and may inhibit some nutrient absorption in large doses. (45)

Adaptogen Herbs: Many people recommend only using one adaptogen herb at a time (and not every day), then switching to a different one. Due to a lack of evidence about their safety during pregnancy, adaptogen herbs should never be used by pregnant or nursing mothers.

Rhodiola rosea has been known to (uncommonly) cause allergy, insomnia, irritability, increased blood pressure and chest pain. It may interfere with psychotropic drugs, birth control pills, diabetic and thyroid medication, as well as add to the stimulant effects of caffeine and affect platelet aggregation.

While understood as fairly safe when taken in the short-term, ashwagandha has not been studied for long-term usage effects. Too-large doses may lead to digestive symptoms including nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. People with diabetes, irregular blood pressure, stomach ulcers, autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders or upcoming/recent surgery should not use ashwagandha.

Holy basil, an Ayurvedic medicine gold mine, is known to be safe for up to six weeks, while long-term effects are unknown. In addition, you shouldn’t take holy basil before or after surgery because it could increase your risk of bleeding.

Essential Oils: Understanding the ins and outs of essential oils can be a large task, but the two generally recommended for adrenal support, lavender and rosemary, are somewhat straightforward. Neither have been tested on pregnant women and therefore should not be used while carrying a baby or nursing.

Lavender oil shouldn’t be used alongside any other sedatives. Lavender oil is also generally recognized as safe when it comes to oral use (when looking at 3 drops at a time diluted in water).

Rosemary oil should never be used internally, as it can cause vomiting and spasms. You may inhale it, or use it topically at a 50:50 dilution of a carrier oil.

Final Thoughts

    Adrenal fatigue is a controversial condition, coined by Dr. James L. Wilson in the late 1990’s.
    This condition is considered to be an “in-between” state of health, before reaching a state of diagnosable disease, that is characterized by several general symptoms affecting various body systems, similar to China’s classification of suboptimal health symptoms.
    Adrenal fatigue is said to be caused by high levels of chronic stress that lead to a taxing of the adrenal glands, forcing them to overproduce or underproduce cortisol, the stress hormone, at the wrong times.
    Many believe that adrenal fatigue can lead to more serious adrenal diseases like adrenal insufficiency or Cushing’s syndrome.
    Common symptoms of adrenal fatigue include severe tiredness, brain fog, decreased sex drive, hair loss, insulin resistance and others.
    To naturally fight adrenal fatigue, remove inflammatory foods from your diet such as sugar and excess carbohydrates, and eat plenty of colorful, plant-based foods, free-range lean meats such as chicken or turkey, and lots of healthy fats.
    There are a variety of herbs, spices, supplements and essential oils that may be used to combat adrenal fatigue. These should be used under medical supervision.
    If you experience symptoms for an extended period of time or have certain issues like patches of darkened skin, consult an endocrinologist immediately for help.


Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism: Causes & Natural Solutions

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is underactive and doesn’t properly make or release thyroid hormones. The thyroid gland normally releases many crucial hormones that travel through the bloodstream to reach receptors found throughout the whole body. So a disturbance in thyroid function can cause widespread, noticeable health problems.

According to the American Thyroid Association, 12 percent of Americans will develop a thyroid condition at some point in their lives. (1) Some estimates suggest up to 40 percent of the population suffers from at least some level of underactive thyroid. Women — especially older women — are the most susceptible group for developing hypothyroidism. People who are elderly or who have other existing autoimmune diseases — like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and celiac disease, for example — are also at a higher risk.

What are some of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism? Changes to your metabolism, heart function, digestion, energy, appetite, sleep or mood … even the growth of your hair, skin and nails can all be caused by hypothyroidism. (2)

However, a hypothyroidism diagnosis is not a death sentence! There are many ways to treat hypothyroidism naturally through dietary changes and other natural remedies.

Hypothyroidism vs. Hyperthyroidism

The thyroid is a small gland located on the base of your neck, sometimes described as butterfly-shaped. In one way or another, your thyroid is connected to the way every organ in your body functions. Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are the two conditions that affect how an improperly working thyroid might cause symptoms throughout the body.


When you produce too much thyroid hormone, you may have hyperthyroidism. Some of the causes of hyperthyroidism include Grave’s disease, swollen thyroid or nodules on the thyroid. (3)

Symptoms your doctor might recognize as caused by hyperthyroidism include:

    unexplained weight loss
    hair thinning or loss
    anxiety, shakiness
    excessive sweating
    racing heartbeat
    more bowel movements than normal
    flushed, itchy skin

If left unchecked, people with hyperthyroidism can lose bone density and develop an irregular heartbeat, increasing their risk for stroke.

There are medications commonly prescribed to limit the activity of the thyroid. Surgery may also be recommended as a last resort to remove all or part of the thyroid. It’s worth researching ways to treat hyperthyroidism naturally, as removing sources of inflammation from your diet and taking advantage of thyroid-supporting supplements and essential oils can help to make a big difference.


The opposite of an overactive thyroid is, logically, an underactive thyroid. If your physician tests you for hypothyroidism, it’s likely you’re experiencing symptoms such as:

    mood disorders (like depression)
    hair loss
    weight gain
    cracked skin

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a diet low in iodine, radiation exposure and various other factors may contribute to developing underactive thyroid. People at risk for thyroid disease are encouraged to avoid radiation exposure as much as possible, such as X-rays or dental treatments.

There is no cure for a hypothyroidism diagnosis, but there may be ways to naturally increase thyroid hormone production through dietary means. Conventional medicine generally suggests Synthroid® (a synthetic thyroid hormone pill) tablets be taken each day throughout the rest of one’s life.

The first step in natural treatment of hypothyroidism is to eliminate the causes of thyroid dysfunction, such as inflammation, overuse of medications, nutrient deficiencies and changes in hormones due to stress. The hypothyroidism diet eliminates foods that can cause inflammation and immune reactions and instead focuses on foods that help heal the GI tract, balance hormones and reduce inflammation.

Before I discuss the natural treatment of hypothyroidism and a hypothyroidism diet, you first must understand both the potential causes of hypothyroidism as well as the symptoms.

9 Potential Causes of Hypothyroidism

1. Inflammatory disorders of the thyroid

The most common cause of hypothyroidism in developed nations is a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is an autoimmune endocrine disorder that occurs when the thyroid becomes inflamed. When someone has Hashimoto’s, their own body essentially begins to attack itself by producing antibodies that try to destroy the thyroid gland. (4)

Why does this happen? The immune system mistakenly thinks that the thyroid cells are not a part of the body, so it tries to remove them before they can cause damage and illness. The problem is that this causes widespread inflammation, which can result in many different problems. According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, 90 percent of people with hypothyroidism have Hashimoto’s that inflames the thyroid gland over time, but this isn’t the only cause of hypothyroidism.

2. Poor diet (especially one lacking in iodine and selenium)

A diet low in nutrient-rich foods, especially in iodine and selenium (which are trace minerals crucial for thyroid function), increases the risk for thyroid disorders. The thyroid gland needs both selenium and iodine to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormones. (5) These nutrients also play other protective roles in the body. For example: severe selenium deficiency increases the incidence of thyroiditis because it stops activity of a very powerful antioxidant known as glutathione, which normally controls inflammation and fights oxidative stress. (6)

3. Hormone imbalances

In some rare cases, because the pituitary gland makes a hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) — which controls the levels of hormones being pumped out of the thyroid — a problem with the pituitary gland can cause changes to thyroid function. (7)

4. Gut inflammation (Leaky Gut Syndrome)

An unhealthy gut environment can contribute to nutrient deficiencies and raise autoimmune activity in the body. Food sensitivities or allergies, including those to gluten and dairy, can trigger gut inflammation. Other causes of a damaged gut are high stress levels, toxin overload from diet and the environment and bacterial imbalances. When leaky gut occurs, small particles that are normally trapped inside the gut start to leak out into the bloodstream through tiny openings in the gut lining, which creates an autoimmune cascade and a series of negative symptoms.

5. Genetics

Although it’s not very common, newborns are sometimes born with a dysfunction of the thyroid gland, a genetic condition called congenital hypothyroidism. Some evidence shows that people are more likely to develop hypothyroidism if they have a close family member with an autoimmune disease. But according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the likelihood of congenital hypothyroidism is very low and only about one out of every 4,000 newborns is born with a thyroid disorder. (8)

6. Pregnancy

During or following pregnancy, although it’s not exactly known why, some women begin to produce very high levels of thyroid hormones, followed by a very rapid decline. This condition is known as postpartum thyroiditis. The symptoms often disappear within 12–18 months but can also lead to permanent hypothyroidism.

7. Interactions of certain medications

Specific medications seem to lead frequently to the development of underactive thyroid. The most common of these include drugs to treat cancer, heart problems and certain psychiatric conditions.

8. High levels of emotional stress

Stress impacts hormones and is known to worsen inflammation. Stress can raise levels of cortisol and adrenaline, which disturbs neurotransmitter function and worsens symptoms of thyroid disease. These include low energy levels, poor mood, low concentration, disturbed appetite and weight gain and the inability to get restful sleep. (9)

9. Inactivity and lack of exercise

Exercise and a healthy diet are important for controlling chronic stress and managing hormone-related neurological function. Research shows that people who regularly exercise usually get better sleep, deal with stress better and more often maintain a healthier weight, all of which reduce some of the biggest risk factors and symptoms associated with hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism Symptoms

The thyroid is considered a “master gland.” In addition to producing crucial hormones, it helps control the process of turning nutrients from food into usable energy on which the body runs. Because the thyroid plays such a major part in your metabolism, dysfunction can affect almost every part of the body, including your energy levels and ability to burn calories.

Key hormones produced by the thyroid also help the liver break down cholesterol that circulates through the bloodstream. The thyroid can also stimulate enzymes that are needed to control triglyceride fat levels; this is why changes in thyroid function cause lead to heart problems.

Other noticeable effects of hypothyroidism include moodiness and a sluggish metabolism. Essentially, when your thyroid is underactive, your metabolism will slow down, which might mean you always feel tired or struggle to keep off weight.

Your mood is especially susceptible to changes in hormone levels, so some people with hypothyroidism deal with depression, anxiety, trouble getting good sleep and low immunity. The thyroid gland helps regulate chemical messengers called neurotransmitters, which control your emotions and nerve signaling. This is the reason an out-of-balance thyroid can mean drastic emotional changes at times.

Some of the most common warning signs of hypothyroidism include: (10)

    Depression and anxiety
    Weight gain
    Goiter (nodules at the base of the neck, sometimes accompanied by tightness in the throat, coughing or swelling)
    Feeling cold
    Muscle aches and tenderness
    Stiffness and swelling in the joints
    Hair loss
    Rough, cracked skin
    Trouble breathing
    Changes in the menstrual cycle
    More frequent cold or flu due to low immune function

To find out if you have hypothyroidism, your doctor will run blood tests to check for levels of the hormones known as T4 (thyroxine) and TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). Hypothyroidism is diagnosed when TSH is high. Sometimes, TSH can be high, but the thyroid is still producing enough hormones. This condition is referred to as subclinical (or mild) hypothyroidism.

Mild hypothyroidism is usually the early stage. It can progress to hypothyroidism if a hypothyroidism diet isn’t adopted and lifestyle changes aren’t made. When the condition isn’t corrected, more severe autoimmune reactions can occur — this can cause worsened problems like impaired brain function, infertility, unhealthy pregnancy, obesity, heart complications and joint pain.

In some cases, people with an extremely underactive thyroid may fall into what is known as a myxedema coma, characterized by declining mental status, hypothermia and the slowing of many internal organs. If you or someone you know has severe thyroid problems and begins to show major lethargy or stupor, seek emergency medical attention at once.

Myxedema comas are rare and occur most often in the elderly and women, especially in the winter months. Generally, it is the result of undiagnosed and/or untreated hypothyroidism and can be fatal if left untreated.

Another symptom to be aware of is thyroid nodules, a buildup of cells within the thyroid, creating an abnormal lump. Most thyroid nodules aren’t dangerous. But some of them become cancerous over time. If your physician suspects you have thyroid nodules, he or she should have them evaluated to check for cancer cells.

For patients with thyroid cancers, a common conventional treatment method is known as radioiodine, or radioactive iodine. Because the thyroid absorbs most of your body’s iron content, this concentrated radiation is supposed to successfully kill most of the diseased thyroid cells without damaging cells throughout the rest of the body.

The Hypothyroidism Diet Plan

Foods to Eat on a Hypothyroidism Diet thyroid diet

Here are the top foods in a hypothyroidism diet to start the healing process:

Wild-caught fish — These provide the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, essential for hormone balance and thyroid function. Balancing the level of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in your hypothyroidism diet can reduce inflammation and support healthy neurological function. Fish such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel and Pacific sardines are some of the best sources of omega-3’s to increase neurotransmitter activity and support a healthy mood and immune system. Just be aware of the fish you should never eat and choose the best varieties available.

Coconut oil — This provides medium-chain fatty acids in the form of caprylic acid, lauric acid and capric acid, which support a healthy metabolism, increase energy and fight fatigue. A staple of the hypothyroidism diet, coconut oil is easy to digest, nourishes the digestive system and has antimicrobial, antioxidant and antibacterial properties that suppress inflammation. Coconut oil helps improve immunity and can increase brain function, endurance and mood while stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Seaweed — Good seaweeds are some of the best natural sources of iodine and help prevent deficiencies that disturb thyroid function. I’d recommend having some every week as part of your hypothyroidism diet. Try kelp, nori, kombu and wakame. You can look for dried varieties of these at health food stores and use them in soups, with tuna fish or in fish cakes.

Probiotic-Rich Foods — These include kefir (a fermented dairy product), organic goat’s milk yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, natto, sauerkraut and other fermented veggies. As part of your hypothyroidism diet, probiotics help create a healthy gut environment by balancing microflora bacteria. This reduces leaky gut syndrome, nutrient deficiencies, inflammation and autoimmune reactions.

Sprouted Seeds — Flax, hemp and chia seeds provide ALA, a type of omega-3 fat that’s critical for proper hormonal balance and thyroid function. Adequate levels of fats in your hypothyroidism diet support a healthy mood and brain function while helping to lower inflammation. Eating plenty of healthy fats also stabilizes blood sugar levels and can help you stay at a healthy weight.

Clean Water — Water helps with hydration and digestive function while preventing fatigue and moodiness. For prevention of constipation, low energy and sugar cravings, drink at least eight ounces every two hours.

High Fiber Foods — People with hypothyroidism may have digestive difficulties, so aim for 30–40 grams of fiber daily. Not only does a high-fiber diet help with digestive health, it also improves heart health, balances blood sugar levels and supports a healthy weight by making you feel fuller. Some easy ways to increase fiber intake include eating more fresh vegetables, berries, beans, lentils and seeds.

Bone broth — Beef and chicken stock contain the amino acids L-proline and L-glycine, which can help repair the digestive lining and improve hypothyroidism. Bone broth also contains numerous important minerals that nourish the digestive tract and prevent deficiencies like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and silicon. Bone broth has been shown to help overcome food sensitivities, improve energy and fight fatigue, increase immunity and lower pain of the muscles and joints.

Fruits and Vegetables — These are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are necessary for combating free-radical damage and lowering inflammation. They are nutrient-dense and should make up a large portion of a healthy diet since they support digestive health, brain function, heart health, hormone balance and a healthy weight.

Foods to Avoid on a Hypothyroidism Diet

These are foods that should not appear in your hypothyroidism diet:

Goitrogen Foods — People with hypothyroidism may want to stay away from eating large amounts of raw Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, soy and Brussels sprouts might impact thyroid function because these contain goitrogens, molecules which impair thyroid perioxidase. (11) When consuming these cruciferous vegetables, it’s best to steam them for 30 minutes before consuming and keep portions moderate in size. These pose more of a risk for people with iodine deficiencies.

Tap Water — Most tap water contains fluorine (an endocrine disruptor) and chlorine that inhibit iodine absorption. As mentioned earlier, iodine levels may be high enough in most people’s diets, but this doesn’t mean that everyone is capable of absorbing and using all of the mineral. (12)

Gluten — Many people with thyroid issues are also sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that results in an allergy to gluten. Gluten is found in all wheat, rye and barley products. Carefully check ingredient labels to avoid hidden gluten that is lurking in many packaged foods. Undiagnosed sensitivities to gluten can further raise inflammation, create nutrient deficiencies and worsen hormonal problems.

Conventional Dairy — Like gluten, dairy can be especially problematic for the thyroid, triggering reactions that raise inflammatory responses.  Avoid conventional cow’s milk dairy products that are not organic and have been pasteurized.  Consumption of organic, raw goat’s milk or organic A2 cow’s milk is a better choice.

Sugar — Sugar can disrupt the hormone balance necessary for metabolism. People with thyroid issues have a difficult time losing weight. Because the thyroid is a key gland for hormonal balance and metabolism, it’s best to avoid sugar as it can contribute to hormonal disturbances, fatigue, mood changes, worsened depression and weight gain.

Refined Flour Products — Any food made with refined carbohydrates, like enriched wheat flour, for example, negatively impacts hormone levels and can contribute to weight gain. Refined flour products include bread, cereals, pastas and all baked goods. If possible, remove most grains from your diet altogether. Or at least try to greatly limit the amount of products you eat that are made with any flour by choosing 100 percent whole, ancient grains instead (like quinoa, buckwheat, etc.)

Natural Hypothyroidism Remedies

In addition to adopting a hypothyroidism diet, use these five natural remedies for decreased symptoms or to eliminate hypothyroidism.

Ashwagandha (500 milligrams daily)thyroid diet

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb that helps the body respond to stress, keeping hormone levels better in balance. Adaptogens helps lower cortisol and balance T4 levels. In fact, in clinical trials, supplementing with Ashwagandha for eight weeks helped hypothyroidism patients significantly increase thyroxine hormone levels, which reduced the severity of the disorder. (13) Also, try other adaptogen herbs like rhodiola, licorice root, ginseng and holy basil, which have similar benefits.

Iodine (150–300 micrograms daily)

Studies show that even small amounts of supplementary iodine (250 micrograms) cause slight but significant changes in thyroid hormone function in predisposed individuals. (14) A diet rich in whole foods that contain iodine — including fish, sea vegetables, eggs, raw dairy and seaweed — can help prevent deficiency.

Iodine supplements should not be taken with Hashimoto’s disease because getting too much iodine over the long term increases the risk of developing an overactive thyroid. While it’s nearly impossible to get too much from eating a variety of healthy foods alone, sometimes people taking supplements or eating very high amounts of dried algae and seaweed can exceed the recommended upper limit of 500 milligrams per day.

Selenium (200 micrograms daily)

The thyroid is the organ with the highest selenium content in the whole body. Selenium is necessary for the production of the T3 thyroid hormone and can reduce autoimmune affects. In patients with Hashimoto’s disease and in pregnant women with thyroid disturbances, selenium supplementation decreases anti-thyroid antibody levels and improves the structure of the thyroid gland.

Because it helps balance hormone levels, selenium can lower the risk for experiencing thyroid disorder during pregnancy (postpartum thyroiditis) and afterwards (15). Other studies have shown that when selenium deficiency is resolved through supplementation, patients experience on average 40 percent reduction in thyroid antibodies compared to a 10 percent increase when given a placebo. (16)

L-tyrosine (500 milligrams twice daily)

An amino acid used in the synthesis of thyroid hormones, thyroxin (T4) is naturally produced from the iodination of tyrosine, a nonessential amino acid obtained both from protein-containing dietary sources and through the body making some itself.

Supplementing with L-tyrosine has been shown to improve sleep deprivation and can help combat fatigue and a poor mood by improving alertness and neurotransmitter function. One reason L-tyrosine is beneficial in healing thyroid symptoms is because it plays a role in the production of melatonin, dopamine and/or norepinephrine, which are our natural “feel good” hormones. (17)

Fish oil (1,000 milligrams daily)

Essential fatty acids found in fish oil are critical for brain and thyroid function. DHA and EPA omega-3’s found in fish oil are associated with a lower risk for thyroid symptoms, including anxiety, depression, high cholesterol, inflammatory bowel disease, arthritis, diabetes, a weakened immune system and heightened autoimmune disease. Omega-3 fish oil supplements can also help balance levels of omega-6s in the diet, which is important for ongoing health.

Vitamin B-Complex (one B-complex capsule daily)

Vitamin B12 and thiamine are important for neurologic function and hormonal balance. Research shows that supplementing with thiamine can help combat symptoms of autoimmune disease, including chronic fatigue. In one clinical study, when patients with Hashimoto’s were given 600 milligrams per day of thiamine, the majority experienced complete regression of fatigue within a few hours or days. (17)

Vitamin B12 is another important nutrient for fighting fatigue because it benefits the central nervous system in many important ways: maintaining the health of nerve cells (including neurotransmitters); protecting the covering of nerves called the cell’s myelin sheath: and turning nutrients from food into usable energy for the brain and body.

Probiotic Supplement (50 billion CFU per serving)

Probiotics can help heal the gut and aid in nutrient absorption while reducing inflammation. Other benefits of a high-quality probiotic include helping to maintain a stronger immune system, increasing energy from production of vitamin B12, reducing bacterial or viral growth in the gut such as candida, improving skin health and helping with appetite control and weight loss.
thyroid diet

Essential Oils for Hypothyroidism

To improve thyroid function and heal symptoms of autoimmune disease, try some of these essential oil protocols on top of your hypothyroidism diet:

    Combine three drops of frankincense oil with five parts lemongrass oil and five parts clove oil. Rub these directly on the thyroid, which is located at the front lower part of your neck. You can also try putting two drops of frankincense oil on the roof of your mouth twice daily.
    Similarly, try rubbing two to four drops of lemongrass oil and myrrh directly to the thyroid area along with the reflexology points on the feet (the big toes) and on the wrists multiple times per day.
    To combat muscle or joint pain, try a soothing bath using geranium, clove, myrrh and lemongrass oils.
    To fight fatigue, try a combination of peppermint and citrus oils, such as lemon and grapefruit.
    To improve your mood and reduce anxiety or irritability, use chamomile, frankincense and lavender oil, either diffused in your home or added to a bath.


The Disturbing Rise of Precocious Puberty & Why It's Happening

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

Precocious puberty - Dr. Axe I'm going to ask you to do something painful right now: think back to hitting puberty. Ouch. This is often an awkward time to look back on, as you recall adjusting to the changes in your body, developing an interest in dating and comparing yourself to friends.

For most of us, the onset of puberty happened around middle school age. But what if these changes began happening when you were just in second or first grade or even kindergarten? What would it be like to have a talk about sex and hormones while you're still attending playing dress-up or start growing facial hair while playing with toy cars?

Unfortunately, that's no longer a hypothetical situation. Across the country, girls and boys alike are going through precocious puberty, and it means a whole lot more than upgrading from a training bra earlier than the previous generation. From a higher chance of being clinically depressed to an increased risk of certain types of cancers, precocious puberty is taking a toll on our nations youth.

Everyone Goes Through Puberty What's the Big Deal?

Precocious isn't always a bad thing. In fact, its used mostly to positively describe children who are unusually mature in their mental development. When it comes to puberty, however, the word signifies premature physical development. What's wrong with developing a little earlier? To answer that, were going to backtrack a bit.

Most of us are familiar with the physical signs of puberty, like hair growing in different places, menstruation in girls and voice changes in boys. But there's a lot going on inside the body during puberty, too. (1) Puberty actually begins when the brain, in an area known as the hypothalamus, begins releasing gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH. The hormone then travels to the pituitary gland. This small gland below the brain actually produces hormones that control other glands in the body. The pituitary gland then releases two other puberty hormones, luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). All these hormones traveling around the body brings about puberty, and what happens next depends on gender.

In boys, hormones travel to the testes, alerting the body that its time to begin producing sperm and testosterone. Boys, who have been able to have an erection since infancy, can now ejaculate.

In girls, the hormones travel to the ovaries and signal that its time to start maturing and producing eggs. The hormones also begin producing estrogen, which leads to a girls body developing into a more woman-like figure as her body prepares for pregnancy. The main event for girls during this time is the start of menarche, or her first period, and irregular periods in the beginning. She's now able to become pregnant.

As you likely remember, there are also quite a few emotional changes that occur during this transitioning time. Mood swings, anxiety about bodies, sexual feelings and exploration and other teen emotions become prevalent during this time.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the first menstruation cycle for girls happened around ages 16 and 17. Today, the average age is younger than 13 years old. (2) But for many girls and scientists arent quite sure why it seems to affect mainly girls and not boys precocious puberty is happening at an even younger age.

What Happens When Early Puberty Hits?

When girls experience precocious puberty, their bodies are essentially becoming sexual beings at a seriously young age. This juxtaposition of being a young woman while still in childhood can have serious emotional repercussions. Girls who undergo puberty earlier than their peers are found to already have higher levels of depression symptoms at age 10. (3) Another study found that precocious puberty in girls raises the risk of depression for those females who have pre-existing vulnerability to the condition and that, for those who dont, depressive symptoms might emerge. (4)

There are also the social changes that emerge. The flood of hormones coursing through a girls body during hormones makes her especially attentive to what others think and responsive to social pressures and rewards.

As this Newsweek article explains, during puberty, dopamine takes center stage. This neurotransmitter is responsible for experiencing pleasure, and it comes out in full force at this time. It basically remodels the pathway between the part of the brain that regulates behavior (and alerts you know that something is a bad idea) and the brains reward center. (5)

The adolescent brain is one where the accelerator is pressed to the floor before theres a good braking system in place. This gap between when the brain is easily aroused and when the braking is in place creates a period of vulnerability.

When puberty occurs at a younger age, often girls and their parents arent prepared for the changes. In fact, although a girls body might be packed with hormones, her mental age is tied to her chronological age. An 8-year-old girl likely has even less control of what she does than a 13-year-old going through the same changes. That means the 8-year-old is quite likely to engage in riskier behavior as she seeks acceptance and gets attention from people who think shes older than she is because of her body.

Unfortunately, the evidence isnt just anecdotal, but proven by research. Girls whove gone through puberty by 5th grade are more likely to be smoking by 9th grade. As the study notes, boys and girls who mature earlier than their peers have developed physically before their social resources have fully developed, leaving them ill-equipped to deal with challenges that may arise when entering physical maturity. (6)

Additionally, young people who believe theyre more advanced in puberty than their peers at age 11 probably because of how they look physically are more likely to have recently smoked cigarettes, drank alcohol or smoked marijuana than peers who believe theyre on time or late in puberty. (7)

Women who experienced precocious puberty are also at a higher risk for a variety of diseases in adulthood, ranging from type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular diseases. (8) In fact, one study found that early puberty was associated with 48 health conditions later in life, including irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and psoriasis. (9)

And then theres the increased cancer risk. One researcher found that early puberty and an earlier first menarche in girls raised her risk of breast cancer by up to 30 percent. (10) Conversely, for each year that a girls first period was delayed, her risk of premenopausal breast cancer was reduced by 9 percent, while her risk of post-menopausal breast cancer was reduced by 4 percent.

Estrogen can also play a role in this risk of breast and reproductive cancers. Girls who hit puberty early are producing estrogen for a longer period of time than their peers, sometimes by several years. This prolonged exposure to the hormone could have health repercussions decades later.

What's Causing Precocious Puberty?

Why exactly are girls going through precocious puberty? One of the major factors is endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. So when the brain recognizes that theres already estrogen in the bloodstream, it kicks puberty into gear. The most common of these disruptors are found in phthalates and BPA. (11)

Phthalates are man-made chemicals used to make plastic more flexible. And they are everywhere. Think: toys, shower curtains, vinyl flooring, shampoo, detergent, food packaging. Because our bodies cant metabolize phthalates, and so these chemicals end up messing with our endocrine systems. Think: earlier menarche and growth spurts. (12) Additionally, this chemical can also cause weight gain and indirectly lead to precocious puberty, as obesity is another risk factor.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is another widely used chemical found in cups, water bottles, food storage containers and food cans. You might have seen that some reusable food container brands have labels that say BPA-free. Thats because toxic BPA was found to leak from inside containers into food and drinks, particularly when being heated or washed.

The age of exposure to these chemicals, in addition to how long the exposure lasts, plays a role in early puberty. (13) Unfortunately, because endocrine disruptors are ubiquitous in our society, its difficult not only to gauge how much exposure someone has had, but how to avoid them completely.
How do I limit exposure to endocrine disruptors and reduce the risk of precocious puberty?

While this is a lot of overwhelming information, there are steps you can take to decrease the risk of precocious puberty. If you're thinking of having a child or are currently pregnant, consider breastfeeding if you can. (14) Though investigators aren't quite sure why, it seems that girls who were mostly fed with breast milk show a later onset of puberty.

There are also a variety of ways you can minimize your child and your own! exposure to endocrine disruptors.

Focus on eating whole, fresh foods, as processed foods and meats are pumped with chemicals.
When possible, choose organic produce to reduce ingestion of chemicals.
Avoid storing food or using containers with BPA in them; glass is your friend.
Use glass to reheat food. Never reheat in plastic containers, BPA-free or not, as chemicals can still be released.
Minimize the use of canned foods, since BPA can seep through them. Opt for glass instead.
Limit exposure to phthalates by avoiding purchasing products with recycling #3 or PVC on them.
Dont forget to check the ingredients list of your beauty products, too! Choose all-natural products where possible, including female hygiene products.
Cant go totally all-natural? Try avoiding artificial fragrances instead and opt for unscented. Phthalates are often to use to give products like detergents, fabric softeners and beauty product their smell.
Use fabric shower curtains.


How Endocrine Disruptors Destroy Your Body + The Dirty Dozen to Avoid

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Dr. Josh Axe

Endocrine disruptors - Dr. AxeBPA’s toxic effects are well-publicized. From the lining of canned foods to polycarbonate hard plastics to even the thermal coatings on cash register receipts, this is one of the world’s most proven bad news endocrine disruptors. BPA is linked to everything from hormone-related breast and prostate cancers to polycystic ovarian syndrome and early puberty.

But did you know BPA is just one of at least a thousand chemicals or chemical mixtures that can tinker with our bodies’ delicate hormonal systems, setting us up for disease? (1)

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like phthalaltes, triclosan and even compounds detected in fish you should never eat are among the 85,000-plus manufactured chemicals in use in the United States. They’re found in everyday products and throughout the environment. For instance, did you know that things like atrazine increase tap water toxicity? It’s true.

Research spanning the last 25 years implicates endocrine disruptors in many health problems, including male reproductive disorders, premature death, obesity and diabetes, neurological impacts, breast cancer, endometriosis, female reproductive disorders, immune disorders, liver cancer, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s symptoms, prostate cancer, and thyroid disorders.

Our current laws clearly aren’t working, and policies are needed to protect people from the harmful consequences of EDC exposure. Until Congress makes it illegal for companies to put such toxic ingredients in our products, it’s unfortunately up to us to do our best to avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals. (2) But it certainly makes a strong case for electing officials who back meaningful chemical reform, doesn’t it? It seems unfair busy families should have to go to these lengths just to stay safe.

What Do Endocrine Disruptors Do? Endocrine disruptors - Dr. Axe

First we need to ask: What is an endocrine disruptor? According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science, endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. The damage is believed to be most severe during prenatal or early pregnancy exposure. (3)

    “From the day of conception until an individual is born or hatched, the development of each stage of life is fully under the control of hormones.

    “Changes that happen during development are far less reversible [than those occurring in an adult]; you can’t go back and rewire the brain.”— the late Theo Colborn, Ph.D., zoologist and founder and president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange

What Makes Up Your Endocrine System?

Let’s take a step back. How do we define endocrine? What does endocrine mean? The endocrine system, made up of all the body’s different hormones, regulates all biological processes in the body from conception through adulthood and into old age. This includes the: (4)

    development of the brain and nervous system
    growth and function of the reproductive system
    function of metabolism and blood sugar levels

Major components of the endocrine system include:

    female ovaries
    male testes
    pituitary gland
    thyroid gland
    adrenal glands

Other components include the:

    pineal gland
    parathyroid glands


The hypothalamus links our endocrine and nervous systems together. The hypothalamus drives the endocrine system.

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland receives signals from the hypothalamus. This posterior lobe secretes hormones that are made by the hypothalamus. The anterior lobe produces its own hormones. Some of these act on other endocrine glands.

Thyroid Gland

This gland is critical to the healthy development and maturation of humans. It also regulates metabolism.

Adrenal Glands

Made up of two glands, the cortex and medulla, the adrenal glands produce hormones in response to stress. Adrenal glands also regulate blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and the body’s salt and water balance.


The pancreas is responsible for producing glucagon and insulin. Both hormones help regulate the concentration of glucose (sugar) in the blood.


The male reproductive gonads are called testes. The female’s reproductive gonads are ovaries. Both produce steroids that affect growth and development and also regulate reproductive cycles and behaviors.

The most prominent gonadal steroids are found in both men and women but at different levels. These include:


Endocrine Disruptors: The Dose Doesn’t Make the Poison

When it comes to chemicals and toxicology, it seems logical to think higher doses of something are more dangerous because the health impacts are more immediate and obvious (just think about what happens when someone is exposed to high levels of pesticides — immediate poisoning warrants an emergency situation). But when you’re looking at endocrine disruptors, it’s different. Even seriously tiny doses can lead to devastating health effects. But sometimes these health impacts don’t show up for years or even decades down the line after exposure. And unlike high-dose poisonings, it’s not as easy to make the cause-and-effect connection.

Researchers are making huge breakthroughs showing how endocrine-disrupting chemicals impact human health. And it’s not pretty. (It’s also costing the U.S. health care system a boatload. More on that later).

    “For decades, studies of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have challenged traditional concepts in toxicology, in particular the dogma of ‘the dose makes the poison,’ because EDCs can have effects at low doses that are not predicted by effects at higher doses.” — Lauren Vandenberg, Ph.D., lead study author (5)

Our hormonal systems are so delicate that even tiny exposures to endocrine-disrupting chemicals at key points of development could set us up for disease later in life. We’re taking exposures measured in the parts per billion. To put that into context, it’s like one drop in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Member scientists of the Endocrine Society issued a report in which they claim:

    “We present the evidence that endocrine disruptors have effects on male and female reproduction, breast development and cancer, prostate cancer, neuroendocrinology, thyroid, metabolism and obesity and cardiovascular endocrinology.” (6)



The ‘DiEndocrine disruptors - Dr. Axerty Dozen’ Endocrine Disruptors

With more than a thousand potential hormone disruptors out there, Environmental Working Group scientists created a list of the 12 most damaging and prominent endocrine disruptors to avoid (See graphic on left).



The Brain Drain and Economic Cost of Endocrine Disruptors

The negative health effects of endocrine disruptors are so widespread that endocrine disruptors, according to an analysis in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, cost the United States over 2 percent of its gross domestic product — a median of $340 billion annually. Researchers predict these numbers are even lower than the reality, since only a portion of endocrine-disrupting chemicals were analyzed.

This report is a huge deal because for the first time, we’re able to put a conservative estimate on how the ingredients in many everyday products are costing us our health (and money to treat). (7) In my opinion, it just doesn’t seem fair that companies get to profit from this while the citizens are stuck with the bill and illnesses.


How to Avoid Endocrine Disruptors

Avoid Plastics

Plastics contain endocrine disruptors that leach into food and water, particularly when heated. Opt for glass when possible, and don’t heat food in plastic containers or coated paperboard. University of Missouri analysts studying breast cancer growth found that a brand of water bottled in plastic caused a 78 percent increase in the cancer cell proliferation. (8)

Grecian researchers at the University of Ioannina found that after heating olive oil for 10 minutes at full power, 604.6 milligrams of the plasticizer DOA leeched from the plastic wrap into the oil. (9) Researchers Oi-Wah Lau and Siu-Kay Wong found that the fat content in cheeses caused the migration of plasticizers from cling wrap to increase exponentially: 60 percent after 10 minutes of microwave heating. (10)


Take on BPA

This is one of the worst hormone disruptors out there, in my opinion. Animal studies suggest exposure to it today can actually impact three future generations. (11) It’s clear we need stronger chemical reform laws to protect us from these widespread threats.

In the meantime, avoid canned food and instead choose fresh or frozen.

And just eat less packaged foods in general. In 2016, EWG found 16,000 foods and drinks that come in cans, bottles and jars could contain the estrogen-like chemical BPA.

The EWG report found BPA is commonly used in:

    The lids of glass jars for baby food, pickles, jelly, salsa and other condiments
    Aerosol cans for whipped toppings and nonstick sprays
    Bottles and tins of cooking oil
    Aluminum beverage cans, metal coffee cans and even beer kegs (12)


Use Safe Household Cleansers

Avoid phthalates and other hormone disruptors by making your own cleaners. Buy environmentally safe laundry detergents and dishwashing liquid. You can also make your own cleansers of every type, like all-natural homemade laundry soap, homemade oven cleaner and homemade household cleaner. Back off on the antibacterial soaps and cleaners, and use less chemical disinfectants.

The FDA is banning triclosan and more than a dozen other antibacterial ingredients, but many will be on the market until September 2017. The replacement ingredients may not be necessary or safe, either, so just stick to regular Castile soap and water.


Rethink Your Birth Control

Choosing a more natural approach to birth control is safer than hormonal forms of contraception, especially since we now know birth control causes depression in some women. Conventional birth control pills work by putting synthetic forms of estrogen and progestin into the body. Adding unnatural hormones throws off the natural hormone balance in the body, resulting in unwanted birth control side effects. Condoms and non-hormonal IUDs are other options to consider.


Read Your Health and Beauty Product Labels

The average person uses nine different personal care products a day that contain a whopping 126 different ingredients, according to EWG. (13) While the list of hormone-disrupting chemicals in cosmetics is long, here’s a great trick to quickly weed out products that likely contain endocrine-disrupting phthalates. Look on the ingredients list. If you see “fragrance” or “parfum,” avoid it. Those are catch-all terms that can include 3,000+ chemicals that often include phthalates.

You can also rate your current personal care products and find safer ones at Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety database.


Change Your Diet

What we eat and drink has a great deal to do with how many hormone disruptors we end up with. Anti-estrogenic diets have three major components: eating farther down on the food chain, eating less processed and chemically laden foods, and supplementing your diet with compounds that decrease estrogen excess and help your body to eliminate added hormones.

    Avoid processed and refined foods. Besides the many food additives and chemicals that processed and refined foods contain, the lack of fiber and extra sugar overwhelm your colon and liver so that circulating hormones are reabsorbed rather than eliminated.


    Avoid pesticides and herbicides. Buying organic can limit your intake of endocrine disruptors in and on fruits and vegetables.

    Buy pasture-raised animal products. Your best bet is to connect with a local farmer and learn about their farming practices. The ultimate goal is for the animal to to eat a natural, pesticide- and GMO-free diet. If that’s not possible, look for “American Grassfed” products or “Animal Welfare Approved.” When it comes to eggs, remember that “free-range” doesn’t necessarily mean that animals have access to grass. For eggs, pasture-raised and organic is the gold standard. “Natural” means nothing, so don’t trust that on the label.


    Eat detox veggies. The more fresh vegetables you eat, the lower you’re eating on the food chain. Toxins accumulate in the tissues of animals. Fresh veggies have a whole host of health benefits, as well as the ability to deflect excess estrogens. Cruciferous veggies, such as broccoli and cabbage, contain flavones and indoles that are particularly effective at battling estrogen excess. And, of course, avoid the high-estrogen foods.


    Buy local. Local farm methods are more transparent and accountable than big industry. They’re often a safer bet even if they haven’t been certified organic. DDT was banned as a pesticide in the U.S., but we still produce it and sell it to other countries. Much of the produce on our supermarket shelves comes from overseas. Megafarms in the U.S. regularly use estrogen in their feed for cattle, pigs and chickens.


    Avoid soy. We’ve all come to think of soy as a healthy alternative for protein and calcium. In fact, as a subsidized crop, soy has become so prevalent in so many foods that allergies are on the rise. It hides on labels as hydrolyzed vegetable protein, lecithin, starch and vegetable oil. Soy is a source of phytoestrogens. Because we are exposed to it so much in all of our foods (and health and beauty products), it’s becoming an endocrine disruptor (fermented soy has less detriments and more nutrients).


Chemicals might be just about everywhere, but you can make simple changes that greatly reduce your personal load of endocrine disruptors and what you pass on to your children.



5 Ways to Naturally Balance Your Hormones

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Mary Vance

Do you struggle with PMS, bloating, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, acne, sugar cravings, insomnia? We are socialized to believe that these symptoms are an inevitable part of fluctuating cyclical hormones, but they are signs that your hormones are not optimally balanced.

The endocrine system, a series of glands responsible for secreting hormones, is an amazing network that regulates ovulation, menstruation, metabolism, mood, stress response, energy levels, and sex drive. When your hormones go haywire, you can bet there’s a miscommunication somewhere in your endocrine system, resulting in unpleasant symptoms. This is your body’s way of letting you know you’re not optimally balanced.

There are a few key (and easy!) steps you can start right away to rebalance your hormones and support your endocrine system.

1. Step Away From The Sugar And Put Down The Wine Glass

Refined sugars and booze are two of the biggest endocrine disruptors, and they contribute to the body’s stress load. Sugar causes inflammation and feeds the bad bacteria in your gut, contributing to digestive irregularity and candida overgrowth. Wine stresses your detox system, which needs to be kept in good working order to metabolize your hormones and aid in overall hormone balance. Alcohol can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and insulin levels, triggering sugar cravings, irritability, increased appetite, and disrupted sleep. Kick both and feel better in just a few days. If you have a sweet tooth, stick to dark chocolate, and swap out wine for fizzy but health promoting beverages like kombucha or water kefir.

2. Sleep Is The Best (And Least Expensive!) Way To Relieve Stress

Most of us aren’t getting nearly enough sleep. We’re burning the candle at both ends, and our hormones are paying for our on-the-go lifestyles. Lack of sleep triggers high cortisol that puts your body in fight-or-flight mode, causing weight gain, sugar cravings, and fatigue. Aim to get 8-9 hours of sleep nightly. Don’t be afraid of a 20 minute nap on the weekends, or during the workday if you’re able. Head to bed by 10:30 (you can start tonight!), and create a bedtime ritual to wind down in the evenings. Pro tip: if you have trouble sleeping, don’t drink any caffeine after 12pm, and switch from coffee to green tea.

3. Diet Matters

Ditch the diet sodas, white flour, and chemical-laden processed foods that add additional stress to your system. Focus on real food: organic protein, healthy fats that help your body make hormones, plenty of veggies of all kinds, fermented foods, and green juices. Pay special attention to foods that support the liver. Show your liver some love with cruciferous veggies, beets, carrots, leafy greens, garlic, avocados, and turmeric.

4. There Are A Few Superstar Herbs You Can Use To Support Endocrine Balance

Adaptogenic herbs such as rhodiola, ashwaganda, and holy basil are excellent adrenal tonics to soothe frayed nerves and encourage restful sleep. Vitex is wonderful for regulating the menstrual cycle. Evening primrose can take the edge off PMS.

5. Finally, Address Your Stress Level

We’re all living busy lives, and stress is inevitable. Go easy on yourself. Create a routine and include activities you enjoy. Try yoga and meditation. Get a massage or acupuncture. Examine the close relationships in your life and figure out how you can improve them. Don’t forget about your most important relationship– your relationship with yourself! Your emotional well-being is crucial to happiness and hormone balance.



5 Signs Your Hormones Are Out Of Whack

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: James Colquhoun

Do you feel like something is just not right? You're not sick. You're not in physical pain. But something just isn't quite letting you feel 100%. It could be your hormones!

If you're eating more, sleeping less, and feeling frazzled and stressed out are your default emotions, even when things are going pretty good for you. Its likely you've got a hormone imbalance.

Symptoms do vary, and its best to check that everything is A-OK with your health professional before making assumptions, but if you're saying yes to some or all of these five signs below, then its time to check your hormones:

1. You Feel Constantly Tired

Chronic stress tends to leave us feeling fat, frazzled and frumpy thanks to high levels of cortisol taxing our adrenals and fluctuating our feelings from being highly stressed to totally exhausted and no real in-between. When your adrenals are pushed to their limits, they start to protest and not function optimally, resulting in lethargy, low mood and a foggy head.

2. Your Cravings Are Intense

If you're finding yourself feeling addicted to chocolate, or constantly ravenous for all kinds of food (and drinks!), then your hormones may be playing up. High cortisol or insulin can cause intense urges for wine or sugar, whilst electrolyte imbalances caused by adrenal dysregulation may have you reaching for the salty snacks.

3. You're Putting On Weight Or Cant Shift Those Pesky Pounds

You may be exercising regularly and eating really well, but the weight just doesn't budge. Then perhaps you tried to overcompensate by exercises for longer and harder, and eating even less. But still nothing changed! Sound familiar? Your hormones play a key role in your metabolism and how much weight you hold onto. No matter how hard you workout, if youve got a hormonal imbalance, you'll have extreme difficulty dropping those last few pounds. Balance your hormones first by getting the all clear from your health professional, then adopt appropriate lifestyle and dietary choices for your body's needs. You may even need to exercise less!

4. You've Lost Your Sex Drive

Despite the media portraying womens interest in sex as a psychological issue, estrogen is a womans main controller of libido. A dominance or low level of estrogen can result in a lack of sex drive. The same goes for low testosterone levels for men. Plus, if youre stressed and not getting much sleep, its likely high cortisol levels are playing a role in this too! Its no wonder sex is the last thing on your mind!

5. Your Mood Is Unpredictable

Moodiness is often labelled as PMS in women and seen as something we just have to put up with. Whilst we cant always control nature, women who have balanced hormones tend to not have such extreme mood swings throughout their cycle. If you've cleaned up your diet and lead a healthy lifestyle, yet still find yourself swinging from high to low moods quite severely, then it may be time to check your hormones.

There are many things we can do to keep our hormones happy such as meditation, yoga, reconnecting with nature, limiting caffeine, having less screen time, eating healthy fats, reducing our intake of sugar, and getting adequate sleep. These changes take time so if you're feeling overwhelmed with the thought of changing your lifestyle cold-turkey, try one or a few changes that you can implement initially and build on the hormone-healthy habits over time.


The Link Between Health and Hormones

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: An Interview with Ralph Moorma


Do you ever wonder why your attempts at weight loss fail, despite seemingly doing everything right?  One thing that is continuously overlooked is how our hormones play a role in this!

Ralph Moorman is the master of restoring the balance of your hormones, Food Matters sat down one-on-one with him to find out more.

Food Matters: When Did You Realize There Was A Definite Connection Between Nutrition And Hormones?

I had known for a while about the link between nutrition and hormones, but I lacked scientific evidence. When I did a search on Pubmed, twenty years ago, I came across a lot of research about hormonal medicine, but very little about hormones in connection with lifestyle. Then I experienced a personal link between nutrition and hormones. I was competing in a natural bodybuilding contest – which involves bodybuilding without the use of steroids or other drugs to promote muscle gain.

During my preparations, I tested my blood and saliva on hormones. And guess what: the hypo-caloric and very low-carb state reduced my levels of testosterone and thyroid hormone. After the contest, I tried a number of other strategies and learned to store calories as muscle mass rather than fat by collaborating with my hormones. After this experience I became even more convinced about the importance of the link between nutrition and hormones. It marked the start of my journey. I visited numerous medical and lifestyle seminars about hormones and started to advise people who were suffering from hormonal problems about their lifestyle. These practical experiences, combined with increasing research on the subject, formed the basis of my own concept. I wrote my first book, The Hormone Factor, in 2009, and have written four other ones since.    

Food Matters:  Are People Surprised When They Discover What Your Area Of Research Is?

More and more people are becoming aware of the importance and the fragile balance of the hormone system. Today, the idea is becoming more mainstream and new knowledge on the subject is becoming available every day. This is the perfect moment to introduce the concept to a wider audience. Especially people with medical hormonal problems are surprised to find that there is more than just medicine. After all, not every physician will tell them about the importance of nutrition and lifestyle.

Food Matters: What Is The Biggest Misconception You Would Like To Clear Up Concerning Hormones?

The biggest misunderstanding about hormones is that a hormonal balance would be just about genetics. By means of nutrition, exercise, managing our stress level, and controlling our mental state, we are indeed able to influence our hormonal balance ourselves.

Food Matters: Could You Tell Us What The Most Important Nutrients Are For Healthy Hormones?

Nutrients are important for our body to produce hormones. And, what’s more, they can also help our liver and other organs to break down hormones that are no longer needed. This break-down process is often forgotten in medical science. The liver needs nutrients from vegetables – particularly greens and brassicas – for example to break down an excess of estrogens. Other examples include nutrients like iodine and selenium for active thyroid hormones, zinc and magnesium for the production of testosterone, and amino acids like arginine and ornithine for the production of growth hormone. But not only the building blocks and cofactors to produce hormones are important.

The body also needs a good reason to produce them. Testosterone won’t be produced when you are stressed all day, growth hormone won’t be produced when you sleep for just for three hours a night, and active thyroid hormones will decline when you are in a low caloric survival status. So it’s about providing the nutrients, true, but also about a sound lifestyle and a happy life.

Food Matters: What Role Does Stress Play In Hormone Health?

Stress is very important to our hormonal state. All our lives, the body balances between a state of stress plus making energy free, and a state of storing energy plus recovery. These days, many people experience more stress than they can recover from. Technically, this means that the catabolic system (adrenalin, cortisol, energy release to cope with stress) is overloaded. In the long run, this could lead to adrenal fatigue or burnout. Many people are on the verge of a burnout, having many of the symptoms, but cannot be given a medical diagnosis.


The Hormone-Balancing Food Plan For Women

Posted: September 13, 2017
By: Food Matters


The hormonal health of any woman depends upon the delicate dance of progesterone and estrogen. Estrogen is meant to be the predominant hormone in the first half of the menstrual cycle and progesterone the predominant one in the second half. However, for most women in the industrialized world this is not the case.

There are many causes of hormone imbalance, but at the base of the problem is something called Estrogen Dominance - which means there is too much estrogen and not enough progesterone present in the body. There are many symptoms that result from having low progesterone levels.


The common causes of hormonal imbalance and estrogen dominance include:

    taking the pill,
    taking HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy),
    exposure to environmental poison,
    eating non organic and estrogen pumped animal products,
    stress in all its forms and
    dangerous cosmetics.




When you consider the average lifestyle of most women today, it is not hard to understand why insulin, estrogen and eicosanoids have become imbalanced, setting the stage for increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, PMS, arthritis and breast cancer. Here are my suggestions for keeping your blood sugar, eicosanoids and hormones in balance.

Eat at least three meals per day.

Many women skip breakfast or lunch, or even both, "saving" their calories for dinner. The problem with this approach is that the metabolic rate naturally peaks at noon and slows after that. So the food you eat at night is far more likely to be stored as fat. When you eat breakfast, your metabolism gets jump-started for the day. If you skip it, your metabolism will slow down into conservation mode and this can lead to weight gain.

Cut down on refined and high-glycemic index carbohydrates.

Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Whether certain foods with a high-glycemic index, such as baked potatoes or bananas, can be part of a healthy diet for you depends upon your unique metabolism. If you are a true carbohydrate addict, you need to find what foods are healthy for you. I find that eliminating refined carbohydrates, such as sugar, white rice, bread, alcohol, and foods made with white flour, such as muffins, bagels, pasta, pretzels and other snack foods, helps the body burn stored fat and keeps insulin and blood sugar levels normal.

Consume whole grains in moderation.

Even if you have eliminated refined grains, if you are a carbohydrate-sensitive person you may still have problems with whole wheat, whole rye, whole oat, or millet flour. Research shows that the degenerative diseases that currently plague Americans didn’t arrive on the scene until agriculture became widespread. In fact, the ancient Egyptians were fat and had dental disease associated with a grain-based diet.

Eat a wide variety of fresh vegetables and fruit daily.

You want to shoot for five servings per day. And remember, a serving is small, approximately four ounces, or a half-cup. Think color and you'll be on the right path, because the deep pigments in these foods contain powerful antioxidants. Go for broccoli, green leafy vegetables, berries, red, yellow and green peppers, and tomatoes, and vary your choices through the seasons.

Eat healthy fats each day.

The low-fat diet fads of the past, which reached their peak in the 1980s and early 1990s, had women brainwashed into believing that fat was the enemy. In their attempt to eliminate saturated fat from their diets, many women eliminated all fat. I watched my patients complain of sallow skin, brittle hair and nails, susceptibility to infection, inability to concentrate, and weight gain despite their rigid diets. None of these women were getting enough healthy fat. Essential fatty acids, namely omega–3 and omega–6 fats, are needed to assist the body in many important functions, including those of the brain and nervous system. Good sources of EFAs include eggs, high-quality flax seeds, soybeans, walnuts, and cold water fish harvested from the wild. Again, the best way to obtain nutrients is in your food, but if your diet is lacking, high-quality EFA supplements are widely available.

Eat protein at each meal.

Eggs, fish, whey, dairy, or non-animal sources of protein, such as whole soybeans, tempeh or spirulina are all good choices. Beans contain protein, but also contain a considerable amount of carbohydrates. If you are a true carbohydrate addict and you are perimenopausal, beans may be too high in carbohydrates for you.

Protect your body with antioxidants.

Antioxidants combat cellular damage from free radicals, which are known to be a cause of chronic conditions such as heart disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, and cancer.1 Antioxidants are found in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially brightly colored ones. Food is the best source for antioxidants, but if you don’t always get enough in your diet, high-quality supplements can provide significant protection.



Here are the relative glycemic indexes of some common foods. This is simply a guide; these numbers do vary from study to study, with plant varieties, and food preparation methods. Use this chart to help balance high glycemic foods with low glycemic ones. Try eating smaller portions of high glycemic foods and add some protein and fat to your plate.

Glycemic Index Chart

Low Glycemic: broccoli, cherries, chickpeas, leafy vegetables, milk, pears, plums, black beans, soybeans, tomatoes, tomato soup, wild rice, yogurt.

Low to Moderate Glycemic: All-Bran, apples, garbanzo beans, ice cream, navy beans, oranges, peas, pinto beans, potato chips.

Moderate to High Glycemic: bananas, candy bars (most), potatoes, pita bread, oat bran, oat bread, raisins, carrots, brown rice, kidney beans.

High Glycemic: bagels, basmati rice, cakes, Cheerios, corn, corn flakes, pies, pretzels, durum wheat pasta, white bread.



These are explained in more detail, along with a supplement program, in The Wisdom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup, M.D.
The Glucose Revolution: The Authoritative Guide to the Glycemic Index by Jennie Brand–Miller, PhD; Thomas Wolever, M.D., Ph.D.; Kaye Foster-Powell; & Stephen Colagiuri, M.D.
The Midlife Miracle Diet by Adele Puhn, MS, CNS
Outsmarting the Female Fat Cell — After Pregnancy: Every Woman’s Guide to Shaping Up, Slimming Down, and Staying Sane After the Baby by Debra Waterhouse, MPH
Releasing Fat by Ray Strand , M.D.
The Schwarzbein Principle: The Truth About Weight Loss, Health and Aging by Diana Schwarzbein, M.D.