Question: How much work do the thyroid and adrenal glands share, and how do they hand off their responsibilities?
The thyroid and the adrenal glands have different responsibilities, and don’t exactly “hand off” tasks, but they work closely together in the body. The thyroid has many functions, but is primarily concerned with controlling metabolism and calcium balance in the body. The adrenal glands secrete a large number of hormones, including stress hormones, sex hormones, and hormones which act to conserve sodium and increase blood pressure.
There are numerous ways that the glands and their hormones impact one another. Because thyroid controls metabolism and how efficiently the body uses energy, it affects every other system and organ in the body. The adrenal glands impact the thyroid too. Rising levels of cortisol (a stress hormone produced by the adrenals) can decrease the production of thyroid stimulating hormone, thus decreasing thyroid hormone production. High levels of cortisol can also cause thyroid hormone to be converted to a weaker form, creating low thyroid symptoms.
Because of their relationship, both low adrenal function and low thyroid function can create fatigue, sluggishness, lowered sex drive, and depression.
Question: Do you think chronic infection from faulty root canals or general poor mouth health can be a contributing factor for developing adrenal fatigue?
Chronic infection or poor mouth health can absolutely be a contributing factor to the development of adrenal fatigue. The adrenals are the glands of stress, and so recovery from illness and infection—both of which are significant stressors—involves the adrenals. One of the primary functions of the adrenal hormone cortisol is to reduce inflammation. (This is why synthetic drugs that mimic cortisol are frequently prescribed for conditions with an inflammatory component.)
If you are harboring a chronic infection, your adrenals will continue to produce cortisol to try and limit excessive inflammation. The teeth and gums are common locations for this type of sub-acute chronic infection. If you have adrenal fatigue and are incorporating the dietary and lifestyle changes recommended in Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome and are using the recommended nutritional supplements but are not getting better, an underlying body burden such as chronic infection is likely. Work with a physician to try and identify the underlying cause. Sometimes laboratory tests showing changes in the white blood cell count (the immune cells responsible for fighting infections), an elevated sedimentation rate or high-sensitivity C reactive protein (markers of inflammation), or a low albumin (suggesting chronic disease) can be indicators of chronic infection or inflammation. There are other body burdens which can also tax the adrenals such as an imbalance in intestinal bacteria, the presence of food sensitivities, or chronic exposure to toxic chemicals, but sub-acute chronic infection is a commonly overlooked body burden and adrenal stressor.
Image Credits: Endocrine diagram via Wikimedia Commons; tooth photo by Flickr user Ewan Bellamy
About the Author
Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.