Metabolic Syndrome (Part Two)
Read more from Eric Bakker ND
Read Part One here.
The main presenting differences between adrenal fatigue and metabolic syndrome:
- High levels of the hormones cortisol, aldosterone and the mineral sodium
- Low levels of the mineral potassium
- Low levels of the hormones cortisol, aldosterone and the mineral sodium
- High levels of the mineral potassium
Poor adrenal function may underpin hypo-thyroidism and is often linked to metabolic syndrome
Dr. Wilson also pointed out the interesting relationship between stress, fatigue, poor adrenal function and metabolic syndrome. I have learned the past few years as a naturopath that it is of limited value in just treating a person’s thyroid gland when they present with hypothyroidism. We know that many people suffer with hypothyroidism in NZ (it is estimated that 40% of women have low thyroid function in NZ), and many of these patients who go to their medical doctor may well be disappointed to discover that their blood tests all come back normal, and reveal the patient to be euthyroid (“well-thyroid”). Whilst some patients benefit from selenium, zinc or iodine supplementation to increase their thyroid function, by treating the adrenal glands and allowing them to function optimally the thyroid gland will be allowed to function much more efficiently which in turn reduces the thyroid’s demand for several trace elements.
Do you have a problem with the adrenal glands or the thyroid gland, or both? It is common for those with adrenal fatigue to have some degree of thyroid involvement. And it is also common for those with thyroid problems to have adrenal involvement. Many practitioners will often focus on thyroid treatment, especially if the person is fatigued and overweight, yet neglect to treat the person’s adrenal glands, and if they do treat the adrenal gland, will just recommend an adrenal support product. But how do you know if you suffer more with a thyroid problem, or have an adrenal problem?
Dr. James Wilson spoke during his 2009 NZ conference of the common but often overlooked connection between the thyroid gland and the adrenal gland. The adrenal glands main purpose is to produce and release certain regulatory hormones and chemical messengers, and the connection between thyroid and adrenal gland is a very important clinical consideration.
The two primary adrenal hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, help control body fluid balance, blood pressure, blood sugar and other central metabolic functions. Low adrenal can actually cause someone’s thyroid problem to be much worse than it would be otherwise, and this occurs primarily due to the decreasing amount of circulating cortisol. Cortisol levels tend to decrease as the person moves into the “resistance” phase of continuing low-grade stress.
Cortisol (produced by your adrenal gland) affects your thyroid gland in three major ways:
- Cortisol facilitates the release of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) from the pituitary gland.
- Cortisol facilitates conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to the active T3 form.
- Cortisol allows each T3 cell receptor to more readily accept T3.
Hypothyroid patients need to be aware of their adrenal hormone (cortisol) levels since many of the symptoms of adrenal problems are the same as hypothyroid symptoms. Many conventional medical doctors commonly overlook adrenal problems except in extreme cases such as Addison’s disease (extreme decreased adrenal function). Conventional tests aren’t adequate for adrenal functions since they generally consist of a 24 hour urine test that does not take into account different levels of hormones in the urine at different times of the day.
A more accurate test would be to collect samples of saliva at 4 different times of the day, giving a more detailed picture of the patient’s daily cyclical adrenal function. Let’s now explore the different yet similar clinical presentations of adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism.
Metabolic syndrome can be reversed
According to Dr. Wilson, many people going through adrenal fatigue experience some form of decreased thyroid function as well. Often when low thyroid is unresponsive to thyroid therapy, adrenal fatigue is a contributing factor. If this is the case, both the adrenals and the thyroid need support for optimal thyroid function. An expert on endocrine imbalances and their impact on health, including the effects of stress on adrenal function, Dr. Wilson’s 2009 NZ seminar series reviewed and expanded upon the toll that stress takes on the body. Dr. Wilson lectures in over 30 countries, and his outstanding presentations are designed to help healthcare professionals understand the relationship, progression and treatment of metabolic syndrome and adrenal fatigue and how they can both develop in a single person, the effects of cortisol on the thyroid gland, and the connection between the adrenal glands and thyroid function. Dr. Wilson fully believes that metabolic syndrome can be reversed with a program of lifestyle changes including a balanced diet, stress management, regular relaxation and effective targeted nutritional adrenal support. “There is a tremendous amount we can do to naturally balance the effects of stress on our bodies and compensate for stressful life events and stressful lifestyles. In the many years I’ve spent treating patients, and researching, writing and speaking, I’ve seen that if the physiological and biochemical mechanisms that deal with stress are properly supported, people can withstand quite a bit of stress – yet maintain their health, their ability to function, and their optimism,” Dr. Wilson said.
Tips for healthy eating to avoid metabolic syndrome, hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue
According to Dr. Wilson, both adrenal fatigue and metabolic syndrome can be treated by a combination of lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, correct dietary supplements and exercise.
Both conditions take time (1-2 years) and consistent treatment for a successful outcome. Both can be dramatically affected and even reversed by proper treatment, and healing is not only possible, but likely with proper treatment. Here are a few hints and tips:
- Eat foods “that grow in the ground, that grow out of the ground, that run around on the ground or food that is taken from the water”, i.e; eat natural whole foods which are prepared in your kitchen. These foods don’t come out of packets, bags, bottles or boxes. And please make the time to prepare and eat these foods, I simply don’t buy excuses like: “We don’t have the time anymore” or “I’m too tired to cook”, etc.
- Eat foods as natural and fresh as possible, keep carbohydrate-dense foods low, eat low glycemic index foods, concentrate on foods high in omega 3 foods, eat protein at every meal and snack, avoid trans-fatty acids, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils (processed foods). Eliminate caffeine and “junk”, this is the big one! Junk in = junk out.
- With Metabolic Syndrome: Eat less, eat only when hungry, eat small regular meals, avoid food that stimulate insulin or blood sugar, avoid overeating, meals should emphasise low calorie, low glycemic. Eat foods not easily converted to glucose. Eat foods that do not stimulate cortisol production (caffeine containing, insulin stimulating)
- With Adrenal Fatigue: Eat before 10:00 am & again before noon, eat however balances body, avoid fruits in the morning (too much potassium, you need more sodium and less potassium in the morning), avoid missing meals, meals should emphasise protein, fat & unrefined CHOs together. Add salt according to taste, including water (prefer sea salt, Celtic salt, or sea salt with kelp powder)
- People who live more than 100 years have: Less body fat than either 40 or 70 year olds, lower fasting glucose; lower free fatty acids (triglycerides and cholesterol). Better insulin levels (better ability to remove insulin from blood) – levels superior to 70 year olds and on par with 40 year olds. Higher antioxidant levels (Vitamins C, E, selenium and glutathione).
They have fewer free radicals in their lives (not smoking, not drinking, etc). They eat 2 to 5 times more vegetables daily than those who die earlier. And, in addition, most all Centenarians live a much more relaxed and stress free lifestyle, and to me this is the key.
- National Cholesterol Education Program’s Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATP-III);
- World Health Organization (WHO);
- American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE);
- European Society of Hypertension, European Society of Cardiology, International Society of Hypertension (ESH/ESC/ISH)
- (Houston, MC. The metabolic Syndrome. JANA 2005; 8(2) 3-83.)
- Gentles, Dudley et.al. Metabolic syndrome prevalence in a multicultural population in Auckland, New Zealand. Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 26-January-2007, Vol 120 No 1248
- SIMMONS, DAVID & THOMPSON, COLIN F. Prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome among Adult New Zealanders of Polynesian and European Descent. DIABETES CARE, VOLUME 27, NUMBER 12, DECEMBER 2004