Resistance to Hypothyroidism Medication and Adrenal Fatigue

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

Hypothyroidism medication and AFSThere is a lot to know about medication for hypothyroidism and how it responds to your body. Why, for example, does the dosage of hypothyroidism medication have to be adjusted after a little while? This question and many others have been asked about thyroid medications. The important question, however, is about what is really is going on in the thyroid gland. This article helps you to better understand what really is going on so you can make more informed decisions about your medication.

What Is Hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism occurs when you have an underactive thyroid or low functioning thyroid. This means that your thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormone. If not addressed, hypothyroidism can cause a slew of health problems including infertility, joint pain, heart conditions, and obesity. Some of the signs of hypothyroidism include:

  • slow heart rate
  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • a goiter or swelling of the thyroid gland
  • changes in menstrual cycle
  • depression
  • dry skin/dry hair
  • hair loss
  • fatigue
  • constipation

Hypothyroidism comes in two forms, primary hypothyroidism and secondary hypothyroidism. Primary hypothyroidism is caused by a problem in the thyroid itself. Secondary hypothyroidism is caused by malfunction somewhere else, such as in the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus.

Whether you have primary or secondary hypothyroidism, medication is usually recommended. Doctors often do tests every few months in order to give you the proper dosage.

Hypothyroidism Medication

Thyroid medication is administered because your body is not producing thyroid hormones properly. When you take the medication for your thyroid, you feel significantly better and have more energy. This is because hypothyroidism medication increases metabolism, reduces fatigue, increases energy levels, and reduces constipation. It even gradually reduces cholesterol levels. It is as if you are stepping on the gas pedal to make your body run faster after taking the medication.

After a while, many people on hypothyroidism medication will start feeling tired, constipated, and gaining weight again. After again seeing a doctor and doing more lab tests, the doctor will probably decided to increase your dosage, especially if he doesn’t see a significant change in your thyroid. To determine your proper dosage a doctor typically will check your thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. High TSH levels may cause side effects such as:

  • increases in appetite
  • insomnia or not sleeping well
  • shakiness
  • heart palpitations

One reason for adjusting your hypothyroidism medication is resistance. This means that your body is getting use to the thyroid medication. You may have a problem with how the medication is converted in the body, so it’s not getting to the areas of the body that need it. It might also be a binding issue. This means that the hypothyroidism medication could be binding to certain proteins, such as thyroid-binding globulins (TBG), so it is not available for your cells to use.

Hypothyroidism medication and your doctorAnother reason to adjust hypothyroidism medication is overlooked, underlying medical issues. Doctors can make several mistakes here including:

  • focusing only on your test results
  • not looking at how your are feeling
  • not looking at past history with adrenal or hormonal issues
  • recommending only one brand of thyroid medication

First, lab tests are not always very good and sometimes are inaccurate. They don’t always give enough details about what is going on in the body and thyroid. This makes laboratory tests not good to rely on alone, especially when determining if hypothyroidism is primary or secondary.

Second, doctors have to rely on your medical history, routine checkups, and what you are feeling to see the bigger picture. You have to ask the right questions. That will help them to determine the medication and proper dosage for you.

However, eventually increasing your thyroid medication dosage is only going to cause bigger health problems for you in the long run. If you start feeling like you are wired and tired at the same time, all the time, this is a symptom of reaching the maximum dosage of your hypothyroidism medication.

At this point, you wonder if it’s even worth taking the medication anymore. However, there is a real reason why the medication isn’t working, binding, or converting in your body. It is so very important for your health to figure out what that underlying reason is. If there are no other clear reasons for this, you may need to talk to a specialist who understands Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). This is a good possibility for the underlying issue here. It’s important to pursue the reasons to why your medication is not working in order to find a real solution. Your overall health is too important.

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome and Low Thyroid

Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is a condition that eventually can become debilitating and even fatal if not remedied. It has a wide range of symptoms including anxiety, the inability to handle stress, brain fog, fatigue, insomnia, the need for stimulants such as coffee, frequently having the flu, and inability to lose weight. This condition is triggered by stress from within your life or issues within the body internally.

There are a lot of similarities between low thyroid function and adrenal fatigue. In fact, AFS can worsen symptoms of subclinical low thyroid or clinical hypothyroidism. Some symptoms the two conditions have in common include:

  • weight gain
  • brain fog/slow thinking
  • depression
  • low body temperature
  • dry skin
  • muscular pain
  • chronic fatigue

If hypothyroid medication is not working, you have to look elsewhere for answers.

Persistent symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, low body temperature, and dry skin can indicate other reasons why your thyroid is low functioning or underactive. Adrenal fatigue is a common cause for secondary hypothyroidism that conventional medicine overlooks.

Skin and hypothyroidism medicationWhen the adrenal glands become exhausted, they have a hard time handling stress and maintaining normal body functions. To keep things going, the adrenals try to conserve energy and slow down energy production to give the body a rest. The thyroid, in turn, reduces production of hormones T4 and T3. This ultimately leads thyroid binding globulin (TBG) levels to increase. Eventually, this causes symptoms of hypothyroidism. Thyroid laboratory values, however, can still be normal or low.

This is why, if you take hypothyroidism medication without addressing adrenal fatigue, symptoms can get worse and the medication stops working. The thyroid medication may help alleviate symptoms for a little while, but then fatigue comes back and it further weakens this the body. It becomes a vicious cycle of increasing your dosage and seeing no relief. Unmanaged AFS eventually leads to adrenal exhaustion, which can be decapacitating.

Natural Remedies for AFS and Hypothyroidism

Where AFS is involved, the best way to remedy this situation and feel better is to minimize stress, in your life and on your body. Try to work fewer hours and make sure you are eating properly. Avoid foods that will trigger adrenal fatigue symptoms. One option is meeting with a nutritional specialist who understands adrenal fatigue in order to come with a good dieting plan for you.

Your diet should focus on avoiding processed, sugary, and refined foods, and on consuming an appropriate variety of different food groups throughout the day. Be sure you get a mix of grains, healthy oils, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and healthy meats. Also avoid:

  • sweeteners, sugars, honey and syrups
  • coffee/tea
  • caffeinated drinks
  • foods your body is sensitive to
  • alcohol
  • deep fried foods/fried foods
  • candy/chocolate
  • fruits high in potassium

Natural supplements can also be used, but make sure you discuss them first with a specialist or nutritional therapist that understands AFS first.

These changes will help you to start feeling better and more energized. They can reduce AFS symptoms and ultimately help normalize the thyroid. Not attending to the adrenal glands will only make the situation worse. Hypothyroidism can be caused by AFS, and both can be remedied.

Understanding the NEM And Hypothyroidism

The NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response system is a model for how the body reacts to different stressors. It explains how the neuroendocrine systems manages stress, and how it correlates to body systems and organs. The biggest factor in this system is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) hormonal axis. The adrenal glands are an important part of keeping the body and stress in check.

Hypothyroidism from adrenal fatigue is typically secondary and shows how the NEM stress response is reacting to stress on the adrenals.

When your adrenal glands begin to slow down to conserve energy, this in turn slows down your thyroid and reduces its hormone production. When both an underactive thyroid and adrenal fatigue occur at the same time, it causes health problems. Doctors increase medication dosage, leading to a vicious cycle. Pinpointing the problem can stop the cycle, promote a healthier thyroid, and alleviate AFS symptoms.

Final Considerations

Hypothyroidism medication prescription If you are taking medication for hypothyroidism, it’s important not discontinue taking your medication without talking to your physician first. There could be withdrawal symptoms, adverse reactions, or rarely even an adrenal crash. If you haven’t started medication yet, it may be a good idea to look at natural therapies for hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. Primary hypothyroidism can also benefit from natural therapies. Medication doesn’t have to be the only way to help hypothyroidism.

If you are suffering from hypothyroidism and your medication does not seem to be working, it may be time to start exploring why. If you suspect adrenal fatigue, it’s a good idea to consult a specialist who can help you.

An ever increasing dosage of hypothyroidism medication will eventually cause reach a maximum, and then other solutions will have to be found. If your dose is being upped frequently, there is something more going on, so don’t avoid it. Take some time to do research, ask questions, and look into alternative therapies. Adrenal fatigue syndrome and hypothyroidism go hand in hand sometimes. Remedying AFS naturally can help both.

© Copyright 2017 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Prescribed hypothyroidism medication