Meet Megan. She works out and restricts food to 1,200 calories per day but hasn't lost any weight even though she is exhausted. Maybe you can relate? I talk with lots of women dealing with this issue right now- they're doing everything from paleo diets to keto. Spending way too much time on cardio without understanding how hormones impact metabolism.
Optimizing your metabolism and energy levels is not an easy task. It requires a three-pronged approach that includes optimizing thyroid, adrenal and growth hormone (pituitary) function in order to get the most out of life!
We all know what can happen when our metabolism slows down without some adjustments in place: feeling tired ALL THE TIME, weight gain and low libido. But today we're going to talk about ways that will balance your body's hormones so you have more energy throughout the day!
Your glands are your body's manufacturing plants. They make hormones which support you in different ways — mood, drive, libido, stamina, focus, and energy- every part of the human machine relies on these miracle workers. For instance, one study in the Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism showed the correction of adult growth hormone deficiency actually improved thyroid hormone levels, without the use of thyroid hormones.
The symptoms of a gland deficiency can be quite overlapping. However, there are certain features that help us identify one or the other depending on what we're looking for in our bodies and also best practices when it comes to fatigue/low metabolism should include checking out all three glands:
1. Low Thyroid
We all know that when you feel fatigued and sluggish, it's a likely a sign of low thyroid. But did you also realize how this can affect your body? When there is not enough hormone in our bodies to do its job (warm us up or regulate temperature) symptoms appear such as being cold more often than usual , swelling from water retention near joints, weight gain, and a lowered metabolic rate.
Labs: Many people will ask their doctor to check their thyroid, without realizing that to optimize the thyroid you really need more than just the standard test, TSH. You also need Free T3, Free T4, TPO and TG Antibodies, Reverse T3, and ideally selenium and zinc/copper levels checked. AND if your thyroid is suboptimal, it is likely putting strain on your adrenal glands, and these need to be assessed and supported as well.
Herbs and vitamins which support the thyroid: Vitamin A, Zinc, Vitamin C, Selenium, Iodine, Vitamin D3, Guggul, Ashwaganda, Forskolhii, L-tyrosine, Turmeric
If you are positive for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: you need to dive deep and look at irritants to your body – do you have food allergies; are you eating high lectin food groups?; do you have high levels of heavy metals in your body? Have severe gluten intolerance or celiac disease?
2) Adrenal insufficiency/fatigue
Key adrenal fatigue feature: we tend to think of adrenal fatigue when someone will sleep unlimited hours, and still wakes exhausted.
Symptoms of adrenal fatigue: fatigue, no energy no matter the length of sleep, crash in the afternoon, energy is worse with stress.
Labs: plasma cortisol, salivary cortisol x 4, DHEA
Herbs and vitamins that support the adrenals: B-vitamins, Vitamin C, Bioflavonoids, Eleuthrococcus, Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Holy Basil, Licorice, Adrenal Cortex
3) Adult Growth Hormone Insufficiency
Key adult growth hormone insufficiency feature: fatigue and slow metabolism.
We often incorporate growth hormone testing when there is a presence of slow metabolism and difficulty with weight loss, in addition to fatigue. Growth hormone is naturally released by the pituitary gland in response to sleep and exercise to help replenish tissues.
Symptoms: can look very similar to low thyroid – but includes slow metabolism, sleep difficulty, chronic fatigue, poor healing.
Labs: growth hormone precursors (IGF-1, IGFBP-1, IGFBP-3, Growth hormone, and if severe: a Growth Hormone Stimulation test from an endocrinologist
Herbs and vitamins to support low growth hormone: Vitamin C, L-arginine, ornithine alpha-ketoglutarate; prescription Sermorelin
If you have any of these symptoms, the next step is getting help! I highly recommend finding an integrative or functional medicine ND or MD who specializes in creating personalized health plans. They will be willing to order the testing above and can partner with you for real healing.
Be safe and be well!
Yours in health, Dr. Angila Jaeggli