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Excepts from Saving Tristan
Chapter Ten

Adrenal and Thyroid Glands

The triangular shaped adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system and sit at the top of the kidneys where they produce certain hormones and regulate mineral and water balance. When we are frightened or angered, they produce testosterone enabling the muscles to do things we couldn't under normal circumstances. Chiefly responsible for the body's response to stress, cortisol, a type of steroid is released when challenging situations are encountered. The list of challenges for many of us is lengthy: lack of sleep, financial pressure, relationship turmoil, moving, death or illness of a loved one to name a few. Cortisol release helps us meet these challenges, but overstimulation caused by constant stress is destructive to the body and can result in adrenal exhaustion.

Symptoms of adrenal exhaustion can include the following:

  • Feeling most energetic at night
  • Consistently low blood pressure
  • Intense sensitivity to cold
  • Unable to cope with stress
  • Slow recovery from illness or injury
  • Waking up tired
  • Constant exhaustion
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Arthritis
  • Need coffee to get going in the morning
  • Low libido

The good news is herbs can help restore the adrenal glands, giving you energy and reducing dependence on stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine. Eluethero, formerly known as Siberian Ginseng, is perhaps the most widely used herb to support the adrenal glands by preventing the excessive release of cortisol. Codonopsis Root has been used in China for more than 2,000 years. It is the best known and most widely used adaptogen. Adaptogens are substances that nonspecifically enhance and regulate the body's ability to withstand stress.

Astragulus and Ashwagandha are used to relieve fatigue. Fo Ti root is in the top four most important chinese herbs and is highly prized as an adaptogen. It is also used to restore hair loss and increase libido. Wild Yam contains compounds that are similar in structure to steroids providing the building blocks for complex glandular processes. Related to Eleuthero, Devils Club encourages weight loss and relieves arthritis. A liquid combination of these herbs such as Adren-L-Aid along with a healthy diet and exercise can rejuvenate overworked adrenal glands.

Seven to nine hours of restful sleep are needed to maintain good health and is essential to restoring impaired adrenal function. There are additional herbs to consider when stress levels are high especially if sleeping patterns are being disrupted. Throughout the day a combination of Catnip, Hops, Passionflower, St. Johns Wort, Scullcap and Eleuthero can be used to relax and calm the central nervous system, relieve anxiety and support the body's ability to handle stress. With less stress build up from the day, unwinding and falling asleep is much easier at bedtime.

Stress & Sleep

During times of intense emotional stress more support may be needed to get a good night's sleep. Valerian Root acts as a soother and depressor of the central nervous system; high in calcium it has a very calming effect. Hops acts as a mild sedative and is often combined with Valerian. Passionflower relieves restlessness, irritability and difficulty falling asleep. Scullcap contains sedative properties and is used to treat insomnia. Taking a liquid extract combination of these herbs, such as Bedtime Drops, twenty minutes before bed time and repeating the dosage as needed can make the difference between a miserable night and a restful one.

Eat plenty of fresh or lightly steamed vegetables and their juices to help restore fatigued or exhausted adrenal glands. Fasting and detoxing should be avoided until you feel better. Focus on adding foods high in potassium such as sunflower seeds, almonds, raisins and avocados to your diet. Avoid foods high in sodium, sugar and simple carbohydrates. Eating frequent small light meals rather than large heavy ones is also a kindness to the adrenal glands. See chapter three for herbs to support the adrenal glands during pregnancy.

Also part of the endocrine system, the thyroid is a small bow tie or butterfly shaped gland. Located in the neck wrapped around the windpipe it sits behind and below the Adam's Apple area. The thyroid produces several hormones, of which two are key: triodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones help oxygen get into cells, and determine the body's basal metabolic rate making it the master of metabolism. This little gland contains the only cells in the body capable of absorbing the iodine needed to produce hormones.

Hypothyroidism or an under active thyroid occurs most frequently in women over the age of forty; however, men and teenagers are not exempt. More prevalent than previously thought, hypothyroidism is believed to be affecting up to ten percent of the population to some degree. Approximately fifty percent of those who suffer from subclinical hypothyroidism are unaware of the problem. The most observable sign is low body temperature when awakening in the morning.

Symptoms of an under active thyroid can include the following:

  • Weight gain
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Hair loss
  • Dry, gritty eyes
  • Eye tics
  • Feeling sluggish and tired
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • More forgetful
  • Infertility
  • Easy bruising
  • Thin, brittle nails
  • Feeling cold when others are comfortable

Except for Guggul extract and Parsley extract, the herbs most beneficial to the under active thyroid are much easier to ingest in capsule or tablet form. Irish Moss and Kelp are both excellent sources of electrolyte minerals including iodine which is essential to normal thyroid function. In liquid extract form these are extremely unpleasant with a stomach turning odor. Guggul extract containing guggulsterones stimulates the production thyroid hormones and is not unpleasant in liquid form. Parsley is rich in trace and electrolyte minerals. While it does not contain iodine, it is frequently included in herbal combinations used to support the thyroid.

Since so much of the basal metabolic rate(rate at which energy is used by the body at complete rest) is controlled by the thyroid it makes sense for individuals who are overweight and cannot lose it to support this little gland with appropriate supplements. Whenever impaired thyroid function is suspected, it is wise to avoid toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride as it may further slow down the thyroid. Soy milk was found by the University of Michigan to increase hypothyroidism and should also be avoided.

A winning combination of herbs to help the thyroid function normally and those used to induce weight loss in liquid extract form can be very effective, especially for those who exercise regularly, have a reasonable diet but are still unable to shed unwanted pounds and inches. Evodia naturally suppresses the appetite. Porangaba leaf from Brazil reduces the amount of food needed to feel full. Garcinia Fruit inhibits the conversion of dietary carbohydrates to fat, being much more effective when taken three times daily. Recent research indicates Pomegranate Leaf inhibits fat absorption in the intestinal tract.

Ginger and Evodia increase thermogenesis, the burning of calories to increase body temperature. A three month double blind, placebo controlled trial found the administration of a Guggul based formula to overweight subjects to result in the loss of 12.1 to 12.7 pounds compared to the placebo receiving group. Malic acid found in Horsetail and Cornsilk is used by the Krebs cycle, the final and essential step in making energy from carbohydrates, fats and protein available for use by the body.

Recently a close friend dropped thirty pounds with this particular combination of herbs available from Mountain Meadow Herbs. She had been unable to lose weight in spite of being an avid runner and eating a moderate diet. Weight Control