Hidden Cause #15 Why You STILL Have Low Thyroid Symptoms-Low Conversion Caused by High Cortisol

Dr. David Clark, DC- Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Natural Thyroid doctor- explains how high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can cause low thyroid symptoms.

Hidden Cause #15 why you STILL have low thyroid symptoms even though you may be taking thyroid medication, and even though your lab tests look normal is…

Low conversion of T4 into T3 caused by high levels of cortisol.

Here’s what I mean: 

97% of what your thyroid gland makes is T4.  T4 is basically inactive.  It doesn’t do much.  It must be chemically converted into T3–the “active” hormone. 

Conversion happens primarily in the liver due to the action of the enzyme called 5′-deiodinase. 

Simply stated…

Elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol shut down this enzyme that is necessary for normal converstion.  When cortisol slows down conversion, you produce less T3 than normal…and with abnornal low levels ot T3 you can suffer low thyroid symptoms like these:

  • brain fog
  • fatigue
  • depression
  • constipation
  • dry skin and dry hair
  • hair loss on the scalp
  • thinning eyebrows
  • a need to sleep 10 or more hours just to function
  • weight gain even though you eat low calorie and exercise
  • trouble losing weight

Those are the things that happen when cortisol is too high and you don’t make enough T3. 

What is cortisol? and why would it be too high? 

Your adrenal glands make the hormone cortisol. If you spend just a little time searching the internet you’ll see that people try to paint cortisol as “evil.” But cortisol just does what you tell it to do. Cortisol is necessary for normal, healthy function. The problem is when there is too much or too little cortisol.

It’s kind of like cholesterol.  There is no “bad” cholesterol.  Cholesterol just does what your body is telling it to do.

What causes high cortisol?

High cortisol is typically caused by

  1. Psychological Stress
  2. Inflammation

Let’s talk about the psychological stress response….

A person under a lot stress typically has high cortisol levels–at least in the short term. And who has stress? Everyone.

When the stress is CHRONIC — happening day in and day out–that’s a big problem.

When the stress lasts a short time, but is HUGE–that’s a big problem.  In either situation, cortisol can shut down the enzyme causing low thyroid symptoms.

Inflammation also causes high cortisol.So, anything that is inflammatory…that inflames…that causes the immune system to respond…can cause the release of cortisol.

What causes inflammation?

It’s a along list…here’s s a few:

  • Infections–viral, fungal, parasite, bacterial (some of these infections are hidden)
  • Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s, Vitiligo, RA, Multiple Sclerosis
  • Food sensitivities – gluten, milk, celiac etc

Those are all things that could cause elevated cortisol And elevated cortisol will shut down the conversion of T4 to T3 and produces those low thyroid symptoms.

So what do you do about this cortisol problem? 

That depends on what is actually going on in your case. 

The first thing I can tell you – and this is something that would be good for everybody – is that if you know you have a lot of psychological stress, you may not be able to change what stresses you, but you can change how your body responds to it. 

I recommend you learn how to do the  Relaxation Response.

This was first discovered and refined by a Harvard medical doctor named Herbert Bensen.  (You can look him up).  It’s a very simple, semi-meditative technique…kind of like doing a mental flush.  It’s very effective.  Research has shown the Relaxation Response lowers blood pressure 20 to 30 points in people with high blood pressure– without using medication. It’s something you can learn how to do yourself.

As far as ferreting out where inflammation is…that’s up to a good doctor who’s knows what to look for…how best to look for it, and what to do when he/she finds it.

So remember that list from earlier…

  • Infections–viral, fungal, parasite, bacterial (some of these infections are hidden)
  • Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s, Vitiligo, RA, Multiple Sclerosis
  • Food sensitivities – gluten, milk, celiac etc

Your doctor MUST able to look for all of these. (and know what to do when he/she finds them).

Hidden Cause #15 is when you have low conversion of T4 into T3 caused by high levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol are typically caused by stress and caused by inflammatory events.

Oh, and don’t forget to look up how to do that Relaxation Response.

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© 2013 David Clark. All Rights Reserved.

Disclaimer: The contents of this site are for educational purposes only. Nothing here should be construed as medical advice. Nothing here is a substitute for actual medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional.

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