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Three and a half years ago my symptoms started with an intense tightness in my back, along with weird swelling  and sweating symptoms, inflammation (ESR, CRP), and vitamin deficiencies, severe b12 and ferrtin anemia, and low albumin. I have since been able to tie the symptoms to eating, but could never narrow it down as to what food bothered me.

After 1.5 months of elimination diet, it seems that any carb causes instant bloating in my stomach and fingers, up to my upper arms and the right side of my face.  I have anti-TPO antibodies and have issues with my thyroid. My TSH is normal (1.o) but the free T4 was at the very bottom of the normal scale 9.7 pmol/L or 0.77 ng/L.

I’d like to think that all my issues are thyroid related. I know that wikipedia says:”The thyroid hormones are essential to proper development and differentiation of all cells of the human body. These hormones also regulate protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism, affecting how human cells use energetic compounds. They also stimulate vitamin metabolism. ”

The question is, is it central hypothyroidism, meaning my pituitary, given that my TSH is normal? My doctor tells me I’m stressed or have fibromyalgia. I’m at the point where I’ve almost stopped eating, but am not losing much weight. The carb reduction has definitely made me less swollen and my pants are baggy. My face is red all the time and I’m used to being ghost white.  My hair is disgustingly dry and frizzled and turning grey super fast (embarrassing, I’m mid 30s).

Just looking to see if anyone else has had similar problems…any hypothyroid people with this issue?

 

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So, when I got Graves Disease, I also got very, very dry eyes which I thought might have been Thyroid Eye Disease.  After one year of eyes so dry that they were swollen (despite adding drops constantly), the dry eyes went away, but came a host of new symptoms, such as crushing fatigue, weird vein pain, severe muscle spasms in neck, back and sciatic area. Is it possible that my original graves disease was caused by autoimmune inflammation of the pituitary, and the resulting new symptoms, after the Graves Disease went into remission were hypopituitarism symptoms, such as low adrenal output (hence the crushing fatigue and inability to cope with stress, feelings of impending doom?)

Apparently, hypophysitis is common during pregnancy, and I had 4 pregnancies in four years (two miscarriages).  My mom has similar symptoms and has since her 30s, and autoimmune disorders are common in my family.  I’m too tired to put all of the pieces together right now, but I have a blood req for ACTH in my purse (they couldn’t do it at my family doctor’s lab), so I guess we’ll see!

  • I also have weird water retention – at times quite extensive.
  • I had really low blood pressure for a while.
  • Crazy dry hair and hands.
  • Flushing of the face.
  • Muscle cramps (face, calves, etc..)
  • Low b12
  • tinnitus
  • I did have double vision with the graves disease and with the “new” symptoms, I had wavy lines in my peripheral vision and severe photosensitivity.
  • Crushing fatigue. Occasional bursts of energy would be followed by being bedridden the next.
  • Feelings of impending doom (thought I was dying).
  • Crazy heart palpitations, especially at rest or in the middle of the night
  • Night sweats – severe
  • Vein pain (bloated blue veins that hurt. Feet would hurt in the morning)
  • Muscle spasm in my cheek
  • hypocalcemia and low magnesium
  • Low iron

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Okay, so my weird symptoms started in January 2011. I seem to waver between highs and lows: highs, being tight muscles, feelings of anxiety, insomnia; and lows, no energy, fatigue, extreme bloating, pins and needles in extremities.  During the highs, it feels like my veins are super constricted, cutting off circulation to muscles.  During the lows, it feels like my veins are super bloated, I get light headed when I stand, and my skins looks purple on my legs (POTS?, Adrenal fatigue)? Also, my hair goes crazy dry, and my fingers and feet dry out. I also go from extreme nasal output (runny snot, dripping down my throat), to nasal stuffiness during my lows.

On Effexor, I have felt almost normal. The highs and lows are much more mild. However, I’ve been on it six months and am down from 4 to 3 pills a day.  But it’s very hard to decrease!  Grateful to be closer to normal. Frustrated and the slow recovery!

Update: March 2, 2012

So I successfully weaned off of Effexor only to have my symptoms return. Crushing fatigue, unexplained feelings of anger, vein pain (upper arm, neck, groin/thigh), crazy dry hair.  It feels like how things started two years ago. I thought I was getting better, but I think the SNRI (Effexor) just kep the symptoms at bay!  Frustrating thought. Only good news is that at least I have something to help combat it.  It’s not a cure, but I’ll take it over feeling angry all the time. It’s so weird, it’s like all of my coping mechanisms vanish and I’m left feeling really, really angry, and fearful of dying.  Bizarre, because logically I know that I’m not.  I’ve taken a pill and am feeling better already.

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After reading about adrenal fatigue and a link to hypothyroidism, I began to realize that a bunch of my symptoms fit really will with hypOthyroidism and not hypERthyroidism.  While I’m convinced I still have some adrenal issues (I’m going to see a naturopath next week), a bunch of my major symptoms fell into the hypo category, such as:

  • dry hair (coarse and wiry, as opposed to ultra fine like it usually is)
  • dry skin – even bumps on my arms and super dry skin on my face)
  • muscle weakness – legs tired easily and felt heavy
  • muscle pains/cramps/spasms – upper arms and calves were particularly prone
  • lethargy – I’m normally I super high energy person
  • mild depression (not so much depressed, but less happy than usual)
  • poor circulation – pins in needles in hands and legs very easily, especially at night
  • major water retention in face, back, stomach, legs, upper arms, etc.. I had a roll of water around my upper stomach. When I came off PTU this roll was slowly getting smaller

I came off PTU 8 days ago.  I was feeling better than I had in a really long time, and was my usual happy self (whom I had almost forgotten completely),  when POW!  My eyes started going…It started to feel like bad allergies. I could feel my eyes swelling and the muscles getting tight. My TED had been in remission since last year, 15 months in total. However, I was still on PTU and didn’t realize my Graves was in remission too. When I stopped PTU my thyroid returned to what felt like normal function, but my eyes just started bugging me again.  I took some PTU and they’re feeling better, but now I know if I come off it completely my eye symptoms while return, which means I’m still producing anti-thyroid antibodies and PTU is holding me steady.

I’ll have to ask my endocrinologist if I can take PTU and maybe a small amount of Synthroid or Armour so that I don’t feel hypo, but also so my eye symptoms don’t come back. I forgot how horrendously terrible my eyes felt. It truly is the worst part of Graves Disease. You look and feel just terrible. Given the choice, I choose hypo over TED! (thyroid eye disease)

Update April 20, 2012

I’ve been off PTU since Monday and so far everything is going great! I still have some Graves antibodies, but not enough to make me symptomatic.  Amazing! And to think I almost had my thyroid killed.

I think my other symptoms are due to hormone imbalance. I had 4 pregnancies close together (only 2 successful). I just read about postpartum estrogen dominance and adrenal fatigue and think it may be the reason for my fluid retention, numbness & tingling and muscle spasms/cramps.

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About two months ago, a blogger identified my symptoms as adrenal fatigue (thank you Bethanie).  After an extensive amount of research on my end (thank you Dr. Lam: www.drlam.com/articles/adrenal_fatigue.asp), I agree this fits my situation to a “T”. However, what it’s hard to glean from all of the literature is what does this really feel like in real life.

Update: interesting relationship between thyroid and adrenaline: Note: http://tiredthyroid.com/feeling-hyper-when-hypo.html Thyroid and adrenaline (epinephrine) have an inverse relationship. [1- 4]

My symptoms started with sudden sleep issues (up every night from 1-3 am). I had ringing in my ear at night. I had sudden urges to pee, out of no where!  When the thigh numbness started I worried, but when the face twitching/numbness started I outright panicked.  This was not good for me! If I had known what was happening, I probably would have spared myself a whole lot of damage. However, for the next 6 months I panicked about what was causing my weird numbness and tingling, watery diarrhea, and complete inability to nap or sleep.

You can read the whole saga under the blog “numbness & tingling on the right side”.  Over a year later I am still suffering the same symptoms, however, to a lesser extent. Knowing (or at least thinking I know) what is going on with me makes it much more manageable and much less stressful.

Main symptoms

  • starts with my right thigh – goes tingly, then both thighs, then my upper arms go tight and sore.
  • My skin is often cold (even to the touch).
  • Alternating sweet cravings and salt cravings
  • sudden urges to pee
  • right eye twitching
  • mild edema all over (worse at times), noticeable in my legs, face (chin), upper arms and stomach. It almost looks like I suddenly get cellulite in my stomach and legs but it’s just water and goes away.  My upper arms get water-logged and a little jiggly, but goes away.
  • wrinkly hands and fingers, like they’ve been soaked in water for hours
  • some days I have really bad fatigue (the swollen days), but on the tingly days my energy is fine.
  • I get lots of muscle cramps and aches
  • photo-sensitivity comes and goes
  • I believe a lot of my symptoms are due to macro-mineral issues: calcium/magnesium balance, sodium/potassium balance. However, my willy-nilly taking of vitamins doesn’t get the balance right.
  • Cycles used to take months, but it now takes about 1 month to cycle through these symptoms.
  • I’ve gained weight, in my stomach and face, despite typically gaining it in my lower body. Ugh.

The biggest lessons I’ve learned:

  • I try to stay calm and take hot baths before bedtime, read my book and fall asleep with no lights and no TV on in the room.
  • I do take B vitamins (b12 helps with energy), iron (Euro-Fer/Palifer), magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin D. I’m not religious about it like I used to be. I took a bottle of Milk Thistle until I finished it. I am feeling better, though not cured.
  • When my muscles are really crampy I do take calcium and it does help. I’ve been told that it shouldn’t, but it really does help when all of my muscles are tight.
  • I used to live on cereal and now I try to eat more protein. In fact, I’ve read that limiting carbs is the fastest way to recovery. I hadn’t tried it (because I love carbs), but I am starting to ween.
  • When I’m tingly and cold beta-blockers help! I get weird muscle cramps in my upper arms and cold spots all over the body, and I suspect it’s caused by vasoconstriction (epinephrine?) because beta-blockers make this better. However, if I take too much beta-blocker I get light-headed and sweaty.
  • I tried playing competitive volleyball again, but it was at night and my muscles cramped up afterwards and I was easily rattled (embarrassing – I got emotional on the court and that is soooo not like me!). It’s recommended to exercise in the morning and not too intense.
  • Stuffy nose when I lay down only. As a result, I wake up with a sore throat. Not sure if it’s reflux or post-nasal drip.

Here’s hoping normal is not too far away!

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Note: http://tiredthyroid.com/feeling-hyper-when-hypo.html Thyroid and adrenaline (epinephrine) have an inverse relationship. [1- 4]

Over a year ago, in January 2011, I started having numbness & tingling throughout my body.  A year later, I have a less severe version of these same symptoms, although instead of numbness, it feels more like cold patches on my skin – and the skin is actually cold to touch.

I have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia by a rheumatologist but I don’t buy that diagnosis as I don’t have any other symptoms, and zero tender points, no pain, no fatigue – just muscle aches.

I have been trying to meticulously pay attention to my symptoms and when they arise. What I believe is happening is this:

  • After a year of unbearable stress, the symptoms started. I think my body was so used to the stress hormones that I became hypersensitive to them.
  • My body, exhausted, seems to live in a state of under-arousal. With the slightest bit of stress, I will get surges of stress hormones.
  • This results in vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels). The areas of vasocontriction either go numb, or they go cold and tingly.
  • This narrowing of blood vessels also results in a lack of blood to the muscles, resulting in ischemia, resulting in muscle cramps. The skin above the area is white/pale.  I’ve gone in hot baths and these areas don’t
    • starts with my right thigh – goes tingly, then both thighs, then my upper arms go tight and sore. I crave sweets during this time and seem to have extra energy. This whole process takes 1-2 weeks.
  • After the blood vessels return to normal, or likely, to a more relaxed, vasodilated state (they even look larger through my pale skin), the muscles are sore, like I had exercised. Also, I end up with mild edema throughout my body!
    • First my arms ache and swell, then my right thigh aches, then my right foot aches. This whole process takes 1-2 weeks and I crave salty foods during this time and am more tired than usual.The slightest pressure leaves indents in my skin.

Thyroid Dump?

Stop the Thyroid Madness states that “Thyroid Dump” occurs when those who have been low on cortisol may have had the thyroid hormones “pooling” in the blood, and the HC opens up the receptors to receive the thyroid hormones. Instead, the discomfort may be from adrenaline rushes. When that happens, you may feel extreme anxiety, racing heart, and/or other uncomfortable symptoms.

Wonky Stress Hormones?

Adrenaline and related stress hormones are potent vasoconstrictors. When present in excess, those hormones cause spasm of the muscle in arterial walls, narrow the lumens of vessels, impede the flow of blood in tissues and cause the tissue temperature to fall.

Vasoconstriction is also part of the fight or flight response, a physiological response to stress started by the sympathetic nervous system. During this response, the nervous system triggers the release of chemicals, including vasoconstrictor hormones, which cause the body to shake, the bladder to relax, the face to alternately blush and drain of color, the muscles to be reactive, and the pupils to dilate, amongst other signs of excitation.

Vasopressin  stimulates the release of adrenocorticotropin hormone from the anterior pituitary. This hormone stimulates the adrenal gland to release cortisol. In addition to vasoconstriction, vasopressin also regulates body temperature, and studies demonstrate a correlation between an elevation in vasopressin levels and anxiety. Unlike other vasoconstrictors, vasopressin paradoxically increases the dilation of pulmonary and coronary vessels. The dose and specific receptors on blood vessels determine whether vasopressin constricts or dilates a particular vascular bed. Is this why I had big blue veins at the outset of my symptoms?

What Helps?

Beta Blockers

This would explain why when I was feeling numb that a beta-blocker (left over from my hyperthyroid diagnosis) helped! As beta adrenergic receptor antagonists, they diminish the effects of epinephrine (adrenaline) and other stress hormones. Beta blockers block the action of endogenous catecholamines epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) in particular, on β-adrenergic receptors, part of the sympathetic nervous system which mediates the “fight or flight” response.

Vitamin C

People who have high levels of vitamin C do not show the expected mental and physical signs of stress when subjected to acute psychological challenges. What’s more, they bounce back from stressful situations faster than people with low levels of vitamin C in their blood.

It is my hope that after time, my body will readjust and go back to normal. It’s been a year and I still have this  happen to me, so I’m not sure how long it will take!

WiseGeek has some interesting information on vasoconstriction:

A vasoconstrictor, also called vasopressor, is any substance that causes the layer of smooth muscle in the blood vessels to contract, resulting in a shortening of the diameter of the blood vessel. This causes a rise in vascular resistance or the amount of energy it takes for blood to move through the blood vessels, and an increase in blood pressure.

  • A vasoconstrictor may be made endogenously, or naturally within the body, such as with antidiuretic hormone (ADH) and adrenaline.
  • A vasoconstrictor can also be made exogenously, or outside the body, and be taken as a drug, such as caffeine, pseudoephedrine, amphetamines, and antihistamines. In a medical setting, such drugs are used as decongestants, agents to raise blood pressure, and agents to stem blood flow to a certain area.

The purpose of an endogenous vasoconstrictor is to help preserve homeostasis, the body’s balancing act that keeps all of its processes within a set of safe parameters. Vasopressors achieve this by helping thermoregulation, or maintenance of normal body temperature, and by preventing hypotension.

  • Hypotension, or low blood pressure, occurs as a result of too much vasodilation, or opening of the blood vessels, hormonal upsets, anemia, or lack of sufficient red blood cells, side effects from medicines, and heart conditions.
  • The body commonly releases vasopressors when it is undergoing orthostatic hypotension, a condition in which blood pools in the lower extremities while sitting or lying down, causing a drop in blood pressure towards the head. This causes the head rush that some people experience when standing up. The body uses vasoconstrictors to push the blood back up through the blood vessels towards the heart and head.
  • The body may also release a vasoconstrictor when the outside temperature is cold and the body wants to retain heat. Because animals lose heat as blood travels to the extremities, vasopressors restrict blood flow to places like the fingers, toes, and nose to keep as much of the body’s warmth as possible. Sometimes the body overreacts to the cold, causing excessive vasoconstriction and whiteness in the hands or feet. This is called Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  • In decongestants and antihistamines, the drug works by tightening the blood vessel, thereby impeding the blood’s ability to induce inflammation.

At rest, I have low blood pressure and could probably use a vasoconstrictor. I have mild swelling throughout my body, which could be a result of this. I went through several months of complete adrenal exhaustion: extreme fatigue, night sweats, thirst and salt cravings. However, I am currently in a state of constant arousal and tingling .

During stress, I get a rapid heart rate, even if it’s just a mild stressor.

1. Adrenal Malfunction (source: http://www.healingnaturallybybee.com/)

Sometimes water retention is a result of adrenal gland malfunction, and boosting its function is important for maintaining fluid levels.

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also be a problem for people because it causes the body to produce adrenaline. Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that elevates heart and respiration rates; also called ‘epinephrine.’ The function of adrenaline is to restore and maintain blood glucose levels. One of the causes of low blood sugar is excessive drinking of alcohol, which would also cause low blood sugar. Alcohol interferes with maintaining normal blood sugar levels because it directly affects the functioning of the liver and adrenals. Article Source

Therefore when the adrenal glands produce too much adrenaline it affects the sympathetic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is active there a quickening of the pulse, increased blood pressure, constriction of blood vessels, decreased activity in bladder and bowel muscle, dilation of the pupils and a rise in blood sugar – preparing the body to react to a threat through “flight or fight” behaviour.

On the other hand when the parasympathetic nervous system is active it produces the opposite responses to the sympathetic nervous system, i.e. pulse and blood pressure are normal, blood vessels relax, saliva and mucus production is increased, gastric juice is secreted and motility of the digestive tract is increased, digestion is increased, pupils relax, etc.

Natural Vasodilators include:

  • Beetroot is one of the latest researched root herb that has shown to lower blood pressure significantly, with prolonged effects as much as 24 hours after consuming. The beetroot mixes with saliva and bacteria to produce nitrite. As it enters the acidic stomach another chemical reaction takes place. The nitrite turns to nitric oxide or will re-enter the circulatory system and this is what opens the blood vessels.
  • Cranberry juice might protect against cardiovascular disease, according to researchers from Queen Mary University of London. They reported in the February 2010 issue of the “Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry” that oligomeric procyanidins improved blood vessel function by reducing the synthesis of vasoconstrictors endothelin-1, or ET-1, which constricts blood vessels and decreases blood flow.
  • celery a member of the carrot family, is also known for it`s vasodilating action by relaxing smooth muscle in artery walls. The active compound is Phthalide (3-n-butylphtalide) which gives celery its strong aroma and flavor. As a diuretic it does not cause the potassium/sodium ratio to change when excess fluid is secreted, as some prescribed diuretics do, saving the user unnecessary side effects.
  • Garlic, as we all know, is hailed as a good natural high blood pressure medicine.It contains effective compounds such as adenosine, allicin, and y-glutamylcysteines among others.
  • Ginkgo Biloba is one of my favorite high blood pressure herbs. Its the oldest known tree in the world, dating back to the Jurassic period: dinosaurs probably had a nibble. Ginkgo is known for it`s use in dilating blood vessels, getting blood to small capillaries, allowing more oxygen to flow in the brain to improve memory and help patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Hawthorn works like a beta-blocker.  The use of Beta blocker drugs are discouraged in the UK because they are thought to provoke diabetes type 11 by 30%, so hawthorn berry extract may serve as a substitute, but be aware it takes a few weeks to start seeing the benefits.
  • Magnesium works by stimulating nitric oxide production, which happens also during exercise. It helps relax and dilate blood vessels, but you need to take the correct amount or there will be a calcium imbalance triggering the opposite. The arteries will restrict.
  • Niacin:
  • walnuts

Interesting articles of vasodilation and vasoconstriction:

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Symptoms of Fatigue. Numbness & Tingling. Muscle Aches. Sweating. Chills. Heart Palpitations. Nausea. Low Blood Pressure. Diarrhea. Excessive Hunger and/or Thirst. All at once?

Diagnoses of Anxiety, Fibromyalgia, Celiacs or MS?!

Thanks to a comment from a reader, I have started investigating adrenal insufficiency.Finally, a diagnosis that makes sense given the fact that I had a year with 5 major life-changing and stressful events preceding my symptoms. (

For my symptoms, check out “Numbness & Tingling on the Right side“).
For my latest theory on what’s happening, check out “Numbness, Tingling & Cold Spots = Stress + Vasoconstriction

Update: interesting relationship between thyroid and adrenaline: Note: http://tiredthyroid.com/feeling-hyper-when-hypo.html Thyroid and adrenaline (epinephrine) have an inverse relationship. [1- 4]

I finally got my doctor to agree (after I did all the research and pieced together a diagnosis), that the likely cause of all of my strange symptoms was “from stress wreaking havoc on my adrenal glands”.  The medical community had already ruled out MS, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Celiacs, Ankylosing Spondylitis and more! Plus, there is a correlation between thyroid and adrenal dysfunction! It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if it had ben diagnosed right away. Instead, thinking I had one of those other diseases made me even more stressed. For six months I thought I was dying, and “impending sense of doom” is actually a symptom of adrenal fatigue.

When my cortisol and aldosterone were spiking, I had period numbness, tingling and “silent migraines” throughout my body. I think this may have been from norepinephrine – as they usually happened after something mildly stressful. This is a powerful natural vasoconstrictor. A vasoconstrictor causes the veins in the body to become more narrow. This increases the workload on the heart to pump your blood through your body. It also results in the high blood pressure often seen in people going through stressful situations. While NE can cause hypertension, local vasoconstriction, and tissue hypoxia in any patient, those with hyperthyroidism or who are also taking certain medications are particularly at risk. The drug can produce profound hypertension, local vasoconstriction, and tissue hypoxia. NE-induced hypertension typically presents as headache, photophobia, stabbing chest pain, pallor, intense sweating, and/or vomiting. Typical nervous system responses are anxiety and fear, headache and increased sensitivity to light sources.

Other infrequent side effects may include muscle pain or weakness, numbness or coldness in the arms or legs, trouble breathing or heart rate irregularities.

After several months (3ish) of numbness and tingling, adrenal fatigue set in, which is when my symptoms changed and my doctor thought I was a hypochondriac.  I was tired all the time, super dry hair and mouth, really achy hips and arms, heart palpitations (often at rest or in bed), dizzy spells, nausea, and oh, did I mention super, super tired! I also went through a period of snoring and would wake up feelingl like I was suffocating – never snored before or since. If I got out of the house, I could usually push myself through a day, however, when I stopped moving it was like I was hit by a truck and the whole next day I would be completely useless – seriously, couldn’t get off a couch.

By the end of June (6 months of symptoms), I had:

  • elevated inflammation markers (ESR = 34; CRP = 5)
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency (I wasn’t deficient at the onset (b12 = 270) but after 6 months of symptoms it was 115)
  • Magnesium deficient
  • Anemic
  • Low Ferritin (as low as 10)
  • Hypocalcemic
  • TSH was normal (I’m on PTU for my Graves Disease, although it was higher than normal for me – as high as 3.0 preceding my symptoms)
  • NOTE: these might have been exacerbated by my pregnancy, which happened shortly after the onset of the symptoms. A happy miracle!)

The longest lasting troublesome symptom has been that both my upper arms feel sore all the time, (tight, swollen and achy sensation with mild swelling). Haven’t been able to figure this out except that aldosterone can mess with your electrolytes, which can cause muscle spasms, etc… if calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium are out of balance. (February 2012, and I still have sore arms, although they aren’t as bad, and it comes and goes now. Waiting to find an equilibrium! Read my latest blog on my vasoconstriction theory here: Numbness & Tingling, Cold spots on skin = stress & vasoconstriction )

Stop the Thyroid Madness explains:

Your adrenals, two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. The outer cortex of your Adrenals produces the hormones cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, DHEA, DHEAS, androstenedione and estrogens. And both cortisol (a glucocorticoid) and aldosterone (a mineralcorticoid) are vital and important players in your health and well-being.

When your adrenals become fatigued, they don’t make enough cortisol. And though low cortisol does not always equal low aldosterone, there may be a significant body of thyroid patients who with their low cortisol have low aldosterone!

WHAT IS ALDOSTERONE? Aldosterone is the principal of a group of mineralocorticoids. It helps regulate levels of sodium and potassium in your body–i.e. it helps you retain needed salt, which in turn helps control your blood pressure, the distribution of fluids in the body, and the balance of electrolytes in your blood.

WHAT HAPPENS IF ALDOSTERONE GETS TOO HIGH OR LOW?

When aldosterone gets too high, your blood pressure also gets too high and your potassium levels become too low. You can have muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and numbness or tingling in your extremities.

But when it gets too low, which can be common in some patients with cortisol deficiency, your kidneys will excrete too much salt, and it leads to low blood pressure; low blood volume; a high pulse and/or palpitations, dizziness and or lightheadedness when you stand; fatigue; and a craving for salt. Other symptoms of low aldosterone can also include frequent urination, sweating, a slightly higher body temperature, and a feeling of thirst, besides the craving of salt. Potassium can fall, as well, resulting in muscle cramps and aches.

This is the best article I’ve read on the adrenals: http://www.drlam.com/articles/adrenalexhaustion.asp?page=1

Here’s an explanation for some of my symptoms (in relation to cortisol levels).

Numbness & Tingling: Theory 1

  • Numbness and tingling is caused by a shift in the nerve electrolyte balance. ie water, K, Na, Ca, Mg, etc. Nerves are basically ion pipes that propagate an electric charge.
  • When aldosterone gets too high, your blood pressure also gets too high and your potassium levels become too low. You can have muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and numbness or tingling in your extremities.

Theory 2:

  • Cortisol increases blood pressure by increasing the sensitivity of the vasculature to epinephrine and norepinephrine = vasoconstriction = numbness:
  • Cortisol’s enhancement of epinephrine’s vasoconstrictive effect = reduced blood flow to muscles

Vaso-constriction. Cortisol contracts mid-size arteries.

 Diarrhea
  • Cortisol acts as a diuretic hormone, controlling one-half of intestinal dieresis,
  • Cortisol stimulates gastric-acid secretion.Cortisol’s only direct effect on the hydrogen ion excretion of the kidneys is to stimulate the excretion of ammonium ions by deactivating the renal glutaminase enzyme.

 Insomnia
/ Energy

  • Cortisol increases blood pressure by increasing the sensitivity of the vasculature to epinephrine and norepinephrine.
  • Cortisol production follows a curve from highest levels around 8am, dropping throughout the day until the lowest levels are reached about 11pm. In early stages of adrenal fatigue the body compensates with high night time cortisol. In this case the person finds it difficult to relax from the stress of the day and has trouble going to sleep. High night-time cortisol results in reduced REM sleep which is neither restful nor restorative. This can lead to depression and reduced energy levels the next day. In later stages of adrenal fatigue, the body may produce adrenaline (“fight or flight” hormone) in an attempt to compensate for low cortisol. This too will result in insomnia.
  • Stimulates hepatic detoxification by inducing tryptophan oxygenase (reducing serotonin levels in the brain), glutamine synthase (reducing glutamate and ammonia levels in the brain), cytochrome P-450 hemoprotein (mobilizing arachidonic acid), and metallothionein (reducing heavy metals in the body)[
 Weight / Hunger  Normalizing blood sugar level. Cortisol increases the blood sugar level in the body, thus providing the energy needed for the body to physically escape threat of injury in order to survive. Cortisol works in tandem with insulin from the pancreas to provide adequate glucose to the cells for energy. More energy is required when the body is under stress, from any source, and cortisol is the hormone that makes this happen.As adrenal fatigue progresses, blood glucose levels will tend to fall too low. The body responds to hypoglycemia by causing the person to crave anything that will rapidly raise blood sugar levels, such as a soda, candy bar, a cup of coffee or even cigarettes. Often adrenal fatigue leads to the abuse of alcohol, marijuana, and hard drugs because of the need to “fix” recurrent hypoglycemia. Unfortunately, the rapid rise in blood glucose provided by the “fix” only serves to start the whole cycle over.

I’m hungry, I need sugar NOW!
The adrenal glands, which rest on top of your kidneys play a vital role in controlling blood sugar. If the adrenals are exhausted from stress and sugar is the only food that’s fueling your system, you’re going to see a lot of irritability when hunger arises. The solution, besides eating balanced meals: Getting enough Vitamin C, licorice (Opt for the root, which helps slow down cortisol production), Vitamin B5 and adrenal gland supplements.
 Blood pressure, fluid retention, vitamin deficiencies   Stress increases the release of aldosterone, causing sodium retention (leading to water retention and high blood pressure) and the loss of potassium and magnesium in the early stages of Adrenal Fatigue.

  • Swelling & Veins: in the absence of cortisol, widespread vasodilation occurs.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. When the body lacks magnesium, it will suffer from a variety of pathological conditions such as cardiac arrhythmias.

 Elevated ESR or CRP (inflammation)  Cortisol has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing histamine secretion and stabilizing lysosomal membranes. Stabilization of lysosomal membranes prevents their rupture, preventing damage to healthy tissues. Absence of cortisol = increase inflammation
 Dehydration Your adrenals, two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys, secrete aldosterone, a hormone that regulates water levels and the concentration of minerals, like sodium, in your body, helping you stay hydrated. When your body is stressed, more aldosterone and sodium circulate in your system. Once the stress is over, aldosterone levels fall and sodium must leave your bloodstream. The sodium passes through your kidneys and exits your body as urine, taking water with it. If you experience high stress levels on a regular basis, you will weaken your adrenals and dehydrate your body. And even if you drink a lot of water, you may not be getting the hydration you need!
Muscle cramps When aldosterone gets too high, your blood pressure also gets too high and your potassium levels become too low. You can have muscle cramps, muscle weakness, and numbness or tingling in your extremities.
Heart Palpitations
Night Sweats
Fatigue,
Light-headedness
When aldosterone gets too low, your kidneys will excrete too much salt, and it leads to low blood pressure; low blood volume; a high pulse and/or palpitations, dizziness and or lightheadedness when you stand; fatigue; and a craving for salt. Symptoms of low aldosterone can also include frequent urination, sweating, a slightly higher body temperature, and a feeling of thirst, besides the craving of salt. Potassium can fall, as well.
Nausea Abnormally low amounts of cortisol in the body disrupts metabolism, resulting in low blood sugar levels and reduced glycogen in the liver, which is used for providing quick energy. Much like the effects of diabetes, low levels of cortisol can initially cause brain-fog and lethargy, and progress to gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Loss of appetite, weight loss and an inability to tolerate colder temperatures are also common symptoms.
Acne/Dry Skin/Dry Hair
Cortisol increases the production of sebum, a natural oil that lubricates your skin. When too much is produced, however, it can lead to blockages that cause acne. Too little cortisol = reduced sebum = dry skin.Also, low aldosterone can cause excess sweating/urination = dehydration!
Swelling/ Edema As the body tries to keep the ratio of electrolytes and fluid balanced, fluid may pour into the tissues and cause swelling. Most doctors will only see the symptom and not the cause and prescribe a diuretic which further compounds the dehydration and electrolyte imbalance and making the patient worse.
Hemorrhoids / Big Veins Hemorrhoids are basically varicose veins of the rectum and are caused by blood pooling in the abdomen and pelvis. When a person presents with hemorrhoids, it is usually do to adrenal fatigue, but can be caused by liver congestion. Once again, listening to the heart can help determine the cause. If the loud second sound is over the pulmonic valve, it is indicative of adrenal problems, while a loud 2nd sound over the tricuspid valve is indicative of liver congestion.Varicose veins of the lower extremities result from the same pooling of blood in the abdomen and pelvis that causes hemorrhoids.
Excessive Thirst, Frequent Urination, & Salt Cravings The adrenal glands produce many more hormones than just glucocorticoids. One very important hormone is aldosterone, a mineralocorticoid. Aldosterone regulates fluid and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium and magnesium) in the blood, between and in the cells of the body. As adrenal fatigue progresses, the production of aldosterone lessens. This causes “salt-wasting”. As the salt is excreted by the kidneys, water follows leading to electrolyte imbalance and dehydration. Those with adrenal fatigue should always add salt (preferably sea salt with its trace minerals) to their water. Soft drinks and electrolyte drinks like Gatorade are high in potassium and low in sodium, the opposite of what someone with low cortisol needs. Commercial electrolyte drinks are designed for those who produce high cortisol when exercising, not for someone who produces little or no extra cortisol during exercise. You need to add ¼ to 1 teaspoon of salt to a glass of water or eat something salty to maintain fluid/electrolyte balance.A person with low aldosterone may also urinate 15 to 20 times a day and drink excessive quantities of water. Unless salt is added to the water, the fluid/electrolyte balance in the body is further disrupted.
Sensitivity to Light / Dependence on Sunglasses Are you one of those people who can’t stand to be out in the bright, midday sun without your shades? Oversensitivity of the eyes to bright sunlight is a sign of adrenal problems from a chronic sodium-potassium imbalance which prevents the pupils from properly constricting in response to bright light.The good news is that being out in the midday sun with no sunglasses is a way to strengthen the adrenals. When I do errands, I try to leave my sunglasses in the car and walk to and from the stores so that my eyes get a good dose of unobstructed sunlight.I’ve noticed that my eyes have become significantly less sensitive to sunlight over the years as my diet has improved with the general banishment of refined sugars and carbohydrates in my home. While I still wear sunnies for safety reasons to reduce the glare while driving, I frequently find myself forgetting to put them on at all on very sunny days.
Photo Sensitivity Dependence on SunglassesAre you one of those people who can’t stand to be out in the bright, midday sun without your shades? Oversensitivity of the eyes to bright sunlight is a sign of adrenal problems from a chronic sodium-potassium imbalance which prevents the pupils from properly constricting in response to bright light.The good news is that being out in the midday sun with no sunglasses is a way to strengthen the adrenals. When I do errands, I try to leave my sunglasses in the car and walk to and from the stores so that my eyes get a good dose of unobstructed sunlight.I’ve noticed that my eyes have become significantly less sensitive to sunlight over the years as my diet has improved with the general banishment of refined sugars and carbohydrates in my home. While I still wear sunnies for safety reasons to reduce the glare while driving, I frequently find myself forgetting to put them on at all on very sunny days.
Really dry hands / Lines in your fingers and hands Turn your hand over and examine the skin of the fingertips. Do you see nice, plump fingertips or is the skin covered with vertical lines? If they are nice and plump, that is a good sign for your adrenals. Lots of vertical lines in your fingertips indicate adrenal stress.My own fingertips used to be quite lined years ago, but getting off refined sugar plumped them out nicely within a few months.
Balding Lower Legs Do you have bald patcheson your lower arms and legs or sparser hair in those areas than you used to (particularly men)? This could be a sign of adrenal fatigue.Boys entering puberty with sparser beards and leg/arm hair than their peers are frequently those with low adrenal function and an overall lower drive to achieve.
Unexplained Hip or Knee Pain Muscle weakness is a frequent sign of adrenal insufficiency. Unexplained back or knee pain with no accompanying structural defect may indicate weakness of the muscles supporting the pelvis and/or knees.In the case of lower back pain, chronic adrenal stress leads to weakness in the muscles which support the pelvis causing the pelvis to subluxate in a posterior direction. In other words, the lower back pain has nothing to do with the lower back and everything to do with muscular instability in the pelvis

I guess my next step is to reduce stress and maybe try Milk Thistle. Please let me know if you’ve had success with this!

For some additional insight, check out this thread on the topic: Symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency.

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