The Endocrine system is a complex system of glands that create and release hormones throughout the body and help manage our immune system. There’re seven glands in total and they zig zag their way down our body from our brain to our groin. Some of them function by selecting materials from the blood stream converting them into hormones then releasing them back into our blood streams to be used by the body. Hormones help regulate our growth, our immune system, our organs, our fertility, our weight and our happiness. As a result of infections and toxins in the body this finely tuned and delicately balanced system of chemical messengers can start going haywire. They can start producing too much of certain hormones and not enough of others or they can just become completely depleted which can make you feel incredibly unwell and have a huge impact on your quality of life.
Adrenals are glands in the endocrine system that sit above the kidneys. The hormones they produce regulate blood pressure, water and salt They regulate metabolism, our immune system, produce female and male sex hormones such as progesterone and testosterone. They also produce cortisol a hormone that is absolutely essential to our existence.
Knowledgeable doctors advise taking supplements to support adrenal function as patients with chronic disease often suffer with Adrenal Fatigue which is when the adrenals stop producing enough of what we need to cope. The symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be very similar to the symptoms of other diseases so it’s important to assess whether adrenal issues could be the reason you are unwell. A possible indication could be significant weight gain or weight loss for no apparent reason.
The Dutch Test – Adrenal and Sex Hormone Test
The Dutch test can tell you if you are over producing or underproducing the essential hormones the adrenals produce. Essential hormones such as Cortisol, DHEA, Progesterone, Oestrogen and Testosterone. The test is fully comprehensive and used by many Lyme doctors to give a more thorough picture of their patients condition. The Dutch tests also measures oxidative stress, melatonin, vitamin B12, glutathione, dopamine and serotonin. It’s a very useful test for anyone struggling with an auto immune condition and/or Lyme disease.
The problem with most people today isn’t that they are cortisol deficient, it’s that their cortisol levels are too high and they need to take steps to reduce them. Cortisol is a hormone that we release in times of stress and in today’s break neck fast paced society our stress levels are higher than ever and so is our cortisol. Under healthy conditions cortisol helps manage blood pressure, reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system but if too much cortisol is released it can also suppress the immune system and trigger inflammation. Thankfully there is a yin to cortisol’s yang called Phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine is present in every single cell in your body. In studies Phosphatidylserine has been shown to help patients suffering with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Dementia and ADHD. It slows down age related cognitive decline. It has also been shown to reduce depression and boost athletic performance. Critically it counteracts the damaging effects of excessive cortisol production. Signs and symptoms of excessive cortisol production can be weight gain (particularly around the face, chest and abdomen), high blood pressure, muscle weakness, skin changes and mood swings.
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In the less likely event that you are deficient in cortisol there are ways to increase your levels. Hydrocortisone can boost levels of cortisone in the body but it’s very important to get your levels tested as supplementing can cause immune suppression. Hydrocortisone is a steroid and should only be prescribed by a doctor and it doesn’t often sit well with Lyme patients because suppressing your immune system with steroids will allow infections to further take hold. It does however give relief from inflammation.
As a natural alternative I would prefer to use liquorice root. Studies show that liquorice root is efficient at increasing cortisol levels. Symptoms of cortisol deficiency can include weight loss, weakness, fatigue and low blood pressure.
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DHEA is a master hormone that oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone can be created from. As we get older we produce less and less of this hormone and it is often described as a fountain of youth supplement. People who supplement this hormone, claim that it can help with depression, improve bone density, reduce obesity, promote heart health, lowers inflammation in the body, fights fatigue, improves aches and pain, boosts the immune system and boosts our production of the all-important sex hormones.
In pre or post-menopausal women 50% percent of their testosterone levels are created from DHEA. Dosage of this hormone should be monitored carefully as over supplementing can have unpleasant side effects.
Progesterone and Oestrogen
These two essential hormones that are produced in the adrenals and the ovaries are definitely each other’s yin and yang. The perfect balance of these two hormones is essential for fertility as well as your general well-being. However, most people who suffer with chronic disease can suffer with either depletion of these two hormones or oestrogen dominance which can lead to a greater susceptibility to things such as cellulite, excess weight on the hips, fibroids, varicose veins and breast cancer. Progesterone has an anti-depressive, anti-anxiety effect and also helps us to fall asleep. There are also bad types of oestrogen that can be very toxic to the body like xenoestrogen’s which come from man-made plastics and can cause infertility.
Oestrogen high but normal levels of progesterone.
If you are oestrogen dominant then you need to bring your levels down. DIM, which is naturally occurring in cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli is excellent for reducing oestrogen dominance and also detoxifies bad and toxic oestrogen.
Low Progesterone levels.
If your progesterone levels are low you can top them up by using a progesterone cream. Many women will find their levels of progesterone are low so supplementing can bring with it a host of benefits including more regular and pain free periods. Women going through the menopause could also find supplementing progesterone very beneficial and will make the process slightly more bearable.
Low Progesterone and Oestrogen Levels
If your depleted of both oestrogen and progesterone then supplementing with pregnenolone can really help. Pregnenolone is an amazing supplement and is the precursor to pretty much every hormone produced in the adrenals and it has some pretty powerful and impressive effects. It boosts cognitive skills, learning and memory, hence it’s often recommended for Alzheimer’s patients. It’s anti-aging and can reduce wrinkles. It reduces anxiety and depression. It can stimulate deep sleep and it’s an immune system stimulant and balancer. People who supplement Pregnenolone report a greater sense of well-being.
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Men need to supplement this if they are deficient but testosterone is also essential for women. Chronic disease groups are often dominated by women maybe because they are more tenacious when it comes to gathering information but perhaps it’s also to do with the fact that testosterone is the most powerful anti-inflammatory of all the hormones and as a result men suffer with less inflammation then women do. Testosterone inhibits many inflammatory proteins, enzymes, cytokines and helps moderate immune responses, so it’s absolutely essential that whatever your gender, that you have the optimum amount. A great supplement for boosting testosterone is Tongkat Ali. Tongkat Ali is derived from a rainforest tree native to South East Asia and not only does it boost testosterone levels but it also builds muscles, reduces body fat, slows the ageing process and crucially for anyone suffering from chronic disease it increases ATP. If you haven’t read about it yet, ATP it is the basic unit of energy that keeps us alive and most people with fatigue or any kind of chronic condition are going to need to boost their ATP levels.
Another gland in the Endocrine system that is prone to becoming under or overreactive with Lyme disease is the Thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland in the neck. It works together with the adrenals and the pituitary gland to produce and release necessary hormones. The hormones the thyroid produces T3 and T4 are essential to many processes within our bodies. Amongst other things they help regulate our breathing, heart, nervous system, body temperature, menstrual cycles and weight. Tell-tale signs of an overactive thyroid are rapid weight loss, anxiety, irritability, nervousness, sweating, trembling, hair loss and lighter periods. An under-active thyroid might display its self with excessive weight gain, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depression, heavy periods, joint and muscle pain.
Some patients with Lyme disease and coinfections have inadequate thyroid levels and have been misdiagnosed with diseases such as Hyperthyroidism, Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s. The thyroid hormones we produce T3 and T4 are created by the body through the conversion of iodine. Iodine can be found in eggs, dairy, prawns, tuna, cod, seaweed and prunes. However, it’s recently been estimated that up to 70 % of the world’s population maybe iodine deficient. In fact, the world health organisation recently declared Iodine deficiency the most prevalent but also most preventable cause of impaired cognitive development in children and it was estimated that average iodine levels have dropped by at least 50% in the last 30 years. Just so you know how vital Iodine is, there is an iodine receptor in every single cell of our bodies. It regulates cellular functions, such as the uptake of nutrition and cellular drainage of toxins via the lymphatic system. If iodine intake is low then toxic chemicals like pesticides and plastics will bind to these receptors instead. What’s more, iodine can be used to make ATP, which as I mentioned previously is our most important unit of energy.
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Although it’s early days there’s some research to suggest that regenerating the thymus gland could be beneficial in the fight against disease. The thymus gland sits just above our heart and it is most active when we hit puberty. Afterwards it starts to shrink, its function starts to decline and by the time we turn 75 it’s just a lump of fatty tissue. The thymus’s role is to take the white blood cells that our bone marrow makes, releases hormones to mature them, then it selects the best ones to go out into our body to become T-Cells. It’s basically like a university for white blood cells, some go out in the world and full fill their purpose and the ones that don’t make the grade the thymus destroys. Only 1% of all the white blood cells that go through the Thymus become fully fledged T-cells.
There are supplements you can take to help support and boost the thymus such as these by Allergy Research Group which contain natural thymus tissue derived from organically raised sheep.
The pituitary gland works in tandem with the hypothalamus and functions as a regulator of hormones in the body. Whilst the hypothalamus is busy regulating and linking the nervous and the endocrine system together it’s also busy delegating orders to the pituitary which then carries them out. The pituitary produces the thyroid stimulating hormone TSH which the thyroid needs in order to make T3 and T4. If Lyme disease has damaged the pituitary it may not be making sufficient amounts of TSH which then means the thyroid can’t do its job properly.
The hypothalamus gland is sometimes referred to as the master gland as it links the endocrine system to the nervous system. The main job of the hypothalamus is to assess external and internal changes such as heat, hunger, hormonal changes and blood pressure. It also responds to stress and manages our daily body rhythms such as the secretion of melatonin from the pineal gland. The hypothalamus then collects all this information and then makes changes to correct any imbalances. It works in tandem with the pituitary gland and sends hormones to it to regulate hormone production in the gonads, the thyroid and the adrenals. It sends oxytocin to the pituitary which tells the uterus to contract during childbirth and stimulates milk production for breast feeding and regulates our growth hormones. If the endocrine system was a company then the hypothalamus is the CEO. However, the hypothalamus can be compromised by neurotoxins. Neurotoxins are poisonous substances that can damage or destroy neural tissue. Lyme disease and coinfections produce neurotoxins that diminish the release of certain neural transmitters leading to all kinds of neurological complications such as confusion, memory loss, paranoia, balance problems and achy muscles.
If all the above information leaves you confused then you can simplify things and cover your endocrine systems basic needs with ashwaghandha. Ashwaghandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. It’s been used for over 3,000 years to reduce stress, increase energy levels and improve concentration. It’s also an adaptogen which means if you are over producing or under producing a certain hormone it will either raise or reduce depending on what your body needs. It has a powerful effect on the endocrine system particularly on the thyroid and the adrenals bringing their hormone production in to perfect harmony.
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