When Thyroid Patients May Need Adaptogens
Doing a lot of stress filled activities, even if you are having fun?
Going through chronic emotional or physical stress?
Feel like the pressures around you are all too consuming?
Feel like you might implode due to all that’s going on?
Feel like you are constantly in overdrive to survive whatever is going on?
It happens to anyone.
We go about our lives fairly well. But then comes those life situations which stress the heck out of us, day after day. Things like too-demanding or negative bosses, or jobs we can’t stand, difficult people we are forced to be around or deal with, loved ones being sick, us being sick, holidays, or our own personal issues whether physical or emotional.
And to the rescue come certain herbs and supplements called ADAPTOGENS.
Adaptogens–what they are, who they work best for, etc
An adaptogen is any particular substance found in certain plants and herbs which works to help even out your biological internal response to stress, whether from people stress, job stress, emotional stress, physical stress…on and on. i.e. an adaptogen helps you cope, helps you adapt, helps you recover better. And negative side effects are few. It’s straight from nature! But each person needs to figure out for themselves if they tolerate any of these, or need to avoid some of them, and in working with your doctor. Because we can’t know that for anyone reading this.
Examples of adaptogens to help counter high cortisol from chronic stress include
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Note it can raise thyroid hormones a tad, so watch your free T4 and free T3 if you are taking it awhile.
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea L.–mostly for morning only, as it can be too stimulating in the evenings)
- Siberian Ginseng (also recommended to take any Ginsengs in the daytime rather than evening to prevent bedtime insomnia)
- Korean Ginseng
- North American Ginseng
- Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
- Suma (Pfaffia paniculata)
- Holy Basil (many patients use this to lower known high cortisol as revealed by a saliva cortisol test, 2-4 caps per high time)/ If you know that you react to the basil family, not the best to take this.
- Maitake, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms are considered to have adaptogenic qualities.
- Licorice root is also considered an adaptogen, but it can have an aldosterone-like effect and lower potassium which in turn can cause high blood pressure. So important to take lots of potassium with it.
- L-theonine is actually an amino acid, but it can promote relaxation, thus potentially help when going through stress if enough it taken. Janie thrives on her l-theonine when needed.
Many of these herbal adaptogens have a long history of use in China and Russia–hundreds and thousands of years. Most scientific study was begun by the 1940’s by two Russian scientists and have continued in the West. But do research any of the above to see if they are right, or not right, for YOU.
Now wait–let’s get one thing straight…
We as patients have found that adaptogens are usually the most effective for people who have healthy adrenal function, yet are under stress. i.e. adaptogens do NOT treat low cortisol. You have to treat the high cortisol that always PRECEDES the low cortisoi…with adaptogens.
Sure, even with low cortisol, one can take adaptogens! But our vast experiences show that adaptogens will not help you make a full recovery from having low cortisol / adrenal fatigue / adrenal insufficiency. For those people, it’s more about giving oneself back the cortisol they need, which adaptogens do not.
And we also have learned over the years that the ONLY way to know for sure is ordering a 24-hour adrenal saliva test, NOT a blood test–the latter which is mostly bound cortisol, whereas saliva represents what is available for use. Blood is also only once; saliva is at 4 key times in a 24 hour period). Then it’s IMPORTANT to compare your results to the following page: www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/lab-values
What do saliva results look like to show I have healthy adrenal function, yet I’m just stressed i.e. do not have just “low cortisol” or just “high cortisol”?
The saliva result that usually means you have healthy adrenal function but are under stress is like this: low, high, low, high or high, low, high, low. i.e. a see-saw effect. Those kind of see-saw patterns are the ones that usually react the best to the use of Adaptogens. Same with ALL HIGHS.
How do we choose which adaptogen, plus how to dose adaptogens?
It’s a bit individual and totally up to you. I, Janie Bowthorpe, love to use Ashwagandha plus l-theonine when stressed, plus I have a couple of bottles with multiple of the above adaptogens in them. I keep them handy since I never knows when stress will fall upon me! Most people state they need to dose several times through the day if stress is on-going. Some might need more than the bottle recommends–I, Janie, do. Each person has to figure out what works for them. Studying each adaptogen may be key, as well.
By the way, you can FEEL GOOD while under stress..for awhile, then all hell breaks lose. So it’s important to take adaptogens DURING stress, even if you still feel good.
Is there good research supporting the effect of adaptogens that patients have experienced?
- This study reveals how even one dose can give good results (even if some people say they need more): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16261511
- A good study of Rhodiola: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10839209
- A good study of Ashwagandha: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/
- A good study about Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14737017
- And you can look up any others….
Any other beneficial results from adaptogens?
Definitely. For one, regular and multiple doses while under long-term stress can prevent us from falling into adrenal fatigue with its low cortisol three or more times in a 24 hour period.
Wonderfully, adaptogens can be high in antioxidants, meaning anti-cancer. And some folks who have used adaptogens regularly and for years report few to no colds or the flu. Ashwagandha has been shown to possibly help Parkinsons and Alzheimers, as well as inhibit breast, colon and lung cancer in laboratory testing.
How do I use adaptogens if saliva cortisol testing shows a see-saw pattern (like low, high, low, high or vice versa)?
Since this is a stress pattern, not just a “low cortisol” or “high cortisol” result, adaptogens do work. BUT…you have to take them four times a day (similar to when you did your saliva spit) and more than the bottle says to take. It’s NOT about one time a day, or two a day. Many use formulas with two or more adaptogens in them.
Can I use adaptogens if saliva cortisol testing shows two lows together and two highs together, (like low, low, high, high or vice versa)?
We use a particular adaptogen like holy basil to lower those highs by taking it approx. one hour before those results revealed the high cortisol, and more than the bottle says, like 2-3 Holy Basil. Lowering the highs will naturally raise the lows over time.
BUT…some lows are so miserably low that some will take ACE (adrenal cortex) during those times while working to lower the highs. Once the highs are down in approx 3 weeks (give or take), then we begin a slow wean of the ACE, taking one cap off every ten days or so. It’s slow to give the adrenals time to kick back in with cortisol.
NOTE that if we are still hypothyroid or have other stressors (active lyme, viral or bacterial infections, candida stress, etc), we may need to continue with the adaptogen and ACE until the stressors are corrected.
Where can I find adaptogens?
Health food stores and certain supplement websites.
Important note: STTM is an information-only site based on what many patients have reported in their treatment. Please work with your doctor. This is not meant to replace that relationship or guidance, and you agree to that by reading this website. See the Disclaimer.)