Adrenal, Thyroid + Sex Hormones - Dysfunction & Healing

As we may have heard or personally experienced, problems with our adrenal, thyroid, or reproductive hormones play a big role in our physical health + sense of well-being.

While our adrenal, thyroid + reproductive hormones each have unique functions + responsibilities, they also work in tandem as part of a larger, inseparable system of hormonal function, balance and regulation (aka, the endocrine system). 



The adrenal, thyroid and reproductive systems work to govern and maintain their own specific set of duties while also serving as a built-in backup for each other. 

Here's a high-level overview of the local function, interdependencies, and common characteristics of dysfunctions in each of these sub-systems:

ADRENAL sub-system 
Primarily responsible for throttling energy allocation, intercepting and handling demands perceived or placed on body, determining stress response, regulating sleep, setting nervous system fight/flight mode, etc.

Lends backup to -- Reproductive sub-system. Thyroid sub-system
Pulls backup from -- Reproductive sub-system. Thyroid sub-system

Adrenal sub-system dysfunction is often characterized or accompanied by:  
excessive energy (hyperadrenalism); lack of energy (hypoadrenalism); altered cortisol patterns; inability to fall asleep or stay asleep soundly for 6-9 hours; desire to sleep excessively; energy spikes/crashes; excess body hair growth/loss; increase in male patterned hair growth/loss in females; under/overactive libido; extreme intolerance for or overreliance on caffeine, alcohol, sugar; theobromine intolerance; too much/little intake of salt, carbs, fat or water; too much/little exercise or activity; use of cortizone shots, steroids, inhalers, anti-inflammatory drugs; inability to properly outlet stress; chronic or extreme state of physical, mental and/or emotional stress; severe nutrient deficiencies 

Common names referring to Adrenal sub-system hormones include: 
cortisol, adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine, dhea, androgens, pregnenolone, etc


THYROID sub-system  
Primarily responsible for adjusting our body's metabolic rate + speed, controlling our core + basal body temperatures, defining our base energy level, directing storage of cholesterol + fat, etc.

Lends backup to -- Reproductive sub-system. Adrenal sub-system
Pulls backup from -- Adrenal sub-system. Reproductive sub-system

Thyroid sub-system dysfunction is often characterized or accompanied by:
sluggish thyroid (hypothyroidism); over-active thyroid (hyperthyroidism); difficulty maintaining weight; fast weight gain/loss, low/excess energy, puffy eyes, face, calves, ankles; hair loss (esp eyebrow outer 1/3); low core or basal body temperatures; irregular or absent menstrual cycles; constipation/diarrhea; jittery; excess sweating; lumps, pain, swelling of neck/throat; weight distribution on upper arms, hips/thighs; cholesterol imbalances; food allergies or or intolerances (particularly gluten, dairy, nut or soy); severe nutrient deficiencies

Common names referring to Thyroid sub-system hormones include: 
TSH, T3, T4, free T3, free T4, reverse T3, thyroxine, etc.



Primary hormone sub-system responsible for permitting reproductive capacity, enabling sexual organ development, supporting sexual function, driving libido, promoting fetal growth, etc.

Lends backup to -- Adrenal sub-system. Thyroid sub-system
Pulls backup from -- Adrenal sub-system. Thyroid sub-system

Reproductive sub-system dysfunction is often characterized or accompanied by: 
menstrual cycle absence or irregularity; PMS/PMDD; acne; increase in male patterned hair growth/loss in females; infertility; miscarriage; under/overactive libido; early or incomplete development of sexual organs; use of contraceptives or artificial hormone replacement drugs; disease of sexual organs; thyroid hyper/hypofunction; adrenal hyper/hypofunction; extreme intolerance for or overreliance on caffeine, alcohol, sugar; severe nutrient deficiencies

Common names referring to Reproductive sub-system hormones include: 
estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, testosterone, LH, FSH, pregnenolone, etc. 



The endocrine system supervises the hormone sub-systems and their energy needs (largely through the negative feedback loop control center that resides in the HPA axis of the brain). 

The adrenal, thyroid + reproductive hormone sub-systems work to keep their local area balanced and running smoothly. However, at any time, the endocrine system may (re)direct -- or even shut down -- efforts of one sub-system to re-allocate its energy + resources to another struggling sub-system that it deems as a higher priority.

Many functional practitioners have observed that the endocrine system often seems to allocate energy to the sub-systems in the following order of priority:

  1. Adrenal sub-system
  2. Thyroid sub-system
  3. Reproductive sub-system

Chronic dysfunction in any one area (adrenals, thyroid or reproductive) can create problems local to that area and -- if not resolved -- may also inhibit the functional capacity of other areas.

When we understand the interdependence of hormonal sub-systems, we understand why hormonal imbalances are best cared for by supporting the endocrine system as a whole, while also addressing issues specific to the struggling sub-system itself. 



Optimal hormone function is indisputably dependent on the energy we derive from the food we consume on a daily basis. The energy + nutrients we get from our food support production of the hormones our body needs to fulfill its many complex, life-giving duties.

The good news is that hormone balance can be restored and supported through a variety of targeted, natural therapies -- proper food and nutrient intake being only a foundation. 

The unfortunate news is that hormone repair can often take longer than we'd personally prefer.

Natural healing supports the fullness of long-term healing, but it can take a fair amount of patience, attention + time. Certainly it takes more effort than mindlessly popping a pill.

While there may be a few individuals able to heal their own hormonal issues quickly, most of us are unable to affect long-term change and healing on our own -- and end up worse if we try by unintentionally creating a state of greater imbalance. 

The use of targeted therapies for hormonal healing -- even "natural" therapies (e.g., food, supplements, herbs, oils, cognitive strategies, movement, etc) is best determined and led by a practitioner. It is wise to find someone who has been trained in natural therapies as well as the common healing reactions, contraindications, and long-term implications associated with them if our goal is effective, long-term healing. 


Image courtesy of Mister GC at