Today in our CFS Symptoms Series is the discussion on the hormonal imbalances found in PWCs. This post is very long and in depth, so I did not go into the emotional and social effects the hormonal imbalances have on PWCs, but it’s safe for me to say that the affects are the same as what I talked about with the other symptoms.
From Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum’s From Fatigued to Fantastic Book:
The hypothalamus is the body’s master gland and acts like the conductor in an orchestra. It sends hormones to its next-door neighbor, the pituitary gland, which in turn controls the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, and the ovaries in females and testicles in males. The hypothalamus also monitors the levels of the hormones that all these glands make and tells the glands whether to make more or less.
The pineal, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands work together to direct and balance the metabolic system (the body’s energy) and the immune system (the body’s defense systems), as well as the autonomic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system that controls blood flow to the skin, muscles and organs. Current evidence suggests that a major portion of the symptoms of CFS are manifestations of a poorly functioning hypothalamus.
Most PWCs have an under active thyroid gland. Even if your doctor tests your thyroid and says that it is normal, but you are showing signs of hypothyroidism, then your thyroid is most likely off. The thyroid gland is the body’s gas pedal. It is in charge of slowing down and speeding up your metabolism. If it is under active, as is common in CFS, you will have fatigue, achiness, weight gain, poor mental functioning and cold intolerance.
PWCs often comment on how their bodies can physically not deal with stress. The adrenal glands are several glands in one. They help direct the body’s defense systems plus assist the body in dealing with stressful situations. If the adrenal glands are under active, the person will suffer from fatigue, recurrent/persistent infections, low blood sugar, allergies/multiple chemical sensitivities, low blood pressure, dizziness, crave sugar, and a poor ability to deal with stress.
Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum says that suppression of the hormonal system plays a huge role in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and this often occurs despite hormonal blood tests being normal.
What all problems will hormonal imbalances cause in PWCs?
The effects of hypothalamic dysfunction on the body’s hormone levels can include (PWCs – See if you can relate to any of these!):
1. Low thyroid hormone which causes decreased metabolism leading to weight gain and low body temperature.
2. Low antidiuretic hormone (vasopressin) which causes decreased ability to hold onto fluid, i.e. frequent urination and increased thirst. Dehydration is common despite increased water intake.
3. Low growth hormone which causes low levels of DHEA (a hormone produced by the adrenal glands). DHEA is used to make other hormones (estrogen & testosterone). DHEA is also linked to energy levels and a general feeling of well-being.
4. Decreased cortisol. This is one area where I have had severe problems. Low levels of cortisol, what is also referred to as the “stress hormone”, causes immune dysfunction, hypotension, and the tendency for a PWC to crash when in a stressful situation.
5. Low ovarian and testicular function – The low estrogen levels can contribute to the decreased blood flow to specific areas in the brain that is seen in PWCs. Low testosterone, in both males and females (I was on testosterone treatment for a while), can cause immune dysfunction. Dr. Teitelbaum says it has been found in CFS patients their total testosterone levels are often normal but the levels of active testosterone are low. In men with CFS, increased testosterone often improved their symptoms dramatically over only a couple of short months.
Also because of hormonal imbalances, particularly that of the hypothalamus, and the immune dysfunction these imbalances cause, PWCs also seem to have infections that usually do not cause illness in most people and recurrent infections.
Common infections PWCs get:
– Chronic sinusitis (I had several sinus infections in less than one year)
– Chronic prostatitis (common in men with CFS)
– Bowel infections (these are very common in CFS) – parasitic, fungal, and bacterial overgrowths are common and often account for IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). The bowel problems can lead to malabsorption and nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities and liver overload.
– Infections such as mycoplasma and Chlamydia (these are upper respiratory infections) and other organisms that are difficult to test for
– Viral infections, such as post-polio syndrome, HHV-6, cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus, can cause hypothalamic suppression that does not go away. Often in most people who do not have CFS the hypothalamic suppression goes away once the viral infection is gone. For PWCs it does not.
Have you often complained to your doctor about having this feeling that your hormone levels are off but they told you everything was okay? I knew something was wrong with my thyroid because I was having severe symptoms and I was gaining 10 pounds in a two week period. The doctor kept telling me my thyroid was fine. It wasn’t. Once I started taking T3 and the doctor got the dosage to where my levels evened out, I felt a huge difference and saw a lot of improvement. I also take Cortisol daily and that has helped tremendously.
Saturday I will finish this series with discussing the flu like symptoms, chills, night sweats, sore throat and headaches.