What hurts your brain can hurt your glands

Photo by 123RF
Photo by 123RF

What hurts your brain can hurt your glands

by Charles S. Masarsky, D.C.
Stripes Okinawa

A study published in 2012 described 26 male veterans who suffered blast-related concussions during deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. Blood work demonstrated low levels of several hormones. These levels were significantly lower than those of non-concussed controls.

Concussion: The Pituitary Dimmer Switch

The idea that concussion can lead to problems in the glandular or endocrine system is now well-known in the medical research community. When you consider the anatomy of the pituitary gland, this becomes easier to understand. The pituitary is sometimes called the master gland, due to its influence on the thyroid gland, the adrenal glands, and the testicles or ovaries. In addition, the pituitary secretes some of its own hormones such as human growth hormone.

The pituitary is controlled by a narrow stalk of brain tissue. When this tissue is jarred by a concussive injury, any function controlled by the pituitary gland can be depressed. It is like engaging a pituitary dimmer switch.

Concussions can result from sports injuries, slip-and-fall accidents, street violence, and whiplash, among other causes. Blast-related concussion tends to be more severe and more long-lasting than concussion from blunt injury, putting military personnel in combat zones at increased risk.

Warning Signs

Blood work to determine hormone levels – an endocrine panel – is the best way to diagnose or rule out post-concussion glandular problems. However, some symptoms that appear months after the injury can alert you to the need for that lab work.

  • Cold Intolerance: If you find yourself uncomfortably cold in a room where everyone else is comfortable – where you yourself would have been comfortable prior to your injury – that could indicate poor pituitary control of thyroid function.
  • Salt Craving: If you crave salty foods more often than you did before your injury, that could indicate an adrenal problem related to low pituitary function.
  • Fatigue: There are many possible causes of fatigue. However, if it develops post-concussion, it could be related to a lack of human growth hormone or thyroid hormones.
  • Loss of Sex Drive: Loss of sex drive can be related to reduced levels of the pituitary hormones follicle stimulating hormone and/or luteinizing hormone. These hormones control your levels of testosterone and/or estrogens. Human sexuality is influenced by a complex of factors, but the post-concussion pituitary dimmer switch is one possible culprit.

What You Can Do

In addition to competent medical care, there are some things you can do to support your endocrine system. In 2018, I published a paper outlining the possible benefits of breathing exercises, chiropractic care, and other avenues for counteracting the pituitary dimmer switch. Of particular importance is dealing with obstructive sleep apnea if that is present. (Please see my previous article on tongue-throat exercises for better sleep.)

There are drugs and environmental toxins that disturb glandular function. These are called endocrine disruptors. Opioids, NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and alcohol are among the drugs that can disrupt glandular function. Many environmental toxins such as lead, mercury, and many pesticides are toxic to the brain. Remember, whatever hurts your brain can hurt your glands. What is not widely known is that certain synthetic fragrances, such as those commonly used in air fresheners, dryer sheets, and sunscreen are endocrine disruptors.

A more complete discussion of endocrine disruptors is available from NIH. If you can reduce your exposure to these substances, your glands will thank you.

About the Author

While serving as a medical specialist (MOS 91-B) in the U.S. Army Reserve, Dr. Masarsky earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from New York Chiropractic College in 1981. He is in the private practice of chiropractic in the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC with his wife and partner, Dr. Marion Todres-Masarsky. For research citations related to this article, contact Dr. Masarsky at viennachiropractic@verizon.net. Also visit his practice’s website: www.neurologicalfitness.com, and You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkEKVboDAUWH4YEJnfrlnPg.

Sources Used For This Article

Wilkinson CW, Pagulayan KF, Petrie EC, Mayer CL, Colasurdo EA, Shofer JB, Hart KL, Hoff D, Tarabochia MA, Peskind ER. High Prevalence of Chronic Pituitary and Target-Organ Abnormalities after Blast-Related Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. Front Neurol, 2012; 3:11. Full text: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273706/

Masarsky CS. Hypoxic Stress: A Risk Factor for Post-Concussive Hypopituitarism? Medical Hypotheses, 2018; 121: 31-34. Abstract: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987718305826

 Illustration From: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/endocrine-diseases/acromegaly


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