Is it my Thyroid or my Adrenals?
Hands up if this sounds familiar: You feel exhausted, but you can’t sleep. Your weight is creeping up, but you don’t have the energy to work out or cook. You’re irritable and anxious, and you’re noticing more hair on the bathroom floor.
It could be adrenal fatigue or low thyroid or… both. They are both endocrine glands and when one gland is affected there is a ripple affect. I know you hear me say this all the time… So how can you tell the difference?
Adrenal fatigue and low thyroid conditions can cause similar symptoms—but there are significant differences too. Both can be frustrating and seriously disrupt quality of life. But there is hope, and you can feel better and enjoy your life again! The trick is getting the right support, and that starts by narrowing down exactly what’s happening in your body.
How is adrenal fatigue different to low thyroid?
It’s common for people to confuse adrenal fatigue and low thyroid, as both conditions can lead to exhaustion, weight gain, and other symptoms. They also primarily affect women—women are 5 to 8 times more likely to have hypothyroidism than men. However, there are some critical ways in which they differ.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands, which produce stress hormones like cortisol, are sent the signal to stop producing too much cortisol. On the other hand, low thyroid is when the thyroid gland doesn’t produce thyroid hormone.
Let’s take a step back and look at the definition of each. Adrenal fatigue isn’t an actual diagnosis, but it’s what people commonly name the constellation of symptoms that occur with hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA-axis) dysregulation. Since so many people know it as adrenal fatigue.
The HPA axis is a complex communication system between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and adrenal hormones. It controls the stress response in our body. When we experience stress, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol. Cortisol is sometimes called the “stress hormone” because it helps us respond to physical, emotional, or mental stress.
Cortisol is helpful short-term, but when we experience chronic stress, the adrenal glands are cranking out stress hormones for longer than what they were designed to do. With HPA dysregulation, the brain and adrenal communication is thrown off, which can result in feeling “wired and tired” initially and then after a while just flat out exhausted.
Your thyroid is like the body’s metabolic thermostat, and it controls metabolism, weight, temperature, and heart rate. It also plays a major role in fertility and your menstrual cycle. With hypothyroid, you either don’t make enough thyroid hormones to meet the body’s needs (primary hypothyroidism), or you can’t convert the available thyroid hormone to the active form.
The primary cause of hypothyroidism for most women is Hashimotos. In this autoimmune condition, the body mistakenly attacks its own thyroid tissues. So this is an Immune Condition and not a Primary Thyroid condition.
Both adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism benefit from lifestyle changes like diet, supplements, stress management, and sleep. Some women sometimes require a little support from medication for the thyroid while they work on the lifestyle changes.
Adrenal Fatigue vs. Hypothyroidism
Some of the symptoms mirror each other (or it’s possible to have both), and they can also be attributed to other conditions, especially in the early stages.
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
- Feeling like you can’t turn off or unwind (“wired but tired”)
- Feeling stressed by everything
- Low libido
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Blood sugar dysregulation
- Lightheadedness after standing up
- Low blood pressure
- General feelings of overwhelm about everything
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty recovering from exercise (or just like you can’t push yourself)
- Weight loss or weight gain
Tests for adrenal fatigue
You can test for adrenal function via a urinary or salivary test. I like the DUTCH TEST however, I will usually suggest starting with diet, lifestyle, and supplements to get started.
Drenamin, Adrenal Complex, and Ashwagandha are my go too’s for supplement support.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Thyroid
- Weight gain
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold all the time
- Anxiety or depression
- Weak nails
- Low heart rate
- High cholesterol
- Thinning hair or eyebrows
- Brain fog or memory issues
- Stiff or weak muscles and joints
- Irregular menstrual cycle
Tests for Low Thyroid
I recommend doing a whole panel to get the full picture. Tests include:
- Total and Free T4
- Total and Free T3
- Reverse T3
Thytrophin PMG, Thyroid Complex, Minerals and Digestive Support are my first line suggestions depending on the person.
IS IT MY THYROID OR MY ADRENALS?
Adrenal fatigue and Hashimotos often go hand-in-hand. The adrenals and thyroid are both part of the endocrine system responsible for making hormones. When one system is out of balance, it can have a ripple effect on the other systems. So it could both!!
If you think you might have adrenal fatigue and/or thyroid issues, I recommend working with someone who can order the appropriate lab tests and help you create a personalized healing plan that addresses both conditions.
A combination of supplements, lifestyle habits, and medications (only when necessary) can help get both adrenal and thyroid back on track.
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I hope you enjoyed this article and please if you know someone who would benefit please pass it on.
One last thought! We are now in Q4… How do we want to feel, be, etc etc at the end of this crazy year? If it is different than where you are now… jump in and get started. You will be amazed what you can accomplish in 3 months if you are focused and determined!
Have a Healthy week