The Adrenal and Thyroid Connection (How It Affects Hypothyroidism)

The Adrenal and Thyroid Connection (How It Affects Hypothyroidism)

adrenal and thyroid connection

What The Connection Meant For Me

My journey into chronic fatigue syndrome began by being diagnosed with a slightly under active thyroid gland. As my illness proceeded and medication showed ineffective in alleviating my fatigue symptoms totally, I came to understand the importance of the adrenal and thyroid connection.

Whilst thyroid medication did get rid of some of my symptoms, like falling hair, and lowered body temperature, and indeed some of the fatigue for a short while, clearly in my case an under active thyroid wasn’t the full story.

Overlapping symptoms of low thyroid and adrenal fatigue:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Chronic yeast infections
  • Brittle nails
  • Thinning hair
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Depression

It was some time later when I was again suffering with unrelenting fatigue and a bunch of other symptoms, that my new naturopath mentioned ‘adrenal fatigue’ to me. After treating my adrenal fatigue with natural supplements and supporting my thyroid nutritionally, I was able to stop my thyroid medication completely. This showed me clearly there is a link between hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency.

Up until this point I thought my issue was simply an under active thyroid gland. Now I began to understand there was something besides hypothyroid going on, and I started to learn as much as I could about adrenal fatigue. It became clear to me that my problem from the beginning was most likely weakened adrenal function due to too much stress.

I can’t help feeling that if the adrenal fatigue had been diagnosed and treated in conjunction with hypothyroid in the early stages, my health would not have deteriorated to the level it did.

Because many of the symptoms of both illnesses overlap, I believe that anyone diagnosed with under active thyroid should also have their adrenal function tested. Find out more about adrenal fatigue here.

adrenal and thyroid connection

Slow Down Of Thyroid Production

When you are facing a stressor your adrenal glands produce a whole cascade of hormones, including cortisol to help you deal with the threat you are facing. Bodily functions not required at this immediate time are slowed down or placed on hold temporarily until the stressful situation has been dealt with. This means functions like the immune response, digestion and thyroid production are all slowed down.

However, ongoing stressors from daily life means your adrenals are on overdrive for extended periods of time constantly pumping out cortisol until your adrenal glands eventually become exhausted.

As one of the hormones produced in the HPA axis, cortisol is controlled in a negative feedback loop with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Once in your bloodstream, cortisol signals its presence and both glands slow down so that no further stress hormone is produced.

adrenal and thyroid connection

However both the hypothalamus and pituitary glands as part of the HPA axis, also regulate thyroid hormone production and this is also slowed down leading to the many symptoms of hypothyroid.

Effect Of Stress On Thyroid Hormone Production

The thyroid hormones T3 and T4 work together with the enzymes needed to convert T4 to T3. Free T3 is the ‘gas’ and active form of the hormone, whilst Reverse T3 is the ‘brakes’ and the inactive form of the T3 hormone.

When your body is under constant stress, more T3 is converted into Reverse T3 rather than the free-form. This slows down metabolic processes and hypothyroid symptoms ensue.

Unbound Thyroid hormone – the effect of cortisol

Elevated cortisol levels in the body affect many things. One of the ways it can affect thyroid is by causing excess estrogen to accumulate which in turn increases the level of thyroid binding globulin TBG.

TBG is a protein that assists thyroid hormones to move within your body. However, when thyroid hormones attach to TBG they are not in their active forms. This means T4 cannot be stored or convert to Free T3 to be utilized by your body in energy production.

Putting it all together

Get more understanding of the adrenal and thyroid connection. There are some very good books available which explain how adrenal fatigue develops and what you can do to treat it naturally.

Having this basic understanding will help you identify and remove the stress in your life and heal your adrenals. From my own personal experience I believe that adrenal dysfunction starts before thyroid dysfunction. Read my review about the high quality Vitamin C supplement I used to help heal my adrenals. Vitamin C is one of the most important adrenal supplements.

Healing your adrenals may prevent you developing a hypothyroid condition. As well as using stress reduction techniques, there are some useful adaptogenic herbs proven to help mediate how your body reacts to stress.

I hope this information is helpful, please feel free to leave a comment.

44 Comments

  • TheTourist April 12, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Just reading the symptoms of thyroid and fatigue blew my mind! I had no idea that all of those symptoms could be related to fatigue.

    You mentioned that there are very useful books available which explain how adrenal fatigue develops and what I can do to treat it naturally. Can you mention some of them? Do you know where I could buy such books?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Ann April 13, 2018 at 7:48 am

      Hi there

      Thanks for your comments. The book I found very helpful is ‘Adrenal Fatigue the 21st Century Stress Syndrome’ by James L Wilson. This book explains everything about this syndrome step by step in as easy to follow style. It explains how you get adrenal fatigue, what happens in your body and what to do about it. You can go back to it from time to time and read through chapters again and again to keep you on track towards recovery.

      Hope you find it useful.

  • Jackie April 22, 2018 at 4:20 pm

    This is more common than we think. Our bodies are well designed machines ready to signal us when something is not properly functioning or being overly used, there in fatigue, tiredness and so forth. How long did the process of recovery lasted for you? Most people i know who are going under medical care about their thyroid issues are still trying to find out what to do and if they should trust their doctors or not. Thanks for sharing your story is reallly inspiring for all of us!

    • Ann April 22, 2018 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Jackie 

      Thanks for your comments.

      I’m now 5 years post recovery. My view is that adrenal/thyroid issues need to be resolved naturally with good nutritional supplements and lifestyle changes.

      I took thyroid medication for a short time but gradually weaned myself off it (under supervision from my naturopath) as my health improved. Unfortunately many people seem to think that once you are prescribed thyroid meds you are on it for life without any other option.

      • Carolynn September 12, 2018 at 9:53 am

        It’s usually doctors and pharmacists who insist a patient must be on thyroid medication for life, once started.

        I went off Synthroid after switching doctors. She gave me the go ahead to do so. The cure was worse than the disease for me and my T4 was very close to normal.

        Initially I had thought treatment for hypothyroidism would help my fatigue. I do have CFS/ME. Not only did it not help, it created even more problems. I’d also tried the natural dessicated thyroid treatment. My advice–if you have the option whether or not to take medication for hypothyroidism–don’t take it.

        My sister and many others have also found that it just became a roller coaster ride of swinging from low thyroid (hypothyroid) symptoms to overactive thyroid (hyperthyroid) symptoms.

        • Ann September 12, 2018 at 2:13 pm

          Hi Carolynn
          Thanks for your comments and I’m sorry to hear you’ve been on the thyroid roller coaster. My experience was also one of having difficulty getting the dosage of thyroid medication balanced. I also came off synthetic thyroid medication and worked with my naturopath on supporting my adrenal and thyroid function nutritionally. It took a few months, but my thyroid function normalized.

  • Jane September 18, 2018 at 9:01 am

    Thanks for the great article Ann. I’m currently working through some Thyroid issues and never thought to consider my adrenals. Thank you so much, I have increased my Vitamin C and will continue my reading on adrenal fatigue…..I’m loving your website, please keep the articles coming..

    • Ann September 18, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Hi Janine
      Thanks for stopping by and sorry to hear you’re currently having thyroid issues. In my experience you can’t fix your thyroid without healing your adrenals first. Look at what is causing you stress in your life and manage it as this is really the only way you can get long term healing for your adrenals.

  • Shane Black November 4, 2018 at 1:53 am

    Hi Ann, 

    Thanks so much for this very informative article on adrenal and thyroid connection. I’m sorry to learn of you suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, but it’s encouraging to see that you have personal experience with the topic in order to be able to pass on advice. It was interesting to read the effect that cortisol has on the body. 

    Thanks again,

    Shane

    • Ann November 4, 2018 at 2:03 am

      Hi Shane thanks for stopping by. Yes I hope my website can help people realize that information and help is available without the need to resort to medication. Glad you found the article informative. 

  • Nicole Stiles November 4, 2018 at 1:54 am

    What a great read! Stress really can hurt your body. I went through a period of being so stressed out everyday that no matter how well I ate or how much I exercised, I couldn’t lose weight. Then I visited home for the holidays, ate like crap, didn’t exercise, and lost 10 lbs. It was all in the stress. That’s what it did to me without additional health problems. I can’t even imagine how much more trouble it can cause for some who is struggling with thyroid issues.

    • Ann November 4, 2018 at 2:14 am

      Hi Nicole. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It is amazing how we think more exercise is better, but as you proved for yourself, sometimes more is not better. Particularly if you are already under stress too much exercise just adds to the stress.  It was a lesson that took me a while to understand because immediately after exercise I always got the feel good endorphin charge.  Nowadays I listen a bit more carefully to what my body is trying to say.

  • Noke November 4, 2018 at 2:08 am

    Ann, 

    Very informative information which I’m fairly confident not many understand chronic fatigue syndrome. I was clueless almost 20 years ago when I was first exposed to someone who was diagnosed. It’s what? I said, that’s b.s. That sounds corny, like the doctor didn’t know what was wrong, so he just made that up. I seriously thought that. 

    I told her she was just over doing everything, to much school, homework and needed to take a rest. I figured she was maybe experiencing environmental exposure to her mother’s maniac depression or some behavior disorder she may be developing. This chick is wacky i started to think.

     I had little knowledge of such things, I was in college, a young know-it-all, I worked graveyards, stayed active as any twenty something would do. So, I thought to myself how could this person suffer from such a bizarre thing that seem to be only for old people to have. I was naive, selfish and unconcerned. She was a nut job. 

    Later, many years later did I discover as the medical community was discovering more about chronic fatigue syndrome information became more readily available, did I start to remember and acknowledge what an ex-girlfriend had told me she had. I felt like a putz, and of course we had long parted ways due to my lack of understanding and mistrust with not believing her and making excuses to not be any fun. It didn’t make any sense to me and I felt like she just wanted some sort of pity party. I was a grade A, number 1 jackass! 

    I can only hope she is well. And I sympathize with you Ann, if you still suffer from this and I hope more effective methods are available for treatment and understanding of this ailment and that one day. Feel better.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Noke

    • Ann November 4, 2018 at 2:23 am

      Hi Noke Thanks for stopping by and I’m glad to say I fully recovered from chronic fatigue syndrome which is why I share info on my site. I want people to know that it is possible to recover using natural treatment. Unfortunately your reaction to hearing someone say they have chronic fatigue syndrome is pretty common. When I mentioned it to some people I could sense an almost immediate ‘turning away’ from me. I could read their mind, they were thinking ‘jeez I thought this woman was pretty smart but clearly she’s a nut’. Very rarely did anyone have any questions for me about the illness which again inficated they thought it was all in my head. Thankfully it seems that there is a bit more acknowledgment that the illness is real nowadays but there’s still a way to go. I’m hoping my website can help increase awareness but also offer information for those seeking to get well. 

  • Curtis November 8, 2018 at 12:39 am

    Interesting information. Your pictures show a woman. Does this issue also occur in men the same way?

    Does this occur if the thyroid is removed?

    I was wondering, were you under a tremendous amount of stress that may have led to this issue?

    Can this be inherited from relatives?

    Vitamin C is great for so many issues. Good to see it also helps with adrenals.

    Thank you for providing this useful information.

    • Ann November 8, 2018 at 12:47 am

      Hi Curtis thanks for stopping by. Yes adrenal fatigue and thyroid issues can happen to men too, however it’s more prevalent in women. Generally if your thyroid is removed you’ll be on hormones to replace those that your thyroid would normally make. There may be problems getting the correct dosage of the hormone. Even if you are on thyroid hormones you could still be under stress in your life that can affect your adrenals. Yes, you are correct I was under stress when I first started having adrenal and thyroid issues. There can be a genetic connection as with any illness. 

  • Stella November 8, 2018 at 12:43 am

    Hi Ann,

    This article got me thinking. …

    I did not realise that aches and pains could be caused by poor thyroid and adrenal function.  As someone who cleared her debilitating eczema naturally, I completely understand how importance it is to eat balanced meals that your body can absorb, including all the necessary supplements one should take.

    I am glad you managed to heal using natural methods, and, I am sure a lot of people could learn from you.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ann November 8, 2018 at 1:06 am

      Hi Stella thanks for your comments. Yes the purpose of my site is to show people that you can heal yourself naturally from chronic fatigue and other fatigue issues. It’s not easy and it’s important that you find the right help, but it is possible. I’m so glad to hear you cleared your exzema naturally. What methods did you use? I’m sure it would have taken some time and effort to find what worked for you?

  • Alexander November 8, 2018 at 12:44 am

    I have hypothyroidism and you have peaked my interest in this connection to the adrenals. My stress is low now, but there have been many times that stress was out of control for me. I take several supplements including Vitamin C, but also a very high quality iodine supplement that I think is very important for many reasons like the lack of iodine now in our water supplies and iodine being a critical substance for healthy glands.

    • Ann November 8, 2018 at 1:28 am

      Hi Alexander thanks for stopping by and glad to hear you have your hypothyroidism under control. Yes I’ve used iodine in the past to help recover nutritionally from my hypothyroidism. I had to be careful with it though as at one stage it sent me into hyperthyroidism when my adrenals were still weak and my system very unbalanced. Hormones need very fine tuning, it’s a delicate balance for sure.

  • Jenny Hennig November 8, 2018 at 12:48 am

    This is a great post.  It is interesting to learn all the symptoms that can be associated with low thyroid levels.  Stress really takes a toll on the body.  When it comes to your own health you really need to do your own research, as doctors just want to prescribe medication. It’s good that you were able to find a naturopath, and that you found ways to treat your symptoms naturally.  You mention that there are some good books available to help you understand adrenal fatigue and how to treat it naturally, can you mention a few?

    • Ann November 8, 2018 at 1:23 am

      Hi Jenny thanks for your comments. The book I love is Adrenal Fatigue – The 21st Century  Epidemic by James L Wilson. It’s written in a very easy to understand step by step way and helps you understand how to treat yourself but more importantly all the lifestyle reasons you got sick in the first place. I wholeheartedly agree with doing your own health research as you say, doctors only have prescription meds as their tools. 

  • Quinn November 8, 2018 at 12:50 am

    Thank you for this wonderful article adrenal and thyroid connection. I never knew that these glands control so much of a person’s body functions and how they feel. I know this article will give someone all the information they need once they see symptoms. You have listed and recognize that they may be having adrenal and thyroid glands problems. A person’s health is one of the best things they can have so keeping up with what’s going on with in your body and how you are feeling should be first priority.

    Thank you again for this great post.

    • Ann November 8, 2018 at 1:16 am

      Hi Quinn thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. Yes your hormones in general affect so many other body systems. It’s difficult to understand how powerfully they can affect you until something goes wrong . Such a delicate  balance between all of the hormones and in this case between the adrenals and thyroid gland.

  • Matthew November 8, 2018 at 12:57 am

    Does having a Thyroid condition stop you from doing certain things! The reason I asked is that my wife has a Thyroid problem but even though I have been to all her doctor’s appointments, I still don’t understand the seriousness of this problem, 

    My wife has tried to explain it all to me but I’m like a broken sponge, I just can’t get to grasps how having a Thyroid problem can be life-changing.

    I think after reading this awesome post you will help me understand it better, but, I still am clueless to what Adrenal is and what it can cause problems within a person that just wants to be normal.

    People with Thyroid Problems are normal, so I apologise for that, I just need my wife to know I understand that she is going through some tough times but I will always be there for her 🙂

    • Ann November 8, 2018 at 1:12 am

      Hi Matthew thanks for taking time to comment. I’m sure your wife appreciates that you are trying to understand her health issues. I guess the way I started to understand it was to realize that your hormones affect all body systems which is the reason for so many varied symptoms. The main symptom of low thyroid is fatigue which stops you being able to join in many activities you would normally be able to do. I hope your wife is able to get help to resolve her health issues. 

  • AnxietyPanda November 11, 2018 at 9:16 am

    Goodness! It’s quite a fine line when it comes to the symptoms for both an underactive thyroid and adrenal fatigue! The information provided in this article can make the difference between someone not getting the help they actually need and vice versa. 

    I’m interested in holistic healing and natural ways of curing, instead of mainstream medication.If I may ask, will you perhaps be releasing an article on some natural remedies for these conditions? Besides Vitamin C, what other natural healing methods would you recommend?

    • Ann November 11, 2018 at 9:27 am

      Hi and thanks for stopping by. Yes you are correct, it is a fine line as both glands are connected. I have several articles on my site under the ‘Adrenal Fatigue Info’ category which you might find helpful. Also this article outlines changes that can be made to lifestyle as well as some other natural supplements that can help with adrenal fatigue syndrome.  

  • Barry Bullard November 24, 2018 at 2:22 am

    i never knew that adrenal fatigue could be connected or related to your thyroid.  Sometimes i feel most of the symptoms you listed in bold and figured it’s just adrenal fatigue and never considered my thyroid at all. 

    Will definitely focus on healing my adrenals.  Do you have any recommendations on how to do this effectively and naturally?

    • Ann November 24, 2018 at 2:30 am

      Hi Barry thanks for stopping by. Find more information on healing your adrenals in my other post here https://quitchronicfatigue.com

  • Yormith96 March 11, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Ann, I must commends all your efforts so far I have been following your post on health, most especially on chronic fatigue. What am reading here on this post about symptoms of thyroid and fatigue it’s really surprising to me, who could have believed Muscle aches and pains and depression are symptoms of it. 

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      Hi and thanks for your comments, when your adrenals and thyroid are not working well, it’s amazing the range of symptoms you can experience. 

  • Amanda March 11, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    This is very interesting as I do have an under-active thyroid and although I take synthroid for it I still have many symptoms.  I think this warrants a visit to the endocrinologist again to see about my adrenal function.

    The symptoms I still have are thinning hair, dry skin and brittle nails.  How does the Doc. go about testing your adrenal function?

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 1:22 pm

      Hi thanks for leaving a comment. Many people don’t get full resolution of their underactive thyroid on synthroid. From my own experience many thyroid issues (that are not Hashimoto’s autoimmune etc) are actually caused by adrenal fatigue syndrome. If you go to your GP they will do a blood test for adrenal function. However, this is not the most accurate test for adrenal fatigue. Naturopaths/functional medicine practitioners will do a 24 hour saliva test which measures how your adrenals are functioning at different times of the day. Hope you manage to get better resolution of your symptoms. 

  • Chris March 11, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    Really interesting and informative article, it’s great to pick up info symptoms that are associated with low thyroid levels. 

    Out of all the symptoms you’ve covered here, I believe that stress is the most common in a lot of medical conditions, and most people don’t even realise the links. 

    It’s also great to hear that you did your own study into this problem and found some decent natural remedies etc to try out instead of the bog standard chemical prescriptions. 

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 1:16 pm

      Hi and thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. You are correct, stress is such a killer in our non stop busy lives and responsible for many illnesses. 

  • Olalekan Taliat March 11, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    Hormone interactions are inevitable, as a well connected gland the adrenal and the thyroid glands must function effectively to avert false stress signal. My uncle who was diagnosed for hyperthyroidism later realised he would have control it initially by a prescribed dose or cortisol. Apart from the deep knowledge offered by this article , its also a well structured and well researched topic. Thank you for this amazing write up.

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 

  • phranell86 March 11, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    From my studies, I discovered that the thyroid glands play vital functions in our body’s homeostasis as well as maintaining our energy levels. Although most orthodox medical practitioners will deny that it doesn’t exist, adrenal fatigue is a real medical condition affecting millions of people. If anyone really needs help improving the quality of their life, a visit to a naturopath is a must. Stress is the number one culprit responsible for adrenal fatigue in most of the cases. In addition to Vitamin C supplements, other supplements such as Licorice roots, Rhodiola Rosea and Holy Basil Leaf are known to help with adrenal fatigue. 

    Please, can you write an article on how to diagnose adrenal fatigue? 

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 1:27 pm

      Hi there thanks for your comment. Funny, but I was just thinking I need to write an article on adrenal fatigue diagnosis. I’ll add it to my list. Thanks for prompting me. 

  • NiceAngel March 11, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    Many questions arose from the issues of hypothyroidism and adrenal problem. The common answer from some experience doctor always pointed at the fact that both adrenal production and the thyroid production has some link together.According to a popular medical physician in New York, He said in some cases, the victim of adrenal fatigue always experience dispression, sleeplessness,low energy, headache. In such case some patient rely on drugs like caffeine and others. Some abuse the drug and can’t do without it, so sad. Also when thyroid gland is not functioning well, the patient tend to feel thesame symptoms as the adrenal problem.Many doctors is wise in checking both adrenal malfunction and hypothyroidism these days when one of these problem arises. It is only a careless physician that will fall victim of worsening the patient’s state of health.

    From this post I have learnt that one can use nutrition to control these symptoms. This would be great because supplement from food can not be as harse as that from the synthetic drugs. This article is informative and as add more to my knowledge.

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 

  • Kavita March 11, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Hey Ann,

    I happened to come across a  valuable read second time on CHRONIC fatigue syndrome, first time in a science journal years ago. However, your article on the subject gave me better clarity what this is all about. Earlier I was of the opinion that this subject might be good only in academic interest but, as the life advanced I could recall couple of acquaintances complaining about chronic fatigue sort of problems, leaving me clueless. 

    As this article was able to give  me a new way of thinking, I am sure many of the persons who complained of long fatigue, must be having the syndrome to certain extent, and they need to undergo a test in the best interest of their health. Now, I can use the piece of advice from a person who has once been through the same problem to educate those fellows who have least idea that this problem doesn’t have only to do with hypothyroidism, the prevailing wrong perception.

    I felt enlightened to know that a stressed out adrenaline can cause whole host of health issues and how this important organ/gland can be taken care of. Seriously, very few people would know that there is a connection between adrenaline and thyroid and your entire health in general. A real good work deserving to be spread.

    Keep the up the good work Ann. More power to you!

    • Ann March 11, 2019 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks for your comment, I’m so glad you found the information in this article useful. 

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