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The Thyroid – Adrenal Connection


November 5, 2014 | Published by

thyroid systemIt has been known for over half a century that about 80% of those suffering from adrenal fatigue also have a number of symptoms of low thyroid. If your adrenal fatigue has a thyroid component, it is usually necessary to strengthen both the adrenals and the thyroid simultaneously for full recovery to take place.

The thyroid is another endocrine gland sensitive to the effects of stress. Unlike the adrenal glands that have many functions, the thyroid has one major function: to control the rate at which energy is produced in the individual cells of the body. However, getting your thyroid function tested has the same disadvantages as testing for adrenal function using blood tests; marginally low thyroid function does not show up on these standard tests. Compounding the problem, insurance companies have limited thyroid testing to only one test (typically the TSH) instead of allowing a wider range of thyroid blood tests that could give more information.

There are some observations, though, that you can make yourself to determine if your thyroid may be low. Although these are not precise or conclusive, I have found them valuable clinical indicators that make me suspect thyroid function to be lower than optimal. A list of these follows:

  • Your basal body temperature, taken before rising in the morning, is below 98.2°F (oral) or 97.2°F (underarm).
  • Your stamina or capacity does not improve with increased exercise. (Typically, as you exercise, your stamina and capacity increase with repeated exercise, even if you have adrenal fatigue).
  • At 9:30 PM you hit a wall and are ready for bed but there is no 11:00 PM second wind (as is often seen in pure adrenal fatigue).
  • Reaction time is slightly slower than you know it should be when you are driving a car, engaging in sports or operating equipment.
  • You gain weight easily, especially around your hips and thighs, even when eating the right foods in normal portions.
  • The outside of your eyebrows are much thinner than normal.
  • You feel sluggish and not fully awake much of the day. (Those with pure adrenal fatigue usually feel awake by 10:00AM, or if not by 10:00AM, after the noon meal.)
  • Your energy does not noticeably improve after your evening meal or after 6:00PM.

If approximately half of the above indicators are present, then you may have a low thyroid component to your adrenal fatigue. If so, there are several possible solutions. Both your adrenals and thyroid are ultimately regulated in similar ways by a gland called the hypothalamus. Taking a hypothalamus extract may help normalize your thyroid as well as your adrenal function when they need a little fine-tuning.

Supporting the adrenal glands can also go a long way in supporting the thyroid gland. Underperforming adrenals can tax the thyroid, and vice versa. In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, there are herbs, vitamins and glandular extracts available that can help with adrenal support.

Note that both of these glands are very sensitive to and easily undermined by body burdens. If low thyroid seems to be a factor in your adrenal fatigue, check for body burdens again before doing anything else. The above are only some of the body burdens that can continually compromise your health without your knowledge.

The key to determining underlying body burdens is to look at your “Health History Timeline” (PDF link-right click to save). Note any things that occurred within a few months of the onset of your adrenal fatigue. Once the body burden is discovered, find a way to limit or remove it. Just because they are sometimes difficult to isolate or treat, does not mean they are not important. The real detective never gives up until the crime is resolved.

Image Credits: Thyroid system via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. James L. WilsonAbout the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.

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  • Jessica Notman says:

    is there a specific hypothalamus supplement you recommend?

    • Hi Jessica,

      Dr. Wilson’s Adrenal Rebuilder contains hypothalamus extract, as well as adrenal,pituitary, and gonadal extracts. We do not have recommendations for singular hypothalamus extracts, though there are many available. With anything, go with a brand you trust with excellent manufacturing and sourcing practices. Hope this helps – thanks for your question!

  • Amanda says:

    My daughter is 18 now, and has been taking levothyroxine for 4 years now, and whilst there was a definite improvement in her symptons once she started to taking it (panic attacks stopped, temperature control went back to normal, slight improvement in energy levels etc) , the adrenal fatigue (or is it CFS??) symptoms have never gone away and she still suffers with tiredness, bowel problems, headaches, aching muscles after exercise (beyond the norm) etc. Repeated trips to doctors have been unsuccessful as they do not acknowledge Adrenal Fatigue as a condition….Any suggestions to improve her quality of life?

    • Hi Amanda,

      It might sound redundant, but it would probably be best for her to see a practitioner who is knowledgeable in adrenal fatigue and related conditions. She may have other body burdens that are impeding her progress. Some of these issues could have been brought on, or exacerbated by, the adrenal fatigue. Have you contacted Nutri-Link for a possible referral? They are our U.K.-based distributor, and they work with a network of practitioners there. If not, here is their contact information: 8458 949 767, You can also try Dr. Alexandra Chambers, who is based in London. You can find her contact information here on her website:
      I hope this helps, and that you’re able to find someone who can properly work with your daughter in feeling more like herself.

  • Dr.Rajesh says:

    This is wonderful tips.

  • Joyce L. Hamilton says:

    I have a hyperthyroid and was taking methimzole 10mg 3x daily then down to 2x daily. .I then started taking a natural product called thyroid sooth by natural remedies and it was shown to my doctor. the throid seem to be regulated. I have always been tired even when taking the meds but over this year and a half the fatigue has increased. I am always tired even if I have slept 7 hours. I can barely get out of bed, crave sweet/salty foods, have a stressful job where I stay up at night or get up early to do it because I can’t think. forgetful, foggy brain. I can not motivate myself to do anything. I use to exercise everyday. I know I don’t eat right. I am an Occupational Therapist and do homecare. I mention adrenal fatigue to my doctor about a year ago but she said I don’ have that. It was never tested.What kind of foods can I eat everything bothers my stomach and I haven’t slept good in years. I am awake most of the night. What can I take and what is a good diet. p.s. I have been taking vitamins, vitamin D, omega’s, MSM ,drinking Raw Food Meal Garden for Life you name it. I want a normal life and feel good. Please Help!!! Joyce

  • Cheryl Adelmann says:

    Hi– I’ve had severe adrenal exhaustion since last April when I completed an Olympic-distance triathlon. This event was preceded by several other stressful events including rehearsing and performing in a musical for three months, family visiting, and several trips the preceding year. I’ve had chronic sleep problems for years and, amidst all this, I have been in a VERY chronically stressful relationship, which I’m now leaving. After the triathlon, I just collapsed, exhausted, emotionally and physically. I had a period that lasted two weeks, and I could do nothing but sleep for weeks–that has stretched into ten months. I immediately gained a bunch of weight, and have topped out at 50 lbs overweight (178 vs my normal 128). I’m exhausted, cannot sleep well at night, my joints are swollen, and have periods that last two weeks at a time. I have Hashimotos hypothyroid, and I am wondering how my body put on all this weight in response to the stress I’ve had. I’m up for a robotic hysterectomy next week for removal of a large (10c) fibroid, and I wonder how well my body will handle the surgery. Also, and very significantly, my adrenals are in constant pain, esp the left one, to the point that I cannot walk well, let alone exercise. I appreciate your help!! Thank you!!

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Cheryl,

      That’s a good, albeit tough, question. We wouldn’t be able to say for certain how well your body will handle the surgery. Your doctor will be best fit to make that judgment. We can say that surgeries and other medical procedures can be stressing to the body, especially if you are already experiencing adrenal fatigue. What you can do in the meantime is support yourself and your stress response the best you can. We recommend starting at this blog article, which features a video by Dr. Wilson as well as links to additional resources:

      Thanks for writing, and please let us know if we can help with anything else!

  • Sierra says:

    Hi, I’m reading your book and it says to come to the website for natural thyroid supplements. Where can I find that page?

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Sierra,

      For now, Dr. Wilson’s thyroid support supplement, Thyro-Balance, is unavailable. It should be available by the end of this year. When it’s back, it will be listed on the website. If you’re signed up for our newsletter, you’ll get a notification when Thyro-Balance is available. Thanks for writing!

  • Annie says:

    I’ve severe adrenal fatigue as well as fibro and cms and Hasimotoes.
    Ive just ordered DrWisons adrenal quartet.Im in the UK
    Will it be delivered to me before Christmas day

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Hi Annie,

      Your order is shipping out today via USPS Priority Mail. There’s a small chance it could get there before Christmas, but it will likely arrive after. The typical transit time for this service to the U.K. is 7-10 business days, but can take longer depending on customs traffic. You should be receiving a tracking number by tomorrow so you can keep an eye on it and have a better idea of when it will arrive. If we can help with anything else, please feel free to contact our support team at Thanks for writing!

  • J says:

    Is there any information/research available regarding hyperthyroidism and adrenal fatigue?

    I have had some issues with overactive thyroid in the past and just recently. Over the last few years I have had all the classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue (dizzy upon standing, nothing tastes salty enough, energy worst in morning, feel best in evening, overall fatigue constantly). I had a hyperthyroid episode before any obvious adrenal issues but generally over last few years thyroid blood tests come back normal.

    • Adrenal Fatigue Team says:

      Great question – unfortunately, we do not have any information on our website or blog on the link between hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. We’ve taken note and will work to add information in the future.

  • Patsy says:

    I need a dr in my area that can help with thyroid & adrenal fatigue

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