Is Hypothyroidism To Blame For Adrenal Fatigue?

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms


Most of us are running on stress, caffeine, and minimal sleep. As a result, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, and poor digestion seem to have become the new normal.


Many practitioners do not specialize in hormones and can easily overlook these common medical red flags. The goal today is to help you understand the difference between hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue symptoms so you will feel more empowered to test, treat, or refer out as needed.


Common Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms vs. Hypothyroid Symptoms


Thyroid Gland


The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that drapes across the front of your windpipe. It releases thyroid hormone, which controls the growth and metabolism of essentially every part of your body.




Hypothyroidism is a result of the thyroid gland failing to produce enough hormones. This may be due to several factors, including low iodine levels, autoimmune disease, over-response to hyperthyroidism treatment, medications, pituitary disorder, and sometimes pregnancy.


Common Hypothyroidism Signs and Symptoms


  • ‍‍Feeling Tired: Thyroid hormone is like a gas pedal for energy and metabolism. Low thyroid hormone levels leave you feeling drained.


  • Weight Gain: Hypothyroidism signals the body to eat more, store calories, and burn fewer calories. This combination leads to weight gain.


  • Feeling Cold: Low thyroid hormone slows down your body’s normal heat production, leaving you cold.


  • Sleep Disruption: Thyroid hormones are involved in many bodily processes and can cause fatigue during the day and sleep disturbances at night. Some studies suggest that low thyroid hormone affects deep sleep, which may also contribute to daytime fatigue.


  • Other signs and symptoms to look out for include hair loss, body aches, irregular menstruation, poor concentration, depression, dry skin, and constipation.


Testing Thyroid Levels


Usually, traditional doctors will only test for TSH, but TSH is only one hormone that makes up the thyroid function.


A routine thyroid panel usually consists of TSH, free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies to show how well the thyroid hormone is being converted to its active form and how it uses the thyroid hormone at the cellular level to drive metabolism.


Gluten intolerance, food sensitivities, heavy metals, and deficiencies of; vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, and omega-3 fats could also lead to thyroid dysfunction.


Adrenal Glands


Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys and produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress, and other essential functions.


Adrenal Fatigue


It’s important to note that Adrenal Fatigue isn’t a recognized medical diagnosis, but it is a popular term in Integrative and Functional Medicine. Some doctors refer to Adrenal Fatigue as “Adrenal Dysfunction”, “Adrenal Exhaustion”, or “HPA Axis Dysfunction.” For now, the diagnosis name isn’t as important as recognizing the symptoms so you can accurately test your patients. 


Adrenal fatigue is thought to occur when the adrenals have become overtaxed by excess cortisol release and can no longer produce levels of cortisol necessary for optimal body function.


Common Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms


  • Feeling Wired and Tired: Adrenal Fatigue patients commonly wake up feeling exhausted and depend on caffeine to keep them awake throughout the day. Their energy levels tend to crash in the afternoon, but they often get a “second wind” before bed and find they can’t wind down or sleep soundly, perpetuating the cycle.


  • Weight Gain: Cortisol levels rise during times of stress to assist with fight or flight functions. If you have chronic stress or irregular sleep schedules, your adrenals can take a beating and overproduce cortisol. Over time, high levels of continuous cortisol have been shown to increase belly fat and appetite.


  • Temperature fluctuations: Imbalance adrenal hormones can cause a fluctuation of body temperature during times of stress and relaxation.


  • Sleep Disturbances: Cortisol is produced by the adrenals and is a key player in adrenal fatigue. It helps regulate sleep patterns and helps the body cope with everyday stress. Normal cortisol levels rise during the early morning hours and are highest at about 7 a.m. They should drop very low in the evening and during the early phase of sleep. But if you are in a constant state of stress or on a disrupted sleep schedule, your adrenals can produce too much cortisol causing disturbances in sleep patterns.  


Testing Adrenals


Most functional medicine practitioners will measure cortisol levels throughout the day. Saliva and dried urine labs are the most common tests, and they allow patients to test from the comfort of their homes. Some practitioners will also test for DHEA, another hormone produced by the adrenals. The most important thing to remember is you don’t have to be a specialist in everything. 


Know the basic signs and symptoms and run some tests. Autoimmune Disease is one of the regenerative medicine treatments offered at Integrative Telemedicine. Our physicians will perform a comprehensive evaluation of your condition in order to determine which treatment might be best for you. They will explain your options so that you can make a decision you’re most comfortable with.

If you have any questions or would like to schedule a consultation, call our friendly staff today at (520) 396-4866 or fill out our online request form. We look forward to being your healthcare partner.

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