The adrenal glands are best known for producing cortisol, also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is released to respond and adapt to stress by controlling mood, fear, and motivation. While cortisol is an essential part of human life, too much cortisol can be quite troublesome.
That’s the case with adrenal fatigue, which is when the adrenal glands are overtaxed by the amount of cortisol production. While adrenal fatigue is a real disease, many traditional doctors either don’t consider it when treating patients or haven’t adopted it as an actual condition.
For those that believe they’re suffering from adrenal fatigue, scheduling a visit with a functional medicine doctor is often the best course of action. They can help you determine the root cause of the problem, as well as help you make the necessary lifestyle changes to reverse it.
Read more: Recovering from Adrenal Fatigue
The Connection Between Your Thyroid & Adrenal Glands
One thing you have to understand about the adrenal glands is that they’re heavily linked to the thyroid gland. In most cases, experiencing an issue with one of these glands generally means you’re experiencing an issue with the other one. It’s rare to have an issue with just one of them.
Whether you’re showing symptoms of adrenal fatigue or thyroid problems, it’s important that you’re tested for both. For adrenal fatigue, you can test cortisol levels in the body. For thyroid problems, you can test thyroid-stimulating hormone, free T3, reverse T3, and free T4 levels.
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In the event you have an issue with both glands, which is more common than you’d think, it’s important that you’re treated for both at the same time. If you only treat one of the problems, then it can worsen the symptoms of the other problem — which is what you want to avoid.
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Common Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
In order to diagnose adrenal fatigue, your functional medicine doctor will analyze your symptoms to see if they fall in line with normal adrenal fatigue symptoms. While there are a lot of common symptoms a majority of adrenal fatigue patients experience a combination of them.
Here’s a list of some of the most common symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Debilitating fatigue, feeling tired when you shouldn’t
- Low energy levels, even after getting a full night’s sleep
- Weight gain, specifically in the abdominal area
- Sugar or carb cravings
- A growing need for caffeine to increase energy
- Trouble falling asleep and relaxing when it’s time to go to bed
- Anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions
- Weakened immune system due to long-term stress
- Reduced libido or sex drive
- Difficulty managing or controlling stress
If you’re experiencing all or most of these symptoms, you likely have adrenal fatigue and it’ll continue to worsen until you make the necessary lifestyle changes — such as sleeping better, stress management, eating a healthy diet, improving your social life, and exercising regularly.
Common Symptoms of Hypothyroidism
Like we mentioned above, the adrenal glands and thyroid glands are connected in a variety of different ways. In fact, an underperforming thyroid has a lot of similar symptoms to that of adrenal fatigue — which is why adrenal fatigue is often underappreciated and misdiagnosed.
Read more: Adrenal Fatigue & the Thyroid Connection
Here’s a list of some of the most common symptoms related to hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid:
- Fatigue, feeling tired when you shouldn’t
- Colder body temperature (thyroid regulates body temperature)
- Depression or anxiety symptoms (depression more often than anxiety)
- Brain fog, difficulty thinking straight
- Weight gain throughout the entire body
- Muscle and joint pain
- Dry skin
- Constipation due to slower bowel movements
- Infertility due to its impact on progesterone and estrogen
- Reduced libido or sex drive
As you can see, there are a lot of similarities between the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and an underactive thyroid. Some of the major differences with hypothyroidism include changes in bowel movements (constipation), the type of weight gain experienced, skin health, and joint pain.
Read more: Thyroid Problems? What’s Really Going on With Your Thyroid?
How to Treat Adrenal Fatigue & Hypothyroidism Together
Before you can start treating adrenal fatigue and hypothyroidism, it’s important that you confirm the presence of both. This is generally done through blood tests, which can be ordered through and analyzed by a functional medicine doctor. It’ll measure the hormone levels in your blood.
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They’ll focus on cortisol levels, thyroid-stimulating hormone levels, and levels of free T3, free T4, and reverse T3. Once you receive hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue diagnosis, your doctor takes a look at your symptoms and determines what the best treatment plan is moving forward.
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Like we mentioned above, it’s best to treat the two conditions simultaneously. While treatment may include adrenal supplements to support adrenal fatigue or thyroid medication to support thyroid function, it’ll also include making healthier and smarter lifestyle changes on a daily basis.
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This generally includes eating better, sleeping better, managing stress better, and reducing unnecessary stressors. Your doctor may also look at any other underlying medical conditions that might play a role in adrenal exhaustion and find ways to naturally improve adrenal function.
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The term adrenal fatigue isn’t nationally recognized by traditional doctors, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real condition and shouldn’t be treated appropriately. In fact, the more you ignore the symptoms and avoid treatment, the worse it will get over time — which is never a good thing.
If you’re someone who’s experiencing adrenal fatigue symptoms, hypothyroidism symptoms, or both, it’s important that you schedule a visit with a functional medicine doctor immediately. The sooner you can detect adrenal fatigue, the sooner you can find an effective solution or treatment.
That’s where I come in. I’ve been practicing functional medicine for over 20 years and helped a wide range of patients find peace in their life. I’m not just focused on the ‘what,’ but also the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ Together, we can figure out what’s wrong, why it’s wrong, and how to improve.
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A healthier, happier, and more fulfilling life is right around the corner. If you feel that your adrenal health is deteriorating and you want to find the best form of treatment, contact me immediately!