Thyroid or adrenals? | Part 1: the similarities

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You wake up tired, you go to bed tired. You’re cold, your brain feels like mush, you’re gaining weight just looking at food (or shed pounds without doing anything). Everyone and the internet is telling you it’s your thyroid or your adrenals, but which is it? Besides, all you really care about is how it affects your fertility and most of all, how do you fix it so you can fall pregnant already?

It’s a good thing there is more attention for thyroid and adrenal issues because so many women struggle with it these days. The sad thing is, there is more attention for it because so many struggle with these issues.

The tricky bit can be to figure out for yourself if it is your thyroid that is under-active or your adrenals are depleted. If you have tests done by your health practitioner, very rarely are the adrenals identified as the culprit, and even if your thyroid hormones show your thyroid is indeed under-active, you can’t even be sure if it is a result of depleted adrenals in the first place. So let’s look into which symptoms hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue share, and how to figure out which of the two you suffer with and which came first: the chicken or the egg.

Adrenal fatigue

Adrenal fatigue essentially happens when your adrenals have been overworking for too long. If something stressful happens, your adrenals will fire off stress hormones to help you deal with the situation. Your body however needs rest from stress to recover as it can’t always stay in high alert.

When the stress does not go down, your adrenals will go into overdrive and eventually become overstretched. In the first stage that means you are likely wired though tired, and in later stages you will be completely exhausted and getting up in the morning is like climbing the Himalaya’s. That is because those same stress hormones that are needed for intense things, are also needed in lower doses just to get you up in the morning and get you going.

Remember that stress comes in many forms: yes emotional stress, but also ongoing inflammations, unbalanced sugar levels, and toxicity all are stress to your body.


Your thyroid is the gland responsible for metabolism. Yes, that includes weight management but it’s not the only thing! In fact, metabolism occurs in every cell of our body, so the thyroid is pretty important for all processes in our bodies.

You can imagine that when the processes in your cells are slow because your thyroid is under-active, absolutely every single big process in your body is slow too. No wonder you feel cold, gain weight, and are constipated.

If the thyroid is too enthusiastic by the way (hyperthyrodisim) the metabolism will be too fast which is not good either. Our bodies are absolutely all about balance! Do you remember that funny word from biology: homeostasis?

Sometimes tests will indeed pick up on an under-active thyroid. However, even if tests come back normal while my patient clearly has sluggish thyroid symptoms, especially when their fertility charts suggest a hypothyroid, I will still treat their thyroid and they always feel better for it.

The similarities and the differences

Now that you know all this, it makes sense how adrenal fatigue and an under-active thyroid may look alike, right? Both conditions will give you similar symptoms:

  • Feeling cold
  • Chronic fatigue & waking up tired
  • Weight gain (early adrenal)
  • Hair loss
  • Foggy brain
  • Depression

There are however a few symptoms that make it easy for both you and me to see whether it’s depleted adrenals that are giving you these symptoms, or a slowed down thyroid. Check out part 2 of this post to learn how to tell the difference!