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Adrenal Fatigue vs. Thyroid Dysfunction: How to Tell

If you’re frequently tired, have the blahs, and feel like it’s difficult to keep weight off, you may be experiencing the winter blues if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere. Or it could be a more serious condition.

You might naturally assume your thyroid’s off balance if you have a family history of thyroid issues. However, adrenal exhaustion and thyroid dysfunction are closely linked and frequently mistaken. Some of the symptoms they have in common include extreme fatigue, never feeling well-rested, fuzzy thinking and memory issues, unexplained weight gain, and depression.

Adrenal fatigue and thyroid dysfunction are often confused because imbalances between the adrenals and thyroid are connected between their root origin in the pituitary gland and hypothalamus parts of the brain. These work together to increase and decrease hormones release by the adrenals and thyroid, as well as the sex organs. When one system gets thrown off balance, the other can be disrupted. This makes it more difficult to figure out if it’s adrenal or thyroid imbalance.

So how can you figure out if it’s hypothyroidism or adrenal exhaustion? Here are some telltale signs for both.

The biggest signs pointing to thyroid imbalance include:

  • Paleness and dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Cold/heat intolerance (especially when everyone else is comfortable)
  • High blood pressure
  • Puffiness in the face and extremities

For adrenal fatigue, the biggest signs include:

  • Dizziness on standing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Salt cravings
  • Feeling overwhelmed by minor situations

If you feel like you may have either a thyroid imbalance or adrenal exhaustion, you can visit your doctor for specific tests. Adrenal tests may include having your cortisol levels checked or going through an insulin-induced hypoglycemia test to see how your endocrine system reacts. For thyroid issues, standard tests often include testing your levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), total and free thyroxine (T4), and total and free triiodothryonine (T3).

What if you test negative for both but still feel terrible? Of course, it makes sense to get a second opinion, as blood tests are not foolproof. And while we don’t recommend foregoing medical treatment if it’s necessary, it can be worthwhile to evaluate your food and lifestyle habits to see if you can make changes that will help boost your energy, improve your mood, and clear your thinking.

Some questions to ask yourself:  Do you get enough sleep? Is it restful or restless? Are you fitting healthy movement into your life? Are you eating healthy meals at regular times? Do you eat for emotional reasons?

A Health Coach can help you figure out the answers to these questions if you’re uncertain about what you should be eating or how much sleep and exercise you really need to feel good.

Have you ever had to heal from a thyroid issue or adrenal exhaustion? Share your tips in the comments.