Maybe NOT JUST Your Thyroid? Cortisol and Adrenal Hormones Explained.

Many people don’t think about cortisol when they are told they have a thyroid condition.

However, if cortisol is an underlying reason behind your symptoms and it is not treated, you will find that you never really feel better even though your thyroid condition is being addressed, be it with medication such as thyroxine, or natural medicine solutions.

Today I want to get a bit nerdy with you, and explain the science behind why testing cortisol when the thyroid is out is SO IMPORTANT.


Cortistol influences most cells that take part in the immune reaction, especially white blood cells. Cortisol suppresses white blood cells, natural killer cells. monocytes, macrophages, and mast cells. It also suppresses Adrenal Fatigue. It is a potent anti inflammatory.

I like to think of the thyroid and the adrenals as best buddies. When they are good, they are very very good. When they are bad…. well, you get the idea!

Cortisol – the adrenal hormone to test.

The adrenal glands sit on our kidneys and make our steroid hormones.

Cortisol levels spike within an hour of us waking up, helping us to get active and get going with our day. Then levels drop throughout the day, and should be lowest at night, allowing our natural melatonin production to start lulling us into sleep.


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How Cortisol affects THYROID

Cortisol is extremely important to our thyroid hormones, and it is affected when we have too much cortisol – or when we have too little – such as in chronic fatigue.

Some of the primary cortisol/thyroid interactions:

  • TSH secretion
  • T4 to active T3 conversion
  • activation of T3 at the cell entry point
  • T4 to rT3 conversion

In our modern world, being busy is seen as a badge of honour. However, being constantly on the go every waking minute, without giving the body adequate down time, overstimulates our nervous system, pushing our adrenal glands hard to produce all those excitatory hormones to keep us going. This affects our thyroid hormones.

Stages of Adrenal Stress

Our adrenal glands have 3 stages of adapting to this daily stress.

Pushing our adrenal glands

(stage 1) over a prolonged period of time – often when also associated with a traumatic event – can result in sudden fatigue that usually is manageable with periods of rest

(stage 2). If this fatigue becomes intrusive and persistent and doesn’t seem to get better with rest it is stage 3.

When present for 6 months or more, is classed as chronic fatigue (stage 3).

Here are some 3-point salivary cortisol test results demonstrating the stages:


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Stage 1 – Hyper Adrenal

Common Symptoms:

  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugars
  • Moodiness, irritability, or depression
  • Muscle and bone weakness
  • Skin problems, such as acne, psoriasis or rashes

Stage 2 – Adaptive Response

Common Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Body aches
  • Wired and Tired
  • Low blood pressure and/or high blood pressure – it may fluctuate
  • Lightheadedness
  • Loss of body hair

Stage 3 – Chronic Fatigue

Common Symptoms:

  • Fatigue often worsens with activity
  • Doesn’t improve with rest
  • Forgetfulness, foggy head
  • Joint pain and muscle aches
  • Sensitivity to pain
  • Sore throat, hoarse voice


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How does Cortisol affects WEIGHT GAIN?

Cortisol is metabolised through the liver and turned into glucose moles (SUGAR) by the process of gluconeogenesis. Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for fast energy, and stimulates insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. Its a deadly cycle that can lead to:

  • sugar craving
  • insulin resistance
  • fat storage around the middle
  • hypoglycaemia

Testing Know How and What to test

When testing adrenal function and its impact on the body, it needs to be done alongside other tests to truly understand the root cause – and of course alongside symptom surveys and thorough consultation.

Many symptoms of thyroid issues are similar to adrenal issues, so testing both is vital to get the full story and then be able to treat it correctly.


  • Diurnal Cortisol – saliva samples are more sensitive than blood. Diurnal cortisol tests show a 3-point cortisol pattern to accurately assess adrenal output.
  • DHEA-s – adrenal hormones that can be tested by blood or saliva samples
  • Melatonin – our sleep neurotransmitter tested by saliva sample.
  • Thyroid test – TSH, fT3, fT4, rT3 minimum blood test and reflex test.
  • Blood sugar studies
  • Nutritional panels
  • Heavy metal and minerals scan – as a part of a comprehensive understanding assisting us to treat you best.

Our motto – “Test, don’t Guess!”

Do you need help getting to the bottom of your health concerns?

Please feel welcome to book a free call with one of our naturopaths to discuss what is going on with you to see if we can help!


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I hope that this email has given you some deeper insight the roles hormones play when dealing with fatigue, weight gain, brain fog, and a host of many other symptoms.

If you need to work with a practitioner experienced with Hashimoto’s, call us and we’ll organise a thorough assessment – CLICK HERE

OR you can always call us at 1300 THYROID, we’re here to support you and all our team are trained naturopaths on the phones.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!


PS – We have 13 clinics around Australia from Western Australia down to Adelaide and up to the Sunshine Coast). We also offer remote support options

PPS – We are running a super special offer of a FREE ThyroFlex Test when you come in for your initial consultation! Check it out on the Dr Phil show here: CLICK HERE