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The Thyroid-Adrenal Connection to Weight Gain

By Lucy Rose Clinic

August 31, 2020

Many of our patients with thyroid dysfunction experience weight gain, fatigue, anxiety and depression.

However, these are also classic symptoms of adrenal fatigue…. In fact, it is almost impossible to treat a thyroid imbalance without simultaneously treating the adrenals.

Many of patients with persistent weight gain, will not lose weight until they really start to reduce their stress levels….. Today I will explain why!

Lets start by explaining what the adrenal glands do… 

The adrenal glands are small glands that sit above each kidney. The adrenal glands produce hormones including cortisol, adrenaline and sex hormones. Cortisol is what people generally refer to as the “stress hormone”. 

The purpose of cortisol is to allow our bodies to respond to stress – this could be physical, emotional, hormonal or mental stress. Cortisol is really beneficial for us in small amounts, over short periods of time – it gives us bursts of energy, focus and strength. 

However – too much cortisol negatively affects our blood sugar levels, disrupts our sleep and leads to feelings of anxiety and depression. 

What happens when we produce too much cortisol? 

The body is only designed to handle stressful situations for short periods of time. However, our lives are becoming more and more stressful! This means that cortisol is constantly being released. If you are in a chronic state of stress, your adrenal glands will be working in overdrive– flooding your body with cortisol. There reaches a point where the adrenal glands cannot keep up with the constant demand for stress hormones – leaving you in a state of adrenal fatigue. 


  • Increased insulin levels (causing you to store fat – particularly around the belly) 
  • Increased appetite (leading you to eat too much) 
  • Increased cravings for sweet, high fat and salty foods (leading you to eat higher calorie foods) 

!!! This is why weight loss is very difficult without first addressing the adrenal glands – and balancing cortisol levels.

How are adrenal hormones linked to thyroid functioning? 

On top of the direct effect of cortisol in leading to weight gain, high levels of cortisol also reduce thyroid functioning, which will reduce your metabolism (making it more difficult to shift excess weight). 

There are two main reasons for this: 

  1.  Cortisol signals to the pituitary gland to slow down its production of hormones (including thyroid stimulating hormone). This means that as cortisol levels rise, the rate of thyroid hormone production slows down. 
  2. High levels of cortisol will also slow down the conversion of T4 into T3 (active thyroid hormone). This means under periods of continued stress, where cortisol levels are continually high, the levels of active thyroid hormone will drop. 

How you can improve your adrenal functioning… 

For most of us, there is no way to avoid stress, however, it is really important that we learn to manage and reduce our stress levels to avoid a state of adrenal fatigue. Below are some tips to reduce your overall stress levels. This will help you to improve both your adrenal and thyroid functioning and assist with weight loss as a result! 

  • Eat well: A healthy, balanced diet full of vegetables, fruits and good quality protein is vital to ensure optimal adrenal and thyroid health. Reducing alcohol, caffeine and sugar in your diet will also help. It is also really important to eliminate any foods that are causing inflammation in your body – we recommend food intolerance testing to determine exactly what foods will be beneficial for you, and which ones are causing inflammation. 
  • Ensure adequate vitamin/ mineral intake: you may want to consider adding some vitamins/ minerals to support your thyroid and adrenal functioning. Essential vitamins and minerals to consider are iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. We always recommend working with a professional to determine which supplements will be most beneficial for you. 
  • Sleep well: it is really important to get a good quality sleep, as well as getting enough sleep each night. This is when your body has the chance to heal and repair itself. There are lots of ways we can help you to improve your sleep hygiene as well as to provide supplements to help promote good quality sleep. 
  • Take time out to relax – this can include things like mediation, yoga, deep breathing and walking outside in nature. All these things help to reduce stress levels and balance your overall health.

Do you struggle with any of these factors?

We’ve helped thousands of people regain healthy balance, reduce symptoms, lose weight, and get their health back on track.

Contact us to see how we can help you too!


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