High Cortisol Results-thyroid link?: Hello, I've... - Thyroid UK

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High Cortisol Results-thyroid link?

Booksellercate profile image
15 Replies

Hello, I've spent the past year trying to get to the bottom of my health issues. I've been very unwell for over a year with a wide range of symptoms including: flu-like weakness (which has left me in a wheelchair), muscle weakness, joint pain, severe 24/7 lightheadedness, fatigue, low blood pressure, hairloss, digestive issues, frequent urination and so on.

I had a thyroid panel done last year and it seemed to be OK (I posted here actually and was given the all clear!). However the test didn't include reverse T3, which I know can be an issue.

My Cortisol results were as follows:

Sample 1 (post awakening) - 16. 94 (range 2.68 - 9.30 nmol/L)

Sample 2 - 15.23 (0.75 - 2.93)

Sample 3 - 3.78 (0.36 - 1.88)

Sample 4 - 0.83 (< 93)

Does anybody understand the likelihood of a link to my thyroid in spite of an OK thyroid panel? The adrenal groups seem to think it unlikely that stress alone could cause such elevated levels. Is there a link between Cortisol and RT3?

Lastly, does anybody know how to reduce Cortisol levels - stress management aside? I've ordered some holy basil...but any tips welcome!

Thank you in advance for any comments, advice, suggestions!

15 Replies
silverfox7 profile image

Ring on the right thyroid dose for you should lower cortisol levels but I think you should have your thyroid tested again as it should be done yearly once stable and yours may not have been that last year. Also good to get B12, Folate, ferritin and Vit D tested as well. Post all results with ranges for members to comment.

Booksellercate profile image
Booksellercate in reply to silverfox7

Thank you-I'm not on any thyroid medication as I've not (yet) been diagnosed with thyroid issues. But I do understand that regular thyroid testing is useful.

I should have mentioned in the post that B12, folate, ferritin and vitamin D are all optimum.

Booksellercate profile image
Booksellercate in reply to silverfox7

Thank you-I'm not on any thyroid medication as I've not (yet) been diagnosed with thyroid issues. But I do understand that regular thyroid testing is useful.

I should have mentioned in the post that B12, folate, ferritin and vitamin D are all optimum.

hels333 profile image


A high cortisol can be balanced by raising your DHEA levels. Did your test results show a very low DHEA reading as well as a high cortisol reading?

I periodically do a private 24 hour adrenal saliva test - it shows my cortisol and DHEA readings over a 24 hour period. The lab also writes a brief and simple conclusion on the results each time.

It's about 80 pounds to do this test but I find it vital to ensure those 2 hormones are in balance with each other.

I dont have the test details to hand but they have been mentioned on the forum before.

I use DHEA cream [Eurovital brand] and find that has helped bring down my cortisol very well. That and a lot of stress management, but I know the cream helps enormously as I felt better within a couple of days of taking it.

good luck.

Margareta3 profile image
Margareta3 in reply to hels333

Could you please, give a link or the name of the lab for saliva adrenal test? Thank you

hels333 profile image
hels333 in reply to Margareta3

Below is the link to the test I do:


Click on Endocrine Hormonal on the tab on the left, then scroll down to Adrenal Saliva Profile. You can order online or ring them to order the test on: 020 8336 7750.

You pay when you order it IIRC, or you can fill in the form they send with the test, and put down your credit card details.

Check the price when you ring them - it should be about 85 pounds minus the ten percent discount you get by quoting the Thyroid UK discount code of TUK10.

If that code doesn't work, give them this one: A42AQ

This is for the 24 hour saliva spit test, so you spit into test tubes as per the instructions on the packet they send you. It tests levels of cortisol and DHEA. I've done it about 3 or 4 times. now, and I understand it's the only way to get a true picture of what your adrenals are doing. The NHS can do a syncathen test but that is considered by many to be inferior as it's a one time only picture and only tests cortisol I believe, whereas the spit test looks at your DHEA + cortisol results from 4 points throughout a 24 hour period.

As the lab isn't allowed to post tests direct to patients anymore, you either have to do it through a practitioner e.g. Dr Myhill, or an organisation/charity.

The cheapest way I've found is to order the test direct from the website, by telephone, quoting TUK10 which is the code to give you 10% off the price.

The results are then sent from the lab to the charity about 2-3 weeks after you return the filled test tubes.

Then you have to ring Thyroid UK and give your name and address, and email, and they email you the results.

I hope this helps and that you manage to get the test done ok.

If you can, ensure you are not on any steroid hormones, eg hydrocortisone cream etc for a good 2 weeks before you do the test to get a true result.

One last thing - do the test on a Sunday or Monday, then you can post them signed for next day delivery so they get them by Thursday.

You can read more about how Thyroid UK are involved with Genova Diagnostics, and about how they get the copy of your results here:


Margareta3 profile image
Margareta3 in reply to hels333

Thank you!

Booksellercate profile image
Booksellercate in reply to hels333

Good point-and thank you for your suggestions. I'm still learning about Cortisol/DHEA. My DHEA sample was within range at 1.42 (range: 0.25 - 2.22). The DHEA/Cortisol was within range, albeit just scraping in.

At this point I'm not sure exactly why my Cortisol is so high-although I'm quite certain stress is playing a significant role. I'll do a little reading on DHEA creams and decide if it's worth trying in my case.

humanbean profile image

There is a link between cortisol levels and the thyroid. The metabolism is controlled by thyroid hormones. When thyroid hormones get too low for good health the body has to make up the difference somehow, to keep the body going. Producing extra cortisol and adrenaline is one of the main ways that this happens.

Things can go wrong the other way round too. So your body could create extra cortisol for some reason, and it will suppress thyroid activity.

You may find this link helpful :


In the list of 22 things listed in that link, cortisol is mentioned in numbers 5, 13 and 19, and they may help to explain why you have so many low thyroid symptoms. You might want to buy the book the list came from. It gets good reviews on Amazon, but I haven't bought it myself. It's on my list...


Your cortisol levels are alarmingly high, but I don't think they are indicative of Cushing's Disease or Cushing's Syndrome yet. I've read that the circadian rhythm for cortisol is almost completely lost in Cushing's and the line of results for cortisol output would be very high and virtually horizontal. See this diagram :


Despite your results being high there is still a resemblance to the normal daily circadian rhythm for cortisol. But I'm aware that is not proof of anything, and I think you should discuss your results with your doctor and ask for a cortisol test. A single blood test done at 9am may show up a result high enough to make your doctor refer you to an endocrinologist, but I will be surprised if it happens. (Please note I am not a doctor and I have no medical training.)

For info on tests relating to cortisol done by endocrinology departments, take a look at this very comprehensive PDF file that describes every test that gets done in endocrinology departments :

imperialendo.co.uk/Bible201... (Search for "endocrine bible" to get the latest version)

Do a search in that document for the word "cortisol". It will give you information on the correct conditions to use for various kinds of testing and will indicate how results should be interpreted.


Ideal levels for cortisol done with saliva testing are shown in Example 1 on this link :


Note what it says about avoiding exercise the day before and the day of the testing.

Note that there are various medicines and supplements which can affect cortisol output, and if you can live comfortably and safely without them you should do so for two weeks before testing :




Some useful self-help links on reducing cortisol :






I have had high cortisol show up on two separate sets of saliva tests a year apart.

Personally I found Holy Basil most helpful with no bad side effects, but I had to take 6 capsules a day instead of 4 (the manufacturer's recommended dose) to get a noticeable effect. I take these :


I took 6 capsules a day for several months, then reduced to 4 for several months, and I'm currently taking 2 a day. I feel much less stressed and anxious than I used to and I've been able to increase my T3 dose without jitters and tachycardia.

I've also taken Seriphos which did help (briefly), but I couldn't really take it for long enough. I was very ill anyway when I took it and I couldn't tolerate it very well at all.

I found Rhodiola Rosea useful for quite a long time. They mustn't be taken after 1pm because they may interfere with sleep.

Licorice gave me high blood pressure. Ashwaghanda (which is very popular) made me feel sick. Basically, we all have to be prepared to try things and see what happens.

Good luck. :)

Booksellercate profile image
Booksellercate in reply to humanbean

Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough response. There are useful links here which I will continue to read through over the next day or two. I'm new to understanding how the thyroid works so it'll take a little while and some reading to get my head around it! My last thyroid panel didn't suggest any issues so I haven't given my thyroid function much thought again until now.

I agree on your thoughts that Cushings is unlikely. However the cause for my high Cortisol is currently unknown so it would be prudent to consider it. A number of posters in adrenal forums seem to think it unlikely that even prolonged stress could cause such high Cortisol levels - although again, each body functions to its own specific requirements - so I am trying to cover as any other potential causes as I can. Hopefully I can get an NHS doctor on my side.

I've holy basil on order, which has been recommended by a few, so that'll be my starting point in trying to reduce my Cortisol levels. I have a lot of understanding and experimenting ahead of me. I have a tangle of health issues-I don't know where my Cortisol and thyroid fit in the mess - but hopefully tackling each issue will lead to small improvements and a gradual detangling (I have an image of the arcade game with the little characters which keep popping up, while you frantically try to hammer them all down; that's a little how it currently feels to me at least).

humanbean profile image
humanbean in reply to Booksellercate

The arcade game is called Whack-A-Mole I think. I know how you feel. :)

QUE6T-33 profile image
QUE6T-33 in reply to Booksellercate

Hi Bookseller - just wonder how your finding Holy Basil & is it helping ? I've heard l-Theonine assists too.

Booksellercate profile image
Booksellercate in reply to QUE6T-33

Hi, I'm not sure if I'm honest. I also switched to something called Seriphos. I also found out I had high rT3 so I've been taking T3, which may also lower Cortisol. I've been sleeping a little better. I'll be checking my Cortisol levels in a few weeks so it'll be interesting to see if it's come down.

JoyCA profile image
JoyCA in reply to humanbean

wow, humanbean, what a great post.

humanbean profile image
humanbean in reply to JoyCA

Thank you! :)

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