Adrenal fatigue, any experience in this? - Thyroid UK

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Adrenal fatigue, any experience in this?


Hi I recently blogged about my experiences, in December I had RAI for my hyperthyroidism. Since I went on the levothyroxine I have been experiencing terrible sleep patterns, someone posted that it might be adrenal fatigue, since then i researched the symptoms + it seems very possible. Does anyone have any experience with this? What would my next step be, go back to the doctor? Or should I start changing my diet now?

Is there any quick fix?

7 Replies

Hi Maddie,

I think there is a strong link between adrenals and disturbed sleep, but I think it's actually the other way around... the adrenals are overproducing at night, and that makes it difficult to sleep.

Reading one of your previous posts, it sounds like this started after the RAI and before they put you on levo, so I think it would be premature to blame the levo for the disturbed sleep.

RAI is a pretty harsh treatment, and it may take some time to recover from it. It is done to deliberately damage the thyroid gland - but in order for the iodine to get to the thyroid gland, it has to start in your digestive system and work it's way through the body. I'm sure this must cause some inflammation, and your adrenals will be overproducing as your body responds to the inflammation and repairs the damage.

I think things should start to settle down as your recover from the treatment. I'm not sure how long this takes, but I have heard it can take a few months at least and that things go back to normal by about six months.

Also, since you've only just started on levo, you might not yet be on the right dose and that will make you feel pretty poor. One of the things you need to do now is make sure that your thyroid function is tested regularly and your dose adjusted until it's where it needs to be and thiings are stable. RAI is a bit hit and miss, they don't know how much thyroid function will be left after the treatment... so this is really important.

One final thought, I had a family friend who had RAI for thyroid cancer and she developed food intolerances as a result. Food intolerances involve an immune reaction that's going on in the digestive system and that can lead to strange adrenal goings on. My own problem is gluten and yeast intolerance and that has led to some pretty bad nights sleep.

Hope this helps and you feel better soon.

poing in reply to poing

That should read "I HAVE a family friend who had RAI for thyroid cancer"... she's alive and well. Ooops.

Thanks very much for this, good to know. I have just had my thyroid levels done and they are at the 'normal' levels (have requested the results to post on here). so was told by nuclear medicine dr for the RAI that 'I can promise you, your sleep disturbances are absolutely nothing to do with your thyroid' he said I should now go back to my endocrinologist about the sleep!!

What makes me think it is adrenal is that I get SO stressed at even the slightest thing, very unlike me who is usually so chilled out about things. And an overwhelming feeling of not being able to cope.

In your reply it is nice to think, 6 months after the RAI things should have settled down but I just don't want to wait it out, and then still be in that situation in 6 months time. I have 2 young children under the age of 3, I am prettying a single mum as my husband works abroad alot. We have just moved to America where I have no family or friends for support + I am really struggling to function on some nights 2-3hours sleep. My nuclear medicine dr who did the RAI said I should be back to normal by spring. Now I have reached here + I am not i feel so depressed with it.

I'm not at all suggesting that you just sit back and hope for the best -- there are plenty of things you could be doing in the meantime -- but it's nice to think that time will help to heal as well.

Number one: make sure your thyroid replacement is adequate... "normal" blood tests hide a number of sins. My understanding is that the TSH test is particularly unreliable in Graves' disease because the autoantibodies can interfere with the feedback mechanism between TSH and actual hormone levels. The people on this board have more experience with blood tests than I do, but I'm sure you would get some good advice if you posted them.

Number two is look into your digestive health and the possibility of food intolerances. I am now intolerant to baker's yeast, and the main reaction I get is to be suddenly bolt awake at 4am. For some reason digestive problems seem to be more obvious at night.

Your doctor might be able to offer some help with your sleep. It certainly can't hurt to ask. Being able to get the right amount of sleep by whatever means, would be helpful I'm sure and set things moving in an upwards direction.

Adrenal fatigue is very common with thyroid problems (the endocrine system is complex and all the glands affect each other). I suffered hugely from this when I had RAI for thyroid cancer; the medics don't seem to know about it. The adrenals need to be OK for the thyroid to work ok (or the thyroid replacement). However a herbalist and nutritional therapist helped me with herbs (ashwaganda and siberian ginseng, among others) and a range of vitamins and minerals which nourish the adrenal glands. It's important you don't try these without consulting with the practitioner first, for your own personal prescription. Now I function pretty normally. I don't know what I'd have done without them.

I have also heard that low adrenal function (low cortisol) can cause sleeplessness, although I know it sounds counter-intuitive. Some believe that ME sufferers have poor sleep for this reason.

Some natural advice here.

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