Hidden Causes Of Low Thyroid #2 – Cortisol | Arizona Thyroid Institute in Scottsdale, AZ near Phoenix

Dr. Chris Heimlich DC, Scottsdale Phoenix Metro Area  Doctor Shares The Second of 7 Low Thyroid Mistakes Patients and Doctors Make….

As I consult with patients that suffer from hypothyroid symptoms on a daily basis at the Arizona Thyroid Institute located here in Scottsdale Arizona, I see 7 common mistakes that keep hypothyroid patients from experiencing relief from their thyroid symptoms. The Second reason in this series is: High Cortisol Levels.

High levels or cortisol is another hidden cause as to why you still have thyroid symptoms even though you’re taking thyroid hormone or even though your lab numbers are normal.

So what is cortisol?  It’s a hormone made in your adrenal gland.  I know you have heard of them.  They are known as the  “stress” glands.  They sit on top of your kidneys.  They make the hormones aldosterone, cortisol, and androgens.  The adrenal glands are crucial for your good health.

So what does cortisol do?

Cortisol is responsible for regulating your blood sugar.   When cortisol is release by your adrenal glands, it is accompanied by cytokines.  Cytokines are messengers used by your immune system.  This creates an inflammatory response.  These cytokines suppress the ability of your pituitary and your hypothalamus to make TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone.

When that happens you start to get some or all of the low thyroid symptoms below:


Weight Gain



Hair falls out easily

Dry skin

Poor circulation and numbness in hand and feet

Morning headaches that wear off as day progresses

So follow me as I explain cortisol and low thyroid symtpoms….

Your adrenal glands make cortisol in response to stress.  There are different kinds of stress.  Anything that promotes inflammation or that causes inflammation, will make your adrenal glands pump out more cortisol.

As that cortisol is released, those cytokines are going to come out as well—that is what’s going to suppress your pituitary and give you low thyroid symptoms.

The most common causes of elevated cortisol are:

  • Blood sugar regulation problems (high or low blood sugar, insulin spikes and valleys)
  • Hidden gut infections or infections you haven’t been able to eliminate
  • Chronic stress.

Well, let me say a couple words about each one of those.

When you have a “blood sugar problem”, it means that your blood sugar is not regular.

Your blood sugar is going up and down….

When your blood sugar goes up and down, your cortisol levels are going to go up and down…

…and the cytokines are going to go up and down….

…and then we have this whole pituitary getting squashed…

…and you not making enough thyroid hormones and you’re starting to have symptoms.

The key point to remember here is:  You do NOT have to be diagnosed as a diabetic to have blood sugar problems.

There are  two varieties of that blood sugar problem.  You don’t have to be diabetic to have this.  You can have hypoglycemia (reactive hypoglycemia), which means your sugar drops between meals…or you don’t eat when you need to and…when you do eat the next time, you get these big surges of insulin, big surges of cortisol.

It doesn’t matter to your body whether you have low blood sugar or high blood sugar; in both cases the blood sugar is not regular.

So, for example, if you get shaky, light headed or irritable in between meals and you have a thyroid problem…this could be one of the reasons why because that blood sugar going up and down, that fluctuation causes this fluctuation in cytokines and inflammation.

The second thing that can cause excessive cortisol is infection.  It’s not necessarily like getting strep throat.  We’re talking about, many times, hidden G.I. infections that you have no idea you have because you may not have any G.I. symptoms that cause high cortisol…and then low thyroid symptoms.

There’s a test that you can do that is a DNA PCR test of stool.This test is definitive as to whether you’ve got a parasite, a fungus or a yeast or some sort of pathogen living in your gut that’s driving – and that’s the word I use – driving your adrenal glands to keep pumping up cortisol—which makes increased levels of cytokines, which suppresses your pituitary.

Mental  stress is the third thing that can cause these adrenal glands to keep pumping out cortisol.  Many low thyroid sufferers are stressed by many different parts of their life. They feel bad.  It’s the classic stress response.  So, for those people – and this is part of what we do for my management program – we have to teach them how to deal with their stress.

I’m not talking necessarily about being a therapist.  I’m talking about teaching you a very powerful but simple way of helping your body not have a stress response but have a relaxing response.  If whoever’s taking care of you right now, if you’re under care, if they’re not addressing this stress component, you’re being underserved.  I believe you’re being underserved.  There are natural thyroid treatment options in the Phoenix Metro area. 

If your stress levels are still high, your adrenal glands are still going to pump hard.  Cortisol levels are going to increase to excess.  Cytokine levels are going to increase, and it’s going to squash your pituitary.   Remember, your pituitary is a key component if thyroid health.

In my next post I am going to discuss Low Thyroid Mistake #3: The Dangers Of Iodine

Dr Chris Heimlich, Board Certified Chiropractic Physician

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