Is it a thyroid or adrenal gland issue?

A while back one of our members, Sylvia, described some troubling new symptoms she was experiencing. A recent contribution to her thread on the message board here at made me re-read Sylvia’s original post. What she described was recent onset of weight gain, depression, high blood pressure and ankle swelling (edema). Her concern was that although her thyroid blood tests were described as “normal”, that the thyroid was the source of her new problems.

On second review the thought occurred to me that the combination of problems Sylvia described is typical of an over-active adrenal gland. This is referred to as Cushing’s Syndrome. With Cushing’s, due to persistently elevated levels of adrenal hormones including cortisol, DHEA, androsteinedione etc., complications develop that include the very ones Sylvia identified; high blood pressure, swelling, weight gain, and depression. Other developments may also include diabetes (high blood sugar), easy bruising, osteoporosis, unusual and severe infections, muscle weakness, and purple stretch marks.

Cushing’s can be diagnosed by obtaining a 24 hour collection of urine for cortisol measurement and by measuring levels of cortisol in the blood in the early morning and late at night. With Cushing’s, urine cortisol levels will be high and there is a loss of the daily high to low transition of blood cortisol levels (diurnal variation).

Sylvia….if you are still reading you should think about the possibility of Cushing’s Syndrome and take it up with your own health care professional. Posting a follow-up of your progress would be very helpful to us all.


Dr. G. Pepper, editor-in-chief,

These comments are for educational purposes only and are not intended as medical treatment. The disclaimer at applies to all comments at this website.

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  • Goodness, our bodies are so amazing and so complicated. You article showcases that so much. I (and many people that I know) struggle with what so clearly seems to be thyroid disorder, yet the test are constantly normal.

    Thank you so much for providing sound alternatives and such clear guidance on the whys of it all. I and I’m sure many thank you!


  • Very often however, specific nutrients and glandular supplements do solve the problem. Supplements that should help eradicate this adrenal fatigue are licorice herbal supplement, siberian ginseng, adrenal glandular supplements, and pantothenic acid (b5).

  • ! This information is really good and I will say will always be helpful if we try it risk free! So if you can back it up .. That will really help us all. And this might bring some good repute to you. The diet of human beings prior to the arrival of agriculture, technology and civilization is known as the Paleolithic Diet , This Stone Age diet, in short, consisted of mainly lean red meat and vegetables. In this type of diet animal meat is consumed in large quantities and 45 to 65% of the energy needed by the body is derived from it. Over and over again, life expectancy studies related to diet, including by the World Health Organization (WHO), have concluded that Americans and Europeans would do better to eat more like third world peoples as the options provided by their additional wealth have most often lead to poor nutritional choices. This is the same basis for the USDA based their popular food pyramid in 1992 , Researchers at Harvard have only suggested perhaps tweaking the food pyramid by replacing some dairy products and read meat with more fruits, vegetables, and fish while also emphasizing the importance of improving the ratio of “good” to “bad” cholesterol, Plus, exercise not only makes weight loss much easier, but also lowers blood glucose levels, decreases blood pressure, improved circulation, and increases one’s metabolism. Good regular sleep patterns are also just as important. Diets based on USDA recommendations include DASH, American Diabetic Assoc, Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig! When children understand how important “real food” is and where the natural ingredients of our food come from, they will increase the general population’s appreciation for preserving our natural environment and limiting toxins and polluting processes in our world. We may even trend back to the time when people stepped outside their homes to interact with family and neighbors in home and community gardens and block-party barbeques! Does anybody even remember how nice those days were?

  • Mikel Brinker

    I am 27 years old and started smoking at the age of 17. I stopped when i was 19 to the age of 20 (roughly 12 months) then i relapsed and didnt quit again until i was 25. I quit for about 10 months the relapsed on day when i was drinking with some old friends i had not seen in a long time. I thought it would be ok to just smoke once since i had gone for so long.

  • sandra levy

    I also suffer from ankle swelling, severe infections (virises) etc weight gain. I had my thryoid removed in 1997.

    I have been trying to see Dr. Pepper, but, my appointment keeps getting changed and pushed up.

    I am on Nature Thyroid which I feel is much better than Synthroid. But, still not doing as well as I would like to. I know my dose needs adjusting, but still waiting for Dr. Pepper.

  • Sally Anne

    I am wondering seriously if I have adrenal issues (in addition to my thyroid issues) but not sure about bringing this up to my very mainstream” PCP. I read that so many doctors do not believe there is such thing as “adrenal fatigue” just as some do not believe there really is “fibromyalgia” which I am also diagnosed with. Some articles talk about the symptoms of these syndromes being caused by myalgic encephalomyelitis (which is NOT encephalitis) but looking into this can give you a label possibly of a malingerer or hypochondriac. However, this fatigue and inability to lose weight can cause significant quality of life issues!

  • I feel much better…have lost weight, don’t have much swelling anymore and don’t feel so depressed. I do take supplements that I believe are helping me as well…