Beware: major hormonal changes can affect your adrenals!

I normally don’t write about me here, but more on thyroid advocacy issues. But this time…it’s going to be ME, because YOU need to be aware of what happened to me…because it can happen to you.

I appear to have adrenal fatigue.

Now understand this: I didn’t have it when I got on Armour over 4 years ago. I raised my Armour without a hitch, except for low Ferritin twice that I had to correct. And for approx. 3 1/2 years, I’ve been optimal with Armour with a perfect mid-afternoon temp of 98.6

So why adrenal fatigue now?? It helps to explain it this way: Two years ago, in Dec. of 2004, I entered serious peri-menopause. My progesterone fell rock bottom while I still had a youthfully high estrogen. And I’ve had to deal with the misery of severe estrogen dominance for two years. I’ve used compounded progesterone cream for those two years, but it was often never enough to stop the symptoms of estrogen dominance.

Also, Dr. Lam states the following and it explains me to a T: In early stages of adrenal fatigue, cortisol output is high as the body attempts to neutralize the stress by producing more of it. However, when too much cortisol is produced, it will have multiple undesirable effects. For example, cortisol blocks progesterone receptors, making them less responsive to progesterone. Progesterone normally produced by the adrenals comes to a halt in favor of cortisol. Insufficient progesterone production leads to an imbalance of estrogen to progesterone…(aka estrogen dominance). And voila–I did have high cortisol in the morning and noon. I had done the saliva adrenal test just a month after my progesterone had dropped.

Finally, this past October, I noticed the estrogen dominance FINALLY stopped, as did my periods. A huge victory. 🙂 But in early December, after a particularly busy day on a Saturday, I majorly crashed………and haven’t recovered since.

And ALL my symptoms point to adrenal fatigue. First, my temps fell. And they were all over the place. My highest would only be 98.3, and one night, I was 97.1. That was VERY wrong for me.

Next, I started waking up EVERY night between 3-5 am. A typical adrenal symptom. Also, if I felt emotional about something, my body would get VERY hot. At first I thought it was a hot flash…but it was different.

And I was achy for 1 1/2 weeks. That stopped when I raised my Armour and got my temps back up. But even without the achiness, I have felt fatigued all over, and just bad.

Also, I fail the blood pressure test in the mornings. The other day, my supine blood pressure was 135/84. Standing, it was 115/84. A good sign of adrenal fatigue. I also have a faster and a pounding heartrate.

I have sent off my saliva samples…but have no doubt what the results are going to be. So….I am going to start the very adrenal support that I have written about in so much detail here on STTM. Because there is simply too much stress in my life to think that practicing all the other adrenal support methods are going to help my adrenals recover, or even help me feel better.

And by the way, for the past year and more, I have always given myself 5000 mgs of Vit. C and high dose B-vitamins, plus E. I have exercised regularly by walking. But it wasn’t enough to stop what a huge female hormonal change has done to me. I now am using Licorice Root daily (which stops some of the breakdown of cortisol in your liver) and 1/2 tsp sea salt, stirred in orange juice and my morning yogurt. And I’ll have to start on cortisol.

What can you do to not find yourself in my shoes? For one, if you enter peri-meno, even without the presence of adrenal fatigue, I would start on some mild OTC adrenal support now, which I was never on. Also, do whatever you can to counter excessive emotional stress in your life during this time by finding times to laugh and doing what you enjoy. I have been stuck with a job that wore me down, and family issues that stressed me terribly, and I’m sure that played a part.

COMMENTS TO THIS POST ARE WELCOME 🙂 (I could use pats on the back because this makes me SICK), but if you have questions, this is not the place for them. Go to our forums here: www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/community And by the way, I will update this particular blog post when I get my adrenal saliva test results back…and as I progress in my treatment. My fingers are crossed.

Click here to see the continuation of my comments on my own Adrenal Fatigue.

UPDATE as of Feb. 2009: for those still reading all the way down here, I became fully meno by 2008 and remarkably, require no progesterone or estrogen to feel good.  I did start having constant nighttime waking up and probably could use a little progesterone at bedtime. I do use testosterone gel to keep my muscles healthy and stronger.  And my adrenals are still fine.  I’m on 4 grains Armour plus a slew of good supplements.

24 Responses to “Beware: major hormonal changes can affect your adrenals!”

  1. Paul

    Hang in there, Janie. I know what it’s like to lose my health, get it back for awhile, and then lose it again (thinking I’d never go back to that hell after going through it the first time). In my current situation, I found a doc who knew how to address my adrenal fatigue, but now I realize I was not getting help for my low thyroid even when morning basal temps and daytime temps were way too low. I’m just now starting on a 1/2 grain of Armour and I can’t wait to gradually increase over the next couple months to see what happens with my energy level. Anyway, the isocort or hydrocortisone should be a big help for you, plus the sea salt, vitamin c, siberian ginseng, etc…I pray a swift return to good health for you!

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  2. Dana

    Janie,
    I am so sorry to hear about your current situation but, am not surprised…..Thankfully, you have all the knowledge in the world to deal with this head-on! Your current situation will help MANY who suffer from symptoms that probably are attributed to low Adrenal function. I look forward to hearing the “rest of the story!”

    Dana

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  3. newgirl

    Janie,

    Just getting to read this now. So sorry you are faced with the onset of this development. I am quite impressed with your generousity and willingness to share your turn of events. Additionally, I am grateful that you are humble enough to share and continue to educate us further — as you have done so much for so many already. Janie has already marked her own legacy! Major props to you. (PS: why is it that we stay at jobs that stress us unnecessarily?). My hats off to you! Newgirl

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  4. rosie

    I SO understand the whole menopause quagmire! I went to drs. for years with my hypo symptoms, only to have my hormone levels tested, told I was peri-menopausal and everything was normal! Only a chance trip to a new dr. because I thought I had a sinus infection put me on the road to feeling better. He noticed my goiter, and even tho my blood tests were in the normal range, he referred me to an endocrinologist and I started on the path to wellness. I am still journeying but I feel better. Just knowing I wasn’t crazy helped alot. I was even given retin A for wrinkles when I complained about dry, coarse, way too tight skin with flare-ups and odd texture and puffiness. My periods stopped after 3 months on levo-thyroxine, don’t know if its menopause or the hormone, at thus point in time I don’t care. just recently switched to Armour, I have a return of some previous symptoms, in milder form, but I want to hang in there on it, see if I can get my dose increased.
    I have high BP and it went up temporarily, but is now back down. I need to get a BP cuff and check my numbers. Have you checked your pupils reaction to light? I did, and mine did not change, which I think is a symptom of adrenal fatigue. Please keep us posted on your progress.
    And thanks for sharing your story.

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  5. Kathy

    Hello all, I have had similar experiences to Janie – but with a few differences. I found out that I was hypothyroid after my last chemo for ovarian cancer. I thought my white blood counts were in the toilet but my oncologist suspected and tested my thyroid. (I was sooo stupid then) My tsh was somewhere around 40!! He was surprised that I hadn’t gone into some kind of coma (brain fog).

    My primary doc put me on a low dose of levoxyl – but I took more :-). I felt slightly better – not quite as tired, less constipation, slight improvement in plantar fasciitis, only slept 10hrs per night and got my am temp up to 97 degrees.

    Now anyone who has gone through this knows that it was STILL totally unacceptable…. I was just learning. I read about Armour and thought it made sense – my primary wouldn’t subscribe it, referred me to an endocrinologist who ALSO wouldn’t prescribe it. I was getting a knee replacement and talked my other doc into prescribing Armour. He did and I started feeling better.

    I take my temperature every morning, and for a while I felt slightly better. I think I’m having adrenal problems because my temperature is now all over the place (but low) but never over 98.0 during the day. I went back to primary doc, she sent me to ANOTHER endocrinologist, and that one wouldn’t even test my adrenals! This is SO frustrating!! I teach skating for part of my living and it’s hard to skate with plantar fasciitis!

    From what I’ve read, in order to bring things up again I have to back off the thyroid and take some all-adrenal (which I’m doing) In the last couple of weeks my symptoms have increased and I’m going to go up slightly in my armour. Enough is enough! I know my body – I know in my heart my adrenal needs help and no doctor will get involved. I would be happy to get back to having only slight symptoms!! Thanks so much, and good luck to all!! Kathy

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  6. Lari Abraham

    Hi, Janie,
    Your story about entering perimeno for approximately the past two years is identical to mine. I think that this is precisely the reason why my body’s run amok, however, I never had a problem with my thyroid prior. Now I’m borderline. Through the grace of goodness, I found an American bioidentical hormone doctor here in the UK, who diagnosed estrogen dominance and low dhea. It’s impossible to get low doses of HC here, but she can get me 5 mg from a compounding pharmacist in Germany, which is where I’m getting the progesterone (25 mg) I am now taking. It’s made me feel quite a bit better, but I still cannot tolerate the Armour, even in the smallest dosage. I also tried dhea for a bit, but that was tough to take as well. I think all of these reactions are happening because of the adrenal fatigue. I haven’t logged onto your blog in a while, and was stunned to see your comments given what I’ve currently been through. Have you thought about taking a very low dosage of progesterone? I also take OTC adrenal supplements, which include licorice root and amongst other things, siberian ginseng, which is, apparently, very helpful. Please continue to let us know how you’re doing with the Cortef. Tell me again your dosage… Good luck, and I will read with interest. Lari in London. (from Janie: Yes, I’ve been on progesterone gel for 3 years. Details on my dosing to be found by clicking on link above)

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  7. Tami

    My son’s temp was an alarming 96.6 today, near noon. I’m afriad to know what it was when he woke up. He’s 8 years old, has heavy metal toxicity from thimerosal in vaccines, plus fetal exposure to my amalgam fillings. (they call this “autism”) He’s been parking himself in front of the heater vent in the mornings, and wants hot baths (that he re-warms over and over) and stays in the tub for hours. He was getting 1/2 gram armour, we are bumping that up now. He’s also going back on Cortef (yep, me too).

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  8. Paulette

    I have been hypothyroid for probably most of my life, since puberty, but not diagnosed until about 8 years ago. Fortunately, I have a great endocrinologist and was put on Armour, which changed my life immensely. I was put on Paxil, which helped with the bowel issues I had. I’ve recently gotten off of that but am aware that my adrenals are tired. No, my doctor doesn’t recognize it either. I do take Isocort and for me, at least right now, it does help. I have noticed though that if I eat foods high in magnesium and get a lot of calcium, it really does seem to help, not just my thyroid but my adrenals and entire body. Magnesium also seems to help with body aches. I often take magnesium on an empty stomach in the morning or in the evening. If you take it with food, it may cause diarrhea. It may take a while for the body to start noticing that it helps. But for me, it does help. I take B complex, Vitamin C, Pantothenic Acid (B5 in high doses than other B vitamins), eliminate people that cause stress, including family. I used to be one of those health nuts that stayed thin, ate right, exercised and was a size 2-4, and ballooned up to a size 20. Certain people around me gloated. It was an added stressor as it was painful. I not longer associate with them or as little as possible. Getting some sunlight into the eyes does help the pituitary, which in turn helps the thyroid, thus, the entire body and endocrine system. I eat lots of beans, grains, green vegetables, organic eggs, some fish and occasionally chicken. I only eat red meat at that time of the woman’s monthly cycle. I do deep breathing and stretching, which does help. I have eliminated alcohol, as much sugar as possible, stressful people, stressful lifestyle and anything that causes me problems. I do not watch TV as half the time it is bad news. I do use it for classical music or my bible studies. I do not visit sites online that do not support a healthy mind/spirit/soul/body. Consuming foods high in antioxidants often works better than in vitamins – so lots of foods with lots of color. The body absorbs it better, something no company will tell you, although B vitamins, magnesium and even calcium seem to be okay. But even those, the body does do better if it’s a whole food, the way God made it. I really don’t know if any of this will help anyone. But I do know that most of the help I came across that has helped me came from others who had been down similar roads. I stil have to take Armour, my vitamins. And the doctor has me on Ambien to help me sleep, especially since I work shiftwork that changes every darn day. I have on occasion had to take Xanax. But I don’t need the Ambien or the Xanax if I’m doing everything else. And of course, my bible studies and prayer are what have kept me sane and continuing on when everyone left me behind because I couldn’t keep up, and I lived in almost completely isolation for 17 years. If this in any way helps anyone, I will be truly happy for your benefit and improvement in life.

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  9. abbie

    I too entered memopause and low thyroid at the same time. They put me on Synthroid, after two years of night sweats,waking up every night at 2:00 I went on a HRT and finally decided to use Prempro. It helped me to be able to work with the public and sleep all night. I learned about T3,then Armour… this stopped body aches and my not wanting to learn new work task. I now have gone through stage1 breast cancer, now doing radiation treatments The HRT and gaining weight was my only risk factors. I believe taking hormones is not safe. We have been told lies about HRT.

    You will get better and your body will adjust in time. Just dig your nails in and hang on. Life is an experience that is not always easy. Each time we make it through. It makes you stronger with knowledge to help others.

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  10. sally

    Abbie …PLEASE read What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause by Dr. John Lee. It will change your life! He has one on breast cancer also! Prayers are with you!

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  11. Tasia

    Thank you for sharing your experience! This website is truly a life-saver for me. Your information encouraged me to seek a doctor who understands my needs. Finally diagnosed as hypothyroid, low progesterone, low vitamin levels…I KNOW I am on the right path for wellness but there are still some minor kinks to work out. I am not premenopausal like yourself (I’m in my 20’s), but your hormone levels do sound strangely familiar to me…

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  12. Stephanie

    I can empathize! When the hormones lowered at menopause, along came thyroid and adrenal fatigue. After being sick for 4 years I FINALLY am making slow progress. Something for thought….I could not tolerate Cortef or compounded Hydrocortisone as it gave me awful head rush feelings. So I started taking Mil-Adregen first which I found unfortunately did NOT raise my actual cortisol numbers. My morning saliva cortisol continued to slip from 15 to 7 to 5 to 3. I did a saliva tests while ON Mil-Adregen and saw no increase in cortisol. Then I started Isocort. I decided to pay for some more saliva tests. I did a baseline morning saliva, which was 3.4. Then took 2.5 mg. of Cortef…..it raised my cortisol 1 1/2 hr. later to only 4.5.

    Then a week later I did another morning baseline saliva cortisol. It was 3.4. I took 2 Isocort pellets and meassured again in 1 1/2. It raised my Free Cortisol to 7.5.

    If there are folks out there having a tough time on Cortef, I might suggest they run their own experiment to see how it affects their own body, assuming of course the pellet dosage is consistent, which is always a concern.

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  13. Catherine

    Hi. Hearing your symptoms is a mirror image of mine. I spoke to Dr Barry Peatfield today and am seeing him soon. He has written about adrenal failure in Hashi patients and is well aware of the links between hypo AI and Adrenal issues. Thank goodness I am going to see him because other doctors don’t know what to do.

    I am starting the Vitamin C/ Licorice and taking 100 Thyroxine . Because of high AI readings and 18.96 original ~TSH . He is sure that I have adrenal probs and what I cant understand is why no doctors understand any of this important information. Isn’t it important enough or what?? I was verging on complete collapse by the time I was told that I had thyroid probs and that was because I went to see Dr Marion Gluck privately who specializes in menopausal hormone balancing and she recognized that I was very ill.

    Keep up the good work on your great site. We need you! Herin

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  14. Michelle

    Adrenal Fatigue and / or Burnout !!!
    I have suffered from C.F.S. for over 10 years and have visited more doctors in more fields than I care to think about. Recently I had a very bad chest cold and my doctor put me on prednisone. I have long suspected an adrenal connection when it came to my chronic fatigue, and now I am very sure this IS IT !!! I have been on either Prozac or Zoloft for over 10 years to combat panic attacks that I now know are a result of my adrenal problems !!! It is very sad that in this day & age that doctors are soooo very closed minded. Not all though… there are doctors ( mostly alternative ) out there that are open minded enough to listen to the patient and also to new ideas in medicine. It is definitely worth it to seek them out.

    I urge anyone that is suffering with C.F.S. OR FIBROMYALGIA to consider a trial dose ( tiny amounts ) of cortef ( cortisol ). It will be difficult to find a doctor that is willing to let you try this med because of past mistakes with larger doses. Also read “Safe Uses of Cortisol” by William Mck. Jefferies.

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  15. tealady

    Hi Janie, I was searching for an old doc who first prescribed “armour” to me, and google brought up this page! I see catherine also was lucky to find a good doctor in Germany. I saw her in 2001 in Sydney and note she also practices in London. Catherine, could you say hello to Marion from Jan in Sydney. She was so wonderful in treating me and hasnt been here since August when I missed her visit due to a truck writing off my car (with me in it). Back to adrenals.. yes it is a very BIG part of the picture I think, for MOST of those with autoimmune or other issues. I also note a huge change in my need for progesterone after menopause.. before I just couldn’t take it, and probably didn’t need it.. now, sigh, that’s why I was looking for Marion! I’m also about to give a low dose cortisol another intake period. I think now though I prefer methylprednisolone cream..Advantan is the brand name in Australia. I do go too high in cortisol too easily though..at least after a couple of months, even low dose and tapering!

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  16. Tina

    Hi Lari from London. I’m in London too and am trying to find a Dr who can help me with my adrenals as my current Dr who prescribes Armour to me won’t prescribe HC. I’ve made an appointment with Marion Gluck based on the posting above and hopefully this will help but I’d still like to know if there is anyone else if my options fall through.
    Thanks!

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  17. Mary

    Janie/Anyone:

    I am suffering from adrenal fatigue-2.5 is the score from my doctor. I do not want to go on steroids-Cortisol as I am terrified of it. Has anyone tried a course of acupuncture and herbs to combat this? Also, what are the side effects of Cortisol? How long do you have to be on it? I don’t hear anyone commenting on this. I appreciate any and all feedback. Many thanks.

    (Mary, many many many people are on cortisol to treat their adrenal fatigue. Your fear is actually being fueled by your low cortisol. Time on it varies, but it does the job like nothing else. Herbs don’t do it. Go to the following link and join the adrenals group: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/talk-to-others

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  18. janette Ingham

    THANKS JANIE!!!!!!

    I’m so thankful for this website. It and one or two others have been a replacement for a doctor many times. I am permenopausal (although via 1 blood test my standard GP said no you are not. Same with my thyroid even though I had a LONG list of symptoms the scariest being a growing and persistent memory loss and brain fog but the TSH came up as normal. Then I had a nocturnal seizure and that was that I was online and searching for answers.

    The vast majority of doctors here in Australia don’t treat with dessicated thyroid so I had to travel 4 hours to get one to listen to me and H E L P!!!! My brain fog lifted and I’ve improved, taking a small amount of Cortisol 2 x per day, although my memory and brain function is still not all back and even dvds and old friends are a bit of a blank. I recognise them but don’t remember our history which is a REAL disability!

    I’m only up to 90 mgs of DT so far and my newest attempt at a doctor wants me to switch to slow release T3 only (he doesn’t trust the compounded DT, we don’t have Armour here). I’m not sure what to do, he said I had a high Reverse T3 but I’m concerned about giving up DT and the T4 that comes with it. I’ve read it helps memory and I need more help there not less. Should I increase my DT to help my memories return or are they lost forever? This Dr insists I don’t need to take T4 at all, that T3 will convert into T4 and he is quite proud and condescending about his opinions. YUK!

    Now I’m having those menopausal extreme hormonal symptoms like Janie, aching body parts, (as well I fell of a retaining wall and broke a rib). Now I’m feeling heated often too (stronger than a hot flush that passes) as well as many of the hypothyroid ones (btw more T3 and less DT seemed to make my persisitent constipation worse). I’ll take the Licorice Root more regularly (my iodine was high last time dr checked) and more magnesium and calcium. I’ve been taking vit Bs and C as well. (Can’t really avoid the emotional stresses I’m afraid, although faith helps.) Perhaps I should raise my DT dose?

    I have been treating myself like a lab rat for ages to try to work out what and how much to take and have read scary things too, but I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Is it true that if you come off T3 suddenly you could go into a coma?

    I’d appreciate any advice about what to take to help restore memory loss/brain function and THANKS SO MUCH again for being there for me STTM!

    Janette

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  19. janette Ingham

    UPDATE from above … be CAREFUL with LIcorice Root.

    Continuing on using myself as a bit of a lab rat, I wanted to get off of coritsone even the 8mg a day, (the doctor wanted me to increase it :() so instead I tried increasing the LIcorice Root I was taking to a few capsules (say 4 max) a day (with meals). I am starting to get the message my body has been trying to tell me, that I am too low in progesterone or too high in estrogen at ovulation and for the following 3 weeks (most of the month).

    I had my only ever 2nd seizure around this time the other day (like catamenial epilepsy), the first in 1.5 years! I think it was owing to the Licorice Root bumping up my estrogen levels (apparently it can do that) I read afterwards. So if you get weird headed/light headed around ovulation and during and after your period you may have too high estrogen and the Licorice Root could be a bit too much. I also noticed that I was having trouble dropping off to sleep and kept waking myself up with a jump. My cortisol is now normal apparently so I have begun weaning myself slowly off of the cortisone. (Apparently Cortisone can also give you issues, male facial hair growth, skin and mucous membranes drying out …. YUK!)

    So I think no matter what you try, monitor it closely, be your own personal physician and if you notice new symptoms tweak what you are taking, always gradually!
    C YA
    Janette

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  20. Rowen

    Howdy Janie…
    How are you?
    I just read your story…very interesting. Im impressed with your fortitude. Just a quick question if I may. I am suffering with adrenal stress/ hypothyroidism etc. I have low aldosterone & high progesterone & testosterone, so I am trying to understand the link between them all….if you know by chance? (akin to your hormone troubles). Is the progesterone not converting to aldosterone? etc?
    Any advice/ knowledgde/ thoughts would be great 🙂

    (From Janie: Would need more details, actually, which really belongs in the patient groups, but just briefly…make sure you are not taking Pregnenelone, which can raise progesterone. But if your “high progesterone” comes from a saliva test, re-do the test using serum, which can be more accurate. Saliva testing can produce “false” highs. http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/talk-to-others )

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  21. duchess

    I have been diagnosed with adrenal exhaustion (especially in the am) I wondered for years why I can’t get out of bed in the morning. Finally now after seeing a natural path doctor I did a saliva test and it is proven. She has prescribed multi glyco and ortho adapt. Has anyone taken these suppliments and have they helped? Also I need to change my diet and rest more. I have lots of weight to lose that I have gained in the past few years. I hope this works for me.

    (From Janie: you can also ask this question on good patient groups: http://www.stopthethyroidmadness.com/talk-to-others)

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  22. Julie Prosser

    I have taken Cyclogest progesterone pessaries for the last twenty five years, I was diagnosed by Doctor Katherina Dalton with premenstrual syndrome/Post Natal Depression/Puerpel Psychosis, having been on the contraceptive pill for a number of years Doctor Dalton explained that the progestogens in the pill had lowered my natural progesterone level. My GP took me off progesterone at the age of 52, within 18 months I had a lot of my symptoms come back except PMS, which I wouldn’t have had as I had gone through the change I started losing weight again like I did at the beginning of my illness, which at the time I went down to 6 stone. I have recently started taking Cyclogest 200 mg twice a day and I feel like I’m feeling normal again .

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  23. Stephanie

    I was wondering, do you think undiagnosed/untreated PCOS can cause high reverse t3? I cleared mine over the summer and now it’s very high again and I was just diagnosed with PCOS. ..

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  24. mandy simms

    This is me. Im glad I came acriss Janies post on this. Not for her of course. Im so sick of myself. Finally got some bio identical prog. Had to restart naturethroid again. On off cortisol, still low, low vit. D, . No hair, fat, tired. Crap.

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