Stress and Your Thyroid: What’s the Connection?

Stress: A word that seems all too common in today’s society. Not only can chronic stress wreck havoc on your overall health and well-being, but it can affect your thyroid too.

Stress and Hypothyroidism

Your thyroid works in tandem with your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands, which are above your kidneys, can handle small amounts of stress well. When you encounter stress they release cortisol, which enhances various bodily functions.

The impact of stress on the thyroid occurs by slowing your body’s metabolism. This is another way that stress and weight gain are linked. When thyroid function slows during stress, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormone levels fall. Also, the conversion of T4 hormone to T3 may not occur, leading to higher level of reverse T3. 

Insulin resistance and issues balancing blood sugar often occur alongside hypothyroidism. Increased levels of glucocorticoids lower the levels of TSH in the blood. A delicate balance between stress hormones and cortisol must exist for proper thyroid function. If this delicate balance changes, your thyroid symptoms may increase.

Lab tests cannot always depict the right picture of how you’re feeling, and medications cannot always keep up with the changes that stress causes. Chronic stress can cause problems in your body for years before lab tests show a problem. All the while, you may experience hypothyroid symptoms, such as fatigue or weight gain. This prolonged stress may crop up as depression or anxiety when both are actually hypothyroid symptoms.

Stress Relief Tips

You can help your overall stress levels and thyroid health by making some simple changes in your daily life.

Eat Right

A healthy, balanced diet looks different for everyone. In general, plan to eat three well-balanced meals full of fruits, vegetables, and protein each day. Start your morning off with a good breakfast, one low in sugar but high in protein and fiber. Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar in your diet will help with your overall energy levels. Also, think about how you’re eating. Make sure to take the time to sit and enjoy a meal, which will help your body digest food better. While this may seem tough to do in your busy lifestyle, your body and thyroid will thank you for it.

Think About Vitamins

You may want to consider adding thyroid supporting vitamins and minerals to your daily routine. An iodine deficiency is the most common cause of hypothyroidism. Adding other essential vitamins and minerals, such as:

  • selenium
  • zinc
  • iron
  • copper
  • vitamins A, B, C, and E

Talk to your doctor before starting these supplements.

Sleep Well

Getting enough quality sleep at night can be tough with hypothyroidism. Stress makes getting a good night’s sleep tough too. But aiming for a good night’s rest can have a huge impact on your thyroid health. Try adopting a strict bedtime and avoid technology in the hours before bed. Slowing down before you sleep allows the adrenal glands to lower the stress response and rest.

Relax

Taking time to reflect or meditate can help the body relax. In turn, relaxation leads to reduced stress and less impact on your thyroid. There are many ways to relax. For some people, making crafts helps to calm their bodies. For other people, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or simply being outside is enough.

You may not be able to remove all the stress from your life, but supporting your body with healthy foods, adding vitamins and minerals, sleeping properly, and trying some relaxation techniques can help you balance your overall health as well as your thyroid.