Stress and the Thyroid

Stress and the Thyroid


We have all been impacted by stress one way or another in our lifetime. Stress is the way our body reacts when something happens that we do not like or agree with.


We live in a world that can be stressful at times. For a lot of people, this can cause frustration and anger before, during, and after the situation.


Stressful events like a car wreck, a broken relationship, a disagreement, and/or an annoying co-worker can sometimes throw people for a loop.


But, there is much more that happens to the body than just the way people feel during stress.



Adrenal Connection

Many underestimate the importance of having good thyroid health.


Without the health of this important function of the body, stress can come in the form of adrenal issues.


The adrenal, or suprarenal, glands sit just above the kidneys and are shaped like walnuts.


Their job is to release different hormones into the body depending on what each individual needs to keep up with regulation including T3, T4, and TSH. Some of these adrenal hormones include norepinephrine, cortisol, and epinephrine.


Norepinephrine natural ability lowers blood pressure in the body naturally, while keeping the heart from overworking itself.


On the other hand, cortisol works against inflammation to keep the body tissue looking normal.


Lastly, epinephrine protects the body against allergic asthmatic attacks that could happen within the body. These hormones are but a few that are critical to the regulation of the human body, and are all wrapped up in the health of the thyroid gland.


The Negative Effects of Stress

When the body becomes stressed, the adrenal glands get to work.


Stress can come in very different ways like schedules that are too difficult to stay on top of, driving a vehicle in rush hour traffic, problems with money, and so much more.


But, other “minimal” factors that place stress on the body can wreak havoc on the adrenals, too.


Things like stomach malfunction, blood sugar peaks and valleys, and food allergies all play a part in the stress that adrenal glands can be put under. Autoimmune deficiencies and toxins within the body can create issues, too.


Once these issues occur within the body, the adrenal glands begin to pump hormones that verify stress. This process is described as homeostasis, when the body is knocked out of balance.


Stress that results from the adrenal hormone production is one of the most identified issues when it comes to stress because everyone at some time or another has dealt with stress and the way the body tries to fix the problem though adrenal gland hormone production.


Adrenal Stress Symptoms

Adrenal stress varies from person to person, but there are symptoms that are more prevalent in most people across the globe.


These include being overtired, having migraines and headaches, experiencing mood swings, having trouble going to sleep or staying in the sleep cycle, and becoming dizzy.


Also, these stress symptoms can give people urges for caffeine and sugar products, which connects with the understanding that “stress eating” is a real thing within the body.


If adrenals glands become weak, this can cause the same symptoms as hypothyroid, which can cause a deficiency of glucocorticoid (corticosteroids made naturally in the body to metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins), and seizures causing having on the human body.


At this point, the thyroid gland does not need to be fixed, but rather the adrenals. In turn, this will help the thyroid gland to perform normally again.


One of the main problems to fix with the adrenal glands involves blood sugar. When stress occurs in the body, blood sugar can be indirectly affected from the adrenals to the thyroid gland.


This can cause low or high cortisol which causes blood sugar deficiencies on varying levels.


These imbalances effect eating habits and so much more.


Adrenal Gland Direct Impacts

The adrenals impact the body in very specific, direct ways as well.


Stress on the adrenal glands interrupts the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.


The HPA axis is the interaction between the three names in the axis that help regulate the mood, sexuality, digestion, and more.


Furthermore, the HPA axis helps cope with trauma and stress. So, when stress occurs on the adrenal glands, this depresses the pituitary and hypothalamic elements. Stress on the adrenals glands slow production of the thyroid.


More specifically, studies paint the picture that inflammatory production is released into the body, through cytokines IL-1, TNF-alpha, and IL-6, due to stress and this reduces the thyroid glands hormone production.


Another impact the adrenal gland has on the body during stress is the transition of T4 to T3 hormones.


Naturally, the body produces the T4 hormone through the thyroid gland. 93% of what is created by the thyroid gland is actually T4 over T3.


But, the body can’t use T4 until it is converted to T3. Because of stress in the body, stress receptors actually halt the conversion of this important process.


Normally, the conversion process takes place with the 5’-deiodinase enzymes converting T4 to T3, which aids in the formation of gut and liver tissues.


Tests have shown that adding inflammatory production like cytokines IL-1 into the body causes T4 and T3 production to be limited.


When the adrenal glands are affected by stress, the body’s immune system weakens.


Within the human body, there are barriers that are immune to foreign substances such as the lungs, blood-brain barrier, and the Gastrointestinal (GI) tract.


These barriers have been created in the body so foreign substances cannot enter the brain or the bloodstream to protect from illness, disease, etc.


Stress to the adrenal glands weakens the regulatory systems of immunity, and if these barriers are broken, antigens and massive proteins enter parts of the body they should never gain access to. If this occurs, the body starts to have abnormalities and autoimmune issues resulting in diseases like Hashimoto’s.


Hashimoto’s has always been treated with replacement hormones, but patients still are affected by the symptoms of hypothyroidism.


This same effect happens too when stress happens to the human body. Stress symptoms may be limited in one sense, but the body is still being affected by other negative issues.


Stress continues to affect the body negatively when the thyroid starts to resist what it should do normally.


Usually, the thyroid hormone enters the blood stream when receptors allow them into cells. But, once again, the cytokines that are inflammatory suppress the thyroid’s ability to work properly and efficiently.


For example, this process is similar to someone that has a resistance to insulin. Insulin wants to get into the cells, but the cells do not allow it to happen.


Furthermore, this is the same with the thyroid hormone. The thyroid wants to work and get into each cell, but because of the inflammatory suppressants, this process becomes stagnant.


Ways to Reduce Stress-Thyroid Issues

There are many ways to halt stress in the body, so the thyroid can go back to working as normal.


Start by adding herbal remedies to your body. Many times, herbs like coleus, bacopa, and ashwagandha can aid in the function of the thyroid and adrenal glands.


Also, there are herbs that can actually reduce the effects of stress on the body like cordyceps and Siberian ginseng.


Vitamins and minerals are also essential to add to the body to reduce stress. Vitamins A, B, C, and E help with the production of thyroid hormones.


Other important natural nutrients to help strength the thyroid during stress include iodine, selenium, zinc, copper, iron, and antioxidants. Also, prescriptions can be used, like Synthroid, to produce more thyroid hormones.


The only problem is the thyroid will not do this naturally moving forward and might never produce hormones without the help from medicine again. As stated earlier, have conversations with your doctor about all your medical prescription needs. 


You can also absorb vitamins and minerals when you eat properly and appropriately. Regular meal eating (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), as well as healthy snacks, can help the functioning of important glands.


By avoiding caffeine, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sugars, the body will be able to handle stress better than ever before. Also, a low-carb diet might be considered to help in the fight against stress and gland malfunction.


In a low-carb diet, an individual can eat foods such as fish and seafood, cheese, eggs, meat, but stay away from items such as potatoes, bread, bananas, and candy.


In terms of beverages, steer clear from beers, soda, and juices, but feel free to drink water, coffees, teas, and red wines.


Sleep has always been preached when people are sick to get more of it, but this is also the case when stress occurs and the body needs a break. The perfect time to get sleep is from 10 at night until 6 in the morning.


Rest before bed to help the body unwind and get ready for true sleep. Also, if you can, pencil in periods of the day that you can get some peace and quiet. Try spending 5 minutes of breathing exercises or go on a walk to get your mind off things.


Maybe you would rather mediate, pray, or do yoga. Find ways of resting that fit you and your schedule. Then, you will rest easier at night. Periods of rest will give your glands a break, too.


Writing can also be a very therapeutic way to relieve stress and get your body back on track. Spend 10 minutes per day writing about your stressful events for the day and add how they made you feel. This will help you track stress, allowing you to connect situations together and coming up with solutions.


Lastly, spend time exercising the body you have been given. Exercise is so important for the health of the human body. Just be sure that you do not exhaust you body because then you will become stressed and your cortisol levels will heighten, defeating the entire process. Start slow and work your way up when you exercise. Never burn yourself out. Small changes can have a huge impact.


Remember though that these tips are all idealistic. It may work in the perfect world and they are nice goals to set, but if you break them, its expected and not the end of the world. Life can get in the way sometimes.



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