How Does Stress Impact Your Thyroid Health?

Updated: Mar 30

By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND

What is the Thyroid Gland?

Your thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that sits in the middle of your neck and plays a big role in body development, metabolism and growth. It is a key player in regulating vital body functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, cholesterol, menstrual cycle, muscle strength, nervous system, and so much more!

In order to understand the impact of stress on our thyroid health, let’s go over some biology of our body:

Normally, our brain releases “thyroid stimulating hormone” (TSH) and signals to our thyroid gland to create T3 and T4, which are our thyroid hormones.

When we are stressed, our body creates a hormone called “cortisol”. Cortisol is responsible for our stress response, it may be the culprit of anxiety, overthinking, racing heart, extreme focus and attention. During periods of prolonged stress, increased cortisol will increase inflammation in your body, cause insulin resistance, will cause cardiovascular complications, increase chances of hormonal imbalance (see my previous post about stress and the menstrual cycle)…and much more.

How Does Stress Impact Your Thyroid Health?

When discussing the impact of stress and the thyroid, the relationship is quite complex. As a simplified explanation, increased cortisol will decrease the production of T3 and T4, and it may also increase chances of autoimmunity against the thyroid gland. If thyroid hormone production is decreased, you’ll start experiencing symptoms of “hypothyroidism”.

Symptoms of a sluggish thyroid/hypothyroidism include (but are not exclusive to):

  1. Weight gain

  2. Hair loss

  3. Constipation

  4. Anxiety and/or depression

  5. Cold sensation at all times

  6. Fatigue

How to Address Stress & Support Thyroid Health?

1. Eat well

Overall, you must focus on having a balanced diet full of health fat, proper protein, and nutritious veggies. Your stress is highly correlated with what you put in your body. Focus on more anti-inflammatory foods, decrease sugar intake and processed foods.

For thyroid health;

  1. Foods rich in zinc (chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, nuts, chickpeas, lentils)

  2. Foods rich in iodine (fish, seaweed, dairy products, grains)

  3. Foods rich in selenium (brazil nuts, legumes, eggs, tuna)

2. Get restful sleep

Getting restful sleep is crucial to lower your stress response. Ensure you are following a sleep routine. Turning off all technology devices 60 minutes before bed,sleeping in a dark room and using your bed for sleep only (no Netflix in bed!)

3. Meditate

Find a way to relax your mind and thoughts. Meditation allows for you to filter out all the conversations your brain has with you to focus on just the important ones. It is an excellent way to lower cortisol levels and support your overall stress-response. It will help lower symptoms of depression and anxiety and allow for easier coping.

4. Move often

Allowing your body to move regularly throughout the day will increase your “feel good” hormones and neurotransmitters and will allow for a natural way to lower cortisol levels. Exercise and movement comes with a large benefit for your body, but for the sake of consistency, it will help decrease inflammation and lower stress naturally, decreasing the negative impact of stress.

5. Supplementation

There are things that you can introduce as supplements to support your body further if your thyroid is not functioning optimally. However, before you can do so, it is important to get a full understanding of the hormone levels through blood work and it would be my job to provide you with a treatment plan that is right for you.

What’s Next?

Stress influences your body in a variety of different ways, if you are concerned about your thyroid health, have a personal history of thyroid hormone imbalance, a family history, or are experiencing unusual symptoms, book an appointment, so we can address the root cause.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192582

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3520819/

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17192582

  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/healthy-eating-for-a-healty-thyroid

Disclaimer

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