Contributed by – Healthians Team

Stress is a common word in today’s society. Not only can chronic stress create chaos on your overall health and well-being but it can also affect your thyroid. It has a negative impact on body weight, psychological health and even thyroid function. The thyroid is a vital gland of the human body which controls the secretion of hormones. Apart from several diseases, stress also affects the functioning of this gland. There are abundant scientific examples that show how stress impacts thyroid function. Studies suggest that it is bi-directional as stress disturbs the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis and simultaneously disturbed thyroid function changes our stress response.

Stress facilitates the production of glucocorticoids such as cortisol, neurotransmitters and inflammatory cytokines which cause autoimmune thyroid disease and activate inflammatory pathways. Stress increases intestinal penetrability responsible for inflammatory disorders and autoimmune conditions that affect the thyroid. It also acts as a catalyst for the development of issues related to the thyroid function. Many thyroid patients are not well equipped to respond to life’s daily stresses. Hence, stress management is an integral part of dealing with a thyroid disorder.

Impact on body

During stress, the active T3 level decreases and the production of reverse T3 increases which contributes to hypothyroidism, weight gain, fatigue and anxiety. Excess stress also reduces optimal immune system function. In some cases, it might become difficult to distinguish between stress and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction. Stress causes panic and people might feel hot, irritable, overwhelmed and experience a racing heart similar to what happens in the cases of hyperthyroidism. Patients might also suffer from sleep disturbance, digestive issues and symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation which can occur in both hyper and hypothyroidism. Symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, headaches and mood swings also suggest an underactive thyroid.

Stress management - Healthians

How to control this?

Most thyroid conditions can be controlled and treated with medication but stress needs lifestyle modifications such as yoga and meditation. Healthy eating habits along with exercise can go a long way in keeping these hormone levels in check. Stress management techniques like reading, walking in nature, yoga, swimming and conversation with a good friend. These activities are stress busters which help to clear the mind.

Sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, adequate sunshine and moderate exercise are essential for great health. Some nutrients such as vitamin C, magnesium and vitamin B are also vital for the healthy function of the adrenal glands and nervous system. They are often exhausted in times of stress therefore supplementation with the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional can often be beneficial.

Talk to the doctor for advice on how to minimize stress. Seek professional help for vigorous exercises and relaxation techniques. Also, inquire about dietary recommendations and possible medication adjustments that can help in managing stress and thyroid imbalance.

Points to remember

  • Aim for eight hours of sleep every night.
  • Your bedroom should be dark, quiet and cool.
  • Engage in some activity to relax at least thirty minutes before going to bed. Activities include deep breathing exercises and yoga. A cup of herbal tea, a shower or reading in a low-lit room works like wonders.
  • Eat right and go for a healthy and balanced diet which includes fruits, vegetables and proteins. Begin your day with a good breakfast which is low in sugar but high in protein and fibre.
  • Reduce alcohol, caffeine and sugar in your diet to maintain overall energy levels.
  • Focus on your eating patterns. Sit and enjoy a meal which will help your body digest food better.
  • Think about adding thyroid-supporting vitamins and minerals to your daily routine. Iodine deficiency might be the cause of hypothyroidism. You may also consider adding other essential vitamins and minerals such as selenium, zinc, iron, copper, vitamins A, B, C, and E.

Getting rid of stress completely may not be possible. However, supporting your body with healthy foods and adding vitamins and minerals, proper sleep and some relaxation techniques can assist you in balancing your stress levels, impacting your overall health including the thyroid function.

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