Chronic stress and thyroid issues have a very strong connection. Your thyroid gland is responsible for regulating most of the metabolic functions in your body.
When you are under stress, your body produces cortisol. Too much of this hormone can wreak havoc on your thyroid function and overall health.
Stress and thyroid function have strong ties, so it’s best if you can understand how to better this relationship rather than put unnecessary pressure on your body. Interested? Then keep reading to find out more.
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In this article:
- The Connection Between Stress and Thyroid
- What Causes Stress?
- What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Stress?
- How You Can Reduce Stress
Stress and Thyroid: Understanding the Union
The Connection Between Stress and Thyroid
Your thyroid and adrenal gland work together to respond to your body’s ever-changing status to relay information to the body and the brain. The thyroid acts as the primary producer of hormones.
One hormone in specific that the thyroid produces is cortisol. Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands and helps deal with whatever is causing stress.
In addition to the cortisol release, a number of other actions also take place in the body when responding to stress. The brain recognizes the situation and releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).
This hormone directs the pituitary gland, located at the base of the brain, to inform the adrenal glands it needs to produce cortisol. Both CRH and cortisol can reduce the levels of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which is a critically important hormone in the production of T4 and T3.
In a study conducted by Holtorf Medical Group, it was shown that chronic stress resulted in a decrease in D1 activity and an increase in D3 activity; both of which are enzymes responsible for the activation and deactivation of the thyroid hormones.
This leads to an increase of T4 conversion into reverse T3. Reverse T3 inhibits cell processes, putting it in direct opposition to T3, which promotes healthy cell growth and maintenance.
Ultimately, stress can reduce the levels of TSH production. Low levels of T3 can result in:
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Poor concentration
- Cold intolerance
The impact of stress on the thyroid, which leads to an underactive or overactive thyroid, can cause significant damage to one’s body.
What Causes Stress?
Stress has various triggers, and work stress is one major contributor. Some causes of work stress are as follows:
- Dealing with harassment or discrimination at work
- Giving speeches in front of co-workers
- Having insecurities about the opportunity of promotion
- Working under challenging conditions
- Having unclear work expectations and poor company management
- Working long hours
- Having too much responsibility or workload
- Being unhappy with your work
Life stresses can also influence your stress levels, and these are as follows:
- A traumatic event like a natural disaster
- Taking care of a sick family member
- Emotional issues like guilt, depression, or anxiety
- Chronic injury or illness
- Moving to a new home
- Getting married
- Increase in financial responsibilities
- Loss of job
- Death of a loved one
Other times, stress can come from the inside:
- A major life change like a major financial setback
- Unrealistic expectations
- Attitude and perceptions
- Fear and uncertainty
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Stress?
If you’ve been stressed for a short period, you may experience these symptoms:
- Upset stomach
- Difficulty concentrating and sleeping
When you’re stressed for a long period, it can lead to some serious health complications such as:
- Skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, or acne
- Flare-ups of arthritis or asthma
- Fertility issues
- Changes in sex drive
- Weight loss or gain
- Upset stomach, such as diarrhea, constipation, or cramps
- Irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, or heartburn
- Heart attack
- Heart disease
- Hardening of the arteries
- Abnormal heartbeat
- High blood pressure
How You Can Reduce Stress
1. Eat Well
In addition to three nutritionally balanced meals per day, it is best to fit in two healthy snacks that are rich in protein.
Eating breakfast every day is a good way to wake up your metabolism. It can also keep our blood sugar and hormone production regulated.
High consumption of caffeine and sugar can increase the levels of stress. By reducing your consumption of these items, it may lower your overall stress levels.
2. Get Appropriate Sleep
By getting enough good quality sleep, your body’s neuroendocrine system can reset to better regulate your hormones.
In regards to quality sleep, it is important to ease into sleep to allow effective melatonin production, which is important in helping you go to and stay asleep.
You can improve sleep quality by avoiding watching television and using computers right before bed. As a bonus, this period of relaxation allows the adrenal glands to slow stress responses leading to a more restful sleep.
3. Control Your Thoughts and Self-Talk
Negative and overly critical thoughts can be a significant contributor to one’s stress levels. By recognizing and halting deprecating ideas and thoughts, you can flip a negative mood into a more positive one.
In doing so, it can certainly relieve stress. A technique known as “thought-stopping” may be useful.
When you recognize negativity in your mind, you literally say “stop” verbally or mentally in order to transition to a different train of thought.
4. Work Up a Sweat
Regular exercise can reduce stress, improve mood, increase self-esteem, and improve energy levels. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, a hormone that gives a sensation of euphoria.
Additionally, exercise can act as a good way to distract yourself from negative or stressful situations that would otherwise be on your mind. Moderate and regular exercise is highly beneficial for your overall well-being.
But, it’s important not to over-exercise because that can also increase stress levels.
5. Taking Supplements
Adaptogens are a class of herb that can have a positive impact on your body’s stress levels. These herbs have the potential to provide energy and give a greater sense of calm.
Some commonly used adaptogens include ashwagandha, Rhodiola, holy basil, Schisandra, Shatavari, and eleuthero.
The easiest way to consume these helpful herbs is through tea. That means they can also be a good alternative to coffee.
All adaptogens are considered non-stimulating, aside from Chinese ginseng.
All-natural thyroid health support supplements can also be available in convenient gel capsules.
6. Laughing It Off
Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. It relaxes the whole body, boosts the immune function, burns calories, protects the heart, and may even help you live longer.
Also, laughter can release endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
These endorphins are absolutely the sweetest medicine available. They can transform your life into a grand experience. Guffawing at a television sitcom or watching a stand-up comedian perform can save you from the gnashing teeth of stress.
Meditation is one of the easiest and quickest ways to reduce stress. Originally, people meditate to understand the divine and mystical forces of life.
Nowadays, people use it for relaxation and stress reduction. It’s a mind-body complementary medicine that inspires a tranquil mind, which is beneficial for your overall health and well-being.
You can practice meditation when you’re out for a walk in the park, sitting on the bus, or even in the middle of a stressful meeting.
8. Listening to Music
The soothing power of music can be an extremely effective stress management tool. It has a tremendously relaxing effect and restores harmony between mind and body.
Music has a beneficial impact on your psychological functions — it can slow down the pulse and heart rate and decrease levels of stress hormones. Singing or even shouting can release tension and promotes relaxation.
There is no doubt, listening to music is one of the best stress relievers, and can even be a magnificent shield that can defend your overall wellness.
9. Trying Aromatherapy
Essentials oils can help you keep calm and promote relaxation. Among the most calming scents are:
- Orange blossom
- Roman chamomile
You can use these scents when you take an aromatic bath before bedtime to help you fall asleep fast and achieve a night of restful sleep.
10. Keeping a Journal
Writing down your thoughts and emotions can help keep you manage stress by channeling negativity through words.
You can keep a journal at home and spend some time to write down whatever things you want to write about. This is ideal to do before going to bed.
You can also write down the things you are grateful for and focus your attention more on the positive ones than the negative things. You can also try voice or video recording of yourself to document how you feel and listen or watch it later.
Make your journal colorful and exciting by decorating it using your artistic skills.
11. Playing with Your Pet
Having a pet at home can help boost your mood because they behave like a human being, providing positive emotions like love, loyalty, and trust. Interacting with your pet every day can also help you forget about worries and problems for a short period, helping your mind refresh.
If you’re tired from work, try to play with them when you get home so they can give you joyful emotions that can help boost your mood. A simple hug or cuddle with them can already have a good influence on how you feel.
12. Practicing Deep Breathing
Mental stress enables your sympathetic nervous system to activate the fight-or-flight mode. Your body then releases stress hormones letting you experience symptoms like constricted blood vessels and faster breathing and heartbeat.
Deep breathing exercises enable your parasympathetic nervous system to trigger a relaxation response. This workout aims to focus your awareness on how you breathe, making it deeper and slower.
Deep breathing allows your belly to rise and the lungs to expand, slowing down your heart rate so you feel more peaceful.
A few types of deep breathing exercises are abdominal and diaphragmatic breathing.
13. Creating More Physical Contact
Having sex, hugging, kissing, and cuddling are all positive physical contact that can help lower stress levels by lowering cortisol levels and releasing oxytocin. This can result in lower heart rate and blood pressure, which are symptoms of stress.
Oxytocin Definition: A chemical released by the brain to promote a positive mood
14. Exercising Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a relaxation technique that anchors you to the present situation. It allows you to understand acceptance where you focus on your feelings and thoughts without judgment.
This can help you control stress more as you can accept negativity so you know how to handle or get rid of it. You can follow or practice mindfulness-based stress reduction or ask your doctor about how you can apply mindfulness to relieve stress.
15. Avoiding Delays
Delays in everything you do can also contribute to stress as it leaves you scrambling to catch up. To avoid this, know how to stay on top of your priorities by organizing what you should do.
You can create a to-do list, so it’s easier for you to keep track of which ones come first. It’s also important to provide yourself with realistic deadlines on each life goal or task, so you see your progress.
Focus on which things need to be done today and create a plan for tomorrow. Doing this daily can help make things easier.
16. Saying No to Things You Can’t Handle
Some types of stress are within your control like taking on more tasks or responsibilities. This is where you need to say no to take control over some parts of your life you can change.
17. Chewing Gum
Chewing gums can help you ease stress as it creates brain waves similar to those in people with higher relaxation levels. A study revealed that people who often chew gums had a lower occupational stress level and a higher sense of well-being.
One good time to chew gums is every after a meal, so you promote relaxation in your body, helping your digestive system to become more efficient.
Regardless of where stress in your life originates from, it’s important to see its impact on your thyroid as well as your overall wellness. Imagined stressors can have a very real physiological impact on the body and help you understand the relationship between stress and thyroid.
Because the thyroid is such an integral system in the body, it is critical to monitor environmental factors and mental habits inhibiting the thyroid’s ability to perform efficiently. By utilizing the above techniques, you can assist your body in maintaining a healthy hormone activity, preventing thyroid cancer and other types of autoimmune disease.
In addition, by reducing stress, you improve your quality of life in pursuit of a more well-balanced lifestyle.
Do you know other ways you can reduce stress? Share it with us in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 6, 2017, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.