Mar
6

Stress, Thyroid, and Adrenal Health – A Combo for Exhaustion?

Our bodies are interconnected. Each process affects others in a symphony of biology – and when one thing is thrown off balance, it can cause trouble in other areas. So, when you’re not feeling your best, the symptoms could indicate problems that seem unrelated… But it’s all related!

Do these problems sound familiar?

  • Frequently tired
  • Chronically stressed
  • Erratic sleep patterns
  • Sugar cravings
  • High daily intake of sugar
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Carry weight around your midsection
  • Low libido
  • Frequently illness
  • Muscle fatigue and weakness?
  • Reliant on caffeine for energy (coffee, energy shots etc.)
  • Long hours at work
  • Frequent headaches

If you do suffer from any of these, it could be related to your adrenal glands and thyroid… And stem from STRESS! I have many clients that come in overstressed, lacking sleep, and unable to loose that extra 5 pounds (despite a very healthy diet).

Stress plays a major factor in keeping your adrenals and thyroid healthy and functioning properly.

A few years ago, I was overstressed after two of my children suffered life threatening accidents that required my constant attention and care. One suffered a traumatic brain injury, and the other suffered multiple broken bones in her body from falling off a chair lift. I had to integrate different modalities for each of them to help them heal, but my OWN health began to suffer.

I then went through a very amicable divorce after being married for 20 years. While we both entered the divorce with the hopes of having the least impact on the children, it was still very traumatic for me – a great loss of the sense of the family I had worked hard to create. I now have a newly created family that looks a bit different than the conventional family, but is still full of love!

The point is that these stressors lead to serious health issues for me: a diagnosis of Hashimoto’s (autoimmune disease of the thyroid) and adrenal fatigue. My hair was falling out, I had lost weight, I wasn’t sleeping, I was diagnosed with PTSD, and I had terrible pain from IBS. I was a mess!

I incorporated different modalities – adaptogens, botanicals, acupuncture, energy healing, and bodywork specialists to heal my adrenals and thyroid – and now feel fantastic.

Stress plays a major factor in keeping your adrenals and thyroid healthy and functioning properly.

So, how does stress impact the thyroid?

The adrenal glands produce adrenaline for your fight or flight response, as well as hormones that impact your major metabolic processes, similar to the thyroid. The hormones the adrenal glands produce help regulate blood sugar, balance electrolytes, and regulate blood pressure, immune response, and digestion (to name a few).

When we experience stress, which can be external or internal, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, which in turn signals the adrenal glands to release stress hormones, namely cortisol.

When these hormones are triggered, the body redirects your normal functions. It begins to de-prioritize anything unnecessary at the time of the this “fight or flight” situation. This includes digestion, immune response, and thyroid hormone production. These are all put on hold until the perceived threat disappears.

If the stressor passes, then your body will turn back to its normal state of homeostasis – but when we are in constant stress, as many of us experience in today’s fast-paced world, our adrenals are in overdrive. We are being consistently bombarded with high cortisol levels. This constant flow of high levels of hormones leads to adrenal fatigue. Your body is in a state of chronic survival mode!

Cortisol tells our body to store fat, but it also slows the production of thyroid hormones. The stress hormones also affect the enzymes that convert inactive T4 (thyroxine) to active T3 (triiodothyronine). Every cell in our body relies on these thyroid hormones to regulate metabolism.

Free T3 (the hormone circulating throughout your body) is the active form of the hormone – the workhorse of all the thyroid hormones. There is, however, another thyroid hormone – Reverse T3 (RT3) – that is the inactive form. When we are stressed, we convert more of our T3 to RT3 than FT3, slowing down our metabolic processes. You may feel fatigued, struggle with your weight, and experience dry skin, brittle nails, insomnia, and high cholesterol.

Stress will also affect the microbiome in your gut, allowing the overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria over healthy bacteria. This can lead to leaky gut that makes you more sensitive to food triggers. Cortisol also reduces our ability to clear estrogen from our body through the liver. This increase in estrogen also increases TBG (thyroid binding hormone), which binds to our free thyroid hormone, T3. When the thyroid hormone is bound, it cannot perform its duties.

In addition, thyroid hormones help us metabolize cholesterol – so if you’re stressed, you are producing more cholesterol, but unable to get rid of it because the thyroid hormones are not available to help clear it out.

Cortisol tells our body to store fat, but it also slows the production of thyroid hormones.

So, how do we reset the body?

1.Recognize the stressors. Once you recognize them, you can learn how to respond with a relaxation response, such as breathing, tapping, or meditation.

2.Regulate your blood sugar levels. Have you only had a cup of coffee, and now it is lunchtime and you’re hangry? …Or you had a muffin early in the morning, and now it is afternoon and you have crashed at work? Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is going to support your adrenals. Your brain loves a steady supply of sugar, and low sugar levels put your brain in emergency mode. Feeding your brain is so important! Do so by crowding in whole foods such as clean protein, high quality fats, carbs from whole grains, and veggies.
Reduce toxins such as alcohol, sugar, and caffeine and cut out gluten, dairy, soy, and corn.

3.Incorporate foods that support a healthy thyroid:

  • Seaweed: Your thyroid needs iodine to produce its hormones, and seaweed is chockfull of iodine. Iodine attaches to tyrosine (an amino acid) to form T4.

  • Brazil nuts: These are packed with selenium, another mineral the thyroid needs to produce hormones. Selenium is needed to convert T4 to T3. I suggest three Brazil nuts a day.

  • Chicken and Beef: Both are a good source of zinc, another mineral needed for the thyroid to function properly.

  • Eggs: One egg contains 16% of the iodine and 20% of your daily selenium. It’s all in the yolk – so eat your yolks!

eggs

Taking steps to improve your diet and reduce your stress will help your adrenals and thyroid function better – which will ultimately make you feel better and give you more energy!

Take this advice seriously. You don’t have to suffer with fatigue, headaches, sugar cravings, and all of that other nasty stuff. Take care of your thyroid, and your thyroid will take care of you!

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