Chronic stress takes essential attention and energy away from many body functions that affect the thyroid. When we’re stressed or anxious, we’re in the fight or flight mode of the nervous system which means we’re ready to go!
We’re ready to act fast. Blood flow has rushed to the heart and the major muscles so we can run or fight in the best possible way, breathing and heart rate speed up to get more oxygen, your pupils dilate. Attention to ‘non essential’ (to survival, at this moment) body processes is diverted and this includes digestion, reproduction, immunity and repair to body and mind.
This is an evolved survival instinct designed to save our lives and keep us safe. Unfortunately the same processes still happen when we’re a bit stressed or anxious. This affects our thyroid function. Regulation of hormones and immunity are one of the bodily functions that are put aside.
Here are 3 further ways that stress affects thyroid health.
- Inflammatory chemicals are released when we’re stressed and these decrease the production of thyroid hormones. They also make the body less sensitive to TSH so when it tries to communicate with the thyroid to make more hormone, it’s less likely to get the message.
- When we’re stressed the liver doesn’t convert as much T4 (the thyroid makes mostly T4 hormone) to T3 (the thyroid makes a little bit of this hormone but not enough, and this is the hormone that our cells can use). It stockpiles it as reverse T3 which is unusable.
- Cortisol (produced when we’re stressed) reduces our ability to clear excess oestrogen and this excess oestrogen increases a binding protein which binds to thyroid hormone so it can’t be used.
One more thing, that blood flow that rushes to the major muscles, can take blood flow from the hands and feet, which means COLDER hands and feet.
Stress will have a dramatic effect on the severity of your symptoms so incorporate some relax time into your day. I’ll be back with some ideas of how to do that soon.
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