August 14, 2021
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A functional medicine approach to supporting thyroid health (or any other health issue) involves widening the lens to consider the bigger picture. All bodily systems are interconnected, and when there are imbalances in one area, there are typically knock-on effects into other areas too. The holy grail therefore for any functional medicine practitioner is to dig deep to uncover and then address underlying imbalance(s) that may be contributing to a health problem. This means that when health improvements are made, these are likely to be more longer lasting.
Stress is a word that seems all too common in today’s society. Stress is often the ‘elephant in the room’ when it comes to alterations in thyroid function. Not only can chronic stress wreck havoc on your overall health and well-being, but it can affect your thyroid too. In fact, stress and thyroid health are incredibly closely connected, and it is impossible to fully address thyroid health problems without at least considering the possible involvement of stress.
Here’s a snapshot of 5 ways that stress affects thyroid function; the aim is simply to encourage you to widen your view when considering thyroid health:
1. Stress affects thyroid hormone conversion
Many people have heard of the hormone thyroxine (T4) when it comes to thyroid health, since 95% of the thyroid hormone produced by the body is in this form, and this is also the form that is prescribed when an underactive thyroid gland has been diagnosed. However, the body must then convert the majority of thyroxine (T4) into tri-iodothyronine (T3) which is actually the most active form of thyroid hormone. The conversion of T4 – T3 is neither a guaranteed nor straightforward process. During highly stressful times, T4 may be converted to reverse T3 instead, an inactive form of T3 that the body can’t use.
2. Stress impacts cellular sensitivity to thyroid hormones
Thyroid hormones are carried around in the bloodstream ‘bound’ to thyroid binding proteins (thyroid binding globulin). When they arrive at cells where they are needed, they are described as ‘free’ and are able to exert their physiological effects. Stress may increase the activity of thyroid hormone binding protein so that hormones are unable to enter cells. And similar to the process of insulin resistance, cellular receptors may also become less sensitive to thyroid hormones, especially under chronic stress.
3. Stress affects the thyroid-pituitary axis
Thyroid hormones are regulated by the thyroid-pituitary axis. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) is released from the pituitary gland to stimulate the thyroid to produce thyroid hormones. Stress may suppress pituitary gland activity and affect TSH production.
4. Stress as a risk factor for autoimmune Hashimoto’s
Chronic stress influences immune regulation and inflammatory processes, both of which are significant risk factors for autoimmune Hashimoto’s whereby the immune system attacks the thyroid gland.
5. Chronic stress causes nutrient depletion
Like every other aspect of health, thyroid health relies on key nutrients for optimal function. Chronic stress is an energy-intensive and nutrient-hungry process, and over time, this can lead to sub-optimal levels of many of the key nutrients which are also needed for optimal thyroid function such as tyrosine, vitamin C, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.
Stress relief tips
You can help your overall stress levels and thyroid health by making some simple changes in your daily life.
1. Eat right
In general, plan to eat three well-balanced meals full of fruits, vegetables, and protein each day. Start your morning off with a good breakfast, one low in sugar but high in protein and fiber. Reducing alcohol, caffeine, and sugar in your diet will help with your overall energy levels.
Also, think about how you’re eating. Make sure to take the time to sit and enjoy a meal, which will help your body digest food better. While this may seem tough to do in your busy lifestyle, your body and thyroid will thank you for it.
2. Think about vitamins
You may want to consider adding thyroid-supporting vitamins and minerals to your daily routine. An iodine deficiency may be a cause of hypothyroidism. Consider adding essential vitamins and minerals, such as:
Talk to your doctor before starting these supplements.
3. Sleep well
Getting enough quality sleep at night can be tough with hypothyroidism. Stress makes getting a good night’s sleep tough too. But aiming for a good night’s rest can have a huge impact on your thyroid health.
Try adopting a strict bedtime and avoid technology in the hours before bed. Slowing down before you sleep allows the adrenal glands to lower the stress response and rest.
Taking time to reflect or meditate can help the body relax. In turn, relaxation leads to reduced stress and less impact on your thyroid.
There are many ways to relax. For some people, making crafts helps to calm their bodies. For other people, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or simply being outside is enough.
Stellapharm is one of leading generics pharmaceutical companies and strong producer of anti-viral drugs in Vietnam. The company established in Vietnam in 2000; and focuses on both prescription drugs and non-prescription especially in cardiovascular diseases, antiviral drugs, anti-diabetics drugs, etc. and our products are now used by millions of patients in more than 50 countries worldwide.
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Additional information for this article: Stellapharm J.V. Co., Ltd. – Branch 1
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