According to WHO, health is not merely about being free from disease. It is rather a balanced state where you need to factor in your physical, mental, and social well-being. Hence, it is important to maintain a balance among these to be truly healthy.
Relation Between Stress and Health
Stress is the body’s natural response to dangerous or harmful situations. In moderate amounts, stress is not entirely bad. In fact, it could fuel your body’s flight or fight response, which has helped human beings survive and sustain over centuries. However, excessive stress can significantly impair your mental and physical health.
Unfortunately, stress (sometimes caused by insignificant stressors) has managed to become an integral part of our lives with chronic stress emerging as a growing cause of concern. According to the American Psychological Association, about 75% of adults have experienced moderate to high levels of stress in the past month, and about 50% of these have reported that the occurrence and intensity of stress have increased in the past year. These figures indicate that stress has emerged as a major health concern on a global scale.
Many individuals may be aware of the commonly occurring negative impacts that stress has on our bodies. These include:
- Tension Headaches and Stomach Aches
- Increased Chronic Depression or Intermittent Depression (Dysthymia)
- Heartburn or Acidity
- Shortness of Breath
- The weakening of the Immune System
- Greater Risk of Heart Attack
- High Blood Pressure
- Muscle Tension
- Decreased Sex Drive
However, in this article, we will focus on exploring how stress affects your thyroid. Read on to know the linkages between stress and thyroid.
Link Between Stress and Thyroid
The thyroid gland is located at the base of your neck. It produces the hormone ‘thyroid’ which regulates the body’s energy usage. The thyroid also helps in protein synthesis and could be secreted as a response to other hormones.
The thyroid gland normally works in parallel with the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located atop each kidney. Normally, stressful situations trigger the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. Cortisols increase bodily functions and decreases the body’s metabolism, which collectively helps in combating stress.
However, Cortisols suppress the functioning of the pituitary gland, which is responsible for releasing the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). With the ebb in TSH, the thyroid gland becomes inactive, leading to a condition known as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is characterized by a massive decrease in the levels of triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Further, the body is unable to convert T4 into T3, which results in the increased levels of reverse T3.
Read More: 10 Effects of Stress on The Body
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight Gain
- Inability to regulate body temperature, especially a heightened sensitivity to cold
- Muscular weakness
- Dry skin
- Puffiness, especially of the face
While stress, by itself, cannot impede the functioning of the thyroid, it can aggravate the condition even more if you are suffering from autoimmune conditions like Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Tips for Dealing with Stress and Hypothyroidism
Now that we know about the decrease in the thyroid levels due to stress, here are a few tips that will help you deal with stress and hypothyroidism in a more effective manner:
- Eat a Balanced Diet
- Increase your iodine intake
- Add thyroid-supporting vitamins (A, B, C, and E) and minerals (Selenium, Zinc, Iron, and copper)
- Get adequate sleep
- Relax through activities like Yoga or Meditation
- Stop Overthinking
- Participate in hobbies
Prevention is always better than cure. Now that you know the relationship between stress and thyroid, you can regulate stress to maintain the health of your thyroid gland. While completely getting rid of stress is impossible, you can easily handle stress in a more effective manner. With better stress management, you will notice a remarkable improvement in your health on the whole.
Also Read: Thyroid and Depression – The Connection