How stress affects the thyroid

Stress, as I’ve said before, will age you. It will also make you overweight and tired by affecting your Thyroid function. Why?

Stress can reduce conversion of t4 to t3. Remember  that although 93% of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland is T4, it is inactive in that form and must be converted into T3 before it can be used by the cells. The inflammatory cytokines produced from stress not only disrupt the HPA axis, they also interfere with the conversion of T4 to T3.

We WANT t3 to be working! We want it working well to run the metabolism. Stress gets in the way of this.

Stress can also cause Thyroid resistance. According to Chris Kresser,  In order for thyroid hormone circulating in blood to have a physiological effect, it must first activate receptors on cells. Inflammatory cytokines have been shown to suppress thyroid receptor site sensitivity.

If you’re familiar with insulin resistance, where the cells gradually lose their sensitivity to insulin, this is a similar pattern. It’s as if the thyroid hormone is knocking on the cell’s door, but the cells don’t answer.

While there’s no practical way to measure receptor site sensitivity in a clinical setting, the research above suggests it is decreased in autoimmune and other inflammatory conditions. A perfect example of this in practice is the Hashimoto’s patient who is taking replacement hormones but still suffers from hypothyroid symptoms – often in spite of repeated changes in the dose and type of medication. In these patients, inflammation is depressing thyroid receptor site sensitivity and producing hypothyroid symptoms, even though lab markers like TSH, T4 and T3 may be normal.

There are countless other effects stress can exert on the body but these two when we are talking about the thyroid are the most important to understand.

Some things you can do while under stress?

Avoid or at least greatly minimize stimulants ( we all  redbone a cup of coffee, just not 4 cups)
Stabilize blood sugar (via a moderate or low-carb diet)
Practice stress management and relaxation techniques (this does not include 3 glasses of wine)
Have fun, laugh and make pleasure a regular part of your life
Avoid dietary causes of inflammation (refined flours, high-fructose corn syrup and industrial seed oils in particular)
Ensure adequate intake of DHA & EPA

Meet with a trained practitioner who can guide you and map out your health plan.