Most people are aware that stress can negatively affect one’s health. But we do not always make the connection between stress and thyroid conditions. So how does stress cause thyroid problems?
One thing we need to understand is that while the adrenal glands can handle acute stress situations without much of a problem, our body isn’t designed to handle chronic stress. So when a person deals with a lot of stress over a considerable period of time and is incapable of managing it, their adrenal glands will weaken which could eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.
Understanding the Thyroid
The thyroid gland is the largest endocrine gland in the body located in the throat just below Adam’s apple. This is the most important gland in the body because it influences the function of many of the body’s most important organs including the kidneys, liver, brain, heart, and skin.
It is very important to ensure that the thyroid gland is healthy and functioning properly. Otherwise, it can produce too much thyroid hormone which causes the body’s systems to speed up (hyperthyroidism); or it can produce too little thyroid hormone causing the body’s systems to slow down (hypothyroidism).
As a result, highly stressed individuals may experience significant swings in their weight, either gaining or losing.
Stress and Thyroid Connection
A thyroid problem brought about by stress is called a “thyroid storm” or “thyrotoxic storm.” When chronic stress occurs, the thyroid becomes overworked causing it to malfunction. In response, the body goes into a state of catabolism and will slow down the thyroid gland as a protective mechanism. Since the thyroid gland controls the metabolism of the body, it slows the body down in order to slow down the catabolic process.
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Furthermore, as the brain recognizes the situation, it releases “corticotropin-releasing hormone” (CRH) which directs the pituitary gland to inform the adrenal glands to produce the stress hormone “cortisol.” However, if cortisol or any other hormone for that matter is overly produced, it can cause hormonal imbalance that may, in turn, lead to inflammation thereby promoting other conditions or diseases.
Digging a little deeper, we would also learn that stress can actually inhibit the thyroid gland’s ability to convert the inactive T4 hormone (thyroxine) into the active T3 hormone (triiodothyronine). Poor conversion of T4 to T3 will lead to sluggish thyroid function which increases the likelihood of hypothyroidism.
Chronic stress can cause a lot of health issues, which can ultimately lead to thyroid problems if not properly managed. This is not to say that all thyroid conditions are caused by stress but there is no doubt that stress is the culprit in many thyroid disorders.
In order to restore the function of the thyroid gland back to its normal state, we must first restore the health of the adrenal glands. Because many times the thyroid gland won’t respond to treatment until you address the adrenal glands.