Stress and Thyroid Problems

Most people are aware that stress can negatively affect ones’ 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 the 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 “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.

Furthermore, as the brain recognizes the situation, it releases “corticotrophin 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.

Final thoughts

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.

*Related Article: How to deal with stress the healthy way

6 thoughts on “Does Stress Cause Thyroid Problems?”

  1. Hello, 

    I suffer from Hypothyroidism, it was diagnosed a year ago when I was pregnant but I had the condition since a lot before but I did not know it until that moment. I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life but maybe I can make it better reducing the stress from my life. 

    1. Hi Paola, I’m glad you mentioned how hypothyroidism and pregnancy are related. It’s a scientific fact that hypothyroidism can affect a woman’s pregnancy. Some women who suffer from this condition have to undergo treatment before their doctor gives them the “green light” to get pregnant. This is another reason why proper stress management is very important because chronic stress can affect our over all well being.

      Thanks for weighing in.

  2. See how a person learns something new everyday.  My wife has suffered from a terrible amount of stress in the last year and I can honestly say that right now her health scares me.  I am going to get her to read this article so that maybe this is something she can get checked.  Thank you for opening my eyes to something new.

    1. Hi Dale, thanks for dropping by.

      Working in a medical facility has allowed me to see how stress really does cause thyroid problems. The truth is, several of my colleagues were found to be suffering from temporary hypothyroidism resulting from stress. Thankfully, after taking a break from work, their thyroid function got back to normal. Let’s face it, stress is inevitable. However, we need to learn how to properly manage it before it starts affecting the thyroid.

  3. I believe stress is the cause of many things which go wrong in the human body. I remember when I used to let stress run my life, there were days where I could not get out bed. 

    The thyroid has some very important functions to do for the body, the more people know how to keep it safe, the better. Glad you are talking about it. As I believe cortisol in the body also causes weight gain.  If one can control stress, this will help the thyroid, which in turn will keep weight in check.

    Great article. 

    1. That’s right Jag, stress can cause so many problems to our health. It affects the thyroid which in turn causes the other organs to malfunction. And so I believe we need to raise a greater awareness on this health issue.

      Thanks for your comment.

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