Can Stress Cause Hashimoto’s
Stress. No matter how much we try to avoid it, it’s a normal part of life. And these things in our life that stress us out, our “stressors”, come in all different shapes and sizes.
Some stress we can prepare for, and some come when we least expect it. Either way, for people with Hashimoto’s, stress and the triggering of the adrenal gland can play a significant role in your thyroid health.
Coping with an autoimmune disorder is hard. But learning and sharing as much information about this disease has become one of my top priorities. So, for those of you that suffer from this disease or if this disease runs in your family, I’ve decided to dedicate a post on whether or not stress can cause or trigger Hashimoto’s and what you can do to prevent stress-induced flare-ups.
Can Stress Cause Hashimoto’s
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s Disease, is an autoimmune disorder that affects thyroid function. And, unfortunately, so does stress. Stress, and the hormones we release when under chronic stress, put an added pressure on the already compromised thyroid. So, this is why victims of this disease, like myself, are more sensitive to stress.
So, to finally answer the question of the day, yes. Stress can both cause and trigger Hashimoto’s.
While there is not a ton of research on the direct link between stress and developing Hashimoto’s, we know that if you’re genetically predisposed to Hashimoto’s, stress can trigger the earlier onset of symptoms. We also know that there are direct ties between stress and the onset of Grave’s disease. This is important because the two diseases both affect the thyroid and tend to have similar characteristics.
Stress can also trigger flare-ups and worsen the symptoms of your autoimmune disease. And, stress can draw out the length of your flare-ups and cause them to happen more often.
This is definitely not good for you, your thyroid condition, or the management of your disease. But, before we talk about how to manage your stress, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of how exactly stress is able to affect your thyroid functioning.
It interferes with proper adrenal gland functioning
Think of your adrenal gland as a stress absorber. When we get stressed, our adrenal glands release stress hormones that help us, mentally and physically, get through the situation. But, this is only the case when it comes to short bouts of stress. Unfortunately, our adrenal glands just aren’t built to handle long-term, or chronic, stress. Chronic stress can lead to something called adrenal stress or adrenal fatigue and worsen the symptoms of your thyroid disorder.
But, why is this important? It’s important because our thyroid and our adrenal glands work hand-in-hand to regulate hormone production throughout the body. So, basically, when one of these glands isn’t functioning properly, the other won’t either.
It suppresses the release of thyroid-stimulating hormones.
The pituitary gland is responsible for the release of thyroid-stimulating hormones. These are hormones produced with the purpose of kickstarting your thyroid. Then, this triggers the thyroid gland to produce more hormones, thyroxine (T3) and triiodothyronine (T4). These regulate the body’s metabolism.
When we experience chronic stress, we can inhibit the release of these thyroid-stimulating hormones. When we do that, the thyroid is never triggered to create the T3 and T4 hormones, which means our metabolism is now out of sync. This then interferes with several natural processes throughout the body and is not good for your thyroid health or your overall health.
It slows your body’s metabolism.
Because stress suppresses the release of thyroid-stimulating hormones, it slows the body’s metabolism. The metabolism is the thing that tells our body how slowly or quickly to burn energy. And when our body burns energy more slowly, the risk of weight gain increases.
Now, don’t get me wrong – gaining a few pounds is no big deal. But, when we lose control of our weight gain, we end up just putting even more stress on the body. Then, in turn, our thyroid functioning is again inhibited by the extra stress. See the cycle? It’s the type of cycle that we victims of Hashimoto’s need to avoid in order to live healthy, symptom-free lives.
It causes the triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormone levels to fall.
A slowed metabolism, hyperthyroidism, and weight gain are not the only symptoms associated with low levels of the T3 and T4 hormones. In fact, there are several serious symptoms that victims of Hashimoto’s may experience due to low levels of these hormones. Symptoms include memory loss, infertility, fatigue, and muscle stiffness and soreness.
It may inhibit the conversion of T4 hormone to T3, leading to higher levels of reverse T3.
We just talked about what happens when both the T4 and T3 hormones are low. But what happens when the T3 is produced, but we inhibit it from becoming T4? As I’m sure you can probably guess, the side-effects are not great. They include weakness and fatigue, trouble sleeping, hair loss, increased sensitivity to cold, dry and puffy skin, and hand tremors.
Stress Relief Tips For Hashimoto’s
Now that you know the effects stress can have on your everyday life, let’s go over how to break the cycle and better manage your stress. Reducing stress is key to improving the symptoms of your disease.
Practice some self-care.
While it might sound cliche in today’s world, one of the best ways to reduce stress is to regularly practice self-care. Make time for yourself. Do things that you enjoy. Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and all the stressors that come along with it.
Some of my favorite ways to practice self-care include taking a quick walk, getting some exercise, enjoying a nice bath, doing hair and face masks, getting a good night’s sleep, watching a movie, and journaling.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
Eating inflammatory food can cause serious inflammation throughout the body. And believe it or not, this causes extra stress on the body and triggers stress responses. Both mental and physical. It can also cause bloating, stomach pain, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel disease, and so on. So frustrating!
This is why, as victims of Hashimoto’s, we have to consume the autoimmune protocol diet (AIP), or at least practice an anti-inflammatory diet. This means cutting out certain foods and adding in foods that are known for healing the autoimmune system. And yes, this means cutting down on alcohol, too. When it comes to drinking, Hashimoto’s and alcohol don’t necessarily mix the best.
Keep up with your vitamins.
Certain vitamins and minerals have been shown to reduce the symptoms of Hashimoto’s. These include vitamin D, zinc, and selenium. And when the body is lacking these important nutrients, the body starts to stress from the inside.
This means you can relieve chronic stress that’s built up within the body by making sure you get your daily value of all the essential nutrients, paying special attention to make sure you get the three listed above.
Deep breathing and yoga.
Breathing exercises and yoga are well known for reducing stress. And thus, improving the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. A regular routine of deep breathing combined with light yoga and stretching can reduce stress throughout the body by supporting the adrenal and pituitary glands. It can relieve built-up muscle tension, make everyday movements easier, and promote better gland functioning overall.
Make the necessary lifestyle changes to ensure that chronic stress doesn’t exacerbate your autoimmune disease.
As you can see, when it comes to stress, it’s important to manage the stress that builds up on both the inside and the outside. That means managing stress mentally, physically, and dietarily. So, don’t hold back. Make the necessary life changes required for you to live a happier and healthier life!
And that’s all I have for you guys today. I sincerely hope that this information has helped you better understand the effects of stress on the body. Especially if you are a victim of an autoimmune disease.
For more information on autoimmune diseases, head on over to my series on chronic illness. And for some awesome recipes that check the anti-inflammatory box, head on over to my recipes page. Until next time, wishing you guys the best of luck as you learn to manage your disease.