Posted by Nicole on February 10
You probably know that your thyroid gland manufactures hormones, and you likely are aware that stress affects hormone production. So, you may be wondering if there is a connection between stress and the thyroid. Let’s find out how stress impacts the thyroid and how the thyroid impacts stress.
How Stress Influences the Thyroid
As Dr. Stefano Guandalini explains here, “Stress increases production of the hormone cortisol, which is produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol can inhibit secretion of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) from the pituitary gland, leading to partial suppression of thyroxine, the main hormone produced by the thyroid gland.”
So, if you have an existing thyroid condition, yes, experiencing stress could make your symptoms more pronounced.
Could stress lead you to develop a thyroid condition? No one knows for sure, but we do not have strong data to suggest that at this time.
How the Thyroid Impacts Stress
Alas, stress and the thyroid can interact in a vicious cycle, with the thyroid also making stress worse. Dr. Guandalini says, “When you have either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, you become more sensitive to both mental and physical stresses, as the excessively high or low levels of thyroid hormones affect how the whole body reacts to stress.”
So, someone with a thyroid condition may struggle more with stress than someone without one, all other things being equal. Indeed, the condition itself can be a source of additional stress, so that also factors in.
How to Manage Stress
Regardless of whether you have a thyroid condition, it is important to take steps to keep stress in check. Here are a few recommendations:
- If it is possible to completely remove a stressor from your life, you might want to think about doing so.
- Eat a nutritious diet, making sure you are getting your vitamins and minerals.
- Each night, do your best to get all the sleep you need, and stay on a consistent schedule with it.
- Work out a few times a week if you can find the time.
- Try meditating, visualization exercises, or other relaxation practices.
- Do more of the activities you enjoy. Sometimes, that might mean learning to say “no” when someone else asks you to do something. You need to set aside some time that is just yours.
Now you know how stress and the thyroid interact. Evidence at this time does not point toward stress causing thyroid conditions. But stress can flare symptoms in those who have those conditions already, and having a thyroid condition can increase stress. For everyone, managing stress is important for thyroid and full body health.