In the world of the endocrine system, the adrenal glands have a bigger connection to the thyroid gland than one might initially think. Stress is the most significant link when it comes to adrenal and thyroid function. When experiencing stress or injury, your adrenal glands will manufacture and secrete steroid hormones such as cortisol, to ready your body for a response. Cortisol is responsible for downregulating the thyroid gland and taking essential resources needed in the thyroid hormone activation process.
Elevated levels of stress increase your risk of developing autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Pro-inflammatory molecules known as cytokines are produced during an immune response to stress. Cytokines can affect cell receptors, making them less sensitive to thyroid hormones. Decreased cellular reception can cause individuals to suffer from hypothyroid symptoms, even though their thyroid hormone levels look fine.
Chronic stress, and subsequently high levels of cortisol over an extended period of time, can cause estrogen to accumulate. Excessive amounts of estrogen increase the thyroid-binding globulin protein (TBG). TBG is responsible for delivering thyroid hormone throughout the body; however, if there are elevated levels of TBG then the thyroid hormone remains bound, and active thyroid hormones become less available.
Even if your thyroid tests look normal, your chronic stress could be damaging your low thyroid symptoms.
Reduce stress and restore thyroid function with these 5 helpful tips
1. Get a Good Night’s Rest
Quality sleep is essential for repairing dysfunctional adrenal glands. However, getting the proper amount of sleep is difficult if your cortisol levels are spiking throughout the night. Clinical research has found that a dysfunctional HPA axis and abnormal cortisol production can cause insomnia.
2. Practice Stress Management
Reduce your body’s physiological stress response by learning techniques to manage stress. Utilizing stress management skills such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation for even short periods of time can help the body control stress and reduce the stress response.
Studies have shown that practicing meditation can decrease one’s anxiety and depression and improve immune function. If you’ve never practiced meditation before, there are apps like HeadSpace and Calm that will guide you and make it easy to follow.
Exercise is a universal prescription for all health levels; however, when you have decreased adrenal function, vigorous activities can be daunting. Walking, Qigong, and gentle yoga are effective forms of low-impact exercise that will help you reap the benefits of exercise without leaving you exhausted.
Utilizing supplements is a great way to support healthy adrenal function, but it should be monitored by a health professional. Taking too much or too little could result in unwanted symptoms and complications. A skilled functional medicine doctor will review your test results and cortisol patterns to customize a supplementation plan specifically for your health needs. A few supplements that help balance adrenal function are:
- Licorice Root
5. Develop Healthy Relationships
It can be challenging at times to find the right support, but it is in your health’s best interest to build personal connections with others that encourage healthy habits.
That may mean setting new ground rules for current relationships and separating yourself from toxic ones. This method is often included in my successful treatment plans because research shows that a good support system can positively impact your long-term health, stress levels, and your body’s immune response.