In my last post, Your Best Thyroid: Part 1, I discussed some nutritional factors that could affect the health of your thyroid. Let’s address the role of stress on your thyroid first.
Stressed Adrenal Glands & Your Thyroid
Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys & are about the size of walnuts. They secrete the hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. If you take a look at my older article on cortisol, you’ll know that the adrenal glands dump these stress hormones when you’re feeling mentally, physically, or emotionally stressed. Chronic adrenal stress has been shown to disrupt the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, therefore depressing thyroid function. This phenomenon is explained here in a brilliant article by the incredible Chris Kresser:
Studies have shown that the inflammatory cytokines IL-1 beta, IL-6 and TNF-alpha, which are released during the stress response, down-regulate the HPA axis and reduce levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). Another study study showed that one single injection of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), an inflammatory peptide, reduced serum TSH, T3, free T4, free T3 and hypothalamic TRH for 5 days. TNF-alpha was also found to decrease the conversion of T4 to T3, reduce thyroid hormone uptake, and decrease the sensitivity of the thyroid to TSH.
Kresser goes on to explain in more detail the role of the adrenal glands in thyroid dysfunction. When it comes down to the basics, however, being informed about how stress plays a role in depressing your thyroid function can be useful for a few reasons. Firstly, adrenal fatigue can sometimes mimic the symptoms of hypothyroid, making the treatment of hypothyroid a pointless exercise in this case. Secondly, addressing the major sources of stress in your life and working to ease their impact on your health can have a dramatic impact on your thyroid, potentially removing the need for thyroid stimulating drugs.
Exercise & Your Thyroid
You may have heard that endurance exercise can slow the production of thyroid hormones or even throw you into permanent hypothyroidism. The research is not conclusive. While some studies show a definite decrease in thyroid hormone levels after intense endurance exercise, those same studies show a normalization in levels after a few weeks. The only study that shows conclusively that long-distance running can cause thyroid levels to drop and stay low was one in which the participants were also in a caloric deficit. The trend shows, however, that steady-state, endurance exercise performed several times a week to the exclusion of other types of exercise can be a cause for concern. Training all 3 of the energy pathways (ATP-CP, glycolytic, & aerobic) in equal measure is going to be the best course of action to keep your thyroid healthy. Lift, run fast, run slow.
Evidence suggests that regular exposure to obesogens can have an impact on your ability to lose weight, regulate hunger, and reap the benefits of an improved diet or regular training program. Obesogens are those chemicals we are exposed to every day that have the ability to enter our bodies & mimic hormones, thereby disrupting your natural hormonal state, and cause the weight to pile on. Obesogens can be found everywhere, from your lotion, your cologne, your shower curtain, your sheets, your frying pan, and in the food you eat. Shunning chemical additives, pesticides, plastics, and packaged foods can help your chances of avoiding these toxins & their negative effect on your metabolism.
If you take care to eat and live for the health of your thyroid, you will never have to visit your doctor and be prescribed synthetic hormones to correct an imbalance. An under or overactive thyroid can you make you feel miserable. You don’t want to tango with the depression, fatigue, & weight gain that accompanies hypothyroidism. Start taking care of your body today and reap the benefits of a nicely tuned thyroid!
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