The world of health is all about connections between bodily systems. And one of the most important connections, which conventional health care tends to miss, is the relationship between the thyroid and adrenal glands. When you are stressed out or you experience trauma, your adrenal glands start producing hormones like cortisol. These hormones get your body in gear to respond to your stressor. Cortisol is also responsible for downregulating the thyroid gland; it takes resources that are needed to produce active thyroid hormone.
Stress can also increase one’s risk of developing autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. When you’re dealing with a ton of stress, an inflammatory molecule, the cytokine, is produced within the body. Cytokines make receptors on your cells less sensitive to the hormones your thyroid produces. This is tricky, because your thyroid hormone levels may look fine, but you will still experience the symptoms that come with an underactive thyroid because your cell receptors are receiving a poor signal.
High stress, and therefore high cortisol levels, trigger the body to produce excess insulin, which doesn’t get excreted but instead accumulates in the body. Excess estrogen increases the presence of thyroid-binding globulin (TBG) protein, which transports thyroid hormone throughout the body. When this thyroid is bound, however, it isn’t active and so doesn’t produce the necessary response. That being said, if there are elevated levels of TBG, there will be lower levels of available active thyroid hormone.
If you’ve been experiencing periods of chronic stress, many of these stress-related processes may be tampering with your thyroid function even though your tests and lab results may come back normal. Here are five ways you can reduce stress and go back to feeling like yourself again.
Get some Sleep
Cortisol spikes that occur in the middle of the night can keep you from sleeping, so it’s no wonder that stress can interrupt a good night’s sleep. Researchers have proposed that insomnia may be caused by a dysfunctional axis and improper production of cortisol. It’s important that you exercise good sleeping habits; feeling well-rested is crucial to healing your body and reversing dysfunction in your adrenal glands.
Learn How to Manage Stress
The healing process, along with the stressors of everyday life, can really take a toll on us. It’s crucial to learn stress management skills so that you can reduce your body’s physiological response to stress.
Short periods of deep relaxation can even give your body a chance to regulate stress and keep it from causing too much harm. To give this a try, practice deep breathing exercises or get involved in yoga and meditation.
Meditation is a great option because it has also been shown to decrease anxiety and depression. Immune function can really improve if a patient goes into a meditative state. Meditation is one of those practices that may seem intimidating at first, but don’t give up before you even try. Apps like HeadSpace and Calm make meditation easy and accessible for your everyday needs.
Create an Exercise Routine
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again. Exercise is great for your health. That being said, if you have diminished adrenal function, it’s important to work your exercise routine around the current state of your health.
If your adrenal fatigue is keeping you from being highly active, try going on walks, practicing Qigong, or get involved in gentle yoga. With these moderate activities, you’ll still get the benefits of physical activity, but you won’t drain your body of all its energy. You can build on your routine once your body is ready for more.
There is such a variety of adrenal support compounds that are readily available to you; however, it is imperative that you consult a functional medicine doctor before you decide to add supplementation to your healing process.
A functional medicine doctor will be able to help you understand how a specific compound will affect your individual situation, and he or she will also be able to model your supplementation routine around your in-depth, individual test results. Talk to your doctor about the following supplements, which are very helpful for getting your adrenal function back on track:
- Licorice Root
Surround Yourself with Support
Finding support in those around you is a critical aspect of recovery. It can also be one of the most challenging. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who support your health. This can mean restructuring relationships or finding new ones that don’t cause as much stress. It’s clear, though, that social support has huge benefits when it comes to long-term stress, stress hormones, and immune function
For some, social support can be the most challenging aspect of recovery. Surrounding yourself with relationships that support your health and well-being often means restructuring current relationships or investing less time in those that render stress. However, the research is clear that social support has a direct impact on long-term health, stress hormones, and immune function, so this is vital in any treatment plan.