For people that need to take thyroid medication or supplementation, it can be difficult to stay on a consistent dose as there are many things in life that can affect how our thyroid functions, and just how much additional, supplementary thyroid we need. One of the most common factors affecting our thyroid function is stress. But how does stress affect the thyroid, and what can we do about it?

How stress affects your body

For many people, 2020 has been a rather stressful year so far, and this can affect how your body functions in many ways. And aside from feeling more anxious, stress can cause many, very real physical affects in your body. For example, stress can cause metabolic changes and make it easier to put on weight and harder to lose. Stress can raise your blood pressure and even lead to heartbeat irregularity. Stress can lower your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.

In addition, stress can lead to hormone dysregulation and for someone who is already hypothyroid and taking external thyroid hormone, this can mean dramatic changes in how much thyroid you need to function. The main reason for this is stress causes elevated cortisol levels produced by the adrenal glands, and this in turn interrupts Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis which is how our body regulates hormones including thyroid hormones – it can also interrupt the brains TSH communication within the thyroid and skew test results, and even decreased  T4 to T3 conversion.

What this means for your thyroid dose

When stress levels increase, it is common for symptoms of hypothyroidism to increase and the previously stable dose of thyroid you were taking now seems insufficient. This is quite common and can feel like you are on a roller coaster of dosage increases when you feel you need more and decreases when you feel like the dose is too high.

What are some of the ways we can lower stress?

Often the things in our life which can be a source of stress are out of our control and will take time to resolve. But there are some things you can do immediately to lower the stress levels and cope more effectively.

  • Eating a clean diet with as few processed foods as possible.
  • Taking B-Vitamins which help the body to regulate stress more effectively.
  • Getting outside in the fresh air and getting in the sun so that your body can produce Vitamin D.
  • Keeping your mind in the present as much as possible. Focus on what you are doing and experiencing right now, rather than thinking about what has happened in the past, or may happen in the future, all of which is in the mind.