When managing an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, prolonged heightened stress (or fear, anger, and negativity) is a problem that can worsen the disease. Stress has been shown to harm the body in the following ways:
1. Leads to anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia. People have lost sleep and become anxious and depressed this election year. Chronic stress keeps the central nervous system in a heightened state, chipping away at your health.
2. Increases inflammation. Heightened stress and negativity can inflame joints, cause skin breakouts, disrupt brain function, upset the stomach, provoke respiratory problems, and trigger headaches.
3. Causes stomach aches and abdominal symptoms. Chronic stress ravages the gut, predisposing one to pain, inflammation, and digestive upsets.
4. Tightens muscles. Chronic stress keeps the body in a fight-or-flight state, with the muscles constantly tense.
5. Changes the balance of hormones. Stress hormones can devastate the delicate balance of hormones in both women and men. This can impact menstrual cycles, libido, and the brain.
6. Causes brain fog and memory loss. Because chronic stress and negativity are so inflammatory, the brain may become inflamed as well. Common symptoms of brain inflammation are brain fog, depression, and memory loss.
7. Weakens or over stimulates immunity. Chronic stress weakens the immune system so that you’re more susceptible to illness. It can also over stimulate it so that autoimmune conditions flare up.
8. Promotes high blood pressure and respiratory stress. Chronic stress constricts the blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and inflames respiratory conditions.
9. Encourage addiction and bad habits. Chronic stress makes people more prone to addictive behaviors.
All of these pro-inflammatory effects of chronic stress make it much more difficult to manage Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Managing chronic stress is vital to controlling your autoimmune thyroid disease.
Functional Medicine suggestions for coping with stress
Stress is a normal function that serves a survival purpose. The trick is to rebound from it appropriately, especially when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or other autoimmune diseases. At Carolinas Thyroid Institute, we give patients natural tools to limit the effects of stress. For instance, adrenal adaptogen supplements are helpful. These herbs buffer the body and brain during particularly stressful times. Examples include ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, rhodiola, eleuthero, and pantethine.
Other simple changes can also make a big difference:
1. Connect with others. Seek out like-minded friends and do something fun. Positive socialization is a well-documented health booster.
2. Release feel-good hormones through exercise. Exercise can’t be beat in the face of chronic stress and negativity. It floods your body with feel-good hormones that improve health and brain function. Just be careful not to overdo it, over exercising stresses and inflames the body.
3. Find unidentified causes of stress. Much of our stress today comes from factors we’re not even aware of. Unstable blood sugar is the most common. Unidentified food sensitivities, such as to gluten or dairy, is also common. Chemical sensitivities, anemia, unmanaged autoimmunity, leaky gut, and infections are examples of health issues that keep one in a state of chronic stress.
4. Practice positivity. Although it’s important to allow and process any negative emotions, at some point it’s helpful to practice positivity, which is something science shows is vital to good health.
If you are struggling with stress and other problems with Hashimoto’s Disease, you can schedule a free, 15-minute phone consultation with me, Dr. Steven Roach, to discuss what concerns you. Just go to our Contact Us page or call (704) 853-8000.