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Stress, Autoimmune Disorders and the Thyroid


Stress and Thyroid Imbalance

The connection between stress levels and thyroid   is a complex relationship which is still being investigated by physicians and patients alike, but one thing is known for sure, there is a clear correlation between the two. Patients experiencing hypothyroid disorders such as hashimoto’s disease commonly experience problems with stress and anxiety, and this is often a direct result of the hormone imbalance caused by the thyroid dysfunction. What makes the situation difficult to resolve is that each person reacts differently to the effects of stress, and with autoimmune disorders, the range of physical and emotional problems can be vast.  Some people can fall into a stress-illness-stress cycle where the damaging effects of the stress caused by the situation cause further health problems, leading to more stress. This is extremely difficult to stop whilst the hormone imbalance is still present. It is widely believed that high levels of stress can trigger or worsen thyroid disease as it causes an imbalance in the actual thyroid hormones themselves with or without an autoimmune  thyroid  disease. This means that those suffering from thyroid disorders may be able to calm the effects and help their bodies to recover by reducing stress levels.


How Does it Work?

When faced with stress, the brain sends out chemical messages that trigger responses in the endocrine system. Possibly the most significant of these responses is the release of corticotropine releasing factor (CRF), which under normal circumstances will control the bodies response to a situation and release adrenaline as necessary. An abundance of CRF will result in too much of the stress hormone cortisol being produced by the adrenal glands. CRF will also cause the neurotransmitters in the brain that control mood to operate unpredictably. For those who struggle to deal with stressful situations, this imbalance can lead to ongoing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, and if the cause is not known, it can be extremely worrying.


The Escalation Cycle

One problem which many patients suffer from is that doctors struggle to detect thyroid symptoms due to a lack of understanding of the issues that can arise from the hormone imbalance. If the thyroid remains untreated for long periods of time, stress can build up to dangerous levels, causing an onset of other health problems.   This cycle can go on indefinitely until a patient is correctly diagnosed and is able to address the cause of the issues. Early diagnosis of the thyroid imbalance or autoimmune disorder will enable patients to address this and prevent unnecessary mental and physical suffering.


Stress Management

One of the key treatment strategies for any patients experiencing a thyroid disorder should be  stress management. Stress can cause a multitude of problems for people in regards to their workplace and being able to do their job effectively, personal issues such as  marital problems, and childcare difficulties, and psychological issues than can be ongoing even once treatment has finished. Some sufferers of Hashimoto’s  have encountered relapses in the disease long after their thyroid functioning had returned to normal through treatment, and stress is often a   trigger for this. Learning to reduce and manage stress

Meet the Author

Dr. Matz DC

Dr. Boyle D.A.C.M., LAc., DiplOM. is the founder of the Holistic Wellness Center of the Carolinas where he is the Director of Functional Medicine. He holds a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine and is acupuncture physician and primary care physician in the state of Florida. His post-graduate focus has been in the fields of functional neurology, functional immunology, and functional endocrinology.

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