Chronic stress is associated with a wide variety of health problems—some that it causes, and others it exacerbates. There are two types of stress those with Hashimoto's disease should be working with a functional medicine provider to manage: those related to lifestyle, or every-day, short-term stressors, and those that may involve metabolic problems, such as leaky gut syndrome, food sensitivities or allergies, inflammation, and environmental toxins.
Short-term stressors activate a reaction in the body that's designed to help you address a dangerous or demanding situation. The "fight or flight" response involves an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, a quickening of the breath, and the production of adrenal hormones that can help your body function and best respond to perceived emergencies.
Unfortunately, this physiological reaction can be activated nearly continuously in everyday life, such as in response to a job interview, an argument with a coworker or spouse, or a test you're about to take. The body should normalize after experiences with short-term stressors fairly quickly, and it often does. The problem is, many short-term stressors follow one after another. Meanwhile, long-term stressors such as work-related stress, illness, or financial pressures place demands on the body, too.
Adrenal stress is a common condition for those who have Hashimoto's. Signs may include fatigue, headaches, difficulty with sleep, mood swings, irritability, and hypothyroid symptoms. One of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands in reaction to stress is cortisol. At chronic, high levels, cortisol is associated with health conditions such as depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, insomnia, and suppressed immunity. It is also linked with autoimmune issues and conditions such as Hashimoto's disease.
If you work with a functional medicine practitioner to manage Hashimoto's disease, therapeutic support for adrenal stress and fatigue may be a key aspect of your care. A variety of supplements, dietary changes and lifestyle modifications can help restore function to fatigued or ailing adrenal glands. In other cases, the target for support may be the brain. Consider that the adrenal response is ultimately initiated in the brain. Since it is the brain that orders the manufacture and secretion of cortisol and other adrenal hormones, it makes sense to investigate stress pathways in the brain that may need support.
A practitioner who is trained in functional medicine will have the skills and knowledge to sort out exactly what is going on in the body related to stress. Through in-depth testing and comprehensive assessment of how all systems in your body are functioning, it is possible to determine exactly how stress is affecting and may be damaging your health as a Hashimoto's patient. Very specific therapeutic support can help you recover from the effects of stress, including short-term negative impacts as well as chronic, long-term metabolic conditions. Stress relief techniques and changes to your lifestyle undertaken on your own may help you support and manage Hashimoto's disease. But there is much more that can be done working in partnership with a functional medicine provider.
Dr. Cordie has been helping patients with thyroid problems for over 20 years. Her holistic and whole foods approach to helping you reach wellness has proven great success. To call and schedule a consultation to see if she is a good fit, you can reach out to her at 732.443.0300.