Stress and Thyroid Function
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
If you're reading this article you've more than liking heard of the thyroid gland before. This small, butterfly-shaped gland at the front of the neck is a powerful one that affects a large number of organs in the body and it's function can determine many physiological factors such as metabolism and energy, mood, temperature, and fertility.
The Thyroid Gland
Our thyroid gland, located in the front of the neck, is a part of the endocrine system and an important regulator of metabolism and the function of almost all cells in our body. It requires nourishment from a number of nutrients in order to function properly. This includes the production of thyroid hormones (T4) and (T3, active form) that act on our body cells to maintain normal metabolism. The thyroid gland plays a large role in regulating body temperature, energy production, fertility, bowel regulation, skin integrity, and mood.
Thyroid disorders include conditions of excess thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) which may be auto-immune or non-autoimmune driven.
Auto-immune thyroid conditions include Grave's disease (hyper-function) and Hashimoto thyroiditis aka Hashimoto's disease (hypo-function). Transient or temporary thyroid conditions can occur including gestational hypo- or hyperthyroidism.
Stress Increases Nutritional Demand
We know that stress can interfere with many normal functions of the body and can cause inflammation and oxidation. When we are stressed our body has a greater demand for certain nutrients in order to remain functioning at optimum capacity.
The thyroid is highly dependant on nutrients that support adequate thyroid function, synthesis of thyroid hormone, and conversion to active thyroid hormone.
How can stress impact thyroid function?
Tyrosine is an amino acid (the building blocks that make up plant and animal proteins) that is used for many functions in the body. Like most amino acids, tyrosine is used for more than one function. Amongst other things tyrosine is used to make the hormone adrenaline and to make thyroid hormone (T4).
During times of stress our body increases the production of adrenaline which is released by the adrenal glands in preparation for a 'fight or flight' response i.e. stress. Adrenaline may compete with the thyroid for tyrosine causing reduced thyroid function.
If you suspect you have thyroid dysfunction, see your healthcare practitioner to have a chat about your symptoms, diet, and lifestyle that may be affecting your health.