The Impacts of Stress on Your Thyroid

Dr. Tasreen Alibhai, N.D.
Dr. Tasreen Alibhai

Located at the base of the neck, your thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that control how the body creates proteins, uses energy, and responds to other hormones. While the link between the thyroid and stress is complex, changes to the serotonergic system (a component of brain function) and cortisol levels, induced by stress, are believed to affect thyroid hormone metabolism.

Low thyroid hormone can cause a variety of symptoms, such as dry skin and hair, weight gain, constipation, and low mood. In some cases, the thyroid itself is not to blame but rather high levels of stress that cause hypothyroidism. To counteract these effects, stress-lowering protocols may be effective in managing chronic stress and improving thyroid hormone levels.

Effects of Stress on the Thyroid

Stress is a normal physical and psychological reaction to the daily challenges of life. Small amounts of stress can even be beneficial. For example, your stress may motivate you to meet important deadlines, pay bills, or improve job performance.

Unfortunately, too much stress in your life can have health consequences with chronic stress contributing to digestive disorders, cardiovascular disease, decreased immune functioning, and accelerated aging.

Prolonged exposure to stress also disrupts the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis, leading to decreased thyroid function which alters your stress response. Individuals with high thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels may have higher cortisol levels as well.

The thyroid responds to stress by slowing down your body’s metabolism. When thyroid function begins to slow, triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) hormones also plummet. As a result, T4 may not convert to T3, resulting in higher levels of reverse T3.

Along with hypothyroidism, people who experience chronic stress may develop insulin resistance and problems balancing blood sugar. For the thyroid to function properly, the body must maintain a delicate balance between cortisol levels and stress hormones.

How Phosphatidylserine Protects Against Chronic Stress

Phosphatidylserine (PS) is a type of phospholipid, a fat-soluble substance found in high amounts in the brain. This compound can also be synthesized or consumed through your diet. PS is important for cognitive function and has been found to help improve cognitive capacity and memory.

Since the early 1990s, phosphatidylserine has been studied for its ability to create a healthy endocrine response to acute stressors. It has been found to reduce the stress response in the brain, resulting in lower cortisol production. This compound is often found in supplements designed to lower cortisol levels and stress. Although PS does not directly address the adrenal glands, it may lower cortisol levels.

Phosphatidylserine is a major nutrient required by the brain and makes up cell membranes. It is needed for cell-to-cell communication, activates cell receptors, and enables nutrients to enter cells and for waste products to exit.

Producing natural phosphatidylserine in the body is a demanding process and requires many nutrients in which people are commonly deficient. Supplementing with PS has been shown to be highly effective in supporting the stress response. Phosphatidylserine is available in a capsule or tablet form, making it easy to take as needed.

Managing Your Chronic Stress

Preventing and managing your long-term stress is essential to lower your risk of developing other conditions, such as obesity, depression, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Phosphatidylserine may be a good option for some people to reduce cortisol levels and balance stress hormones. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor if phosphatidylserine may be right for you.

Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND

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