Stress and your thyroid
Stress, your thyroid and Hashimoto’s. Is there a connection?
Yes, there definitely is.
Today we’re going to be starting our series about the root causes of Hashimoto’s, and what you can do about them. Now to review what I’ve said in past episodes there are at least eight root causes. I got those root causes from a podcast episode by SNPs and also from other sources like Dr. Isabella Wentz and a couple of other books that I have read.
I really love helping you figure out your root cause, because if you don’t address things at the root, then things are still going to keep happening, even if you’re taking medications to address the symptoms.
Root cause approach
So what are those root causes? Stress, low vitamin d levels, hormone changes, food reactions, environmental chemicals, blood, sugar, iodine, and infections. We’re kicking it off with the biggest one of all, in my opinion. That is stress.
Stress is #1
Stress and your thyroid health are intricately linked at the foundational level.
What is stress? Well, stress is a feeling that you get when you’re faced with a challenge. It can be good. It can be bad.
I am a chronic procrastinator. I work best under the gun. Why is that? It’s because of stress. When you are under infrequent short-term stress, it increases your focus, energy, and motivation. So what does a procrastinator need as that deadline approaches? Increased focus, increased energy, and increased motivation. It makes sense why we work better under a deadline. (Some of us at least.)
Stress has its good sides. You experience stress every day, no matter what. Like even going outside on a winter day. It’s cold outside. That is a physical stressor. It’s just the weather, and you can dress appropriately. But it is a stressor. Then there are other things that we want to reduce for stress. And I’m sure you can think immediately of five different areas of stress that you would love to reduce in your in your own life.
The problem with stress is, it’s not always infrequent or short-term. It’s chronic in a lot of us. We are under more stress now in this day and age than ever before in history and those stressors–it might be the weather, but it’s financial, it’s environmental. There are so many more environmental things coming at us, things that we can see, things that we can’t see.
We’re under chronic stress and chronic stress really impacts your thyroid. It impacts whether or not you are going to develop Hashimoto’s. We talked in Episode 4 about the three things that everybody needs in order to develop an autoimmune disease: a genetic predisposition, a gut problem and a trigger. Stress is a very common trigger for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease.
How can I lower stress?
So what are some things that you can do about the stress in your life?
Don’t “should” on yourself
Number one: I want you to not “should” on yourself.
When our “shoulds” increase, our stress increases because we feel like there’s something that we should be doing. Oh, dear, I need to be doing this, and I’m not. Therefore my stress level goes up. Right?
Decrease the shoulds. And for you, with a new diagnosis of Hashimoto’s, or maybe you’ve had Hashimoto’s for a long time, there are probably things that you know would help if you chose to do them. The problem is when you say you should be doing them. Then you automatically increase your stress because you feel guilt or shame for not making that choice.
For example, one of the common sentences said by chiropractors and doctors when they tell somebody they have Hashimoto’s is, “that means you need to cut gluten, dairy, and soy out of your diet.” It’s a simple sentence for them. But for the person hearing it that changes everything, it probably changes breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks for every single day. It’s huge! And so when you go home and you’re dishing out your lunch, you’re like “Oh, my goodness, I should be eating something different.”
We don’t always have that available right away. So before you decide to make that huge dietary change, because it will be beneficial. You need to get a plan in place.
Make a plan
When I was told you need to cut all of these things out of your diet. I did it, but I did not make a plan. I figured out what I could eat for a couple of days, and then I was like, okay. I’ll be good, but I wasn’t five to six days in. I was suffering. It was not good. My stress was increased. Every time it was time to eat, I felt a little lost, and then I felt angry like, “Why can’t I eat this food?” I felt sad. I was grieving; I didn’t want to be without these foods. I want to eat with my family what my family eats. I don’t want to be isolated even in community, sure I’m sitting around the same table as them, but I feel lonely eating this other food. And I also was hungry because I did not figure out enough foods that I was going to eat. So yes, while going off of certain things was good for my body, maybe good for my gut, it was not good for my stress level. I did not plan well.
So before you implement changes, come up with a plan, a plan that is simple and sustainable. If you’re going to make dietary changes, plan out every single meal that you’re going to eat for two weeks. You might make some adjustments as you go through those two weeks, but at least, if you know you have all of the meals ready. You have them planned out. You have the recipes, you have the ingredients. You know what you’re going to go shopping for. It’s all right there, it lowers the stress as you make that change.
Without a plan your stress increases
If you don’t have that plan, and then every time you eat, you think “Oh, I should be doing something differently.” You’re going to increase your stress at that meal, and when you eat with increased stress it actually damages your digestive process. You do not digest your food well when you are stressed.
Stress mode vs Rest mode
There are two modes of your nervous system. Well, one of those is rest and digest. It is the opposite of fight and flight. So if you are stressed, you’re in fight and flight. What does that automatically mean? That your digestion is not working! We need to lower our stress, especially before we eat. So don’t should on yourself.
Belly breathing to lower stress
The next thing is something that I encourage all my clients to do before they eat; that is, take some diaphragmatic breaths. Some belly breaths before you start eating. Why? Because it’s going to lower your stress level. It’s going to shift you over into rest and digest.
So if you have not yet listened to Episode 2, where I taught you how to do this, just go ahead as long as you’re not driving. Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly, and take a deep breath in.
What went up? Was it your chest and your shoulders, or was it your belly?
If you are breathing with your chest and your shoulders, it’s telling every cell in your body that you’re stressed. If you’re breathing with your belly (with your diaphragm) it’s actually massaging a huge nerve that goes through your diaphragm which sends a signal to every cell that it’s okay and to shift into rest and digest mode.
So before you eat a meal, take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. Before you go to bed, take some deep diaphragmatic breaths. Shift your body into rest and digest as much as possible. When you feel like you’re getting stressed, take some deep breaths, shift your body into rest and digest. That is my number one tip for you, because you can do it anytime anywhere. It’s always available to you.
Activate your antioxidant production to lower the effects of stress
Other things you can do to decrease stress: Like I talked about in the episode about things that you can do naturally, use activation. Specifically, activate your nrf2 pathway, which is going to lower oxidative stress. Now, oxidative stress is like the rusting or browning of your cells and that impacts overall health.
When you activate that Nrf2 pathway, your body actually creates antioxidants that are more powerful than anything you can get in your diet. It helps your body work as it was designed to work. When your body is working as it’s designed to work, it’s going to improve everything.
Stress increases the demands on your diet
You also want to increase some specific micronutrients, and I also talked about that in that episode, because all of us have some gaps in our nutrition, we just do. Unfortunately, we do.
Things that we need more of when we’re under stress: We need more B vitamins. We need more vitamin C, more healthy fats, and then some minerals like magnesium, zinc, calcium, and iron. Those are some basic things that our body needs when we’re under stress. So make sure you’re getting those in your diet or with supplements because if you’re under stress, you need to give your body the tools to deal with that stress.
Use a tool to obtain data about your stress response
Then the third thing is a tool that I use every single day. It is my Ōura ring. I love it because, number one, it focuses on stress and sleep. It helps me monitor my physical reaction to stressors.
I am a very calm person. I don’t suffer from anxiety. You can’t really tell when I am stressed. I carry it very well and I don’t always feel when I am stressed. But I’m a business owner. I own two different businesses. I have a lot on my plate. I wear a lot of different hats and there is stress.
This Ōura ring has helped me see when other stressors are impacting my physical health. So I really appreciate that just cold, hard data. There are no emotions attached. It just tells me here’s the data. Your heart rate was elevated last night, or your heart rate variability is not optimal, what’s going on? It even asked me the other day, “look back at the last couple of days. Has there been something on your mind?” And I thought back, I’m like, “Oh, yeah, yes, there has been.” So it’s a tool that provides me with cold, hard data and I love that.
Select a tool that won’t increase your stress
Now you might have another fitness wearable, and that’s awesome. I prefer the Ōura ring because it has zero EMFs when you put it on airplane mode, and it works all night long. I will not use anything that has EMFs at night. I feel like we just don’t need EMFs around our brains when our brains are running the dishwasher cycle, which they do every single night.
I know EMFs haven’t been around for a very long time, so we don’t know the long-term impact, but we do seem to see in the research literature that they’re not awesome for our health. So if you can minimize them with no consequences, awesome! Do it. Turn off your Wi-fi router when you go to bed, turn your fitness wearables on airplane mode, and don’t plug in your phone in your bedroom. Simple things like that can decrease the physical and environmental stressors on your body.
More stress-busting tips in the next episode
Those are three different things that I use to lower my stress and that might really help you in the next episode. I’m going to give you five more things that you can do about your stress, and then we will move on to the next root cause.