Does stress affect your ability to work, learn, or interact with others? … If so, it may be due to thyroid/adrenal imbalance or some health factor not considered.

The BodyMindLink series by Dr Ray Pataracchia ND provides insight on nutritional and naturopathic approaches that matter most and have the potential to benefit both your physical and mental health.  In this series we look at the treatment approaches and body-mind-links of aging, tiredness, mental performance, work performance, digestive upset, food intolerances, stress, cardiovascular health, insomnia, weight problems, and chronic disease prevention.  Fall 2014 blog themes will rotate between the topics of sleep, tiredness, and stress.  Clinical approaches discussed are implemented by the Naturopathic Medical Research Clinic in Toronto, Ontario.

Workplace Stress (Part 2): Adrenal & Thyroid Stress

Workplace Stress – A Three-Part Blog Series

We have divided ‘Work Stress’ blogs into three subtopics: i) combating stress with stress nutrients, ii) combating stress by optimizing thyroid and adrenal function, and iii) lifestyle approaches to combat stress.  The human body has about 15 syndromes associated with stress that affect physical and mental health.

Thyroid or Adrenal Inefficiency: A Cause for Workplace Stress

Balancing thyroid and adrenal function is essential to combating stress.

Stress puts you At-Risk for Thyroid Problems

If you are under stress, this can elevate the adrenal stress hormone, cortisol, which can interfere with thyroid hormone production.

With repeated exposure to life stress (physical stress or stress from your external environmental) your thyroid might say ‘the heck with you’ and default into a state of hypo-function. 

Stress is considered a risk factor for the more ingrained autoimmune thyroid conditions.  For example, if you are under stress and have a family history of autoimmune low thyroid (Hashimoto’s), you run greater risk of getting Hashimoto’s.

Stress management techniques (e.g. breathing) and lifestyle changes (e.g. working out, slowing down your life, or getting a good sleep) can be very helpful– to be discussed in Part 3 of this series.

Stress Caused by Underactive or Overactive Thyroid

Thyroid Storms are rare over-stimulation episodes where we see acute stress caused by the leakage of thyroid hormone from a weak gland.   This exemplifies what can happen if you have too much thyroid hormone.

Overactive Thyroid (hyperthyroid) states are seen with severe irritability, nervousness, agitation, heart pounding, sweating, overheating, and high blood pressure.  These classic presentations respond well to a combination Naturopathic protocol.

You can also be stressed if you have an Underactive Thyroid.  System wide inefficiencies occur when thyroid hormone is unavailable because thyroid hormone is the green light at the DNA level for all cells of the body to do what they are destined to do.  The thyroid is a master gland and holds reign over several body systems ranging from protein manufacturing, digestion, liver detoxification, kidney detoxification, to oxygen utilization, and energy molecule production.  If thyroid metabolism is sluggish we can’t deal with stress because neurotransmitter production is compromised and this directly influences our mood and thinking ability.  With inefficient body systems we poorly eliminate toxins which cause further system wide stress.  Nutritional and Naturopathic medicine can bring thyroid metabolism into balance and good responders experience a positive momentum that reaches out to all body systems.

Low thyroid metabolism is often a common denominator of system wide metabolic imbalance.

How Common are Thyroid Problems?

The Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study published in 2000 confirms that thyroid problems are common, often go undetected, and are associated with a variety of ‘adverse health outcomes’.

Thyroid Stress: The BodyMindLink

Low thyroid metabolism is associated with physical symptoms/issues such as cold hands/feet, tingling/numbness of the fingers/hands, high cholesterol, tiredness, weight gain (more advanced cases), constipation, sluggish movement, muscle pain/aches/weakness/cramps, brittle nails/hair, scaly/dry skin, poor libido, heavy/irregular menstrual periods, food intolerance, and autoimmune states.  More advanced low thyroid states are associated with hoarse/low-pitched voice, puffy face, eyebrow thinning, sluggish heart rate, loss of hearing, and anemia.

From a mental health perspective low thyroid metabolism is associated with stress, memory problems, brain fog (thought clouding), poor academic performance, and all mood, thought, perception and behavior disorders ranging from ADD to schizophrenia.

Low energy is associated with a sluggish thyroid; this is why it is said ‘you can’t be depressed if you have energy’.

Adrenal Imbalance Creates Stress

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal gland that modulates our response to stress.  Too much or too little cortisol is problematic and reduces the way our body responds to stress.

Coffee, cola, or other beverages that contain caffeine arouse the release of cortisol and act as a stimulant to give you get up and go in the morning and throughout the day.  The only problem with relying on caffeine is that this artificial release of cortisol exhausts the gland and upsets its natural release rhythm.

If you have too little cortisol this can cause or worsen a low thyroid state.  Cortisol is needed for the conversion of inactive (T4) to active (T3) thyroid hormone.  Cortisol works with thyroid hormone at the DNA level so a deficiency in either can reduce the ability to produce specific proteins products needed by cells.

If you have too much cortisol you readily convert T4 to ‘reverse T3’ which the body does not use.  Elevated cortisol can also cause your body to become resistant to thyroid hormone (thyroid hormone receptor resistance) which is a thyroid hormone ‘deficiency’ state.  High cortisol can also suppress thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) production which thereby reduces global thyroid hormone production.

The adrenal gland releases adrenaline and maintains blood pressure and sugar levels so we can face stress head on and perform admirably at work, school, or home.  To help you reduce stress, there are several nutritional and naturopathic methods available that can balance adrenal metabolism.

Adrenal Stress: The BodyMindLink

Poor adrenal metabolism is associated with physical symptoms including blood sugar vacillation, food intolerance, autoimmune problems, digestive problems, inflammation, low or high blood pressure, light headedness, food/salt/sugar cravings, abdominal/thigh weight gain, arthritis, fatigue, poor stamina, feeling wired, frequent infections and delayed recovery of, unrefreshed sleep, low libido, and peri-menopausal difficulty.

From a mental health perspective adrenal stress is associated with poor coping ability, overwhelmed feelings, struggling throughout the day, rage (a short fuse), depression, anxiety (panic attacks), PMS, mental fogginess, racing thoughts, behavior disorders, and psychosis.