One of the biggest drivers of sub-optimal thyroid function is chronic stress or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal, HPA-axis dysfunction.
Remember we discussed TSH is a pituitary hormone, right? Well in summary, TSH tells the thyroid to make more thyroid hormone, specifically T4. While it’s common to see elevated TSH initially, due to the presence of excess cortisol, chronic stress can also cause hyperthyroidism. Over time the downregulation in the hypothalamus will create a concurrent downregulation and decrease in TSH.
To start with:
- Balance your blood sugar. Consuming quality protein with each meal is key, especially by 10am for healthy metabolic function including insulin signaling.
- Consider your caffeine. Don’t shoot the messenger here but more than 1 coffee a day is too much for most us, especially considering our already heightened stress response. If you do drink coffee, it’s best to wait until after 10am when the diurnal rhythm of cortisol is naturally lower.
- Nature, breath work and/or yoga. These supports parasympathetic tone and put your body back into ‘rest and digest’ instead of ‘fight or flight’. Long exhales activate the vagus nerve – the cranial nerve that connects brain to body and governs heart rate variability, parasympathetic tone, digestion, mood and so much more.
- Maintain your circadian rhythm. There’s so much that can be done but my top two are to see the sun without sunglasses on during the day, and to block the blue light from your screens from sunset. Melatonin works, but please don’t wear sunglasses all day, stare at screens all night and then pop a pill to cover the problem with a bandaid.
- Consider testing your cortisol levels whether via saliva or urine. There’s a whole conversation here in terms of interpretation, efficacy and accuracy, however saliva or urine are best in order to observe the diurnal cortisol rhythm. I’ve put together just two examples here where HPA-axis dysfunction was the primary driver of thyroid imbalance.
Learn more in Understanding Low Thyroid here. In addition to hypothyroidism, I cover autoimmunity, pregnancy and so much more. In particular, I answer the question, “Do I need to be on thyroid medication for life?”