How Adrenal Stress Affects Thyroid Health

Unless you happen to lead a very charmed life, you most likely experience your fair share of stress. And while you understand it’s bad for your health – do you know exactly how stress affects your thyroid?

Stress is one of the biggest influences on your adrenal glands, and the health of your adrenal glands directly impacts the health of your thyroid gland.

What Do the Adrenal Glands Do Anyway?

Your adrenals are two little walnut-shaped glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Their primary function is to regulate the secretion of important hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones in turn regulate the body’s response to stress.

Things like long commutes, too little sleep, financial hardships and fights with our significant other put stress on our adrenals and cause them to work overtime and churn out our “fight or flight” hormones. Physical issues like poor gut health, environmental toxins and blood sugar imbalances also stress our adrenal glands. And when our adrenal glands are stressed, our thyroid gland takes a major hit.

The Adrenal-Thyroid Connection

Here are three key ways adrenal stress impacts thyroid health:

1) Adrenal Stress Reduces T4 to T3 Conversion

Over 90% of the hormone produced by your thyroid gland is T4, which is inactive and must be converted into T3 before it can be used by the cells. Stressed adrenal glands negatively impact your body’s ability to convert T4 into T3.

2) Adrenal Stress Causes Thyroid Hormone Resistance

Before the T3 hormone can do its job, it must first activate the right cell receptors. But inflammatory cytokines, caused be adrenal stress and poor gut health, suppress thyroid receptor site sensitivity.

3) Adrenal Stress Causes Hormonal Imbalances

As previously mentioned, cortisol is one of the hormones secreted by the adrenals in response to stress. Chronic stress causes prolonged cortisol elevations, which results in the liver’s inability to clear excess estrogens from the blood.

This excess estrogen in turn increases the levels of thyroid binding globulin (TBG) proteins, which the thyroid hormone is attracted to. Once the thyroid hormone is bound to TBG, it is inactive and cannot perform its vital role.

How to Destress Your Adrenal Glands

Here are some ways you can alleviate, or at least lessen, the effects of stress on your adrenals:

  • Practice meditation and stress management techniques.
  • Support adrenal health through proper nutrition and exercise.
  • Avoid dietary causes of inflammation (refined flours/gluten, high-fructose corn syrup and industrial seed oils in particular).
  • Get plenty of rest.

Stress happens. But how we react to it can make all the difference when it comes to the health of our thyroid.