This time of year is notorious for feasting. From Thanksgiving through the end of the year, our calendars are filled with opportunities to get together and eat. It isn’t uncommon for the numbers on the scale to rise. But what if you notice other differences in your body. What if you begin to add up your list of symptoms and the stress of the holidays aren’t completely to blame. You might notice hair loss, exhaustion, dry skin, depression, or irregular menstruation. A visit to your physician or chiropractor might reveal that thyroid dysfunction is to blame. As we have examined through our earlier blogs, issues regarding the thyroid gland are not followed by a quick diagnosis and remedy. Previously, we discussed Hashimoto’s disease. Today we are going to take a look at other culprits of thyroid dysfunction.
Blood Sugar and Hypothyroidism
There are an estimated 50 million people in this country with possible thyroid dysfunction and/or blood sugar irregularity. That means at any one time, 35% of all Americans suffer with one or both of these conditions. Scientists now believe there is a strong correlation between these two major heath problems. Studies show an increased frequency of thyroid disorders in diabetics, and a higher prevalence of obesity and metabolic syndrome in people with thyroid disorders. This is because healthy thyroid function depends on keeping your blood sugar in a normal range. Keeping your blood sugar in a normal range depends on healthy thyroid function.
When you eat too many carbs, the pancreas secretes insulin to move the excess glucose from the blood and into the cells where it can be used to produce energy. Over time however, the cells lose the ability to respond to insulin. It is as if insulin is knocking on the door, but the cells can’t hear it. The pancreas responds by pumping out even more insulin (knocking louder) in an effort to get glucose into the cells. This eventually causes insulin resistance. Studies have shown that the repeated insulin surges, common in people with insulin resistance, increase the destruction of the thyroid gland. As the thyroid gland is destroyed, thyroid hormone production falls. Keeping your blood sugar stable is always an important nutrition goal. It takes on an even higher priority for those who suffer from hypothyroidism.
Stress and Hypothyroidism
The adrenals are two walnut-shaped glands that sit atop the kidneys. They secrete the hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine that regulate your stress response. These hormones also play other crucial roles, many of which are directly related to thyroid health. In fact, proper thyroid function depends on healthy adrenal glands. Symptoms of adrenal stress are diverse and nonspecific because the adrenals affect every system in the body. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Decreased immunity
- Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up
- Mood swings
- Sugar and caffeine cravings
- Irritability or lightheadedness between meals
- Eating to relieve fatigue
- Dizziness when moving from sitting or lying to standing
- Gastric ulcers
The most significant indirect effect the adrenals have on thyroid function is their influence on blood sugar. High or low cortisol, caused by any of the chronic stressors listed above, can cause hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, or both. Blood sugar imbalances can actually cause hypothyroid symptoms in a variety of ways. More directly, adrenal stress disrupts the T4-T3 conversions of the thyroid hormones. This can lead to normal TSH testing but hypothyroidism symptoms.
To reduce stress and therefore improve your thyroid production, try this:
- Avoid or at least greatly minimize stimulants
- Stabilize blood sugar (via a moderate or low-carb diet)
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques
- Have fun, laugh, and make pleasure a regular part of your life
- Avoid dietary causes of inflammation (refined flours, high-fructose corn syrup and industrial seed oils in particular)
- Ensure adequate intake of DHA and EPA
While this information is intended to make people aware of thyroid dysfunction, nothing replaces the benefit of speaking with a qualified individual. If you have questions or concerns, we would be happy to speak with you at our Roanoke, Virginia chiropractic office. Please call: 1-540-344-1055.
Dr. Daryl Rich, DC, CSCS