Stress Effects on Thyroid Function

By Dr. Joelle Cafaro;

Besides for radiation, there are several other factors that affect thyroid function. They are environmental factors such as heavy metal toxicity; endocrine disruptors such as xenoestrogens; and stress.

Stress is often an overlooked factor in thyroid health. Anytime you experience stress, your body produces cortisol. This is a protective mechanism that your body uses to help you deal with a physical threat. It creates the fight or flight response and once the physical threat is gone, cortisol levels go back to their normal levels.

Elevated cortisol is for short term stressful events. In the past I have mentioned that your body does not know the difference between a Saber-Tooth tiger and a traffic jam. It is the amount of stress and not necessarily the type of stress that causes high levels of cortisol.

If cortisol levels remain high for extended periods as is often the case if you have stress in your daily life (and who doesn't?) the result is excess cortisol in your body.

Excess cortisol has an adverse affect on thyroid function. It leads to decreased levels of T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone), inhibits 5 deiodinase (the enzyme responsible for the conversion of T4 into T3 in the body tissues) and leads to an increased risk of Hashimotos Thyroiditis (thyroid autoimmune disease).

If you have symptoms of hypothyroid; some of which are fatigue, depression, headaches, weight gain, dry course skin nails and hair, intolerance to cold; and are treating the thyroid symptoms with little to no results, it may be that high cortisol levels are causing your thyroid symptoms.

There are simple tests for thyroid and cortisol levels.

To maintain Thyroid health, there are 4 minerals that are essential. They are Iodine, Selenium, Zinc and Iron.

Iodine is the most important because the thyroid hormones are made from iodine. Iodine is found in Kelp, Spirulina, Yogurt, Milk, Whole Eggs, and Strawberries.

1 cup of yogurt, or milk contains 50% of the RDA for iodine. 1 egg or 1 cup of strawberries contain 15-25% of the RDA for iodine.

Selenium is an important nutrient for thyroid health. Selenium can be found in Brazil Nuts, Crimini Mushrooms, Cod, Halibut, Snapper, Tuna, Salmon, Sardines, Blackstrap Molasses, and Garlic. 2 or 3 Brazil nuts contain the RDA for most adults. 4 ounces of fish contain 75% of the RDA. While blackstrap molasses and garlic contain 3-5% of the RDA.

Zinc is essential in thyroid health as it a cofactor in the synthesis of 5 deiodinase which converts T4 (the inactive form of thyroid hormone) to T3 (the active form). Zinc can be found in Calf's Liver, Beef Tenderloin, Lamb, Venison, Sesame Seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Turkey, Spinach, Green Peas, Shrimp, Asparagus, Collards, Swiss Chard and Broccoli. 4 ounces of calf's liver contains 75% of the RDA, beef tenderloin contains 40%, lamb contains 30% and venison contains 20% of the RDA. ¼ cup of pumpkin and sesame seeds contain 17% of the RDA while 1 cup of spinach, chard, collards and broccoli contain 5-10%. Finally 1 cup of green peas contain 12% of the RDA.

Iron can be found in Lentils, Spinach, Kidney Beans, Pumpkin and Sesame Seeds, Beets, Summer Squash, Shiitake Mushrooms, Kelp, Mustard Greens, Swiss Chard, Beans, Quinoa, Thyme, Dill,Cumin, Basil, Oregano, and Cinnamon. 1 cup of spinach or lentils contains 35% of the RDA, 1 cup of beans contain 25% of the RDA, 1 cup of swiss chard contains 20% of the RDA. Pumpkin and sesame seeds contain 30% of the RDA. 2 tsp of Thyme contains 20% while 2 tsp of dill, cumin, basil, oregano and cinnamon contain 10% of the RDA. ¼ cup of quinoa contains 20% and 1 cup of beets contain 7% of the RDA for iron.

Your question: Do you have a thyroid dysfunction? (post your comments below)

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  • Read more:

    About the Author: Dr Joelle Cafaro has been in private practice for more than a decade sharing her passion for natural health. Her life mission is to help individuals be healthy and feel good while enjoy a rewarding personal life. She is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, holds a Certificate of Proficiency in Practical Herbal Therapy from the Australian College of Phytotherapy and designs and directs individualized wellness programs that produce rapid results. In 2010 she launched Heal4Real a web based wellness business focused on helping individuals regain their health using natural methods. Dr Cafaro resides in Virginia with her husband.


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