How Stress Affects Your Thyroid

June 17, 2023

Around 12% of Americans will be diagnosed with a thyroid condition at some point in their lives and women are 5-8 times more likely to have thyroid disease, compared to men. The Cleveland Clinic reports that up to 60% of thyroid conditions are not diagnosed! The challenge with this is underactive thyroid can look like so many other things because the thyroid helps to manage many functions in the body. In today’s show, we’ll explain how the thyroid works, what bodily functions it helps manage, symptoms of having underactive gland, and how stress plays a big role in impacting the thyroid plus tips for relieving stress and nutrients for thyroid support.

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KARA: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. Our company specializes in life-changing nutrition education and counseling. I'm honored to have been a part of this mission for over 15 years. My name is Kara Carper. I'm a Licensed Nutritionist and Certified Nutrition Specialist, and I have a master's degree in holistic health. Like many of us who have struggled with personal health issues, you know, that's often what leads us to want to learn more and eventually educate and help others on their health journeys.

Statistics on thyroid conditions

I grew up, just a quick background. You know, I was always constipated and bloated until Nutritional Weight and Wellness taught me how to go gluten-free and heal my gut. I've dealt with things like insomnia, ups and downs with moods, anxiety and depression, and also Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune thyroid condition. Around 12% of Americans will be diagnosed with a thyroid condition at some point in their lives. Women are five to eight times more likely to have thyroid disease compared to men. And the Cleveland Clinic reports that up to 60% of thyroid conditions are undiagnosed. So there's a lot out there.


KARA: That don't even realize. And I remember when I first started having symptoms of hypothyroidism, which is low thyroid, it's, it's really easy to overlook and justify those symptoms as, oh, it's just something else.

MELANIE: I don't think that's where your brain goes.

KARA: Exactly. Yeah. You kind of go, well, you know, I'm tired. I just had a baby. You know, I'm putting on some weight, losing some hair. For me, it did happen after my daughter was born, and that's really common with those hormonal changes. But I kind of just justified the constipation, depression as being a new tired mom. But our topic today is all about the thyroid gland and how stress can negatively affect thyroid function.

MELANIE: Stress. That's what we're talking about. Stress on the thyroid. I love this topic so much.

KARA: It's a really interesting connection and you hear another voice. I'm really pleased to be cohosting today with Melanie Beasley. Melanie has shared in past shows some of the health issues that she's been through, and I know Mel's clients know they're in very good hands because she gives her heart and soul. She meets clients where they're at to help them move forward in their wellness goals. I always enjoy hosting shows with you, Mel.


KARA: And Mel's a Licensed and Registered Dietitian working out of the Eagan office.

MELANIE: You know, when you were telling a little bit about yourself, we are twins. You know, I've had some of the same, very much the same. And when we're talking about thyroid, I remember being diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and it was so far along, I never thought that was my issue. It, I was so far along, it was the worst case of Hashimoto's my doctor had ever seen at the clinic. And this is what I do for a living, but I never thought I had a thyroid issue. So it, you do, I think especially women, they just power through.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: We power through.

KARA: Yep.

MELANIE: I appreciate your kind words, Kara. That's really sweet. I think once you've been in that situation, you can’t help but put yourself in your client's shoes and say, boy, I really hope, I really hope I can help them. I'm super passionate about educating my clients and our listeners on how to be the best version of themselves. That's really what we want. Our measuring stick is who we used to be. It's really not the person next to us.

And so I know firsthand what it's like to meet a health challenge head on, figure out the root cause, and move forward to heal with nutrition and other lifestyle changes. And we talked about the thyroid gland on past shows, but this is the first time we focus specifically on how stress affects thyroid.

So before we dive into the thyroid, how has stress personally affected all of you listening today? I'm sure everyone can relate to some stressful event or stressful season in your life, especially over the past three years with all of the changes happening with the COVID pandemic. Most of my clients have been complaining about weight gain, fatigue, depression, mood swings, anxiety, insomnia, and other health conditions. And I want to say a lot of them take it on as it's a personal flaw or character flaw, and it's not.

KARA: Exactly. And there's no doubt these past several years have caused a huge amount of stress. Can any of you relate to what Mel said? Have you noticed weight gain, especially around the midsection? Have you noticed that you're a little more irritable or possibly depressed or anxious? Not sleeping as well? Low energy? This is what a lot of people state when they experience a stressful situation.

MELANIE: Yeah. It, it's, it's really a struggle. And when it comes to stress and thyroid function, it's a little bit like chicken and the egg. We, we don't really know which came first, but it's there.

KARA: Absolutely. It can be hard to know.

MELANIE: Well, if you're exhausted, right, if you're, that's stressful. And you're trying to do life. If you're gaining weight, that's stressful.

Acute vs. chronic stress

KARA: So are you experiencing symptoms from going through a stressful period of time? Or maybe your symptoms are due to something biochemical, like low thyroid: hypothyroidism. Research shows that prolonged stress can lead to poor thyroid function. And it's really the long-term stress that our bodies don't get a break from that disrupts hormones. It's our bodies are meant to be able to tolerate a certain amount of stress, more of the acute stress, and we'll talk about the difference between acute and chronic stress.

MELANIE: Yep. Yep. And we all experience short-term stress, really on a daily basis. It can be the smallest thing ever. It's a moment of stress. And our bodies and our brains are designed to recover from these situations. You're driving to work for an 8:00 AM meeting and there's summer road construction and a traffic accident, and you know you'll be late. Well, that's stressful.

KARA: Yeah. So that's short term. Shorter term stress typically has a start and a finish. It's not stress that's dragged on for months and months, or for some folks, depending on the scenario, the stress could be dragged on for years. Some of those long-term stressors.

MELANIE: An example of long-term stressors that can inhibit thyroid function are having a child or other loved one who deals with a chronic illness or disability, or learning difference. My chronic stress was I was having chronic migraines from something else, and it was very, very stressful. Boom.

KARA: Yes, yes. I remember that.

MELANIE: My thyroid pooped out on me.

KARA: Are you a caregiver to a parent, grandparent, partner, spouse, a child? Maybe that's your profession. You know, nurses, doctors, and health aides…

MELANIE: And teachers.

KARA: They are, they're all caregivers; teachers. Exactly.

MELANIE: Yeah. Yeah. A lot of stress in those professions. And, and, and some others. Firefighters. I mean, we could go on and on.

KARA: Yeah. We don't want to feel like we're leaving, leaving other professions out. But we know there are a lot of professions that they tend to have that long term stress.

MELANIE: Yeah, that's a really good point. The list could go really on, but if it’s a matter if it's physical labor, office work, stay at home parent, you know, if your listeners, if this is chronic stress for you. According to the American Institute of Stress, from September, 2022, 33% of Americans reported feeling extreme stress. 77% said stress is affecting their physical health. And 73% said stress is impacting their mental health. I really think my clients are their body's best doctors. They know their bodies and they know when it's affecting them. There is still a lot of uncertainty and worry in our country and world. And people are really getting hit hard with stress.

Stress hormones (high cortisol) linked with lower thyroid function

KARA: And research from the journal called Thyroid Research showed a link between hypothyroidism and higher cortisol levels.

MELANIE: That's our stress hormone. Right?

KARA: This is really interesting. Yes. High cortisol levels: cortisol is a hormone that's released during a stressful event or stressful time. And so, again, just want to repeat the high cortisol levels, which are, are stress hormones have been linked with lower thyroid function.

MELANIE: That is so interesting. So think about the stress you've been under in the past, or the three years of stress during the pandemic. That's chronic stress.

KARA: The situations Mel and I just mentioned, like being a caregiver, they're considered environmental stressors. You might also hear the term external stressors and a lot of environmental or external stressors are not in our control. Other examples besides being a caregiver or working long hours, having a stressful home or work life, maybe even being exposed to toxins.

MELANIE: Good point.

KARA: Chemicals or pollution on a regular basis. So think about this listeners. Are you exposed to chemicals or toxins where you live or work on a daily basis? That's another environmental stressor.

MELANIE: Yep. Yeah. Or you know, if you've got a mold infestation in your house or job stress, a breakup or divorce, moving homes or schools, job change. There's a lot that we could talk about and we'll talk some more when we come back from break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition, brought to you by Nutritional Weight and Wellness. This morning we are discussing how stress affects thyroid function. Stay tuned because we have much more to say on this topic.


KARA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Our discussion topic today is how stress affects thyroid function. This might be a new concept for you. So let's get back into our discussion. Before break, Melanie was starting to talk about just some examples of external or environmental stressors; those long-term stresses like a job loss, divorce, a big move. And so again, this might be new information, but have you made the connection that some things in your life you actually do have control over? They might also be creating more stress and leading to poor thyroid function.

Eating too much sugar/processed carbs stresses the body

So here's some examples. Did you realize that eating too much sugar or too many processed carbohydrates: chips, cereal, bread, pasta, that can create more stress on the body?

MELANIE: So I just want to say, because we bring this topic up all the time, this is science. This is not because we're trying to sway all our longtime listeners into believing us. It truly is the science.

KARA: It really is. Yes. There's numbers of studies on, you know, the connection between processed foods, high carbohydrates, high sugar, high blood sugar, high insulin, and how that can lead to more stress on the body.


KARA: So your nutrition, it is something that you do have control over. So that is the good news.

MELANIE: Kara, you wrote an article a long time ago called “Fight or Flight, the Physical Effects of Stress”. And that was in 2016, but I think you can still find it on our website. In that article you talked about how skipping meals or waiting too long to eat, or even eating low fat or low calorie foods is actually chemically very stressful on the body.

Eating in balance reduces stress on the body

And when my clients meet with me and are worried about stress, I explain to them that they really, they can really reduce their overall stress by eating in balance. And that's eating some animal protein, some healthy fats and some veggies all in the same meal; some fruit carbohydrates or some root vegetables. And if they do this about every few hours, it's the one thing you can control and your body's stressors come down. This is an easy thing.

KARA: It is. You know, and again, research shows that that low fat, low calorie eating or skipping meals, overdoing caffeine or energy drinks.

MELANIE: Please say that again: the caffeine in the energy drinks.

Overconsumption of caffeine puts stress on the body

KARA: Yeah. And you know, we understand a lot of times when people are consuming energy drinks and coffee and caffeinated beverages throughout the day, they're trying to power through because the fatigue is coming from somewhere else, but it ends up, unfortunately, being more stressful on the body.

MELANIE: It's this big cycle, right?

KARA: Yes.

MELANIE: You’re just twirling in a circle of stress.

KARA: It’s that vicious cycle. And yeah. So having too much sugar, too many processed carbs or the drinks we just talked about, caffeinated beverages, energy drinks, that's just as stressful on our bodies as the example Mel gave of being caught in 8:00 AM rush hour when you're late for a meeting.

Balanced blood sugar reduces stress load on the body

MELANIE: Yeah. And then you add some caffeine to that and your anxiety goes through the roof. Chris Kresser, a renowned functional medicine expert, explains that when blood sugar levels, this is your glucose, are either too high or too low on a regular basis, that thyroid function decreases. You want that sweet spot. And for most people with thyroid issues, you're going to want to eat protein, healthy fat, moderate amount of carbs every few hours to keep that steady stream of fuel or that glucose with no spikes or crashes that you're going to feel.

KARA: And eating out of balance or not eating frequently enough can be a stressor. Lack of sleep, not moving the body and lack of self-care are other stressors. And we'll kind of come back to sleep, movement and self-care if we have time. But first, you know, our topic really is, we want to talk about this connection between nutritional stressors and on thyroid.

The roles of the thyroid in the body

MELANIE: Yeah, good point. Your thyroid, just to talk a little bit about where is it? Your thyroid is a small gland. It's described as a butterfly shaped gland at the base of your neck. It's got a lot of important jobs. And your thyroid gland is responsible for making just the right amount of thyroid hormone so you have energy and good moods, and you're able to digest and metabolize your food and maintain a healthy weight. Like you said, it's, it's a tiny little organ but it's a powerhouse of functions.

KARA: It's got a lot of work to do for us. And Mel, you know, both of us love to do a deep dive into how the body works and all the science. And when I was researching information for our topic today, I found some really interesting things. Some were new to me. But I'd like to give the beginner version of how the thyroid works. So, like Mel said, it's a small gland, but it's responsible for producing a hormone that influences every cell, every tissue, and every organ in the body. Did you know that our brain makes something called TSH? That's the acronym: TSH. It's thyroid stimulating hormone. Isn't that cool?


KARA: You'll see TSH on your lab report if you ever have lab tests done for thyroid. But Mel, TSH is actually a brain hormone. It's made by the pituitary gland.

MELANIE: Yeah. We always think it's made in the organ. But no, in the pituitary gland. And who knew? Once the brain sends a message to make this TSH, that sends a signal to the actual thyroid gland in your neck to make a couple of other thyroid hormones. They are called T4, T3, and T4 is also called thyroxine. And T3 has a really long name. So let's just refer to it as T3. On a lab test, it'll say T4 and T3. So don't worry about remembering the scientific names, just so you have some understanding about that gland and what it's doing.

KARA: Have you ever gone to your primary care doctor; maybe you've even gone to an endocrinologist. That is someone who specializes in hormones. And have you asked for thyroid labs? If so, these hormones might sound familiar that Mel and I were just talking about. 90% of what your thyroid gland produces is the T4 hormone. And about 10% is the T3 hormone.

MELANIE: Yeah. That's a really good breakdown. There's a lot going on with this tiny little gland in your neck. It's usually more complex than just going to your doctor and getting a prescription for something like Synthroid. With all the moving parts of the thyroid, the TSH brain hormone, the T4 and T3, it's not surprising that many people go on thyroid medication and their low thyroid symptoms sometimes are not resolved.

KARA: Yep, exactly. And this is where we want you to think critically again. Think to yourself, have you been diagnosed with a thyroid condition? And if yes, were you put on a medication? Are you being treated for it? Most importantly, is it working for you? If it is, fantastic.

MELANIE: Yeah. It didn't work for me.

KARA: Yeah. It, it didn't work for me.

MELANIE: Yeah. I had to go on it on something called Armor, and that is, is what I'm on. So if you're taking a thyroid medication for T4, which is often called levothyroxine or Synthroid, and you're still having symptoms of hypothyroid, I found a study that gives a great explanation. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism recently published a study showing that levothyroxine as a single therapy was inadequate for many hypothyroid patients, just like we were talking about.

KARA: Yep, yep. And I have friends and family who've been in that identical situation. They've been diagnosed with low thyroid, underactive thyroid, and put on that same medication. Their doctor may say, the labs look better, you know, things should be okay, but here's the big ‘but’. My friends and family still complained of the following symptoms even while they were on the medications, Synthroid.

Common symptoms of underactive thyroid function

Now, not everyone has all these symptoms, but we just want to go over some of the more common symptoms of an underactive thyroid: fatigue. Are you feeling fatigued, really fatigued, more than normal? And it's not because of lack of sleep. Do you have unexplained weight gain even when things have not changed with your eating or your physical activity? Are you feeling more constipated? Do you have brain fog? Is it hard to focus, concentrate, or remember things?

MELANIE: Yeah. I didn't have the weight gain. I didn't have, but I did have driving home, trying to stay awake was a struggle. And I did have the brain fog and the poor memory was crazy. Yeah. That was crazy. You just think, am I just getting old? So it's a…

KARA: Yeah, again, it's back to that justification of, oh, it must be something else.

MELANIE: Right. Right. You never think it's you. Well, it's a lengthy list, but it's important for our listers to hear all the areas the thyroid supports when it's working well. I always tell my clients, you're not crazy. You know, you listen to yourself, listen to your body. So we want to talk about hair loss, hair thinning, or hair loss on your head, but also on your eyebrows. Like the outer third edges of your eyebrows is a telltale sign of low thyroid; not age.

There's a few others like dry hair, brittle nails, depression, weak muscles. We'll talk some more about this, but it's time for our second break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. For those listening live this morning and maybe have been tuning in live for years, we thank you. Did you know that you can listen to these shows anytime, plus exclusively “Ask a Nutritionist” bonus episodes via our podcast? Just search for Dishing Up Nutrition wherever you find our podcast. We'd love to hear from you. We'll be right back.

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KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Before break, Mel mentioned our new “Ask a Nutritionist” mini podcast episode series on our Dishing Up Nutrition podcast. We get inspiration for each topic by requests from listeners like you. If you would like to request a topic, first, just go to our private Facebook group by searching Dishing Up Nutrition on Facebook. Or you can email your topic suggestion to

So yeah, there are so many symptoms like Melanie was talking about before break; symptoms of underactive thyroid, really ranging from the brain fog to the fatigue, muscle weakness, joint pain, hair loss, you know, whether it's on the head or another telltale sign of underactive thyroid is losing the outer third of the hair on the eyebrows.

MELANIE: Yes. My symptoms, my TSH went so high it went to 38 and normal is you want it under about four, 3.5. And mine went so high that I had so much facial swelling and I could take my finger and press under my, you know, right around my cheekbone and it would leave this pea-sized divot that would last for 30 minutes; no idea what was going on there. And I would fall asleep, you know, trying to drive. I was just struggling to drive home. So these are symptoms that you can be aware of.

KARA: So that edema, the puffiness, that is another big one for a lot of people.

MELANIE: Another symptom and you just think, oh my gosh, what's happening?

KARA: I had a lot of underactive thyroid symptoms and it was after the birth of my daughter, like I shared.


KARA: Again, that is a fairly common time that a lot of women experience the Hashimoto's thyroiditis. One thing I recall is my hands and feet were always so cold, even though the rest of my body felt like it was that of the temperature was just fine and normal.

MELANIE: Yes. Yeah.

KARA: So that is yet again another symptom.

Research shows higher protein & saturated fat intake association with better thyroid function

MELANIE: So many, and we've talked about the importance of eating in balance to support good thyroid function and the animal protein, the good fats and moderate carbs, mostly coming from veggies and some fruit. Well, a large study that was published August 19th, 2021 in the Journal of Nutrition found that the participants who ate higher protein and higher saturated fats had better thyroid function. We're not surprised, but I think our listeners are like, oh my goodness: saturated fats.

KARA: Exactly. I want to repeat that Mel. The study contained over 4,500 adults and it was done in 2021. And the study found that the group who ate foods higher in protein and higher in saturated fats had better thyroid labs. So does that surprise any of you listening? Especially the part about saturated fats.

MELANIE: Yeah. I think that's really important for everyone to understand that animal fat serves a tremendous purpose in our bodies.

KARA: Especially when it comes to hormones.


KARA: And cell function.

MELANIE: Yeah. And we've demonized saturated fats and maybe that's part of the rise of thyroid issues in our country.

KARA: Yeah. Amongst other things as well.

High glycemic foods decrease thyroid function

MELANIE: Yeah, of course. And on the flip side, having high glycemic foods or beverages decreased thyroid function. Now these are the foods that raise your blood sugar rapidly. So what are we talking about? What are these foods or beverages?

Well, these are going to be fruit juice, sugar, bread that converts rapidly to sugar. And these foods lower your thyroid: cookies, crackers, chips.

KARA: All of the above.

MELANIE: Stop me, Kara.

KARA: I do want to circle back because I think it's, it was also interesting in the study to read about what were some of the specific proteins and saturated fats that they used.

MELANIE: Oh yeah, yeah.

KARA: Beef, pork, eggs, a lot of seafood, squid, octopus and fish, butter. And just in general, animal fat. And so the group who ate the proteins and the saturated fats, they had improved thyroid labs both for their TSH and the T4 and T3.

Protein supports good thyroid function

MELANIE: And I do want to note, a lot of my clients that come in clinic are not eating enough animal protein. You know, they scale back, their appetites don't really support eating enough. And we're seeing more and more of that. And now there's, you're just not getting enough of that thyroid supporting protein and fat like you're talking about.

KARA: And it, this all makes sense because we know that protein is one of the most important things for the thyroid gland. It acts as a building block to make thyroid hormones.

MELANIE: Yeah. Really good protein rich foods, especially meat, have so many nutrients that the body needs to support your thyroid, like B12, B6, niacin and critical minerals like iron and zinc, selenium and phosphorus. And have you heard of L-tyrosine? It's an animal protein. Animal protein has the amino acid L-tyrosine and it helps make thyroid hormones and dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that gives you energy and good moods, which is, we need that.

KARA: We do. And if we have low, if we're eating low protein, most folks have low dopamine,

MELANIE: Which is stressful, which affects the thyroid.

KARA: Mm-Hmm. Yep. And then there's that low energy and fluctuating moods. So again, back to kind of, it's the vicious cycle, but we, you know, we can get out of that cycle by just really focusing on what we have control over, which is eating in balance several times per day.

MELANIE: And we're not necessarily saying that we can repair thyroid issues. We're saying this is preventative measures that you take.

KARA: And it will reduce stress.


KARA: Both the emotional and physical and mental, all of the stressors. It will naturally just reduce stress in the body.

MELANIE: Which is thyroid protective.

KARA: Yes.

MELANIE: Yeah, good point.

More on the function of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones

KARA: I just want to circle back to the T4 and the T3 thyroid hormones. Even though I stated that 90% of thyroid hormone that our bodies make is the T4; the T4 is what we call the inactive form. So T4 doesn't do much good until it's converted into the active form. And the active form is T3.

MELANIE: Yeah, that's our, that's our “zoom, zoom”, the T3. I wonder if people realize that if you are someone who takes Synthroid or levothyroxine, and just like the study we mentioned, are you someone who is on a medication but you still have all the symptoms of feeling sluggish, puffy, overweight, or depressed? And maybe your doctor says your thyroid is being managed with medication, but you feel terrible. Trust how you feel because you're not wrong. Because remember I said zoom, zoom, if you're feeling sluggish, what's the connection?

KARA: Yep. The connection is, is that chances are you're not converting the T4 into the active T3.


KARA: And some people just have a harder time than others making that conversion. Again, T3 is the thyroid hormone; the “zoom, zoom”.

MELANIE: That's the clinical term. Right?

How do we convert T4 to T3?

KARA: Exactly. I love that. People are not going to forget that. But it gives good energy, good moods, better sleep. It prevents hair loss. We can have regular bowel movements. How do you convert T4 to T3? Well, the nutrients we just talked about that are found in good old animal protein, especially meat, will help that conversion. Our bodies need selenium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and the B vitamins for the conversion all found in animal protein.

MELANIE: Yeah. We talk so much about animal protein, I wonder if our listeners just envision us as little like cavemen women, you know, because we, we are big proponents of it. And GLA is another important one; gamma-linoleic acid; I gave my clients, I give them three softgels of GLA per day to support thyroid function.

Prolonged stress can interfere with proper conversion of T4 to T3

KARA: And remember the research we talked about at the beginning of the show on stress? Prolonged stress is also on the list of things that interferes with T4 converting into the active T3. So when you're under long-term stress, and again, maybe it's due to being a caregiver, maybe you're unemployed and looking for a job. Well your cortisol is constantly in this elevated state. When the stress hormone, cortisol is high, T4 is unable to convert into that active T3.

So if you ever had your blood drawn for thyroid labs and your doctor said everything looks fine. It looks normal. It's possible that they were just looking at limited information. You know, maybe they did not even check the active T3 form, which is very important.

Thyroid function sometimes slows during menopause

MELANIE: So if you're feeling bad, feeling sluggish though they say it's fine, it's just information for you. So you are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today's discussion is about how stress affects your thyroid function. In clinic, we often see women who begin having slow thyroid function once they start transitioning into menopause. If this sounds like you, we encourage you to check out our online Menopause Solutions course. Kara and I are the presenters; to learn everything you need to know about getting through menopause naturally, including supporting your thyroid along the way. To learn more, visit or call us at (651) 699-3438 and someone can help you out.

Sign Up for Menopause Solutions - Online


KARA: You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Today we're discussing how stress affects your thyroid. Mel mentioned the connection between decreased thyroid function and the hormonal changes during menopause. Are you experiencing symptoms of low thyroid function, like weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, low moods? Are you wondering if these symptoms could be connected to menopause? Take our free quiz to get answers and to help with next steps. You can go to, click nutrition classes, and then find the Menopause Solutions and the quiz will automatically pop up. It's just a super short quiz. I, I can't remember if it's 10 questions or somewhere. It just takes like a minute. Really quick to do.

MELANIE: I like those quizzes.

KARA: I do too. And then you get immediate feedback. I should say that.

MELANIE: Oh, that's good.

More on the importance of getting a full thyroid panel

KARA: You get your results right away within like seconds I think. Okay. So another thing Mel was talking about before break is underactive thyroid. Now if you've gone to your doctor and you've asked for thyroid labs and your doctor said it looks good, you know, but if you feel terrible and are experiencing the symptoms we've been talking about all hour, they may not have checked the active T3 form, which is really important. That's our “zoom, zoom” thyroid hormone. I'm never going to forget that. So always ask for a full thyroid panel to get the whole picture.

MELANIE: Yeah. Yeah. Really important there.

KARA: So, and we always focus on nutrition first because, well that's our passion. And Mel and I have talked a lot about how reducing long-term stress by eating the protein, the healthy fats, reducing the high sugar and high carb foods and just kind of getting that steady stream of nutrients every few hours to stabilize blood sugar is really the first and most important step.

Sleep is important for stress management

MELANIE: Yeah. Really important. And it's something that you have control over. Sleep is very high up on the list for stress management. Getting seven and a half to nine hours of restful sleep each night is key. And if you want your thyroid to be working well, you want that sleep. And what can you do to get better more sound night's sleep? I think this is the biggest complaint I hear in my office is struggling with sleep, especially after menopause.

How can you get more sound sleep?

So can you turn off your screen 30 minutes before bed? Can you take 400 to 600 milligrams of relaxing Magnesium Glycinate? That form is the one you want. And if you tend to wake up at 2:00 AM you can't get back to sleep, maybe what you need is a bedtime, a small bedtime snack of maybe like heavy organic whipping cream with some berries. I'm talking about the one that's in the carton, not the one that sprays out of a can with propellant. And if you can't do dairy, you can do full fat canned coconut milk is delicious over some berries.

KARA: And I know people, I don't know the exact recipe, but I know a few of my colleagues will actually whip the coconut milk or the coconut cream and make it into like a non-dairy whipping cream.

MELANIE: Whipping cream. Yeah. Delicious.

KARA: Yeah.

MELANIE: Lot of work.

KARA: Maybe just pour it right over the berries.

MELANIE: That's what I do. Yep.

KARA: And that actually is my favorite tip, the one that you just told me about the bedtime snack, because I tend to be that person that wakes up at two or three in the morning, but having a bedtime snack with just a moderate amount of carbohydrates, maybe 15 grams, 10 to 15 grams of a healthy fat, that really prevents the annoying middle of the night wake ups.

MELANIE: Yeah. It can be really beneficial for some people. Not everybody, but a lot of people, they're like, yeah, it's magic.

KARA: And if that is the struggle, we encourage you to at least try it.

Consider switching up exercise intensity & duration for stress reduction

MELANIE: Yeah. And if you're under stress for a while, it may be time to switch up the kind of exercise or physical activity you've been doing. I have some clients that come in and they're always doing like high intensity and that if you are under stress raises cortisol, which is your stress hormone. Lengthy endurance exercises can create more stress on the body. So I'm like, we've got to have some rest, we got to have some down days, some rest days and maybe switch it up, do some yoga.

KARA: So important. Yeah.

MELANIE: If you're stressing, you got to look at all the stressors.

KARA: And Mel, in case listeners are wondering, I was wondering if you could just briefly explain why our modern day chronic long-term stress is different from the acute stress that our bodies were meant to be able to handle. So, you know, an example of acute stress again, was being stuck in rush hour and late for a meeting. It's got a start and an end.

How chronic stress affects the body

MELANIE: You drop something, it breaks on the floor and you got to clean it up. It's, it's momentary stress. So the chronic stress can affect the body because there are chemical reactions that happen when you're under chronic stress. And the body will do, its, its due diligence to correct that stress and try to produce those neurotransmitters as long as it possibly can.

But the research shows that stress can directly affect the microbiome in your gut. It's just the garden that helps make neurotransmitters. That chronic stress can raise your cortisol hormone, which we talked about that can put on belly fat and it can eventually, the body poops out and it becomes very fatigued in trying to deal with that chronic stress.

And so I've had clients that are constantly stuck in fight, flight or freeze and that takes a toll so many ways. I've had clients with histamine intolerance. I've had clients with digestive issues and when we start addressing the stress in their life, there's this connection to their body's response. One client, she eats perfectly She has colitis and so she came to me with watery diarrhea seven times a day. We got her on track, she was doing great. Well then her mother began passing away and she was ill and there was some odd with the family and her symptoms came raging back even though she changed nothing with her diet.

Relaxation techniques to help with chronic stress

So we literally worked on some relaxation techniques because the brain is always listening and we have to feed the brain some calming visualizations, techniques, some happy movies, anything to get your brain off of that chronic stress because it does take a toll on the body. It's related to even cancer.

KARA: I like how you're just looking at the whole picture. You know, again, we're a company that focuses on nutrition and educating clients about, you know, how to heal from the proper nutrition. But the whole picture is looking at sleep, movement, stress reduction tools such as visualization, affirmations, you know, kind of whatever works for you.

MELANIE: I mean, there's a term we use: rest and digest because of that connection. If you're not resting, sitting down calmly eating your meal, you don't digest properly. So we have to look at the total individual. And so sometimes you're so stressed, your life is so crazy, we have to look at, okay, how do we make a nourishing meal without creating more stress? I mean that's part of what we might spend an hour working on with some of our clients.

KARA: Absolutely. And so I'm just going to give an example, kind of going back to hunter gatherer days as far as kind of acute stress, what our bodies were meant to be able to handle. And the example is just, let's say a zebra was running away, it was being chased by a tiger. Well, I mean both animals essentially would have a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone, and temporarily the blood sugar, the glucose will go up to give energy for this stressful acute event. Then of course insulin is raised to bring the glucose back down. But you know, after all is said and done with the zebra and the tiger, it goes back to normal within an hour or two. Right?

MELANIE: It's, yeah. It's, it's, and it, we're not running from tigers anymore, but if you have a stressful life and then you're watching a scary show and the body will jump; right; when something comes out and we jump because our brain does not differentiate between the stress that's going on in our brain and the actual risk. So I'll even have my clients, you know, don't watch anything scary. Don't watch… to calm down.

KARA: Great advice. I remember you recently talking about that at a meeting.

MELANIE: Yeah. It, you got to take care of the whole body because it's all connected.

KARA: Mind and body. And with our current day prolonged stress, our bodies don't bounce back like the zebra and the tiger would bounce back.

MELANIE: In talking about the connection between stress and thyroid, a big piece is the cortisol stress. And we talked about, you know, we don't want to be burdening our bodies further with excessive exercise if we're going through a stressful time. We don't want to be eating in a way that raises our blood sugar rapidly and then crashes it down because that's stressful to the body, which in turn stresses the thyroid.

We don't want to be eating foods that are processed, that don't provide nourishment for the thyroid. So you made this wonderful connection with that study about animal protein. Good cholesterol from good sourced animals is very thyroid supportive. So making sure that's part of the program is that healthy protein, some great vegetables for nourishment and healthy fat, throwing a little fruits and vegetables, root vegetables in there. That's the control you have for thyroid. And that's what we want to do. That thyroid is such an important, important, important organ. Controls so much.

KARA: And that that protocol that you just talked about, that is really going to dampen the fire, that high cortisol stress, thyroid connection fire.

MELANIE: Yes. And if, you know, if you've got a stressed thyroid, the last thing you want to be doing is processed foods with gluten. So…

KARA: And with that…

MELANIE: We could go on and on.

KARA: We, we thank you for listening. Our goal at Nutritional Weight and Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. It's a simple yet very powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Have a wonderful rest of your weekend.


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