Did you know that Hashimoto’s and anxiety often go hand in hand? I learned this the hard way a few years back. After having crippling anxiety, I went to see my primary care doctor. After some testing, we found out that I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
The thought never even crossed my mind that the anxiety I was having could be related to my thyroid. There are many studies showing the association of anxiety and the presence of anti-TPO antibodies ( which are elevated with Hashimotos). Most recently in 2019, a cross-sectional study was completed with a group of Hashimoto’s patients. The study showed there was a significantly higher incidence of anxiety in the cohort over depression.
As a nurse, it’s commonly taught that depressive symptoms are often associated with hypothyroidism, and anxiety is linked to hyperthyroidism. But evidence shows anxiety disorders have a higher prevalence in patients with anti-TPO (i.e. Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis). However, anxiety has also been seen with a slight reduction in thyroid hormone secretion also known as subclinical hypothyroidism.
The Integrative Approach To Managing Anxiety and Stress
Body Chemistry: Medications
There are many medications available to help manage anxiety. When needed these are a great option, however, my opinion is to try treating the anxiety as a whole first before introducing a medication. Remember this is a case-by-case thing, every person’s chemistry, and circumstances are different. So option A might work for you but option B which includes a medication might work best for me. And there is shame in needing a medication, let me say it again NO SHAME.
Medications often used to treat anxiety are SSRIs: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors like Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, and benzodiazepines like Ativan, Xanax. Remember there is always a risk of side effects when taking any medication. So take time to explore medication options with your practitioner before taking one.
Body Chemistry: Nutrition
Nutrition and diet have a major role in helping to manage anxiety. We all have something called the gut-brain axis, meaning your gut and your brain are connected through chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters produced in the brain control feelings and emotions. Studies are showing that your brain can affect gut health and your gut may even affect your brain health. Major areas nutrition areas to focus on to reduce anxiety include:
Balancing Blood Sugar: Poor blood sugar control could lead to an increase in anxiety. Some people might feel more anxious as their blood sugar drops in response to insulin. Having a breakfast full of carbohydrate-rich foods can quickly increase your blood sugar. A rapid increase in blood sugar releases insulin to help regulate the blood sugar. This surge of insulin can swing you into a low blood sugar state creating irritability and anxiety. It becomes a cycle of your body being in a high blood sugar state, dropping back to low.
To help regulate your blood sugar, start your morning off with some sort of protein and fat. Studies have shown that a high protein diet can prevent gains of body fat, reduced daily food intake and feelings of hunger, and stabilized glucose levels. Think about a breakfast that is filled with organic nut butter, organic eggs, or a delicious protein muffin– and try reducing your intake of carbohydrates.
Body Chemistry: Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements play a huge part in regulating anxiety with Hashimoto’s. If you are going to add supplements to your diet, you first need to be picky and talk to your doctor. The good news is many supplements can be found in our food, so eating the right foods can naturally increase the supplements discussed in this post. Someone like Calista Chammas a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and a Modern Practitioner contributor can help you with any nutritional help you are needing.
Magnesium: Over the last few years magnesium has grown in popularity due to people becoming aware of its connection with anxiety and sleep. Studies are showing that magnesium may help reduce your anxiety symptoms. There are quite a few forms of magnesium on the market, so it important to know what magnesium to pick. In 2017 some studies showed the best options to help with anxiety is magnesium lactate or magnesium oxide.
Selenium: Selenium is an important supplement for Hashimoto’s patients. Selenium is a trace mineral and needed for antioxidant defense. It helps to protect your body tissues from oxidative damage. Selenium is known to be helpful in reducing the attack on the thyroid gland. If you are going to take a selenium supplement discuss the proper dose with your doctor. Or another good way to get selenium is through foods like canned fish, poultry, eggs, or Brazil nuts.
Mind and Body: Therapy
I think we can all agree there is a connection between your mind and body. The last few years I have worked to understand this connection and believe it can help with thyroid healing. Ways to dive deeper into the root cause of anxiety can be done through talk therapy, EMDR, bodywork, energy medicine, journaling, acupuncture, medication, etc.
I’m a big believer in therapy and have been going for years. My personal therapist Dr. Cassidy Freitas gave me this acronym to use while in an anxious state.
- B: Just breath. Research shows some breathing techniques that reduce anxiety. Breathing is considered better is a tool, it is not expected to completely alleviate the anxiety. One breath method to try is the “365 method. Three times a day, breathe at a rhythm of six cycles per minute (five seconds inhaling, five seconds exhale) for five minutes. The goal is to do this 365 days a year.
- O: observe and be mindful, what is causing my trigger or my anxiety?
- L: listen to my values. Does what I’m worrying about warrant the investment of your limited time, energy, and resources?
- D: decide on your next actions
Environment and Lifestyle
Exercise: There are numerous studies and meta-analyses that show exercise helping to reduce anxiety in clinical settings. Remember that exercise helps reduce the number of stress hormones in the body (adrenaline and cortisol). In addition, exercise stimulates the production of endorphins in the body which act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. Try incorporating in 30 minutes of light to moderate cardio with weights, 3 to 4 days a week.
Reduce Caffeine: It’s well known that too much caffeine can make you irritable, shaky, anxious agitated. If you are a fan of soda, coffee, green tea, matcha, or black tea then you’re a fan of caffeine. Studies show that if you already have increased anxiety, caffeine can increase the symptoms and make things worse. If you are looking to detox it’s important to remove coffee gradually, so here is my week-long detox from regular to decaf.
Day 1: Drink your everyday amount of coffee, don’t change anything
Day 2 – Day 5: Mix 50% of your regular coffee with mix 50% decaf.
Day 6: Switch it up day 6 and only use 25% regular coffee plus 75% decaf
Day 7: Finally day 7 start drinking only decaf and remove all regular coffee
It’s important to know even if you haven’t yet been diagnosed with thyroid disease due to having normal TSH levels you could still have elevated thyroid antibodies. Being fully informed about your health is better than not knowing at all. Don’t live in the dark and question why you are feeling so crappy, get some answers.
I hope this little bit of information helps you on your healing journey.
Whitney Kleiner, RN, BSN
+ Don’t miss 3 Tips To Improve Your Skin with Calista Chammas, FNTP here
+ Don’t miss 5 Things To Know If Diagnosed With Hashimoto’s Disease here
+ Don’t miss We’re Friends Right? So Lets Talk About Anxiety here
**Just a reminder you’ll never see me promote something I don’t believe in or use. And please remember The Modern Practitioner and the materials on here are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material is provided is for educational purposes only. Please seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions.