Tips for 5 Autoimmune Thyroid Disease and Anxiety

The other day I was speaking to a wonderful woman who was struggling with anxiety. She had already seen some major improvements with her Hashimoto’s through the use of thyroid medications as well as eating a Paleo diet, yet she was still struggling with anxiety. I know this is a struggle for many of you, so I wanted to share some strategies you can start right away! You don’t have to be anxious- there are some pretty simple hacks that can work wonders!!

Anxiety was one of the most challenging and disempowering symptoms I experienced when I was first diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. It changed my life dramatically and made me a shell of my former self.

Always the outspoken, level-headed and calm person… sometime in 2005, something called “new-onset anxiety” was a shock to my world.

I was scared.

I couldn’t deal with life. I was in a constant state of overwhelm. I doubted myself.

A lifelong social butterfly, suddenly I found myself feeling socially awkward and uncomfortable in groups of strangers (and even friends).

I resisted sharing my thoughts and opinions with colleagues and those in my personal life because I feared I would be judged and ridiculed.

I was always on edge, waiting for something bad to happen. I would almost jump out of my seat when people came into my office at work!

I was constantly worried about everything and was crippled by my anxiety almost daily.

My husband would go out jogging, and if thirty minutes passed, and he was still out, I would be crying on the floor, worried that he got hit by a car, (or ran off with another woman).  I knew that I was completely irrational. But the truth was I was not able to control my thoughts and emotions.

I thought I might have had a new-onset anxiety disorder. So I saw a doctor who prescribed anxiety medications for me. At times, I felt like I couldn’t deal without them.

Of course, these medications did not get to the root cause–they were just a band-aid–because my thyroid was to blame for my anxiety.

Having an excess amount of thyroid hormone can make us extremely anxious, irritable and on edge. This is one symptom that is commonly attributed to Graves’ disease but can also happen in Hashimoto’s.

In the early stages of Hashimoto’s, the thyroid is under attack by the immune system. Thyroid cells are broken down, and they release thyroid hormones into the bloodstream.

This causes thyroid hormone surges or a transient hyperthyroidism.

So let me ask you…

  • On a regular or frequent basis, do you have anxiety or feel stressed and overwhelmed?
  • Do you get panic attacks? Or feel awkward or uncomfortable in social situations?
  • Do you have obsessive thoughts or behaviors?
  • Do you have that busy mind that won’t switch off, negative self-talk and problems sleeping?
  • What about emotional or stress eating?

These anxiety symptoms are very common in people with thyroid disorders.

I know how awful anxiety and overwhelm can feel, so I’m excited to share that there IS a way out. You don’t have to feel this way forever.

Here are the top things that have worked for my clients and me:

  1. Blood sugar swings can put us on an emotional rollercoaster, so a big recommendation I have is to balance blood sugar. You can do this by reducing the intake of carbohydrates, and increasing protein and fat intake. Removing caffeine and adding things like coconut oil into your beverages throughout the day can also make you feel more calm and collected.
  2. Selenium has been shown to be helpful with reducing the autoimmune attack on the thyroid, and it really helped me reduce my anxiety. It Most of my clients report the same.  I recommend Selenium Methionine at 200-400 mcg per day.
  3. Taking probiotics or eating fermented foods: studies have found that the gut is in charge of producing neurotransmitters, including serotonin, the neurotransmitter that is thought to be lacking in anxiety and depression. Healthy gut bacteria assist with the production of serotonin. Here’s my post about Probiotics. One caveat: If you have obsessive thoughts, you will want to stay away from probiotics that contain Streptococcus probiotic strains, as they can theoretically increase obsessive-compulsive symptoms (overgrowth of Strep bacteria has been implicated in obsessive-compulsive disorder, though I haven’t seen anyone worsening with Streptococcus containing probiotics yet, better safe than sorry).
  4. Magnesium supplement at bedtime- this is especially helpful if you have insomnia or a racing mind at bedtime. I recommend that my clients take the citrate version if they tend to be constipated (magnesium citrate has stool softening effects), and the glycinate version if they tend to have normal bowel movements or diarrhea. Keep in mind that for some people glycinate can worsen anxiety symptoms. If you notice that your anxiety increases after taking magnesium glycinate, try switching to magnesium citrate. Side bonus: magnesium can also prevent headaches, body aches, and menstrual cramps!
  5. And probably the most important suggestion… Learning to take deliberate control of your thoughts and emotions.

Learning to deal with your emotions directly is a lifelong strategy that will help you in every situation, and will help you reduce your anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. I usually spend time with each of my clients who struggle with anxiety on specific exercises and methods to help them get centered and in control when anxiety strikes. These strategies also work to prevent anxiety.

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