Many people who become diagnosed with Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis wonder how they developed this condition. I’m a good example, as when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, I considered myself to be in good health. It wasn’t until one day when I decided to randomly check my blood pressure and pulse, and discovered that my pulse was at 90 beats per minute that I realized something was wrong (normally it would read in the mid 60s). This is what eventually led to me seeing a general medical practitioner, and eventually an endocrinologist before being diagnosed.
Stress is blamed on a lot of different conditions, so I realize it’s easy to simply tell someone that their autoimmune disorder might have been caused by stress. And while stress isn’t necessarily the culprit in all cases of Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the fact remains that our bodies were not designed to handle chronic stress. So when I talk about “chronic” stress, I don’t mean dealing with stress for a few days, or even a few weeks, although one can argue that dealing with stress for a few days or weeks can also be considered “chronic”.
The main problem is that there are millions of people that deal with chronic stress for months, and even years. I’m not suggesting that it’s possible to live a stress-free life, because you and I both know that there is absolutely no chance of that happening. But the fact remains that most of us can do a much better job of managing the stress in our lives. And the truth is that most of us really don’t make a solid effort to manage stress.
I too was guilty of this, as I figured that working out regularly and eating healthy would be enough to “relieve” my stress. In some cases this is true, but before being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease there was a good deal of stress in my life, more so than in the past. So while exercising and eating well did help to some extent in managing my stress, going to the gym 3 or 4 times each week and eating well just wasn’t enough, as I needed to incorporate other stress management factors besides exercising.
In the next post I’m going to talk more about some specific steps you can take to manage stress, but today I just wanted to lay the foundation and make you realize that chronic stress really can have a powerful effect on the body. Over a period of time, chronic stress can compromise the immune system, which obviously will make a person more susceptible to autoimmune conditions such as Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
Chronic stress can also have a huge effect on the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands secrete cortisol in response to stress. In acute stress situations this is fine, but with chronic stress the cortisol levels can remain elevated, which eventually can lead to adrenal fatigue.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone with chronic stress will develop a chronic fatigue situation, as when I first had my adrenals tested I had low cortisol levels in the morning and early afternoon, but I didn’t have chronic fatigue. Of course over time if my adrenal glands weren’t properly addressed then this could have led to a chronic fatigue situation.
In summary, many people don’t do anything to try to manage stress because they feel that chronic stress is “normal”. And while chronic stress might be the “norm” in today’s society, this doesn’t mean that our bodies have adapted to handle it any better than fifty years ago, when chronic stress wasn’t as prominent as it is now. This is yet another area where you need to be proactive, as if you suffer from chronic stress, but don’t do anything to help manage your stress better and thus modify the effects that it has on your body, then you will never fully recover from your condition.