September 27

4 comments

How to reduce anxiety when you have Hashimoto’s

By Amy Vespa, MS - Integrative Clinical Nutritionist

September 27, 2021

minutes read time

4 Comments


Do you ever feel…

  • nervous or on edge
  • Irritable or easily annoyed
  • Like your mind won’t stop racing 
  • Feel weak or tired
  • Like it’s impossible to concentrate 
  • Regular GI problems
  • Increased heart rate?

All of these are common symptoms of anxiety. 

Most of us think of anxiety as a panicky, nervous, impending doom feeling. But it can also show up in less obvious ways, like…

  • unable to concentrate
  • actively avoiding tasks
  • stomach issues like IBS or similar
  • anger or easily annoyed
  • inability to fall or stay asleep

There’s more, but those are the major less obvious symptoms of anxiety. 

Do you experience any of these obvious or less obvious signs of anxiety? If you do, you’re not alone. At least 20% of adults in the US experience anxiety, and women are twice as likely to struggle with it than men

And, anxiety is a common symptom of hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.

Anxiety is a symptom. It is a sign of an imbalance somewhere in our bodies or lives. It is not a main problem like heart disease or kidney disease. When reducing anxiety we have to look at the root cause - what is the imbalance that is causing anxiety?

After reading this blog, you’ll learn where your anxiety is coming from and have a few things you can do to help reduce the effects of anxiety by working on the root...your foundation. 

What causes anxiety?

Some of the first areas we look at when someone is experiencing anxiety is…

  • blood sugar imbalance
  • nutrient deficiencies
  • food sensitivities
  • stress level
  • gut health
  • thyroid health

This might seem like an overwhelming list of potential causes, but many of these go together often. For instance, food sensitivities, gut health, and stress can all be linked. Or blood sugar imbalance and stress can be linked. 

We can work to rebalance many of these areas at once.

Blood sugar

One of the fastest ways to ease anxiety is to get off the blood sugar rollercoaster. 

The blood sugar rollercoaster is when your blood sugar goes up and down throughout that day instead of staying relatively even. This happens when we…

  • frequently skip meals
  • eat primarily refined carbs without protein or fat
  • go long periods without eating

When we eat, your blood sugar naturally goes up slightly. This is normal because your body is processing the glucose and other nutrients. However, blood sugar can spike too quickly if we eat only carbohydrates, especially refined. This will cause a spike and fast drop in blood sugar. Likewise, not eating will cause blood sugar to drop too low. 

If either of these occur, we can feel nervous, lightheaded, tired, irritable, or extremely hungry which can also lead to increasing anxiety. 

With Hashimoto’s, blood sugar balance is a concern due to the stress on your body. This may be why you feel that carbs don’t feel well in your body. 

Food sensitivities

Reacting to foods your body doesn’t like is a common reason for anxiety, especially with Hashimoto’s.

Some of the most common reactive foods are…

  • gluten
  • dairy
  • soy
  • sugar
  • coffee

One of the first areas we look at when reversing Hashimoto’s is food sensitivities. These reactions can cause digestive symptoms (bloating, pains, constipation, diarrhea, etc.) and gut permeability (leaky gut). 

With a leaky gut, anxiety is going to feel much worse.  When you get your thyroid panel results, high TPO antibodies can be caused by a reaction to certain foods. High levels of TPO antibodies are also linked to increased anxiety. 

Hashimoto’s

Hashimoto’s disease and anxiety are heavily linked. As much as 30% of people experiencing anxiety also have Hashimoto’s. The reasons for why thyroid disease causes anxiety are complex.

But in general the thyroid gland is responsible for regulating the creation and use of several neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters help move happy hormones around the body. Hormones such as GABA and serotonin. 

When these two neurotransmitters are low, it can cause…

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep problems
  • an overall low-mood
  • inability to relax

Also, thyroid diseases and anxiety symptoms can be very similar, so improving thyroid health can reduce feelings of anxiety. Checking with your doctor to get all of the right thyroid labs as well as getting enough thyroid-benefiting nutrients will help improve thyroid health overall.

What can I do to ease anxiety?

Balance blood sugar

Making sure that your blood sugar stays balanced is crucial. Look at your day…

  • Are there any times where you go long periods without eating?
  • Are one of your main meals primarily carbohydrates? 

If so, these will be the easiest areas to start. 

Make sure to eat something about every 3 hours. Three main main meals with smaller snacks in between works best. 

Eat breakfast, even if it is something small. Breakfast is important because it is literally breaking the long fast that occurred overnight. Without nourishment in the morning, you’re likely to feel the effects of low blood sugar. This can cause instability throughout the day. 

Ensure that all meals and snacks have a combination of carbs, fats, and proteins. Eating just carbohydrates (even whole grain) can cause your blood sugar to spike and fall too fast. But eating protein with carbs will slow down the digestion of those carbs. This leads to a more balanced blood sugar level.

Food sensitivities

Find your food sensitivities. There are blood tests you can do to find these, but the good ones are $500 or more. You can find the same results with a food/mood journal. For two weeks record the foods you eat (just the foods, not quantities). Do a body scan 30 and 60 minutes after eating. 

Notice what you are feeling physically…

  • bloating
  • pains
  • headache
  • tired

Note any differences from when you started the meal to now. Also look at emotional changes…

  • anxiety
  • angry
  • irritability
  • wanting to avoid people

Or any other emotional or mood alterations. Jot all these down. After two weeks you’ll see a pattern in what you eat and how it makes you feel.

Start to remove those foods that your body doesn’t react well to. 

Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is a common cause of anxiety. Taking a magnesium supplement can greatly reduce the feeling of anxiety and tension. When you’re stressed, magnesium is depleted quickly. This can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, muscle tension, heart palpitations, racing thoughts, and more. Magnesium glycinate is the best absorbed form for anxiety. 

Selenium-rich foods

Selenium is an important nutrient for thyroid health that can help reduce antibodies and the attack on the thyroid. Taking selenium as a supplement can help you feel better, but it’s important to know a few nutrient levels first. 

Taking selenium along with an iodine deficiency can cause adverse reactions! Don’t supplement with selenium blindly. 

Focusing on eating selenium rich foods can help increase selenium. The most selenium-rich foods are…

  • Brazil nuts (2-3 small nuts per day)
  • Seafood (sardines, clams, halibut, shrimp, crab)
  • Eggs
  • Brown rice
  • Sunflower seeds

One final note...much of your happy hormones are created in your gut. If your digestive system isn’t working properly, as is often the case with Hashimoto’s...anxiety will continue to grow. 

Overall, experiencing anxiety is very common and something you can definitely work to reduce with some simple strategies. There are many reasons for anxiety as well as many ways to rebalance the root cause, and the ideas above are a great way to get started to greatly reduce anxiety. 

In the comments, let me know what you’re doing to help resolve your anxiety.

  • Everything is all out of balance right now & I’m miserable. I’ve been feeling bad for months now & it’s getting worse & worse. I’ve been to several doctors & no one helps. I will follow all the things you have suggest. I hope it helps!!!

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