Another 5 Thyroid Flare Triggers To Watch Out For
Are you noticing a flare-up in your thyroid symptoms recently? For those with thyroid conditions, particularly those involving autoimmunity, flare-ups are a common experience.
We can't guarantee that you'll never have a flare-up. But understanding the factors that trigger your flares can help you to minimise your risk.
What is a thyroid flare?
If you’re unfamiliar with this term or are recently diagnosed with a thyroid condition, let’s refresh what a thyroid flare is.
A flare is a period of experiencing more intense and severe symptoms. This occurs due to an added stressor or threat perceived by your immune system.
Everyone’s flare-up looks different. Some feel almost flu-like symptoms, some are simply exhausted, and others experience symptoms such as palpitations and anxiety.
What triggers a flare is just as unique. Something that is a mild trigger for you might put someone else on bed-rest for a week. It's essential for you to identify your likely triggers - that way, you have greater control over your flares.
With that in mind, let’s look at some common thyroid flare triggers.
Every day, we fuel our bodies with food and drink. But if you are intolerant to the substances you put into your body, you increase your risk of flaring up.
Food intolerances can impact your chances of a flare-up by:
Increasing overall inflammation in the body
Affecting gut integrity, which can also affect immune function
Impairing the digestion of food, increasing risk of nutrient deficiencies
Everyone reacts to food differently. How you handle food depends on the state of your gut, your ethnic background and even your childhood! Working with a practitioner can help you to identify which foods are a problem for you.
However, the majority of people with an autoimmune thyroid condition benefit from removing gluten from the diet. This is likely due to molecular mimicry.
There is a component in gluten that looks similar to another compound found in the thyroid. When the immune system attacks the gluten component in the bloodstream, it also attacks the thyroid. As you can imagine, this is a big problem when it comes to a thyroid flare!
Alcohol or too much caffeine
Do you find yourself reaching for a second or third cup of coffee in the morning? Or maybe you have a sneaky glass or two of wine in the evening to wind down? This might be contributing to your thyroid flare-ups.
Both alcohol and caffeine add to the liver’s burden, as they need to be processed and detoxified. This can slow down the detoxification of other compounds, including hormones, environmental toxins and medications. If these substances continue to circulate, it can influence your hormonal balance and bump up inflammation levels.
Everyone has an individual tolerance level for caffeine and alcohol consumption. Some are fine with one cup of coffee a day or a glass of wine 3-4 times a week. Others may flare with even one serve.
Your tolerance levels can also change based on your state of health. You may have been fine with a certain amount previously, but your condition may have reduced your tolerance. That’s why it may be worth cutting them out for a few weeks to see how you feel without them.
Physical or mental overexertion
For the average person, overexertion might leave them feeling drained or fatigued for a day or two. But for someone with a thyroid condition, it can trigger a flare and leave you wiped out for days. This is because overexerting yourself leads to higher inflammation and stress hormones.
The tricky part is that what is defined as ‘overexertion’ depends on your state of health and limits. For some, doing a session at F45 or Crossfit three days in a row is too much. But for someone else, going for a 10-minute walk when already fatigued can be a trigger.
What this boils down to is knowing what your limits are physically and mentally, so you can find a way to pace yourself.
If you are newly diagnosed, or you have someone in your life who doesn’t understand the importance of pacing, check out the Spoon Theory here.
Although different hormones affect different parts of the body, the relationship between hormones is interlinked. So it’s no surprise that fluctuations in sex hormones can affect the balance of thyroid hormones.
Major fluctuations such as those experienced during pregnancy and menopause can be a flare trigger for your thyroid. But even mild fluctuations such as those experienced throughout your monthly cycle can act as a trigger.
If you struggle with any hormonal issues such as PCOS, endometriosis, PMS or even heavy periods, it’s best to seek help. Working with a practitioner can help you to address the underlying problems and balance out your hormone levels.
Other autoimmune conditions
Having one autoimmune condition is enough to juggle. But unfortunately, they like to team up and hang out – and one flaring can often trigger the other.
Once you have one autoimmune diagnosis, you’re at a much higher risk of developing more. One study found that nearly 10% of people with Graves’ and 14% of people with Hashimoto’s had at least one other autoimmune condition.
Graves’ and Hashimoto’s have been associated with a higher risk of:
If you are diagnosed with an autoimmune thyroid condition, it’s important to monitor any new symptoms that arise.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series about thyroid flares. Stay tuned for next week, where we will cover what to do when you're in the middle of a thyroid flare.
Are your thyroid flares getting the better of you? There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of a flare, as well as ways to cope better when symptoms worsen. To get started, book an appointment with Tara here.