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5 Thyroid Flare Triggers You Need To Know

Have you ever experienced a flare-up in your thyroid symptoms? This is a common experience for those with thyroid conditions, particularly those with autoimmune thyroid issues.


It might feel like a flare comes out of the blue, but there is always one or more triggers behind a flare-up.


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 of the most common thyroid flare triggers.


Increased inflammation

Elevated inflammation can affect any part of the body, but the thyroid is particularly vulnerable. Inflammation can worsen contributing factors to thyroid disease such as autoimmunity and compromised gut health.


Inflammation is a key process in thyroid disease – in fact, the ‘itis’ in thyroiditis means inflammation. It is also a root cause behind the most common flare triggers. All of the triggers mentioned below have an element of inflammation.


If inflammation is a concern for you, make sure you check out this article.


Low nutrient levels

There are several key nutrients that play a role in modulating, or balancing out, the immune system.


Zinc and vitamin D are two immune-balancing nutrients that people are often deficient in. Even if you eat a diet rich in zinc and get sun exposure for vitamin D, your body may use more due to your thyroid issues.


These nutrients also play a role in dampening inflammation. If you are low in any of these nutrients, you may be more prone to symptoms flaring.


Low levels of thyroid-supportive nutrients can also cause thyroid levels to fluctuate. To learn more about nutrients for the thyroid, see this article.


High stress

For the average person, a bad day at work is just that. But for someone with a thyroid concern, it can be a trigger for a flare-up in symptoms.


Stress might feel like it’s all in your head, but there are very real chemical reactions occurring throughout your body. High cortisol levels are anti-inflammatory in small doses, but if you’re stressing out regularly, it has the opposite effect.


Stress also has a direct effect on thyroid hormone production and conversion. This is a big problem for many with hypothyroidism.


One way to manage stress is with mindfulness. Learn more about how mindfulness can help your thyroid here.


Poor sleep

This is one trigger that almost everyone can agree with! Whether you aren’t getting enough sleep, have broken sleep or wake up exhausted, you’re at a higher risk of a flare-up.


Poor sleep can cause a cascade of problems throughout your body. Blood sugar levels can become unbalanced, which can lead to a cycle of inflammation, immune dysregulation and blood sugar fluctuations.


Poor quality sleep and a lack of sleep can also increase cortisol levels, causing further inflammation and compromised immune function.


Struggling to get a good night of rest? These tips can help.


Environmental toxins

Different toxins have different effects on the body. But in general, they will increase the burden on your liver and overall detoxification and increase inflammation.


These can take on many different forms, so it is important to be aware of what you use and expose yourself to. Some sources of potentially problematic substances include:

  • Body care products

  • Haircare products

  • Cleaning products

  • Beauty products such as lipstick and mascara

  • Deodorants, colognes and perfumes

  • Pollution (indoor and outdoor)

  • Plastics

  • Pesticides and herbicides

Even over-the-counter and prescription medications can fall under this category. It doesn’t mean that you should stop taking prescribed medications, but you may want to minimise other triggers.


Remember, the environmental factors that are a trigger for one person will be different from someone else. It may be helpful to track your symptoms along with the products you use and the factors you are exposed to.


This is part 1 of a 3-part series about thyroid flares. Stay tuned for next week, where we will cover another 5 common thyroid flare triggers.


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

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