Did you know that heavy drinking can affect your thyroid?
Alcohol abuse is strongly linked to hypothyroidism, an underactive thyroid. If you abuse alcohol and have noticed symptoms of hypothyroidism such as increased fatigue, depression, weight gain, and memory problems, talk to your doctor about getting your thyroid function tested for thyroid disease.
What Is the Thyroid Gland, and What Does It Do?
The thyroid gland is a small organ in the neck that produces thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These thyroid hormones regulate your metabolism, how your body uses energy, and they play a role in many other bodily functions. For example, thyroid hormone T4 converts into T3, which then attaches to thyroid receptors in the body’s cells. This triggers mitochondria to produce energy for cell growth, essential for healthy bones, skin, and hair.
Things that can go wrong with the thyroid gland include:
- Hashimoto’s disease (autoimmune).
- Too much or too little iodine.
- Insufficient or excessive stimulation by other hormones.
- Certain medications.
- Abnormal levels of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).
How does Alcohol Consumption affect Thyroid Function?
Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States, with over 70% of people 18 or older reporting that they have consumed alcohol at some point during their lifetime. It is a clear liquid found in beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down the central nervous system, and it reaches your brain quickly, where it begins to affect functions regarding judgment, coordination, and reaction time.
There are many short-term side effects of heavy alcohol use, including impaired memory and attention span; slowed reaction time; facial flushing; nausea; vomiting; increased heart rate; and, in severe cases, hallucinations and loss of consciousness.
Chronic alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse can cause many harmful effects to the body, including malnutrition; enlarged liver or liver disease; cancer of the mouth, esophagus, throat, and breast. Heavy drinkers are also at risk for developing pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), stroke or heart failure, and memory loss.
Alcohol & Thyroid Nutrients:
According to studies, alcohol lowers the amount of circulating thyroid hormone in the body. Thyroid hormones are divided into two categories: T4 and T3. T3 is the most bioavailable and active type of thyroid hormones, and T3 is more active, but free T4 can convert to free T3 if given enough nutrients. Selenium and zinc are two minerals necessary for converting T4 to T3, and alcohol depletes the body of both selenium and zinc.
An increase in thyroid growth hormone (thyroid stimulating hormone) can also cause hypothyroidism by lowering the amount of thyroid hormones T4 converted to T3. To have a healthy thyroid “maestro,” optimal levels of free T3 in the body are required.
Other crucial thyroid nutrients, such as selenium, zinc, iodine, tyrosine, B6, and B12, are likewise reduced by alcohol.
Alcohol damages our bodies’ absorption of nutrients and minerals through the inflammatory and damaging effect on our gut and intestines. As a result, essential elements for thyroid function and healthy production of thyroid hormones are lost.
How Alcohol Affects the Thyroid Gland
Alcohol can affect thyroid function in both healthy people and those with an existing thyroid condition. Alcohol increases estrogen levels in the body, which can trigger hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). If you already have an underactive thyroid, even moderate alcohol consumption can cause goiter (enlarged thyroid) and inflammation resulting in pain.
Alcohol also inhibits the conversion of T4 to T3, resulting in lower circulating thyroid hormones and thyroid volume. This leads to symptoms such as tiredness, dry skin and hair loss, and constipation.
People with Graves’ Disease (hyperactivity of the thyroid gland) who drink alcohol might experience lengthening or widening eye openings (Graves’ ophthalmopathy). This is a condition where the muscles around the eyes thicken and cause the eyes to protrude from their sockets.
These symptoms can be mild or lead to vision problems, double vision, dryness of the eyes, sleepiness, or pain in one eye.
People with hyperthyroidism who drink alcohol have a higher risk of flare-ups, in which the thyroid overreacts to TSH or the thyroid stimulating hormone. Alcohol can also increase irritability and stress levels in people with hyperthyroidism.
If you have an underactive thyroid or Graves’ Disease, it is best to limit or avoid alcohol entirely to reduce your risk of a flare-up. It is crucial to avoid alcohol if you are experiencing symptoms or have recently been diagnosed with thyroid disease to protect your thyroid health.
Thyroid and Immune System Changes as A Result of Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol has a variety of consequences on virtually all bodily processes. While occasional alcoholic beverages are safe for most people with thyroid disease, you may experience various side effects due to alcohol consumption.
Alcohol and the thyroid
Alcohol can significantly alter how your thyroid works and cause decreased thyroid gland volume, for example, by blocking it or lowering levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
Alcohol can also destroy thyroid cells, which are used to treat thyroid nodules. Drinking alcohol over time may cause the thyroid to shrink, but it initially causes it to swell. Thyroid hormone production is reduced because of the reduced number of cells in the thyroid gland, which means that fewer thyroid cells are produced, T4 and T3.
Although goiter incidence has increased, it is beneficial since it reduces goiter.
Euthyroid Sick Syndrome (ESS) can occur due to continuous alcohol consumption, in which rT3 levels are elevated, and T3 levels are reduced as an effect of alcohol.
Alcohol and the immune system
Beer, wine, and hard liquor are the most popular alcoholic beverages. All three contain plant-based versions of estrogen, a known immunological stimulant that affects the human immune system. Alcohol may cause a Hashimoto flare-up by suppressing the immune system, according to studies. Alcohol also prevents the body’s immune system from defending itself against infections and inflammation.
The stomach is the first place where alcohol makes contact with circulation. Alcohol loosens the tightness of the stomach, allowing germs to spread throughout it and promoting the growth of harmful gut bacteria. All of this has an impact on how your immune system works.
Bacteria can reach the immune system and generate a strong and rapid reaction when it leaks from the gut. Alcohol consumption regularly might induce persistent inflammation and an autoimmune response. Binge drinking episodes have been shown to impair the ability of the immunological system severely.
How Alcohol Affects Autoimmune Thyroid Diseases
Autoimmune thyroid disease is the result of an abnormal reaction by the body’s antibodies to the thyroid. This can lead to hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Alcohol has been found to slow the progression of overt autoimmune hypothyroidism in men and women under the age of 60. Moderate to high drinking was linked to a decreased risk of autoimmune outright hypothyroidism development, but moderate to heavy drinking did not provide equal protection.
According to a recent study, having a modest amount of alcohol once per week may help prevent the development of Graves’ disease. The quantity is equivalent to one glass of wine or one bottle of beer.
According to the research, one to two glasses of wine per day might help prevent Graves’ disease by lowering inflammation. This study was conducted without regard to smoking habits, age, or gender.
These studies are not aimed at establishing causation but rather at drawing a connection. Because alcohol has numerous adverse side effects, it should not be recommended to improve thyroid health based on research indicating loose relationships.
Hypothyroidism is linked to weight and emotional problems.
Hypothyroidism or low thyroid function is a typical health issue among Americans, frequently connected to obstinate weight and melancholy. Alcohol is rarely even discussed at these doctor’s visits; patients are commonly given synthetic thyroid medicines as a result.
Unfortunately, thyroid medication or dieting isn’t always the answer for fast results. Despite being treated, individuals may continue to struggle with weight, mood, and energy issues.
Thyroid medication and treatment
For hypothyroidism, doctors frequently only treat the symptoms and not the root cause.
The thyroid is a major player in overall health, impacting everything from weight to mood. When it’s upset, many problems may arise. While many people seek medical treatment only when they’ve reached a crisis point, this often results in the disease being further exacerbated.
Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s: A Dangerous Misdiagnosis
Doctors frequently treat the symptoms and not the root cause of hypothyroidism. The result is oftentimes an exacerbation of the condition.
In the case of Hashimoto’s, a misdiagnosis can result in advanced thyroid cancer or other life-threatening diseases being missed.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
- Fatigue and lethargy
- Weight gain/inability to lose weight
- Intolerance to cold temperatures
- Constipation .
- Intolerance to exercise
- Mental fogginess
- Aches and pains
- Dry skin and hair loss
How Is the Condition Treated?
Doctors may prescribe a synthetic form of thyroid hormone, such as Synthroid, to replace the low levels in the body. However, this only treats the symptoms and not the root cause. It can be necessary for some people who cannot take desiccated thyroid due to digestive issues or kidney problems.
Desiccated thyroid is another option and works for many people who cannot take synthetic thyroid hormone. It may be necessary for those who cannot take it due to digestive or kidney problems.
Natural treatment options include:
Lifestyle changes, such as getting more sunlight and exercising regularly
Dietary adjustments, including cutting out gluten and dairy products, which can aggravate the condition
Supplements, including vitamin D, selenium, iodine, and zinc
The culprit behind Hashimoto’s is an immune system attack against the thyroid. This can be triggered by gluten intolerance or other food allergies, bacterial infections in the gut, hormonal fluctuations, lack of beneficial gut bacteria, environmental toxins, stress, nutrient deficiencies, sleep disturbances, and chronic inflammation.
This means that it’s essential to treat the root cause of the problem in order to get effective results. For example, while some people may have a thyroid issue because of nutrient deficiencies, simply taking a supplement doesn’t help them if their immune system is attacking their own thyroid.
Additionally, medications such as birth control, antidepressants, steroids, and painkillers can cause fluctuations in thyroid hormone levels.
When is medical treatment necessary?
While some people may be able to get rid of their hypothyroidism with dietary changes and supplements, others will need medication. For example, if someone has Hashimoto’s disease, they’ll likely also need medications to reduce the hormonal fluctuations that trigger the immune system attacks.
What does it involve?
Medications for thyroid conditions include synthetic hormones, natural desiccated thyroid (NDT), and T3-only medications like Cytomel. While both NDT and T3 medications are effective at treating hypothyroidism, some people struggle with converting between them or from NDT to T4 medication.
In contrast, synthetic hormones are available in a single dose and require less testing compared with desiccated thyroid medications. However, these can cause some people to become hyperthyroid or hypothyroid depending on the dosage and individual factors.
When is it necessary to find a natural solution?
NDT and T3 medications may be necessary for those who cannot convert between synthetic hormones or from NDT to T4 medication. People with Hashimoto’s disease may also need them in conjunction with other medications.
Additionally, it may be beneficial to avoid taking synthetics if someone is pregnant or breastfeeding due to possible side effects and concerns about passing them on to an unborn or nursing child.
However, people with an underactive thyroid should not stop taking their medication without consulting a doctor. If someone has been diagnosed incorrectly, they may need to switch medications instead of stopping altogether.
The body will usually adjust within the first three months when replacing one type of medication with another, so this is enough time to make sure that the new treatment is working.
While there are many options for thyroid medication, it’s important to note that all medications can cause problems in some people or not be effective in others. It’s vital that people are aware of any potential side effects before starting a medication, which is why consulting with a doctor is best.
The information we’ve provided should help you decide if any of the medications we discussed would be a good fit for your needs. If not, don’t despair! There are many other options that can work just as well and most importantly they’re all safe to take with minimal risk of side effects or problems.
One thing is certain- it’s never been more important than ever before to consult your doctor about potential thyroid medication choices so that they can best assess which choice will work best for you personally.
Remember, there isn’t one right answer when it comes to finding a medication that works; it may take some trial and error until you find what works best for you.