The USDA’s dietary guidelines allow alcohol consumption in moderation. Moderation is defined as one drink per day for women and two for men. This does not apply to pregnant women or people younger than 21 years old and people with Alcohol Use Disorder, and those taking medication that negatively interacts with alcohol. Although some studies have suggested that moderate alcohol consumption increases lifespans, no follow-up studies confirm this.
The CDC cites many studies to warn of excessive alcohol consumption as per the USDA. Binge drinking, heavy drinking, and stroke can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, liver disease, and other cancers. There are also learning and memory problems, anxiety, depression, and alcoholism. Research has shown that alcohol abuse can have a negative impact on the endocrine systems.
- 1 Hypothyroidism and Alcohol: How Are They Related?
- 2 Thyroid nutrients & alcohol
- 3 Hypothyroid Symptoms and Alcohol Consumption
- 4 The immune system is affected by alcohol.
- 5 Thyroid Disease and Alcohol Abuse
- 6 The role of the liver and thyroid in alcohol consumption
- 7 Thyroid Disease and Alcohol Use are Other Problems
- 8 How to control your alcohol consumption
- 9 When to Seek Help
Hypothyroidism and Alcohol: How Are They Related?
Your body cannot avoid the harmful effects of alcohol. After the alcohol has been consumed, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. It is then delivered to many cells, including your thyroid cells.
The thyroid gland is located in the middle of your neck. The thyroid gland releases hormones to the bloodstream to stimulate metabolism, balance hormones, activate energy, mood, and even our bowels. It is often referred to as “the music maestro” of your hormones because of its importance. It controls the pace and temperature of your whole body.
High blood pressure can be caused by low thyroid, and low thyroid can cause low blood pressure.
Thyroid nutrients & alcohol
According to research, the body’s circulating levels of thyroid hormone are reduced by alcohol. The thyroid gland releases two types of hormones: T4 and T3. T3 is the most active and bioavailable form of thyroid hormone. Although free T4 is less active than T3, it can be converted to T3 with the proper nutrients. Two nutrients are required to convert T4 into T3, selenium and zinc.
Unsurprisingly, alcohol can deplete the body’s supply of zinc and selenium. This causes a reduction in the amount of T4 that can be converted to T3. For a healthy thyroid, or “maestro,” optimal levels of T3 are required.
Selenium, zinc, and other essential thyroid nutrients are also depleted due to alcohol. B6 and B12, as well as other nutrients, are also affected. Due to its inflammatory and harmful effects on the gut and intestines, alcohol can impair the absorption and utilization of nutrients and minerals. This can reduce the nutrients your thyroid needs to function.
Americans are more likely to experience stubborn weight gain and depression. These health problems are often related to low thyroid function or hypothyroidism. These patients often receive synthetic thyroid medication. Alcohol is not often addressed in these doctor visits. Thyroid medication and dieting may not be the best options for quick results. Even if treated, patients may still struggle with energy, weight, and mood.
Alcohol and Thyroid Medication
Synthroid and Levothyroxine are two common medications that are prescribed for hypothyroidism. This medication is composed of T4. We have already discussed that T4 needs various nutrients to be converted to T3 (selenium, zinc).
Patients who continue to consume alcohol while on their prescribed medication may not experience dramatic changes in thyroid function. Drinking alcohol is still draining the body’s nutrients necessary to convert Synthroid into bioavailable T3.
You may also take these medications to improve your thyroid function.
Conventional Levothyroxine and Synthroid are both prescribed by doctors. They are the standard of care for hypothyroid patients. Patients often feel no improvement when their labs are normalized. As mentioned, the only labs being done to monitor patients’ health are the TSH or total T4. These labs don’t include free T3, the most bioavailable and metabolically active form of thyroid hormone. Because it measures both bioavailable active and bound up T4, the total T4 number does not help determine thyroid health.
Integrative doctors often prescribe other thyroid medications, such as Naturethroid (T3/T4) and Armour (T3/T4). These medications are different from Synthroid in that they contain no T3. Armour, for instance, is made from porcine thyroid or pig thyroid and mimics the amount T3 and four that was released by the thyroid.
Patients are now aware of the options available to support their thyroid as they heal.
The key message is that alcohol can seriously affect thyroid function and that patients often don’t realize that it depletes their thyroid of essential nutrients. It is better to avoid alcohol than resort to medication to optimize thyroid function.
Hypothyroid Symptoms and Alcohol Consumption
Your hypothyroid-related symptoms may also be affected by alcohol. The following symptoms characterize hypothyroidism:
- Intolerant to cold
- Dry skin
- Weight loss
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- High blood cholesterol
- Muscle pain, tenderness, and stiffness
- Stiffness, joint pain, or swelling
- Periods that are heavier than regular or irregular menstrual periods
- Hair falling out
- Slow heart rate
- Memory impairment
- Goiter – Enlarged thyroid gland
Researchers believe that the association between mood disorders in drinking and mood disorders caused by hypothyroidism may be responsible for the rise in mood disorders.
The thyroid levels may be altered by withdrawal, leading to increased cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
A study on rats done in the past found that hypothyroidism patients had 16% less sleep when they drank alcohol. Although this does not necessarily mean that hypothyroidism is the same for humans, it might be a good idea to limit or avoid alcohol if you notice any symptoms or sleep problems.
The immune system is affected by alcohol.
It is now known that alcohol can affect the function of your thyroid gland. It can also cause chronic inflammation and affect your immune system.
The liver is responsible for filtering all substances that enter your body, including food, drink, and medication. Your liver separates the good stuff from the bad and discards what your body cannot benefit from. A congested liver can prevent your body from efficiently converting the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, to the active hormone, T3. It’s crucial to maintain it in top shape.
The body’s ability to process estrogen can also be affected by alcohol. Estrogen dominance is when your liver doesn’t process estrogen effectively. Estrogen dominance can trigger your body’s stress response, causing hormone disruption and hypothyroid symptoms.
Additionally, alcohol consumption can cause an increase in intestinal permeability (also known as the leaky stomach). Leaky gut refers to a condition where bacteria and other toxins “leak” from junctions that hold the cells that make up the intestinal wall. In essence, alcohol creates tiny holes between cells and allows toxins to enter the bloodstream. This causes inflammation.
Thyroid Disease and Alcohol Abuse
Acetaldehyde can cause hangovers and interfere with thyroid hormone receptors. These receptors attempt to compensate for the loss of feedback by overloading the thyroid gland.
Hypothyroidism can also be caused by excessive acetaldehyde, even though the thyroid function is normal without alcohol.
While alcohol can have a substantial effect on the thyroid gland, it also impacts the liver and the adrenal glands. These organs are the ones that suffer the most from alcohol’s harmful effects.
Because the function of the thyroid and liver are closely linked, alcohol abuse can significantly impact both.
The role of the liver and thyroid in alcohol consumption
The liver performs many vital functions, among them are:
- Enzyme activation
- Fluid and hormone excretion
- Vitamin and mineral storage
- To produce energy, you must metabolize nutrients from food
- Producing and excreting bile is essential for digestion.
However, detoxification is an essential function of your liver. The liver functions as a filter and removes harmful substances.
If everything is in order, a 150-pound person (lbs) will take on average two hours to process one alcoholic beverage. The liver is more preoccupied if there is more alcohol consumed.
Alcohol consumption can lead to liver problems. The liver’s ability to filter out and eliminate toxins would be severely affected by alcohol abuse. It would also increase the liver’s ability to break down both T4 and alcohol.
Alcohol abuse can lead to a drop in T3 levels in people who already have thyroid problems. Hypothyroidism, which a lack of thyroid hormone production can cause, could lead to a host of unpleasant symptoms.
It is important to remember that thyroid medications require a healthy liver. Methimazole is one medicine that needs regular liver filtration to treat hyperthyroidism symptoms. The drug will not work if the liver becomes strained.
Thyroid Disease and Alcohol Use are Other Problems
Alcohol abuse can only worsen for anyone already suffering from thyroid hormone production.
Alcoholism can affect almost every part of your body. The effects of alcohol go beyond the thyroid gland and liver. The natural production of acids is affected by alcohol. The rate at which digestion is affected by acid drops will also drop.
Limiting or abstaining from alcohol might be in your best interests. You are more likely to develop a leaky stomach if you have an autoimmune condition. Avoid alcohol and other substances that increase intestinal permeability.
How to control your alcohol consumption
The autoimmune protocol (AIP), a diet that focuses on alcohol as a trigger for Hashimoto’s, is a great place to begin to identify if alcohol is triggering your symptoms. This is a temporary elimination diet protocol. It consists of two phases.
The first phase is the elimination, followed by a gradual and deliberate reintroduction phase. This diet is not permanent. It’s a tool to help you understand your body’s response to environmental and dietary triggers to manage Hashimoto’s disease.
Here are some suggestions for limiting alcohol consumption
Out of sight and out of mind. Move alcohol bottles, wine, beer, and liquor bottles from your environment or line of sight to anyone in your home using it.
Identify your triggers. You might choose alcohol because of taste, emotional reasons, acceptance from others, or for other reasons. Perhaps it’s great to have fun with friends, relax after a long day or be carefree while you cook. You can replace these positive feelings with alcohol-free alternatives.
Be prepared for social situations. Many social events, such as weddings, concerts, happy hours, and dinner parties, have one thing in common: alcohol. You can still enjoy a drink with a substitute.
Say “no” often. Sometimes it can be challenging to explain your decisions to others. You can politely say no to “I’m taking an alcohol break, I’m driving, or I’m good at drinking water.”
Stopping drinking is the best option for people with thyroid problems. It may be necessary to seek professional treatment for alcoholism to prevent current problems from getting worse.
When to Seek Help
Alcohol addiction is a serious problem, not just in the US, but all over the globe. It not only affects people with existing health problems, but also affects the quality of life even for individuals who are healthy.
For people who abuse alcohol, there are places where you can seek help. You can go to an addiction facility or rehabilitation center where you will be treated for alcohol abuse. There are medical experts there who specialize in handling cases such as yours so you will experience minimal discomfort during the withdrawal period.
You will also be guided every step of the way so that your withdrawal and rehabilitation process is controlled and monitored. Most treatment centers also offer psychological counseling and behavior modification to help patients understand what is leading them to abuse alcohol.
The process may take some time and there are no shortcuts during the treatment period. What’s important is that the person who is abusing alcohol understands why he needs treatment and wants to get better and recover.