How Alcohol Affects Your Thyroid
As a doctor of clinical nutrition who works with reducing alcohol use and recovery from long-term consumption, I frequently see a connection between alcohol-use and imbalances in the thyroid.
It is quite common (especially for women) to have hypothyroidism, an under-active thyroid, which often manifests as symptoms like weight gain (or difficulty losing weight), anxiety, depression, reduced cold tolerance, constipation and fatigue. This can be diagnosed through blood work to look at thyroid hormones, like TSH, T3 and T4.
An underactive thyroid is traditionally managed by medications (like levothyroxine or synthyroid) to normalize the thyroid hormone levels.
But how does alcohol play a role in thyroid health? And how can nutrition help?
How Does Alcohol Affect the Thyroid?
Alcohol use suppresses thyroid function and causes dysfunction in what we call the “HPA Axis” or the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. The HPA axis controls and regulates hormonal function throughout the body, including the thyroid. It may also decrease the sensitivity of thyroid hormones, meaning that even if our body produces enough of these important hormones, they aren’t working effectively.
One small study completed in 2015 showed a relationship between thyroid hormone imbalances and increased alcohol cravings, making this part of the vicious cycle of alcohol use and addiction.
I have many clients who test positive for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, the autoimmune hypothyroid disorder, after having a long-term history of alcohol consumption. Alcohol is most certainly not the only cause for the development of Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis; however, the two have been shown to be related in the research.
Because alcohol breaks down the lining of the intestinal tract (what we often refer to as “leaky gut”), autoimmune disorders can be the result of long term damage to the gut lining. The good news is that nutrition and functional sobriety can address the root cause of your thyroid disorder and begin to manage and support better health and a reduction in symptoms.
How to Heal the Thyroid
Through the use of nutrition and supplements, we can:
Improve thyroid hormone production
Support the health of the gut
Recover the immune system
Simply removing alcohol can also play an important role in balancing thyroid hormones and reversing the effects of long-term use.
At our practice, we use my Functional Sobriety method to counteract the damage inflicted by alcohol and rebalance the thyroid and hormonal systems using nutrition, food, and other wellness practices. Let’s get to the root of what’s preventing you from achieving your health goals.
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