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The Impact of Alcohol Use on Thyroid Function

Why you might limit or abstain from alcohol if you have hypothyroidism.
The Impact of Alcohol Use on Thyroid Function

You’re concerned about your thyroid and want to make healthy decisions to support. Among many things, you might wonder if alcohol affects your thyroid functioning.

The short answer is yes.

The long answer is a bit more complex and detailed. 

Alcohol and general health

According to the USDA’s dietary guidelines, alcohol consumption is perfectly fine in moderation. Defined, moderation is up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Of course, this definition does not apply to pregnant women, people under 21-years old, people with Alcohol Use Disorder, or those on medication that adversely interacts with alcohol. While some studies suggest that people who drink moderately have longer lifespans, follow-up studies could not confirm this benefit.


The CDC cites several studies as they warn about the many risks of drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol as defined by the USDA. Heavy drinking and binge drinking can lead to an increased chance of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, a variety of cancers, learning and memory problems, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism, among other physical and social issues. Research shows that the damage of alcohol use may extend to the endocrine system


Alcohol and thyroid cancer

Different studies have found varying results related to alcohol consumption and thyroid cancer. Still, there is reason to believe that heavy, long-term alcohol consumption leads to an increased risk. One of the most extensive studies of this issue to date found that people who had been drinking for over 30 years and drank more copious amounts of alcohol were more likely to develop differentiated thyroid cancer (DTC).


Other studies suggest that drinking a moderate amount of alcohol can have a protective effect against thyroid cancer development. One study found this inverse relationship between alcohol consumption and thyroid cancer in women, but not men. A meta-analysis of many studies found that overall, alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of thyroid cancer.


Alcohol and hypothyroidism

Similarly to thyroid cancer, alcohol consumption has a protective effect against autoimmune hypothyroidism. This protective effect is independent of the alcohol type and regardless of a person’s sex.


Long-term alcohol consumption and alcohol dependency may lower TSH, which is often high in hypothyroidism patients. Though, let us be clear: alcohol is a treatment for hypothyroidism! The same study found that long-term alcohol consumption and alcohol dependency also lower thyroxine (T4). This thyroid hormone is generally low in hypothyroidism patients. 

An older study of rats found that the sleep of those with hypothyroidism decreased by 16% after alcohol consumption. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the same is true for humans, it’s good to note. People with hypothyroidism might want to avoid or limit alcohol if they notice it affects their sleep or other symptoms.


Alcohol use, mood, and thyroid

The connection between alcohol use disorder, mood disorders, and thyroid disorders are uncertain. Clearly, there is a definite connection, and most likely, all of those factors affect each other. If you have a thyroid condition and find that alcohol affects your mood, symptoms, or cravings, consider abstaining from alcohol to manage your condition best.


So, what’s the verdict?

Research suggests that consuming a moderate amount of alcohol, such as beer or wine, is not only safe but could protect you from developing thyroid problems if you do not have a thyroid condition or any other reason that keeps you from consuming alcohol.


However, if you have a thyroid condition, it might be in your best interest to either limit or abstain from consuming alcohol. 

Alcohol can increase intestinal permeability (also known as “leaky gut syndrome”), which contributes to the symptoms of hypothyroidism. 

So, when you’ve dialed in a smart and holistic treatment plan with your doctor, and your symptoms begin to stabilize, you might better enjoy the occasional drink. 

A note from Paloma Health

Many nutritional factors play a role in optimizing thyroid function. Always, we recommend making intuitive choices that make you feel your best. Paloma Health offers you the opportunity to work with a nutritionist in collaboration with a physician to determine nutritional status for optimal thyroid health.

Join us in the Thyroid Care Club Facebook Group for more on these topics and many others regarding thyroid health and well-being.

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Hypothyroidism is a long-term commitment and we’re committed to you. Schedule a free, no-obligation phone consultation with one of our intake specialists to find out more.

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