We all know that alcohol and a good time often go hand in hand, but did you know that those boozy adventures could be playing a secret symphony with your thyroid?
It's time to pull back the curtain on a lesser-known consequence of that boozy escapade.
This article explores the surprising link between alcohol consumption and hypothyroidism, separating fact from fiction.
It’s time to dive deep into the impact of those after-work libations on your body's metabolic maestro.
Did You Know?
Certain gene changes can put you at higher risk for developing many chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and even hypothyroidism.
Learning about your genetic risks can help plan preventional strategies even before the symptoms appear.
What Does The Thyroid Gland Do?
The thyroid is a gland located in the neck and is known to produce hormones that help in metabolism and influence the growth and development of the human body.
Due to the number of body functions the gland regulates, a properly-functioning thyroid is essential for good health.
The thyroid releases more hormones into the bloodstream when the body requires more energy in certain conditions like pregnancy or temperature fluctuations.
The thyroid produces three hormones, namely:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Tetraiodothyronine or Thyroxine (T4)
Iodine is the building block for both these hormones.
Since the body cannot make its iodine, adequate consumption of this trace element is required for proper thyroid functioning.
Abnormal functioning of the thyroid gland can cause hormonal imbalances, which affect other body systems, including the immune and nervous systems.
1 in 20 people is affected by thyroid dysfunction during their lifetime.
Two common conditions that affect the thyroid gland are:
- Overactive thyroid: This condition is also called hyperthyroidism.
It is characterized by an excessive production of thyroid hormones.
While this condition can occur in both sexes, it is more common in adult women.
- Underactive thyroid: When the thyroid gland is less active, it produces lesser than normal hormones.
This condition is called hypothyroidism.
Both an overactive and a sluggish thyroid gland impact metabolism and may cause a variety of symptoms.
Hypothyroidism: An Overview
When the thyroid gland is underactive, it will release lesser quantities of T3 and T4 into the bloodstream.
This will slow down the body’s metabolism.
Women are more likely to develop hypothyroidism than men, and this condition is more common among people older than 60.
Other risk factors for hypothyroidism include:
- History of a thyroid problem like goiter
- History of surgery or radioactive iodine to correct the thyroid problem
- Radiation treatment to the neck, thyroid, or chest
- Family history of thyroid disease
- Pregnancy in the past six months
The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person, but a few common symptoms of this condition are:
- Weight gain
- Difficulty or inability to tolerate cold
- Muscle and joint aches
- Dry skin
- Thinning hair
- Decreased heart rate
- Irregular periods
- Fertility issues
Effect of Hypothyroidism On The Body
The Link Between Hypothyroidism And Alcohol Consumption
While not many know, alcohol consumption affects the thyroid gland and may result in hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary axis located in the brain.
Any form of substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol, has a direct suppressive effect on this axis.
This suppressive effect is also observed in the thyroid, which forms a part of the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis.
How Does Alcohol Consumption Affect Thyroid Function?
Several studies have shown that the effect of alcohol on the HPT axis and thyroid functioning is significant.
The exact mechanism of how alcohol consumption affects thyroid function is unclear, but it may have a suppressive effect on the gland.
One suggested mechanism for the same is that alcohol causes cellular toxicity (toxicity caused due to the action of external agents on living cells), resulting in the suppression of thyroid function.
There is some evidence that consuming alcohol suppresses the HPT axis, which in turn reduces the production of Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH).
Reduced TSH also means a reduction in the production of T3 and T4 from the thyroid gland.
Research also suggests that during alcohol withdrawal, peripheral thyroid hormones, i.e., T3 and T4, are suppressed.
The degree of suppression is associated with the severity of withdrawal.
This thyroid suppression may increase withdrawal dysphoria and increase the risk of relapse in people with alcoholism.
Can Drinking Alcohol Affect TSH Levels?
The pituitary gland located in the brain produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
TSH regulates the production of T3 and T4, which require iodine.
Since alcohol causes cellular toxicity on the thyroid cells, consuming it may suppress thyroid function and reduce thyroid volume.
A study found that T3, T4, and TSH levels were low in people who consumed alcohol for 20 years.
Did You Know?
Depending on your alcohol metabolizing genes, the effect alcohol has on one’s body can be different from that of others. Learning about these genes can help you understand your alcohol tolerance and reduce the risk of side effects and health hazards of alcohol.
Is There A Link Between Alcohol Consumption and Thyroid Cancer?
There are some studies on how alcohol consumption affects thyroid cancer.
- One study showed that an increased intake of alcohol may lower thyroid cancer risk.
- Another study states that cancer risk was reduced in people who consumed two or more drinks per day.
These findings may be because alcohol prevents the effect of rapid TSH production on the thyroid follicular cells, thereby reducing cancer risk.
However, more studies are required to conclusively prove that alcohol has a protective effect on thyroid cancer.
Can You Drink Alcohol On Thyroid Medication?
Since alcohol consumption slows down thyroid function, it is always recommended to practice abstinence if you are taking medication for thyroid problems.
Though there are no known interactions between commonly used thyroid medications and alcohol, these substances alter thyroid function.
Therefore, to allow your thyroid to regain its normal functioning, follow your medication prescription and quit alcohol.
Is Alcohol Used To Treat Certain Thyroid Conditions?
Despite the ill effects of alcohol on the thyroid gland, a treatment called alcohol ablation therapy (percutaneous ethanol injection or PEI) is used in thyroid cancer treatment.
This treatment helps destroy cancer cells that reoccur and those which spread to lymph nodes without surgery.
PEI is also used to shrink large fluid-filled thyroid nodules and cysts.
During this procedure, ethanol is directly injected through a needle or catheter.
The side effects and complications of this treatment are found to be minimal.
- The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped gland located on the front side of the neck.
- The thyroid gland produces hormones that regulate several body functions, including metabolism, growth, development, and reproduction.
- The two most common thyroid disorders are overactive (hyperthyroidism) and underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
- There are several causes for hypothyroidism, with alcohol consumption being one of the lesser known.
- How alcohol affects the thyroid gland is unclear, but it is known to cause cellular toxicity in the glandular cells.
- Alcohol consumption results in the decreased production of TSH and the two thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
- A few studies state that alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of thyroid cancer.