fbpx
How Alcohol Can Affect Your Thyroid

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Thyroid

Medically reviewed by

Natalie Bessom, D.O. Board-certified family medicine doctor with specialty training in nutrition, USA

Medically Reviewed By

Natalie Bessom, D.O. Board-certified family medicine doctor with specialty training in nutrition, USA

Learn how alcohol can affect your thyroid function and overall health. 

Alcohol is one of the most popular substances in the world, with over 80% of people consuming it at least once in their lifetime. 

The thyroid is a small gland located at the base of your neck and is part of your endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for the production and distribution of different hormones necessary for body function. 

The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that manage the body’s metabolism. 

If you have a thyroid condition, alcohol is known to affect your thyroid but the specifics vary. Some studies show that alcohol negatively affects your thyroid, others show the benefits of alcohol in moderation for your thyroid health. 

This article will discuss how alcohol affects 

  • Your overall health
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Thyroid autoimmune diseases 
  • Thyroid cancer 
  • Gut health 

Alcohol and Overall Health

The effects of alcohol on your overall health and body don’t necessarily happen overnight. People who consume alcohol in moderation might experience a headache or “hangover” (symptoms that occur as a consequence of drinking too much including: fatigue, nausea, and thirst) but those effects typically go away in a short period of time.

Those who heavily consume alcohol or binge drink may notice short and long-term health effects occurring sooner. 

What does drinking alcohol in moderation mean? 

According to the guidelines from the Center of Disease Control (CDC), moderate drinking is defined as: 

  • 1 or fewer drinks each day for women or people assigned female at birth
  • 2 or fewer drinks each day for men or people assigned male at birth

Short and Long Term Side Effects of Alcohol

Alcohol can start to take a toll on one’s physical and mental health over time. 

Some short term effects of alcohol include: 

  • Feeling of relaxation, euphoria, giddiness, drowsiness
  • Slow or slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination

The long term effects of alcohol can go beyond a person’s mood or mental capabilities. Some long term effects of alcohol include: 

  • Persistent changes in mood, including anxiety and irritability
  • Weakened immune system
  • Problems with memory and concentration 

Furthermore, research has shown that persistent and long term alcohol abuse can lead to damage of the endocrine system in which the thyroid is part of.

Alcohol and Thyroid Hormones

The thyroid, a small butterfly shaped gland, produces 3 types of hormones: 

  • Triiodothyronine, also known as T3
  • Tetraiodothyronine, also called thyroxine or T4
  • Calcitonin

Studies have shown that alcohol can cause moderate suppression of both T3 and T4 hormones through cellular toxicity of the thyroid, in effect, reducing thyroid hormone levels. 

However, the effects of alcohol can also be seen as a positive for those who suffer from Goiter. Goiter refers to the irregular growth and enlargement of the thyroid gland. The most common cause of Goiter is a lack of iodine in ones diet. 

Alcohol and Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions

Autoimmune Thyroid Conditions are when your body attacks its healthy thyroid cells. This can lead to hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Disease) or hyperthyroidism (Graves’ Disease). 

Interestingly, multiple studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the chances of developing overt autoimmune hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism

Overt hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism means that both the TSH levels and the thyroid hormone levels are abnormal, while a subclinical condition is defined by abnormal TSH levels only — the thyroid hormone levels are normal. 

The study involving people with overt autoimmune hypothyroidism found that consuming modest to medium amounts of alcohol consumption provided protection, but those who had a higher consumption of alcohol did not show this level of protection. 

Another study showed findings that consuming small amounts of alcohol, that is equivalent to a glass of wine or a bottle of beer, may reduce the development of Graves’ disease.

It is important to note that these studies only focused on association between alcohol and autoimmune thyroid conditions, not causation.  

Therefore, people with thyroid conditions should always listen to the advice of their healthcare provider.

Alcohol and Thyroid Cancer

Alcohol is known to affect cancer, and thyroid cancer is no exception. One study suggested that the greater the intake of alcohol (within reason), could lower the risk of thyroid cancer. 

The study was conducted on just under 500,000 participants (both male and female) over the course of 7.5 years. 

Participants showed a significant reduction in the risk of developing all types of thyroid cancer in people who consumed 2 or more alcoholic beverages a day, especially in men. 

Alcohol and Gut Health

Increased alcohol consumption can lead to Increased Intestinal Permeability, also known as leaky gut

Leaky gut is a digestive condition where there are cracks and holes in the intestinal lining that allow toxins, bacteria, and viruses to “leak” through the intestinal walls and into the rest of the body. 

Alcohol can cause a depletion of the bacteria inside the gut through anti-inflammatory activity, eventually causing the small intestines and colon to “leak”. 

Inflammation is one of the main causes for autoimmune flare ups in thyroid conditions such as Hashimoto’s. 

How Can I Limit Alcohol Consumption?

Sometimes abstaining or limiting alcohol consumption can be a lot harder than you think. Drinking alcohol has become a very popular way to socialize and spend time with others. 

Some practical and tangible ways to limit your alcohol intake include: 

Set a drinking limit

Set a limit to how much you will drink that day. Keep your drinking to the recommended limit: 

  • 1 or fewer drinks each day for women or people assigned female at birth
  • 2 or fewer drinks each day for men or people assigned male at birth

Don’t keep alcohol in your house

Out of sight, out of mind! Limit your alcohol consumption by physically not giving yourself a chance to choose. 

Drink slowly

Sip your drink. The slower you drink, the more likely you will notice the affects of alcohol starting to happen to your body. 

Create alcohol-free days

Choose a couple days during the week that are alcohol-free. Or, join a challenge such as “Dry January” to see how you feel physically and mentally without alcohol for the month. 

Practice saying “no”

Peer pressure can be a hard thing to say no to. Practice ways of saying no politely. Always know that you do not have to drink just because others are. You should not feel obligated to accept every drink that is offered to you. 

Key Takeaways

    • Alcohol is one of the most popular substances in the world, with over 80% of people consuming it at least once in their lifetime 
    • Studies show that alcohol negatively affects your thyroid, others show the benefits of alcohol in moderation for your thyroid health
    • Moderate drinking is defined as: 1 or fewer drinks each day for women or people assigned female at birth; 2 or fewer drinks each day for men or people assigned male at birth
    • Long term alcohol abuse can lead to damage of the endocrine system; including the thyroid
    • Alcohol can cause moderate suppressions of both T3 and T4 hormones through cellular toxicity of the thyroid
    • Toxic effects of alcohol can also be seen as a positive for those who suffer from Goiter
    • Alcohol consumption may reduce the chances of developing overt autoimmune hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
    • Increased alcohol consumption can lead to Increased Intestinal Permeability, also known as leaky gut
    • Ways to lessen or abstain from alcohol intake include: 
      • Setting a drinking goal
      • Don’t keep alcohol in your house
      • Drink slowly
      • Create alcohol-free days
      • Practice saying “no”

What you put into your body will not only affect your thyroid but also your overall health. Managing the different aspects of your thyroid health can sometimes be challenging and feel overwhelming at times. 

The ThyForLife app is an all-in-one platform built for people with all types of thyroid conditions to easily manage their thyroid health information. Save time tracking all your bloodwork, medications and supplements, symptoms, and weight all in one place so you get back to focusing on other aspects of your health; including your diet. 

At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. If you require more detailed information regarding medical terms, conditions, and practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider. 

Share this article
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on whatsapp

You might also like

Showing most popular and related articles for you

Be the first to get

weekly thyroid related articles and useful tips directly to your inbox!