A question I’ve seen asked more times than I can remember, is ‘Does anyone else feel like they can’t handle their drink as well as they used to?’
So I’m going to look at the connection between alcohol and the thyroid gland.
Does alcohol affect your thyroid?
It’s well known that hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s patients seemingly often develop an intolerance or increased sensitivity to alcohol. Why? Because your thyroid health and liver health work together, in balance, and we all know that alcohol is a stress on the liver, which processes and metabolises the alcohol you consume.
The fact that alcohol causes direct cellular toxicity on thyroid cells, thereby causing thyroid suppression and reducing thyroid volume, is well established. Alcohol is known to have a direct toxic effect on thyroid cells, which is used therapeutically in ethanol ablation therapy of thyroid nodules.[Study A,Study B]
Regularly drinking a lot of alcohol inhibits thyroid hormones T3 and T4 and may reduce the activity of type II 5’-deiodinase. This enzyme is used to convert storage hormone T4 into active hormone T3, and if it is not functioning optimally, you may experience reduced levels of Free T3 with ongoing symptoms.
It has also been found that excess alcohol intake blocks the release of TSH, the Thyroid Stimulating Hormone. Overconsumption of alcohol reduces the responsiveness of thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), which communicates the need for TSH.
Another thing to consider is that all alcohol is oestrogenic, meaning it makes the amount of oestrogen in your body rise, and oestrogen is known to directly suppress or block thyroid function and hormones from working as efficiently as they should be. This can make you feel extra hypothyroid or intolerant of alcohol. It can even encourage break-outs in some women, especially if they already have oestrogen dominance, along with PMS and delayed periods. It is believed that alcohol can even shrink the thyroid in cases of alcoholism.
And when ostrogen rises, progesterone drops, since they work in an almost tug-of-war fashion. In men, as little as five alcoholic drinks a week can cause testosterone levels to fall and oestrogen levels to rise, which can contribute to man boobs or ‘moobs’ and more female like features. Men with higher than recommended oestrogen levels seems to be on the rise.
Consuming alcohol further, continues to put strain on the liver and prevents it from detoxifying the excess oestrogen, one of its jobs. When this happens, the oestrogen can start to build up in tissues and cause oestrogen levels to rise even further! What a cycle!
Eventually, this can lead to oestrogen dominance, which, as explained above, can suppress the thyroid gland from releasing enough thyroid hormones, and make us feel hypothyroid. A good book about sex hormones can be seen here.
However, that’s not all. In response to this rising sex hormone, the body can become stressed and on high alert, releasing stress hormones such as cortisol. This can further inhibit the liver from converting T4 (the storage hormones) to T3 (the active hormone), which again, contributes to us feeling like rubbish and increased likeliness of adrenal dysfunction. Which many hypothyroid patients also have, often without knowing.
And increased cortisol can deplete progesterone levels further, resulting in even higher oestrogen levels.
The below infographic was created by forefronthealth.com, based on the available research today, showing what happens to the thyroid gland after consuming alcohol.
They go on to explain that:
..there are many other factors involved as well, including alcohol’s ability to:
- Increased prolactin
- Create a thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency
- Disrupts blood sugar handling
As a result of all of this, when you consume alcohol and also have hypothyroidism, you may feel extra hypothyroid the next day and even take several days to recover from it, feeling extra tired and achey.
After all this information, it is interesting to know though, that several studies have actually reported a decrease in thyroid cancer risk with alcohol use, too! [Study C, Study D, Study E, Study F, Study G]
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information give, but further information can also be found at:
Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
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Rachel is a Thyroid Patient Advocate and Expert with Six 2018 WEGO Health Award Nominations. She is a highly ranked writer appearing in the Top Hypothyroidism Websites and Top Thyroid Websites 2018, and is a qualified Diet and Nutritional Advisor, also currently studying for relevant qualifications and certificates in Life Coaching, Motivational Speaking, Reflexology and more. She has worked with The National Academy of Hypothyroidism, The BBC, The Mighty, Dr. Hedberg, Thyroid UK and ThyroidChange, to name just a few. She is well recognised as a trusted and useful contributor to the thyroid community.