Alcohol and Your Thyroid

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Originally published on 17th March 2017
Last updated on 31st January 2019

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?

A quote image:

Alcohol Sensitivity or Intolerance

Many hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s patients seemingly often develop an intolerance or increased sensitivity to alcohol. Why?

It could be due to your thyroid health and liver health working 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 also 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]

Reduced Thyroid Hormone Levels 

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.

It is believed that alcohol can even shrink the thyroid in cases of alcoholism.

Oestrogen and Thyroid Function

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 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.

And when oestrogen 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. 

Adrenal Gland Stress 

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. Feeding back in oestrogen dominance. It’s a vicious cycle.

The below infographic was created by forefronthealth.com, showing what happens to the thyroid gland after consuming alcohol.

An infographic of what happens to your thyroid after drinking 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

Alcohol and Vitamins and Minerals 

As touched on above, alcohol can also deplete minerals and vitamins such as magnesium, folic acid, B Vitamins and Selenium. All of which are very important for thyroid health.

You should definitely avoid taking any supplements or medications with or close to consuming alcohol. Vitamin C is even destroyed through alcohol consumption.

The Take Away 

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]

As always, if you wish to consume alcohol then do so in moderation and consider the overall effects on your health as well as your thyroid health specifically. If alcohol contributes to you feeling worse, particularly in the form of a flare up of hypothyroidism or Hashimoto’s symptoms, consider whether it is best to avoid it to better manage your health.

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:

Wine, spirits, beer and thyroid function

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3743356/

If you found this article beneficial, please take a moment to share it so we can help others get better with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto's, whilst also raising awareness. "Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate."

Written by Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism

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5 thoughts on “Alcohol and Your Thyroid

  1. I quit drinking 1-1-18 and have been diagnosed with Hypothyroidism back in 2005. Since quitting alcohol my TSH has dropped to .089 . I have dropped a lot of weight thou I work out at the gym 5 times weekly. Is it my thyroid or the gym ?? I personally feel that I was never hypothyroid to begin with….. probably drinking a 12 pack of beer a day was the problem??? Your thoughts please

  2. Can quitting alcohol control TSH. My TSH was 14.25 before quitting alcohol than got another test after 1 month of quitting alcohol and it decrease to 9.35.

    1. Since alcohol has a direct effect on the liver and the liver is needed to convert thyroid hormone from T4 to T3, I don’t see why not!

  3. I have thyroidism & drink quite often like every once or twice a week can this affect anything in my body like I drink jimbeam & that’s the only drink would I have to stop or not, just curious?

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