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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 thyroid function.
Does Alcohol Affect Your Thyroid?
Alcohol Sensitivity or Intolerance
It could be due to your thyroid health and liver health working together, in balance, as we know that alcohol can be a stress on the liver (where a lot of thyroid hormone conversion takes place), 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. , 
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 level 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.
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.
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.
Oestrogen dominance was just one part of my own thyroid health jigsaw puzzle, as it was causing a lot of symptoms and issues in its own right.
Adrenal Gland Stress
In response to rising sex hormones, 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 unwell and increased likeliness of adrenal dysfunction, which many hypothyroid patients also have, often without knowing.
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.
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, zinc, 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 or even take several days to recover from it, feeling extra tired and achy. Thyroid flare ups can occur.
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. , , , , 
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.
Have you noticed a difference when drinking alcohol?
Learn more about how to make the most of your health with hypothyroidism. The book Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate: When You’re Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired builds on this article in detail and explains how to thrive with thyroid disease.
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:
Rachel Hill is the highly ranked and multi-award winning thyroid patient advocate, writer, speaker and author behind The Invisible Hypothyroidism. Her thyroid advocacy work includes writing articles, authoring books, producing her Thyroid Family email newsletters and speaking on podcasts, as well as being a founding board member for the American College of Thyroidology. She is well-recognised as a crucial contributor to the thyroid community and has a large social media presence. Her books include “Be Your Own Thyroid Advocate” and “You, Me and Hypothyroidism”.