Joe Leech, Contributor
The holiday season is finally here. Not only is this the time of year when we eat more food, but most of us will drink more alcohol too. But does alcohol intake influence thyroid health for those with hypothyroidism? This article looks at the current evidence.
High Alcohol Intake Does Affect Thyroid Hormone Levels
Alcoholic beverages can affect almost all organs and systems in the human body. Thyroid hormone levels are no exception. More specifically, alcohol can negatively influence the hypothalamo-pituitary- adrenal axis, which regulates stress, thyroid hormone production and many other bodily responses. The pituitary gland is responsible for creating TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which regulates thyroid function and T4 levels in the blood. Research shows that heavy alcohol consumption over long periods of time affects almost all aspects of the functioning of the thyroid gland. This includes a direct toxic effect on thyroid cells, supressing T3 and T4 levels (1). Those with hypothyroidism already have low thyroid hormone levels, so this undoubtedly makes the condition worse.
Good News For Social or Casual Drinkers
However, research is based on the results of frequent binge drinking for extended periods of time… Drinking habits that are typically classified as alcoholism. Drinking alcohol in small amounts, or binge drinking very infrequently is not linked to the same harmful effects on the thyroid. That means it does not really influence social or casual drinkers. This makes sense when you consider the impact of alcohol on other organs, such as the liver. Heavy intake will almost certainly cause liver damage, while modest amounts are well-tolerated by most people. As with all substances in nutrition and health, it’s the dose that makes the poison. So it’s not the alcohol that is inherently bad, but the amount of alcohol you have. As long as you are drinking moderate amounts, and having several alcohol free days per week, it should not influence your thyroid hormone levels in any meaningful way. In other words, there’s no harm from the occasional drink these holidays.
How Much Is Too Much?
There are no set guidelines for alcohol intake and hypothyroidism. As a rule of thumb, twice per week or more of 4+ drinks at any one time is potentially problematic. Especially if this routine continues for over a month. But indulging in the occasional glass of wine is nothing to feel guilty about. Keeping alcohol binges infrequent will also help you to have a healthy and happy holiday season.
About the Author
Joe Leech is a clinical Dietitian from Sydney, with a Master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. He has spent the last decade reading, researching and writing about health and nutrition, especially autoimmune diseases. He believes conventional medicine and natural medicine do not have to be mutually exclusive, and draws from the best of both areas when giving dietary advice to treat conditions. Follow him on Facebook and Pinterest.