Did you know that excessive drinking can harm your thyroid? Alcohol use affects many areas of the body, from the gut to the mind. However, there are other areas of the body most people wouldn’t think about alcohol affecting.
Alcohol abuse is strongly linked to hypothyroidism. This condition also is called underactive thyroid. If you drink alcohol and have symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue, depression, weight gain, and memory problems, consult your doctor about having your thyroid function tested for thyroid disease, and evaluated for addiction and other contributing conditions such as mental illness.
At Discovery Institute in Marlboro, New Jersey, our medical professionals, and addiction specialists are highly trained in helping people suffering from alcohol addiction and hypothyroidism receive the treatment they need to manage their conditions and achieve a healthier lifestyle.
What is the Thyroid and How Does It Work?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the lower front of your neck. It is part of the endocrine system and produces hormones that help regulate metabolism, development, and growth. These hormones are released into the bloodstream and travel to all parts of your body. The main hormone produced by the thyroid is thyroxine (T4). When your body needs more energy, the thyroid releases an additional hormone called triiodothyronine (T3).
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain control the production of T4 and T3 by releasing a hormone called thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH). TRH signals the thyroid gland to produce and release T4 and T3. The amount of hormones released is determined by the amount of iodine in your diet, as well as other factors such as stress levels.
If the thyroid produces too much hormone (hyperthyroidism) or not enough (hypothyroidism), it can cause a variety of health issues. Hyperthyroidism can lead to fatigue, weight loss, and anxiety. Hypothyroidism can cause depression, weight gain, constipation, and irregular menstrual cycles.
Is Thyroid Disease Common?
Thyroid disease is very common, with approximately 20 million Americans suffering from some form of it. The most common type of thyroid disorder is hypothyroidism, which occurs when the body does not produce enough hormones to meet its needs. Other forms of thyroid disorders include hyperthyroidism (excessive hormone production), goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland), and thyroid cancer.
Symptoms of these conditions vary from patient to patient, but generally include the following:
- Weight gain/loss
- Hair loss
- Joint pain
- Changes in metabolism
In addition to these common symptoms, more serious complications such as heart disease and infertility can result from an untreated thyroid disorder.
Does Alcohol Affect the Thyroid and How it Functions?
Alcohol is the most commonly used drug in the United States, with over 70% of people ages 18 and older consuming it at some point during their lifetime. Drug and alcohol abuse can have a significant negative impact on thyroid health.
Alcohol consumption in particular has been linked to an increased risk of hypothyroidism, as it can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients such as iodine, which is essential for proper thyroid functioning. Additionally, alcohol can damage the liver, which plays an important role in hormone regulation.
Alcohol raises estrogen levels in the body, causing hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid). Even moderate alcohol consumption can cause goiter (enlarged thyroid) and inflammation, resulting in pain if you already have an underactive thyroid.
Excessive use of illicit drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines, and marijuana can also affect thyroid functioning. These drugs are known to disrupt the body’s endocrine system, which can lead to an imbalance in hormones and cause hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Additionally, they may impair the body’s ability to absorb necessary nutrients, which are essential for proper thyroid functioning.
Drinking Alcohol Affects the Liver Too
The role of the liver and thyroid in alcohol consumption is significant. The liver plays a key role in metabolizing alcohol and processing it for removal from the body. The liver breaks down alcohol into acetaldehyde, which is further broken down into water and carbon dioxide by an enzyme called acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. This process helps to prevent toxic levels of alcohol from accumulating in the body.
The thyroid, on the other hand, is involved in regulating several bodily functions, including your metabolism, which can be affected by alcohol consumption. Alcohol can cause changes to hormones produced in the thyroid, leading to an increase or decrease in production depending on the type and amount consumed. This can lead to a range of physical and mental health issues, such as weight gain or loss, fatigue, sleep problems, depression, anxiety, and more.
Also, alcohol affects the functioning of the immune system. Alcohol can reduce the number of white blood cells in the body which are responsible for fighting off infection and disease. This leaves people more vulnerable to illness and can lead to a weakened immune system.
The Link Between Thyroid Problems and Alcohol Addiction
Addiction and thyroid function are linked in several ways. Addiction can cause changes in the hormones that regulate the functioning of the thyroid gland. Substance abuse affects the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis, which is responsible for producing and releasing hormones that regulate metabolism. This disruption in hormone production can lead to a decrease in metabolic rate, which can cause weight gain and other health problems associated with hypothyroidism.
Long-term substance abuse can also lead to damage to the thyroid gland itself. This is because substances such as alcohol and drugs interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid and can eventually cause permanent damage to the cells in the organ. Damage to the thyroid can lead to an overproduction of hormones, causing hyperthyroidism. Symptoms of this condition include irritability, episodes of anxiety, weight loss, and increased heart rate.
Substance abuse has been linked to autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease. These conditions occur when the body starts attacking its thyroid tissue, leading to the overproduction or underproduction of hormones. The exact cause of these conditions is unclear but it is known that alcohol and drug abuse can contribute to the development or worsening of an existing condition.
Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the body does not produce enough thyroid hormones, leading to poor metabolism, fatigue, weight gain, depression, and, other health problems. Alcohol can also affect the body adversely, including interfering with liver function and causing dehydration. When someone with hypothyroidism drinks alcohol, it can make the symptoms of their condition worse and cause further health complications. Hypothyroidism is most prevalent in older women.
Alcohol consumption can be dangerous for people with hyperthyroidism. In some cases, it can increase the severity of symptoms and make existing issues worse. Alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins, which can worsen the effects of hyperthyroidism and cause additional health problems.
Additionally, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, which can further complicate the condition. For these reasons, people with hyperthyroidism should avoid or limit their consumption of alcohol. If alcohol is consumed, it’s important to drink in moderation and stay hydrated.
A balanced diet that includes foods rich in vitamins and minerals is especially important for those with hyperthyroidism to support overall health. Eating a healthy diet can also help offset any potential nutritional deficiencies resulting from alcohol consumption. Overall, people with hyperthyroidism should talk to their doctor before consuming alcohol, as it may be necessary to modify the amount or type of medications they are taking to maintain optimal thyroid health.
People with thyroid issues may be more prone to developing an addiction than those without the condition. This is because thyroid hormones can have a significant impact on the brain and its reward pathways, which are heavily involved in drug and alcohol use.
People with thyroid disorders may experience changes in mood, energy levels, or cravings that could make them more likely to seek out substances as an escape. Additionally, some medications used to treat thyroid disorders may be habit-forming or lead to tolerance and dependence when misused.
Therefore, people with thyroid issues need to be aware of the potential risks associated with substance use and addiction. Substance use should always be avoided by those with a thyroid disorder, as it could exacerbate symptoms or lead to new health problems. Furthermore, consulting with a healthcare provider before taking any medication is important to ensure safety and effectiveness.
What To Do If You Suspect Drug and Alcohol Abuse is Causing Thyroid Problems
If you suspect that drug or alcohol abuse may be causing thyroid issues, it is important to seek help from a medical professional as soon as possible. It is also important to address the underlying addiction first and foremost.
Treatment for alcohol addiction commonly includes medical detox, addiction therapy services, residential programs, and other levels of care. Furthermore, those struggling with substance abuse should be referred for thyroid testing and evaluation by a qualified medical professional.
In addition, lifestyle modifications may help in the management of thyroid conditions caused by drug or alcohol abuse. These might include abstaining from the use of any drugs or alcohol, regular exercise, proper nutrition, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate rest each night. Finally, stress management and relaxation techniques such as yoga and mindfulness can be beneficial for those with a thyroid condition caused by substance abuse.
Recover from Alcoholism at Discovery Institute
Alcoholism is a difficult disease to overcome. For those who experience hypothyroidism and alcohol abuse, identifying an accurate diagnosis can be difficult, but is possible with professional help. The best way to approach situations like these is to acknowledge that there is a problem. Once someone can do that, getting help is the next step.
At Discovery Institute in New Jersey, our ultimate goal is to treat people on an individualized basis. Care that is catered to the individual’s unique needs is imperative to a person’s treatment process. If you or a loved one would like to find out more about treatment for hypothyroidism and alcohol abuse, you can contact us here.
Dr. Joseph Ranieri D.O. earned his BS in Pharmacy at Temple University School of Pharmacy in 1981 and His Doctorate Degree in Osteopathic Medicine at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1991. He is Board Certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Preventive Medicine Addiction Certification. Dr. Ranieri has lectured extensively to physicians, nurses, counselors and laypeople about the Disease of Addiction throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2012.