Alcohol and Thyroid Function: All You Need to Know

Alcohol has been linked for decades with an increased risk of some diseases. What is known about its influence on thyroid function? Let's see what researchers have found about it.
Alcohol and Thyroid Function: All You Need to Know

Written by Josberth Johan Benitez Colmenares, 02 August, 2021

Last update: 02 August, 2021

The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 3 million deaths per year directly related to alcohol consumption (5.1% of the burden of disease). There are dozens of complications that can be generated by its excessive intake, including the increased risk of certain types of cancer. Today we’ll focus on the relationship between alcohol and thyroid function.

Although at first, it would seem to be a settled debate, in reality, it’s an open issue with detractors and supporters of its use. The investigations carried out in this regard don’t allow us to reach a definitive conclusion. In this article, we’ll try to explain what’s known about it and what considerations you should take into account if you’re a regular consumer.

Alcohol and thyroid function

Alcohol and thyroid function are expressed as hypothyroidism
There is evidence that suggests a relationship between alcohol consumption and hypothyroidism. The latter condition is associated with decreased thyroid hormone production.

There is currently no unanimous consensus on the role that alcohol plays in thyroid function. We’ll begin by pointing out the possible negative effects in relation to its excessive intake.

A study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence analyzed the thyroid values of 39 chronic alcoholics. The results pointed to a tendency to hypothyroidism that normalizes after a week of abstinence.

This has been confirmed by other studies, such as the one published in Alcohol and Alcoholism in October 2006. The authors of this research suggest that hypothyroidism should be considered a characteristic marker of alcoholism, especially in its chronic stages.

Some researchers theorize that the mood disorders that often accompany disorderly alcohol intake may be caused, or at least enhanced, by this thyroid hormone decline. Depression, anger, and anxiety, just to name a few, are common manifestations in patients with hypothyroidism.

There’s also evidence for a complex link between the thyroid gland and the liver, which is more acute than previously thought. Small alterations in the former can trigger negative responses in the latter, and vice versa.

Liver damage resulting from the consumption of alcoholic beverages, therefore, can trigger episodes of hyperthyroidism, among others.

Do to all of this, some studies recommend doing a thyroid prick test for everyone who is dependent on alcohol. It’s an affordable, quick, and accurate test to determine if your gland is working with the correct values.

Possible benefits of alcohol on thyroid function

Just as specialists have found a negative relationship between alcohol and thyroid function, there also appear to be some positive aspects of moderate intake.

For example, research published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2013 found a reduction in the risks of Graves’ disease in people who drank moderate amounts.

Graves’ disease is the number one cause of hypothyroidism, causing the most characteristic symptoms of thyroid imbalance. These include sensitivity to heat, irregular heartbeat, irritability, anxiety, increased sweating, and fatigue. According to the results, the benefits of average alcohol consumption are perceived regardless of age or gender.

On the other hand, a study published in the British Journal of Cancer in November 2009 scrutinized the relationship between moderate alcohol intake and thyroid cancer. The investigation, the most comprehensive to date, was followed for 7.5 years. The results suggested a decrease of 0.57% among those who consumed two drinks a day.

Although the percentage range may not seem that large, it actually confirms the hypotheses of other smaller studies. It is for this reason that some suggest interpreting alcohol intake according to context. The alcoholic concentration, frequency, and the possible previous imbalances can condition the benefits or consequences in the medium and long term.

Consumption moderation for health

Alcohol and thyroid function can be regulated
Regulating alcohol consumption isn’t only beneficial from a metabolic point of view, but also helps improve overall health.

It has been shown from the previous exposition that excessive alcohol consumption is counterproductive for thyroid function. Those who maintain an uncontrolled intake should be aware of this, especially if they have already been diagnosed with a thyroid disorder or are prone to them.

The US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stipulates that drinking 4 or more drinks at one time is considered binge drinking. The intake of 8 drinks a week for women and 15 for men is also considered excessive behavior.

This institution also recommends drinking a maximum of one or two drinks a day, as long as you’re able to control your habit. That is, they can go several days without drinking without this involving a change in mood or compulsive attitudes.

Of course, minors, pregnant women, those who suffer from certain diseases, and those who take certain medications should avoid it.

If you can’t reduce consumption to these values, we suggest you seek professional help, as it’s very likely that you’re addicted.

Thyroid problems aren’t the only problems you can face, the WHO has identified more than 200 related diseases. Talking about it with family and friends is a good first step to face it and find a solution.

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