alcohol abuse and thyroid disease

The Connection Between Alcohol Abuse and Thyroid Disease

Millions of people in the United States suffer from thyroid issues. For most of these individuals, having an occasional alcoholic beverage isn’t a big deal.

Alcohol abuse, on the other hand, can have potentially dangerous health effects, especially among those who already have thyroid problems.

The Link Between Alcohol Abuse and Thyroid Disease

Alcohol abuse can depress the thyroid gland and cause physical imbalance and strain.

Acetaldehyde, a compound that causes hangovers, can interfere with thyroid hormone receptors. Then, when these receptors try to compensate for the lack of feedback, the thyroid gland becomes overworked.

Too much acetaldehyde can also cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, even when thyroid function is normal in the absence of alcohol.

Although alcohol has pretty strong effects on the thyroid gland itself, it has a much stronger influence on the liver and adrenal glands. In fact, these organs endure the brunt of alcohol’s adverse effects.

And, since the functionality of the liver and thyroid are so closely related, alcohol abuse leaves a notable impact on both.

What Does the Thyroid Do?

Thyroid Gland Illustration Trachea Larynx - ATSThe thyroid is located along the windpipe in the front of the neck and contains many blood vessels.

It plays a role in the sound of a person’s voice, as the vocal cords stem from the cartilage at the front of the thyroid.

The primary role of the thyroid gland, however, is the secretion of two essential hormones: T3 and T4.

These hormones influence:

  • energy levels
  • metabolic rate
  • body temperature

Overall, the T3 and T4 hormones are crucial for normal bodily functions and general well-being. However, T4 must be converted to T3 before the body can make use of it. To change T4 to T3, the liver, kidneys, and muscles process the hormones, although this primarily happens in the liver.

The T3 hormone influences every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. And since the hormone T4 can only be utilized after it’s been processed, the conversion process can get complicated when the liver is preoccupied with metabolizing alcohol. In other words, the longer it takes to convert the hormones in the liver, the more sluggish the body will feel.

Thyroid Disease Stats and Facts

The causes of thyroid disease are mostly unknown, and many people who have thyroid complications are unaware that they have them.

The American Thyroid Association (ATA) has compiled several statistics regarding thyroid conditions in the U.S. According to ATA:

  1. Thyroid disease, to some degree, affects an estimated 20 million Americans.
  2. More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will have a thyroid condition during their lifetime.
  3. Women are 5 to 8 times more likely than men to develop thyroid issues, and one in 8 women will develop a thyroid disorder during her lifetime.
  4. Thyroid diseases are lifelong conditions, but most can be managed with medical treatment.

The primary reason that women are more susceptible to thyroid issues than men is the hormone estrogen. Estrogen can speed up the inflammatory process of the immune system. And, since women naturally have higher levels of estrogen than men, they have a higher risk of developing thyroid issues.

The Role of the Liver and Thyroid in Alcohol Consumption

The liver is in charge of several vital functions, including:

  • enzyme activation
  • fluid and hormone excretion
  • storing vitamins and minerals
  • metabolizing nutrients from food to produce energy
  • producing and excreting bile, which is necessary for the digestive process

The most essential function of the liver, however, is detoxification. The liver acts as a filter, pulling out any harmful compounds and preparing them for expulsion.

Assuming everything about the body is healthy, a person weighing in at 150 pounds (lbs) will need an average of two hours for the liver to process a single alcoholic drink. The more alcohol the person consumes, the more preoccupied the liver will be.

Issues in the liver often compound with frequent alcohol consumption. Alcohol abuse would severely impact the liver’s ability to filter and expel toxins from the body. Moreover, it would exacerbate the breakdown of both T4 and alcohol in the liver.

In other words, if a person is already suffering from thyroid issues, alcohol abuse can cause T3 levels to plummet. Then, when the body isn’t producing enough of this hormone, it could result in hypothyroidism and a slew of uncomfortable symptoms.

People suffering from hypothyroidism exhibit:

  • fatigue
  • dry skin
  • joint pain
  • depression
  • hoarseness
  • weight gain
  • constipation
  • facial swelling
  • sensitivity to cold
  • slowed heart rate
  • impaired memory
  • weakness in muscles
  • muscle aches and stiffness
  • increased blood cholesterol

It’s important to note that many medications for thyroid problems require a healthy liver. Methimazole, for example, is a medication that requires regular liver filtration to treat the symptoms of hyperthyroidism. So, any time the liver is strained, the medication becomes less effective.

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Additional Problems Associated with Alcohol Use and Thyroid Disease

For anyone who already has issues with thyroid hormone production, alcohol abuse is only going to make the issue worse.

Of course, the effects of alcohol reach far beyond the liver and thyroid gland. Drinking affects nearly every part of the body. For example, the presence of alcohol in the stomach interferes with the natural production of acid. When acid levels drop, so does the rate of digestion.

An even more significant threat to digestive health is the physical damage that alcohol abuse can cause, such as:

  • liver disease
  • malnutrition
  • brain damage
  • various gastrointestinal cancers
  • “leaky gut,” which can trigger a severe autoimmune response
  • erosion of the lining of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, etc.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Thyroid Disease

The best choice for those with thyroid complications is to stop drinking altogether. Seeking professional treatment for alcoholism may be necessary.

For more information about treatment options for alcoholism, please contact us here or call us at (855) 247-4046.

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Alcohol Consumption Trends Examined

alcoholdrinksRecently, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) released a study that shows that women are beginning to drink just as much as men in the United States. For decades men have typically consumed much more alcohol than women. Generally, men’s bodies can handle more alcohol than women due to height and weight differentials, and the culture has supported an environment where men drink more than women. However, this is all starting to change, according to the research conducted by the NIAAA.

“We found that over that period of time, differences in measures such as current drinking, number of drinking days per month, reaching criteria for an alcohol use disorder, and driving under the influence of alcohol in the past year, all narrowed for females and males. Males still consume more alcohol, but the differences between men and women are diminishing,” explained Aaron White, lead researcher on the study.

This information is particularly alarming because women’s bodies are not as equipped to handle as much alcohol as men and are more susceptible to alcohol-related diseases. Liver inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer and neurotoxicity are more likely to occur in women who consume larger amounts.

Despite uncovering the fact that women are beginning to drink nearly equal quantities, the researchers are not sure what the cause for this trend change is. Some people speculate that because more women are working than in past studies, they are in environments where alcohol is much more prevalent, such as entertaining clients and co-workers. Other reasons for this change could have to do with increased social media exposure where drinking is often highlighted or a general increase in acceptance to alcohol. There is also the pop culture influence with heavy drinking and partying being glorified on the radio, tv and online.

Better education and prevention programs will be important factors when it comes to women’s health as it relates to alcohol consumption and other related issues. This also impacts treatment facilities as more women wind up needing help, as additional gender-specific components will be required.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse or alcoholism, contact us. We can help you find an alcohol treatment program that’s right for you.

Kids with ADHD Diagnosis More Likely to Drink and Smoke as Teens

drugalcdependA new study from the Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group shows that teens are more likely to start smoking or drinking with each additional symptom they have of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorder.

Dr. William Brinkman, research director at Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group, analyzed data on more than 2,500 teens aged 12 to 15 in a national survey conducted with their parents between 2000 and 2004. The research team at Cincinnati Children’s hospital identified teens with ADHD and/or conduct disorders, and then compared the teens’ usage of tobacco and alcohol to see if there is a link between ADHD, conduct disorder and substance use.

Brinkman found that nearly half of the children in the study had at least one ADHD symptom, and nearly 15 percent had at least one conduct disorder symptom. For each additional ADHD symptom related to inattention, the risk that a teen would use tobacco or alcohol increased by 8 – 10 percent.

For the small percentage of children diagnosed with both ADHD and conduct disorder, the teens were more than three times more likely to use tobacco or alcohol.

“Our findings underscore the need to counsel families about the risk of substance use as [these] children approach adolescence,” said Brinkman. “This need is heightened among children with ADHD and/or conduct disorder diagnoses or symptoms.” He also said more research may provide clues as to why the link exists between these disorders and substance use.

Dr. Glen Elliott, chief psychiatrist and medical director of Children’s Health Council in Palo Alto, California says it is important to emphasize that not all teens with ADHD follow this path, just a higher percentage than those without ADHD. “We believe it is a combination of impulsive decision-making and perhaps the social strain that ADHD can place on the individual, who may feel unable to connect with peers in socially acceptable ways and therefore more vulnerable to trying other methods such as doing things peers dare them to do or that they view as ‘cool’ or ‘adult.’ ”

Elliott said the study does provide new insights into the relationship between ADHD and conduct disorder, but it sheds little light on whether treating ADHD might change the risk of starting to smoke or drink.

Observing Alcohol Awareness Month in April

Held every April, Alcohol Awareness Month was founded by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. (NCADD) to spread awareness and end the stigma associated with alcoholism that sometimes prevents individuals and their families from seeking help.

The theme of this, the 27th NCADD Alcohol Awareness Month, is “Help for Today. Hope for Tomorrow.” According to the NCADD, this year’s theme is intended to “draw attention to the pervasive impact that alcohol, alcohol-related problems and alcoholism have on young people, their friends, on families and in our communities.”

In the spirit of the NCADD’s goal of awareness and education, here are some facts you may not know about alcoholism:

– The economic cost of alcoholism and alcohol abuse has recently been estimated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be $223.5 billion. That’s $746 per person or about $1.90 per drink.
– 75% of domestic abuse is committed while one or both members are intoxicated and family members utilize health care twice as much as families without alcohol problems.
– Drinking and driving causes 16,000 deaths per year, and thousands more injuries.
– Up to 75% of crimes are committed by people under the influence of alcohol.
– Teens that experiment with alcohol before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent when they are older when compared with those who wait until age 20.
– More than 8.5% of Americans suffer from alcohol dependency, and 25% of U.S. children have been exposed to alcohol-use disorders in their family.

Although statistics can sometimes be dull, the fact is that alcoholism is everywhere. It is a disease that changes the way the body functions. By reducing the stigma that obscures our perspective of alcoholism, maybe we can cause a shift that will lead to more treatment and less abuse in the U.S.

Alcohol Awareness Month will be filled with activities on local, state, and national levels. These events are sponsored by local NCADD Affiliates as well as schools, colleges, churches, and community organizations. Click here to find the event near you and here for alcohol intervention help.