Eight toxins to avoid to keep your thyroid happy
Your thyroid is a butterfly shaped endocrine gland that sits in the front of your neck just above your collar bone. The thyroid has an extremely important job and releases hormones directly into the bloodstream and has an effect on nearly every process in the body from digestion to reproduction to mental health. You can read more about the incredible job your thyroid does and ways to keep it healthy here.
However, many chemicals that you may come into contact with on a daily basis contain toxins that bind to the delicate tissue in your thyroid gland, damaging it’s function, as well has having an effect on your immune system and hormones in general.
They show up in the body, acting like copycats, causing confusion, disrupting the feedback system and causing the body to stop making its natural hormones.
Some of these toxins disrupt the thyroid directly, whilst others work through mimicking oestrogen, causing oestrogen dominance along with other issues.
The Evil Eight that upset your thyroid
PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls
PCBs are chemicals that were previously used by industrial and manufacturing companies, but have now been banned in many countries. However, there is still a lot of environmental contamination, especially in older buildings containing paint and floor finishes, which means that people are still at risk of being exposed to them.
PCBs can change the structure of the thyroid itself, making it less responsive to thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). They also make the thyroid hormone T4 (thyroxine) break down faster in the body, making it less available. Another issue is that they cause iodine (which is imperative for hormone health) to be lost through the digestive tract, meaning it cannot be used by the thyroid.
In general, soy is not the healthiest option, but if you have a thyroid imbalance, it is something that should be avoided. When broken down into isolates for processed foods, soy has a negative impact on the thyroid gland.
Soy acts in the body as an oestrogen mimicker or xenoestrogen, which can either block or over-stimulate the oestrogen receptors in the body. This causes the body not to make its own natural oestrogen by disrupting the normal feedback loop, tricking your body into believing it has plenty of oestrogen. But, because it’s not natural oestrogen it doesn’t work in the same way.
Soy also contains a protein that competes for iodine in your body, meaning if the iodine levels are already low, this can cause low thyroid hormone level production. It may also be a factor in developing autoimmune thyroid disease.
This is a chemical that is found in rocket fuel, bleach, explosives, batteries, fireworks, airbags and fertilisers and can result in hypothyroidism (a condition resulting from low thyroid hormones). It is extremely toxic, blocking the thyroid from taking up iodine. It is a known pollutant and can be found in groundwater and public drinking water systems in some countries.
Repeated daily exposure to perchlorate will cause ill effects. However, it is possible to detox perchlorate from the body and reverse the effects.
Dioxins are highly toxic chemicals that take a long time to break down and disrupt the hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis (HPT axis). More than 90% of human exposure is through food, mainly meat and dairy products, fish and shellfish. This is a reason why organic animal products and sustainably sourced fish are preferable.
Dioxins are also found in chlorine bleach, which means it’s lurking in products that have been dyed. Anything that has been bleached with chlorine bleach like conventional toilet paper, menstrual pads and tampons, coffee filters and household cleaners that contain bleach, should be avoided whenever possible.
Unbleached alternatives can be found and purchased online and in health food stores.
Triclosan is a common anti-bacterial ingredient in soaps, lotions and hand creams. This affects thyroid hormones and oestrogen so it’s a double hit on the endocrine system. Even though it’s so prevalent it’s easier to avoid than many of the other toxins by purchasing eco-friendly products instead.
These are found in upholstered furniture, like sofas, chairs, and mattresses as well as some electronics. They accumulate in the body and act as endocrine disruptors and have an oestrogenic effect on the body. Even more concerning is a study that suggests a connection between flame retardants and thyroid cancer. Flame retardants are no longer allowed to be used in many countries, but they’re still in the environment and probably will be for a long time to come.
You can reduce your exposure by purchasing upholstered furniture and mattresses without flame retardants. Also, make sure the foam in your upholstered furniture is completely covered in protective fabric or consider replacing older foam. Finally, remove any old carpet and carpet pads to reduce exposure.
BPA and Phthalates (phal-ates) and other plasticisers
BPA is commonly found in water bottles, plastic food storage containers, and even canned foods. BPA, phthalates and other chemicals used to soften plastic are oestrogen mimickers causing oestrogen dominance, as well as impacting the production of thyroid hormone and thyroid receptor function.
Even though a product may say it's BPA-free, the chemicals in plastic can still have some effect on your system, so it’s best to avoid plastic products as much as possible when it comes to hormone health. Choose glass or stainless steel where possible.
The thyroid is extremely sensitive to radiation, so it is advised to avoid medical and dental X-rays unless they are absolutely necessary. The most common outcome from radiation is hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormones).
Radiation can be damaging to DNA and this damage is passed on to each new generation of cells rather than ending when the cell dies. Often, the damage isn’t even seen until much later, possibly even years after exposure.
You can reduce exposure to radiation by using ear buds when speaking on the phone and keeping your phone away from your body. It’s recommended to either turn off your phone or put it on airplane mode and turn of Wi-Fi when sleeping. If frequently flying, it’s also a good idea to avoid X-ray machines at airports and opt for the pat-down instead.
Many of these above toxins can interfere with thyroid health. While some of these are unavoidable, its possible to decrease the amount of damage they do through healthy eating, mitigating the effects of stress, and limiting exposure to certain products containing these chemicals as much as possible.