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Yes, Where Do I Start?

Do You Need a Thyroid Detox?

4 Simple Detox Tips for Thyroid Health

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals interfere with how the body’s hormone system works, and they’re sadly pervasive in the modern world. This means your thyroid gland is vulnerable to environmental pollutants and chemicals. [1]

You may wonder if you can do a thyroid detox from chemicals to improve your thyroid issues. Unfortunately, research doesn’t shed much light on this topic. However, we know two things which we can use to create sensible guidelines for managing thyroid problems:

  1. We’re all exposed to environmental pollutants.
  2. The best approach to a thyroid detox is a simple diet and lifestyle clean up.
A infographic demonstrating four steps for a thyroid detox

Thyroid Disease and Chemical Pollution

There’s no doubt that exposure to certain chemical pollutants, in some cases in very small doses, is associated with thyroid disorders. [2, 3, 4, 5, 6] Chemicals that have been shown to disrupt thyroid health include: [7]

  • PCBs [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14]
  • BPA [2, 6, 7]
  • Perchlorate [6, 7, 10]
  • Dioxins [6, 7]
  • Pesticides and herbicides [2, 5, 6, 7]
  • Flame retardants [7]
  • Phthalates [2, 7]
  • Heavy metals (mercury, lead, and cadmium) [6, 7, 8]

These chemicals can impair thyroid gland function or disrupt how thyroid hormones work in the body, causing thyroid symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety or depression, weight gain, weight loss, dry skin, or brain fog. [9]

For example, perchlorate, a manufactured industrial chemical that also occurs naturally in some soils, is a known thyroid inhibitor. It has been used as a thyroid medication for hyperthyroidism treatment, because it suppresses the T4 and T3 thyroid hormone. [10] Perchlorate contamination has been found in drinking water, breast milk, and soils in the U.S., and exposure to the chemical can lead to hypothyroidism. [11]

Exposure to some of these chemicals also appears to be associated with autoimmune thyroid diseases, including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Graves’ disease (both are types of autoimmune hyperthyroidism). For example, persistent organic pollutants (PCBs) have been shown to be associated with increased levels of thyroid antibodies. [12, 13, 14]

All of this may sound scary and make you feel like you need to get tested for environmental toxins. However, testing might not be the best use of your healthcare dollars.

Assessing Toxins

We don’t have effective ways to test for low-level exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

You may have heard about blood tests, urine tests, and hair tests that look for metals or volatile organic compounds in your body. Unfortunately, most of this testing hasn’t been fully validated, [15, 16, 17] nor has detoxing been shown to provide meaningful clinical results for patients. [18]

If you can’t assess whether you have toxin exposure, you may wonder if you should do a thyroid detox.

It’s not necessary to do a detox for specific chemicals for your thyroid health. Instead, we can assume that most people are exposed to pollutants. However, you can lower pollutants’ effects on your body with simple diet and lifestyle changes. These changes will take advantage of your body’s natural detoxification processes.

Simple Detox for Thyroid Health: Eat an Organic, Anti-inflammatory Diet

A low-quality diet is typically the single biggest source of inflammation for your body and can negatively impact your immune system.

Decreasing the burden of inflammation in your body is helpful for managing almost any thyroid condition, as inflammation is associated with thyroid imbalances. [19, 20, 21, 22, 23] It can also greatly improve your overall health.

A simple, anti-inflammatory detox diet includes:

  • Organic foods, which are free of chemical pesticides and herbicides.
  • Real, unprocessed foods, which are free of additives and chemical preservatives. These include:
    • Fruits and veggies
    • Healthy fats
    • Gluten-free whole grains
    • Free-range, grass-fed, or wild-caught meat, fish, and poultry
    • Nuts and seeds
  • Avoid any known food allergies, as these contribute to inflammation.
  • There’s no one right thyroid diet, but a low-iodine diet may help thyroid conditions, especially hypothyroid autoimmune disease. [24]

Eating a simple, real food diet is the foundation of any detox. Following such a diet will both help reduce inflammation and improve your gut health.

Filter Your Water

There is some evidence that water additives like fluoride can impact thyroid gland function [25] because it can impair its ability to absorb iodine. Drinking water can also be a source for other types of thyroid-toxic chemicals like lead, perchlorates, and pesticides.

To support your body’s natural detox functions, filter your drinking water and stay well hydrated. Choose a water filter that removes heavy metals, pesticides and herbicides, and other chemicals. If your water is treated with fluoride, make sure to choose a filter that removes this as well. This information is usually listed on the filter packaging.

Sweat Regularly

One of the main ways your body detoxes naturally is by sweating. Regular exercise and sauna usage promotes sweating, which naturally helps your body detox. Aim to break a sweat daily to access these important health benefits.

Chemical- and Fragrance-Free Hygiene Products

It’s been shown that chemicals can easily be absorbed through the skin. [26] Many conventional hygiene products contain ingredients and fragrances that may affect your thyroid health. So, do an easy home detox by ensuring your products are natural and fragrance-free. This especially applies to products you put on your skin, like soaps, lotions, shampoos, and deodorants.

Are Supplements Necessary for Thyroid Detox?

Some functional medicine providers sell expensive detox programs that include supplements intended to support the body’s detoxification pathways. However, there is little solid evidence that high doses of detox nutrients actually help or are good medical advice. Additionally, there is no evidence that supplement-based detox programs improve thyroid function.

However, keep in mind your body already has natural detoxification systems that normally work very well. A simple diet and lifestyle detox can reduce the burden of toxins in your body and support your natural detoxification systems.

The Bottom Line

There is little evidence to suggest that attempting to detox specific chemicals will improve your thyroid condition. A better approach is to reduce inflammation with a clean diet and non-toxic hygiene products. You can also support your body’s normal detox function by hydrating with filtered water and engaging in exercise and sauna time to make you sweat.

➕ References

  1. Maqbool F, Mostafalou S, Bahadar H, Abdollahi M. Review of endocrine disorders associated with environmental toxicants and possible involved mechanisms. Life Sci. 2016;145:265-273. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2015.10.022
  2. Maqbool F, Mostafalou S, Bahadar H, Abdollahi M. Review of endocrine disorders associated with environmental toxicants and possible involved mechanisms. Life Sci. 2016;145:265-273. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2015.10.022
  3. Ibhazehiebo K, Koibuchi N. Impact of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on thyroid function and brain development. Expert Rev Endocrinol Metab. 2014;9(6):579-591. doi:10.1586/17446651.2014.950227
  4. Pinson A, Bourguignon JP, Parent AS. Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and neurodevelopmental alterations. Andrology. 2016;4(4):706-722. doi:10.1111/andr.12211
  5. de Cock M, de Boer MR, Govarts E, et al. Thyroid-stimulating hormone levels in newborns and early life exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals: analysis of three European mother-child cohorts. Pediatr Res. 2017;82(3):429-437. doi:10.1038/pr.2017.50
  6. Duntas LH. Chemical contamination and the thyroid. Endocrine. 2015;48(1):53-64. doi:10.1007/s12020-014-0442-4
  7. Patrick L. Thyroid disruption: mechanism and clinical implications in human health [published correction appears in Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):58]. Altern Med Rev. 2009;14(4):326-346.
  8. Abdelouahab N, Mergler D, Takser L, et al. Gender differences in the effects of organochlorines, mercury, and lead on thyroid hormone levels in lakeside communities of Quebec (Canada). Environ Res. 2008;107(3):380-392. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2008.01.006
  9. Miller MD, Crofton KM, Rice DC, Zoeller RT. Thyroid-disrupting chemicals: interpreting upstream biomarkers of adverse outcomes. Environ Health Perspect. 2009;117(7):1033-1041. doi:10.1289/ehp.0800247
  10. Wolff J. Perchlorate and the thyroid gland. Pharmacol Rev. 1998;50(1):89-105.
  11. Patrick L. Thyroid disruption: mechanism and clinical implications in human health [published correction appears in Altern Med Rev. 2010 Apr;15(1):58]. Altern Med Rev. 2009;14(4):326-346.
  12. Langer P, Tajtáková M, Fodor G, et al. Increased thyroid volume and prevalence of thyroid disorders in an area heavily polluted by polychlorinated biphenyls. Eur J Endocrinol. 1998;139(4):402-409. doi:10.1530/eje.0.1390402
  13. Schell LM, Gallo MV, Ravenscroft J, DeCaprio AP. Persistent organic pollutants and anti-thyroid peroxidase levels in Akwesasne Mohawk young adults. Environ Res. 2009;109(1):86-92. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2008.08.015
  14. Osius N, Karmaus W. Schilddrüsenhormonspiegel bei Kindern in der Umgebung einer Sonderabfallverbrennungsanlage (SVA) in Südhessen [Thyroid hormone level in children in the area of a toxic waste incinerator in South Essen]. Gesundheitswesen. 1998;60(2):107-112.
  15. Gil F, Hernández AF. Toxicological importance of human biomonitoring of metallic and metalloid elements in different biological samples. Food Chem Toxicol. 2015;80:287-297. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2015.03.025
  16. Alves A, Kucharska A, Erratico C, et al. Human biomonitoring of emerging pollutants through non-invasive matrices: state of the art and future potential. Anal Bioanal Chem. 2014;406(17):4063-4088. doi:10.1007/s00216-014-7748-1
  17. Panuwet P., D’Souza P.E., Phillips E.R., Ryan P.B., Barr D.B. (2020) Salivary Bioscience and Environmental Exposure Assessment. In: Granger D., Taylor M. (eds) Salivary Bioscience. Springer, Cham.
  18. Cantor AG, Hendrickson R, Blazina I, Griffin J, Grusing S, McDonagh MS. Screening for Elevated Blood Lead Levels in Childhood and Pregnancy: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force. JAMA. 2019;321(15):1510-1526. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.1004
  19. Torpy DJ, Tsigos C, Lotsikas AJ, Defensor R, Chrousos GP, Papanicolaou DA. Acute and delayed effects of a single-dose injection of interleukin-6 on thyroid function in healthy humans. Metabolism. 1998;47(10):1289-1293. doi:10.1016/s0026-0495(98)90338-9
  20. van der Poll T, Romijn JA, Wiersinga WM, Sauerwein HP. Tumor necrosis factor: a putative mediator of the sick euthyroid syndrome in man. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1990;71(6):1567-1572. doi:10.1210/jcem-71-6-1567
  21. Boelen A, Platvoet-Ter Schiphorst MC, Wiersinga WM. Association between serum interleukin-6 and serum 3,5,3′-triiodothyronine in nonthyroidal illness. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1993;77(6):1695-1699. doi:10.1210/jcem.77.6.8263160
  22. Bartalena L, Brogioni S, Grasso L, Velluzzi F, Martino E. Relationship of the increased serum interleukin-6 concentration to changes of thyroid function in nonthyroidal illness. J Endocrinol Invest. 1994;17(4):269-274. doi:10.1007/BF03348974
  23. Bartalena L, Bogazzi F, Brogioni S, Grasso L, Martino E. Role of cytokines in the pathogenesis of the euthyroid sick syndrome. Eur J Endocrinol. 1998;138(6):603-614. doi:10.1530/eje.0.1380603
  24. Katagiri R, Yuan X, Kobayashi S, Sasaki S. Effect of excess iodine intake on thyroid diseases in different populations: A systematic review and meta-analyses including observational studies. PLoS One. 2017;12(3):e0173722. Published 2017 Mar 10. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0173722
  25. Chaitanya NCSK, Karunakar P, Allam NSJ, Priya MH, Alekhya B, Nauseen S. A systematic analysis on possibility of water fluoridation causing hypothyroidism. Indian J Dent Res. 2018;29(3):358-363. doi:10.4103/ijdr.IJDR_505_16
  26. Brown HS, Bishop DR, Rowan CA. The role of skin absorption as a route of exposure for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in drinking water. Am J Public Health. 1984;74(5):479-484. doi:10.2105/ajph.74.5.479

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