The thyroid is an extremely important gland located in the base of the neck that regulates hormones involved with metabolism, cardiovascular, neurological, and immune system functions. It’s important to note that this part of our endocrine system (a collection of glands that secrete hormones directly into the circulatory system to our organs) is highly susceptible to damage due to environmental toxins. According to the American Thyroid Association, an estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease and the common symptoms are anxiety, irritability, depression, brain fog, weight gain and fatigue.
Here are some of the most common toxins that affect the thyroid:
- Soy can disrupt the body’s ability to use iodine, which inhibits the secretion of thyroid hormones, especially in women.
- Pesticides – can affect the thyroid gland’s production of hormones and decrease thyroid function and increase weight-loss resistance.
- Flame retardants, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) found in television and computer screens, and foam used for furniture and carpeting padding.
- Plastic bottles that leach the chemicals antimony, phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA) also used in food can coating, and dental sealants decreases thyroid receptor site sensitivity.
- PFOA a chemical used to make Teflon and food wraps can affect thyroid function even at low levels of exposure.
- Halogens – Fluoride and chloride absorbed through your food and water, medications and the environment can overcome your iodine receptors, making the body’s iodine levels unusable.
- Heavy Metals – Mercury, lead and aluminum can trigger antibodies, which in turn lead to autoimmune thyroid conditions. Cadmium is a heavy metal that is released into the environment through mining, smelting, phosphate fertilizers, sewage and discarded batteries. Lead can be found in paint, metal jewelry, and children’s toys. Mercury exposure can happen with dental amalgams, seafood, and pollution from coal-burning power plants. Aluminum toxins include antacids, body care products, food additives, vaccines, and aluminum-based cookware. All of these can build up in the thyroid and reduces iodide uptake, inhibiting thyroid hormone production.
- Antibacterial Products with Triclosan that are in soaps, lotions and toothpastes.
- Perchlorate, a byproduct of jet fuel, car air bags, fireworks, leather, rubber, paint, and batteries can leak into our drinking water and food supply and prevent the production of thyroid hormone.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are industrial chemicals that are no longer used but still detected in our environment. PCB’s create thyroid dysfunction by increasing the level of thyroid-stimulating hormones, making your body resistant to them. They also affect the liver enzymes that regulate the conversion of your thyroid hormone.
- Dioxin is a byproduct of manufacturing processes, including pesticide and plastic production. It mimics thyroid hormone structure and binds to cell receptors that enhance glucuronidation, a biochemical process that facilitates the excretion of hormones from the body.
- Processed Foods can contain arsenic, a toxin sometimes found in fish and rice and can impair thyroid function
Simple steps to avoid and eliminate toxic thyroid inhibitors:
- Manage your iodine and selenium intake. This can reduce the toxic effects that heavy metals and perchlorate can have on the thyroid. Supplementation may be required.
- Use a water filter for drinking and bathing water. Tap water can be a significant source of toxins. Reverse-osmosis filters remove perchlorate, pesticides, PCBs, plastics, and a wide variety of heavy metals.
- Eat organic foods to avoid excessive pesticide and herbicide exposure.
- Stop using pesticides in your home and yard.
- Don’t use synthetic antibacterial products.
- Avoid plastics when possible and use “BPA-free” options if you can.
- Don’t use non-stick cookware. PFOA from non-stick cookware can leach into food. Use stainless steel or enameled cast iron cookware instead.
If you suspect that you have heavy metal toxicity, it can be tested with a urine test using a chelating agent that will pull the metals from your cells where it has leached, so it can be measured.