Hashimoto’s Disease And Alcohol: What You Need To Know

Being diagnosed with any disease or disorder can be worrisome. You may search for answers online or dive deep into research to attempt to understand more about your condition.

But much of the reported medical information isn’t always straightforward. For example, many people diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease feel confused about whether or not they can safely drink alcohol.

So, what's the truth? Here's everything you need to know about alcohol and Hashimoto's disease.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is Hashimoto's disease?

Thyroid hormones play an important role in metabolism, energy, and mood. Your thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped organ in your throat that is responsible for creating these hormones to help regulate metabolism, heart rate, bone growth and maintenance, brain development, and digestive functions.

Hashimoto's disease (also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis) is a thyroid-specific autoimmune disorder that happens when the immune system produces a certain type of antibodies that attacks the thyroid cells. This condition causes the thyroid gland to produce less thyroid hormones. 

Less thyroid hormones often lead to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), though it can also cause hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) in rare cases.

What are the symptoms of Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease causes hypothyroidism (i.e., an underactive thyroid), which results in a variety of symptoms. These include:

  • Weight gain

  • Joint pain

  • Fatigue

  • Bowel issues (constipation or diarrhea)

  • Muscle pain

  • Increased sensitivity to cold weather

  • Fertility problems

  • Menstrual irregularities

  • Slow heart rate (also called bradycardia)

  • Thinning hair

  • Brittle nails

  • High blood pressure

  • An enlarged tongue

  • Dry skin

  • Coordination issues

Rarely, Hashimoto's can manifest as hyperthyroidism (i.e., overactive thyroid). Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Weight loss

  • Irritability

  • Nervousness

  • Anxiety

  • Rapid heart rate (also called tachycardia)

  • Thinning of the skin

  • Sweating

  • Difficulty sleeping

Is Hashimoto's disease easily treatable?

Yes, Hashimoto's disease is generally easy to treat with synthetic hormone (levothyroxine sodium) replacement therapy. Those on synthetic hormones can expect to have a normal life experience. Very rarely, complications can occur, including:

The relationship between alcohol and thyroid function

The relationship between alcohol and thyroid disorders is complicated. Research is divided on how alcohol consumption impacts thyroid function.

Chronic alcohol use can cause thyroid damage

Alcohol can directly suppress thyroid function and impair thyroid hormone production. Not only does chronic alcohol consumption damage thyroid cells, but it reduces the total volume of thyroid hormones (T3, T4) in your blood.

This damage is more pronounced with long-term alcohol use. In fact, those with alcohol use disorders often have lower levels of thyroid-stimulating hormones (TSH) in their blood, which can reduce overall thyroid hormone levels and cause hypothyroidism.

Most research regarding the relationship between alcohol and thyroid disorders has been conducted on chronic alcoholics. Evidence of mild alcohol consumption impacting the thyroid is less pronounced. And some research studies actually show a more positive relationship between alcohol and a number of specific thyroid disorders in mild and moderate drinkers.

Moderate alcohol consumption may help protect against thyroid disorders

Early research suggests that alcohol may actually help prevent Hashimoto's disease in some people.

A number of studies have attempted to uncover relationships between alcohol and autoimmune thyroid disorders like Hashimoto's disease. For example, a population-based study¹ in Denmark found that moderate alcohol intake significantly reduced the prevalence of hypothyroidism.

A prospective study² in Amsterdam drew similar conclusions, noting that:

"Alcohol consumption of >10 units/week may protect against the development of overt hypothyroidism."

These results remain relatively consistent across populations. A population-based study³ of the Fujian Province in China reported similar findings.

Researchers aren't sure why alcohol may be protective against thyroid autoimmune disorders. One commonality found is that those who moderately drank alcohol had lower amounts of TPO antibodies that are implicated in the development of autoimmune thyroid disorders.

Alcohol is also both pro-inflammatory and anti-inflammatory depending on the amount consumed and the duration of consumption. Most studies show that alcohol is protective against autoimmune thyroid disorders at low and moderate levels.

It should be emphasized that people should not drink alcohol to prevent Hashimoto's disease. Drinking alcohol does not mean you will never get Hashimoto's disease. In addition, most people will never develop Hashimoto's disease, regardless of their alcohol intake.

Does alcohol interact with Hashimoto's disease medication?

Many people with Hashimoto's disease are on medication to help replace thyroid hormones, mainly thyroxine (T4), in their bodies. Alcohol does not interact with the primary Hashimoto's thyroiditis medication, levothyroxine sodium (brand names Synthroid, Levothroid, and Levoxyl), or desiccated thyroid powders.

Can alcohol cause any complications in those with Hashimoto's disease?

As discussed above, moderate alcohol consumption could have some protective effects against autoimmune thyroid disorders. However, for those diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, no clear evidence has been found of resulting complications due to alcohol use.

Therefore, doctors do not currently recommend any existing, specific guidelines for alcohol consumption in relation to Hashimoto's disease. Your healthcare team may offer suggestions based on your physical condition and individual medical history.

It is important to note that while most people who drink with Hashimoto's disease will not have any negative effects, normal complications due to alcohol use can still occur in those with Hashimoto's disease.

Problems with alcohol that aren't related to Hashimoto's disease

There are non-thyroid-related reasons to avoid alcohol if you have Hashimoto's disease. Regular consumption of alcohol can lead to a variety of health issues, including:

  • Liver disease

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Learning issues

  • Social issues (e.g., joblessness, family problems, etc.)

  • Risky sexual behaviors

  • Digestion issues

  • Cancer of the colon, rectum, liver, esophagus, mouth, breast, and throat

  • Memory problems

  • Dependence

People with Hashimoto's disease are also more likely to have other autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis — which can be aggravated by excessive alcohol use. 

Can alcohol treat Hashimoto's disease?

No. Alcohol is not an effective treatment for Hashimoto's disease. Treatment for Hashimoto’s usually involves synthetic hormones and regular check-ups with your treatment team.

Do not drink alcohol in an attempt to treat Hashimoto's disease. While researchers believe alcohol may play a small role in preventing Hashimoto's disease from initially developing, once you already have the disease, alcohol does not cure Hashimoto's or treat any of its symptoms. In addition, consuming too much alcohol puts you at risk for a variety of other health disorders.

The lowdown

Hashimoto's disease is a thyroid-specific autoimmune disorder that causes damage to your thyroid and reduces the amount of thyroid hormones in your blood. People with Hashimoto's disease can drink alcohol safely while undergoing synthetic hormone therapy. Most researchers believe that heavy alcohol consumption can negatively impact the thyroid volume and hormones.

However, some studies have found that moderate amounts of alcohol may play a small, not-yet-understood role in protecting against the development of Hashimoto's disease. Alcohol does not cure Hashimoto's disease. If you suspect you have Hashimoto's disease, you should consult your healthcare team. For those who have already been diagnosed, continue to take your medication as prescribed and discuss the risks and benefits of alcohol with your healthcare team.

Have you considered clinical trials for Hashimoto's disease?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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