Thyroid diseases are more common than you may think. It is estimated over 14% of Australian adults have a thyroid disorder and a further 4% remain undiagnosed. Women are ten times more likely to have a thyroid disorder than men. Many of those affected do not have any family history of thyroid disease. So, what is going on? What is the cause of this growing malady?
According to researchers, a major contributor to thyroid disease are environmental toxins. This guide outlines the specific environmental toxins that are most crucial to minimize in order to protect your thyroid against damage. Toxins are pervasive in modern society, however, by following these simple steps, you can do much to protect thyroid health.
Environmental Toxins that affect the Thyroid
The healthy thyroid gland uses ingested iodine from iodine-enriched foods to produce thyroid hormone which regulates metabolic function, the body’s ability to breakdown food and use it for energy. The thyroid is chemically attracted to the structure of thyroid hormones, however, this chemical attraction can also occur between other substances and thyroid hormones. Thus, many environmental toxins with similar structures can accumulate in the thyroid gland. Every day we are exposed to numerous toxins that can accumulate in the body and affect our thyroid and its function. Toxins that pose the biggest risk to thyroid health are:
- Heavy metals
- Aluminium is commonly found in toiletries like deodorant, over-the-counter medications like antacids, food additives, cookware, and vaccines.
- Cadmium is released via cigarette smoke, burning fossil fuels and waste, and is present in batteries, craft glazes, jewelry and metal coatings.
- Lead remains high in the environment due to its past use since it does not break down over time. It is found in the paint used in houses pre-1970s, vehicle exhaust, drinking water (pipes and solder on water pipes), cosmetics (lipstick & kohl), lead crystal glassware, glazed pottery/cookware, candle wicks, children’s toys, mining, building materials.
- Mercury is found in seafood, dental amalgams, cosmetics, batteries & switches, fluorescent light bulbs including long-life bulbs, some pharmaceutical drugs.
- Household toxins such as
- Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) or flame retardants are found on furniture, carpet padding, clothing made of synthetic materials, and the screens of electronic devices.
- Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, ingredients used to make plastic for water bottles, children’s toys, and food storage containers.
- Triclosan a preservative and antibacterial agent found in some liquid hand soaps, antiperspirant soap and toothpaste.
- Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, an agent used in stain-resistant fabrics, food wrappers, and non-stick cookware.
- Industrial chemicals, including the most prevalent industrial chemicals:
- Dioxin a byproduct of pesticide production, plastic making, and other manufacturing processes
- Perchlorate come from applications involving the development of airbags, batteries, fireworks, leather, paint, jet/rocket fuel, and rubber
- Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) – declining use in Australia but imported goods may still contain PFCs.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are widely used as lubricants, in electrical equipment, and for adhesive, paint, or plastic production.
10 Steps that Protect the Thyroid from Environmental Damage
Despite the widespread presence of thyroid-damaging toxins in the environment, you can go a long way towards establishing a healthy, toxin-free environment both externally and internally. The following are some recommended ways for doing this:
- Convert to all-natural toiletries and cosmetics that are free of heavy metals and other chemicals. No red lipsticks!
- Avoid using hand soaps and other cleaning agents with anti-bacterial properties. There is no evidence that these are better than plain soap and water.
- Limit use of plastic containers for drinking and food storage. Caution: BPA-free varieties may still contain other bisphenol derivatives eg BPS. Choose glass or stainless instead. Cover foods with beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap.
- Invest in a quality water filter for water used for consumption and cooking.
- Consume foods rich in iodine like seaweed, fish (avoid farmed fish and choose low-mercury fish), foods grown by the seaside or take a supplement.
- Where possible, eat seasonal, local, organic foods as often as possible to avoid agricultural agents. Refer to the EWG Clean Fifteen & Dirty Dozen guide.
- Avoid processed foods and foods with a lot of chemical-based additives.
- Replace non-stick cookware items with stainless steel or enameled cast iron options.
- Regular use of infra-red saunas can help detoxify toxins from your body.
- Enjoy indoor plants to detoxify your home, filter toxins and clean your air.