Millions of women are dealing with a thyroid problem right now, and experts caution that a major driver of this epidemic is exposure to the common toxins we encounter every day. These toxins hinder the thyroid gland’s ability to produce the hormones that are essential to converting fat into usable energy. Toxins not only inhibit fat-burning in the cells where they’re stored, they also cause irritation and inflammation that slow the thyroid and trigger a host of other health problems. And research from the University of Michigan finds that toxins can reduce production of thyroid hormones by up to 10 percent.
The key culprit: perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel, explosives, and some fertilizers and bleaches that has seeped into the groundwater in at least 43 states and has been found in almost all water-rich produce like leafy greens and watermelon. The danger for the thyroid: The gland’s cells have a strong affinity for perchlorate — so strong that they absorb it instead of iodine, a crucial mineral for thyroid health. And this danger is amplified for women, as evidenced by CDC study findings revealing that perchlorate exposure is a predictor of low thyroid hormones levels in women — but not in men.
Another top thyroid slower: BPA (bisphenol-A). It was big news several years back, when alarm over widespread use of the toxic chemical in plastic goods spurred the Food and Drug Administration to ban it in baby products like bottles and sippy cups. And in the wake of public pressure, several manufacturers also removed BPA from items such as water bottles and food storage containers. But the chemical is still being used in many products women are exposed to daily — and experts are issuing new warnings about the draining impact.
“BPA is at the top of the list of worrisome chemicals called endo-disruptors — it’s been shown to affect levels of estrogen and thyroid hormone,” says woman’s health expert Sara Gottfried, MD.
In addition, even BPA-free plastics may not be safe. “Almost all plastics, including ones marketed as BPA-free, release fake estrogens,” says Dr. Gottfried, author of The Hormone Reset Diet. And exposure is widespread: The CDC found that 93 percent of women have BPA in their urine; in other research, 81 percent tested positive for BPS, a BPA cousin found in plastic bottles. The good news: Studies show BPA levels in the body plummet once exposure to the chemical is reduced.
Could toxins be slowing your thyroid?
If you’re experiencing two or more of the symptoms below, you may be reacting to toxins you’re exposed to during everyday activities:
- Brain fog
- Weight gain
- GI woes
- Mood swings
The steps below can reduce your exposure to thyroid-slowing toxins. The result: You’ll feel energized and cheery as your gland begins to heal and your energy starts to soar.
Drink Water This Way
Cans of beer, juice, soda, and soy milk can contain BPA in their linings. That’s a problem, since in a recent study, levels of the toxin climbed by sixteen-fold in people who drank the contents of two BPA-lined cans. And since “BPA-free” plastics can also harbor hormone-disrupting chemicals, it’s smart to avoid plastic items such as beverage bottles and bladders inside boxed wines, which may expose women to dicey chemicals. To eliminate this risk, simply choose glass bottles instead when possible.
Says Dr. Gottfried, “No matter what beverage you’re buying, a glass is your safest bet.” Another option for on-the-go-sipping: Invest in a stainless steel bottle like Kleen Kanteen Wide Mouth Bottle ($19.95, KleenKanteen.com)
Consider trading foods that are highly inflammatory (like white flour, milk, and grain-fed beef) for foods with strong anti-inflammatory properties (especially low-sugar fruit, veggies, nuts, beans, and seafood). The reason? Most of us are inflamed on the inside — a problem triggered by toxins, junk food, hidden food allergies, and stress.
“Hormones we release to fight inflammation end up blocking pathways that our thyroid hormone uses — so when your body is fighting inflammation, your thyroid struggles,” explains nutritionist Haylie Pomroy, author of Fast Metabolism Diet ($14.88, Amazon), noting that weight gain, low energy, brain fog, and hair loss are common consequences.
Reach for Tea
Strengthening your liver can help combat the detrimental effects of toxins, according to Jill Carnahan, MD. “When the liver is working well, it filters these chemicals from the blood so your body can get rid of them through urine or stool,” she explains. And drinking green tea, which is loaded with catechins (antioxidants that boost the body’s production of an enzyme that helps the liver flush environmental toxins), can help.
In fact, a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, & Prevention found that supplementing with green tea extract increased the liver’s ability to expel toxins by 80 percent. To get the perks, sip green tea or supplement with Life Extension Mega Green Tea Extract ($20.50, Life Extension)
This story originally appeared in our print magazine, Heal Your Thyroid.
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