If you’ve ever smoked, used non-stick cookware, or live in a city, you might be dealing with heavy metal toxicity.
And if you’re also dealing with thyroid imbalance, you know just how much it can affect a person’s life. What you may not know yet, however, is how strong the link is between heavy metals and your thyroid.
In this article, we’ll explore exactly how heavy metals impact your thyroid gland, and what you can do to improve the situation. Please give us a call if you are interested in getting tested and treated for heavy metal toxicity: 480-657-0003
More people have thyroid disease now than ever before. The American Thyroid Association estimates that 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease.1
Why? A growing body of research tells us that exposure to environmental toxins may be a key piece of the thyroid disease puzzle. Environmental toxins include radon, formaldehyde, but also a range of heavy metals that are very dangerous even in low concentrations.2 They are harmful to the body and its functioning.2
Heavy metals that can lead to this damage include:
Millions of people are now thought to be dealing with symptoms and chronic diseases related to heavy metal toxicity.4
The five that pose the biggest risk to your health are arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, and aluminum, because of their high degree of toxicity even at low levels of exposure. All of these can also affect your thyroid.
The Symptoms of Heavy Metal Toxicity & Worsening Thyroid Hormone Balance
Some of the most common warning signs of heavy metal toxicity include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Autoimmune diseases
- Skin irritation
- Poor recovery from exercise
- Neurological disorders such as dementia
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain-fog, trouble concentrating and poor memory
- Digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Chronic aches and pains, such as those associated with fibromyalgia and
As you’ll see, heavy metal toxicity can also lead to the worsening of thyroid diseases like Hashimoto’s, and non-autoimmune hypothyroidism, and cause symptoms such as:
- Dry skin
- Puffy face
- Muscle weakness
- Elevated blood cholesterol levels
- Impaired memory
- Thinning hair
- Heavy or irregular menstrual periods
Heavy metal toxicity can also lead to the worsening of Graves’ disease and hyperthyroidism, causing symptoms like:
- Nervousness, anxiety, and irritability
- Weight loss with no change in diet or lifestyle
- Erectile dysfunction and reduced libido
- Enlargement of the thyroid gland (goiter)6
How Are You Exposed To Heavy Metals?
Heavy metals are all around you, and yet so small that you may not even notice when you’re exposed to high concentrations. How are these metals finding their way into your body? Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways for each metal.
Mercury can be found in dental amalgams (silver fillings), paints, batteries, bleaches, fungicides, cosmetics, hair dyes, seafood, vaccines, petroleum products, and pollution from coal-burning power plants.
Arsenic can be found in chicken, fish, mushrooms, cigarette smoke, rice, insecticides, and farming chemicals. It can also be present in urban air pollution.
This heavy metal can be found in drinking water, baking powder, spices, food additives, vaccines, cans, antiperspirants and deodorants, foil packaging and polluted air.
Cadmium can be found in LED televisions, pigments, cigarettes, some plastics, sewage sludge, phosphate fertilizers and may be released as a result of mining and smelting activities.
Lead is found in groundwater, lead cookware, cigarettes, dust, PVC products, leaded paint, children’s toys, and inexpensive metal jewelry. Exposure has increased substantially thanks to industrialization, mining and past use of lead in gasoline.
How These Metals Specifically Affect Your Thyroid
There is often a direct link between exposure and thyroid damage or disruption. This is because the thyroid is a very sensitive gland, and it is exposed to a lot of blood, so everything passes by it.
Mercury, for example, accumulates in the thyroid and reduces iodide uptake, inhibiting thyroid hormone production.7
Studies also show that arsenic may interfere with thyroid hormones. In one study, researchers looked at the link between exposure to airborne arsenic and blood thyroid hormone levels in urban and rural workers. The workers who had duties in urban areas were exposed to 2900% more arsenic, which was reflected in the arsenic content of their urine, and all of the urban workers’ thyroid hormone markers, such as thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), thyroglobulin (Tg), free triiodothyronine (T3), and free thyroxine (T4), were affected.8
Animal studies suggest that aluminum damages the thyroid as a result of oxidation, which then affects thyroid hormone production and iodine absorption.9 Aluminum also triggers your immune system, which can lead to antibody production, some of which may target the thyroid.10
Chronic cadmium exposure has been found to cause goiters with multiple nodules on them, reduce the secretion of the hormone Tg, and lead to the enlargement of your thyroid, which can develop into thyroid cancer.11,12 However, the connection between cadmium and the thyroid still needs more study, as most of the research that has been done to date has been in vitro.13
And when it comes to lead, exposure at work has been associated with depressed thyroid function and elevated TSH.14 And lead may alter thyroid function by causing the iodine molecule in T4 to break away from this hormone so it no longer functions normally.12
To ensure your thyroid isn’t being damaged by heavy metals, detoxification is key.
How To Detox Heavy Metals From Your Body
Detoxing heavy metals from your body can be very beneficial, but it’s best to work with a healthcare professional in order to do it safely. Heavy metals are usually stored away by your body so they can’t damage it, but detoxification allows them to enter your bloodstream ready for elimination. So the process must be gradual and slow. And good preparation is essential. Here are three steps you can take to detox heavy metals from your body.
Step 1: Prepare Your Body
Beginning the detox process by clearing out your detoxification channels and optimizing your nutritional status sets you up for later success. You can do this by:
- Optimizing gut function: Eradicate allergens, take probiotics and
supplement with enzymes for at least a couple of months
- Improve your diet: Add healthy fats like chia seeds, leafy greens, foods
rich in vitamin C such as berries, amino acids, and minerals to your
regime, especially zinc and selenium.
- Boost liver function: Eating foods rich in sulfur, like kale, garlic, onions,
and omega-3-rich eggs and getting plenty of folate and vitamins B6 and
B12 will help with this.
- Begin a sauna therapy regime: Infrared saunas promote detoxification
through the skin and boost blood flow to tissues where heavy metals may
be stored. Try incorporating at least 3 per week into your routine.
- Support elimination: Use fluids, fiber, and saunas to clear the way. Eight
ounces of water or vegetable juice every two hours will keep you hydrated
and help flush out toxins.
- Avoid foods containing additives, alcohol, and non-organic foods.
Step 2: Further Support Detoxification
Once you have all of the above in place, add selenium, zinc, N-acetylcysteine, lipoic acid, milk thistle, and garlic.
Step 3: Begin Freeing Up Metals For Detoxification
- Get tested: Running tests on your total body load of mercury and other
heavy metals under a doctor’s supervision will uncover which heavy
metals are being stored in your body and the quantities of each.
- Have amalgam fillings removed: This should be performed slowly and
under a trained biological dentist’s supervision.
- Add in binding agents: These substances pull heavy metals out of your
body by binding with them before they’re eliminated through detoxification.
An example includes activated charcoal.
- Integrate daily saunas into your heavy metal cleanse regime.
- Leverage Nutritional IVs: B vitamins, glutathione, and other nutrients can
help the detoxification process more efficient and help you feel better
- Ensure you’re having two bowel movements per day, and drink enough
water and fluids. To improve bowel function, you might consider adding
ground flaxseed to your diet, and or taking herbs such as Triphala, which
has a range of impressive benefits.15
Following a regime such as this until test results show that you’ve lightened your heavy metal load can benefit your general health a great deal. You may see the reduction of symptoms you’ve been experiencing for years, as well as better thyroid function or improvements in autoimmune conditions. The key, then, is to prevent reexposure so you can hold on to those benefits long-term.
How To Prevent Re-Exposure
Though some contact is inevitable because we now live in a toxic world, there are many ways you can limit your exposure to heavy metals, and protect your body from the damage they can cause. They include:
- Supplementing with selenium, which can help block the toxic effects heavy
metals have on the thyroid.
- Drink filtered water processed with a reverse-osmosis filter, which will
remove a wide range of heavy metals from the water you consume.
- Eat more organic food, limiting your pesticide and herbicide exposure.
- Stop using non-stick cookware, which can leach heavy metals into your
food. Stainless steel and enameled cast iron cookware are superior.
Thyroid problems have become more prevalent as environmental heavy metal toxicity has increased. What’s more, we now know that certain heavy metals could have a direct effect on your thyroid.
One way to prevent the damage heavy metals can do to your body and thyroid is by detoxifying and eliminating them from your body. Doing this slowly and under the supervision of a professional, as well as limiting re-exposure, can be very beneficial to both your thyroid and general health.
If you’d like to get tested for heavy metals and get the support you’ll need to safely detox heavy metals from your body, please let a doctor at IH know. We’ll be happy to help you get the personalized care and professional attention you need for your specific situation. We look forward to hearing from you 480-657-0003
In Good Health
Written by Dr. Roz Ranon of Integrative Health. Dr. Roz Ranon, NMD is an Arizona board-certified Naturopathic Physician practicing with Dr. C at Integrative Health with a focus on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.