Dr. Amy Myers MD, author of The Autoimmune Solution, The Thyroid Solution and The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook, presented on thyroid health at the recent Bioceuticals Conference on Autoimmunity in Melbourne. I promised to share some highlights from her presentations (she did 4 different ones) and since toxins play such a huge role when it comes to anxiety, I’m sharing some highlights from the toxins presentation and the top thyroid toxins you need to avoid: mercury, perchlorate, halides or halogens, nitrates, plastics and parabens and phthalates. These toxins all also play a role in anxiety too.
We also have a new meta-analysis published earlier this month: Association of Depression and Anxiety Disorders With Autoimmune Thyroiditis – A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis confirming what functional medicine practitioners like Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Izabella Wentz have been educating about for years:
Patients with AIT [autoimmune thyroiditis] exhibit an increased chance of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety or of receiving a diagnosis of depression and anxiety disorders.
Taming the toxins is one of 4 pillars that Dr. Myers covers in her approach for preventing and reversing autoimmune disease:
Pillar I: Heal your gut.
Pillar II: Get rid of gluten, grains, and legumes.
Pillar III: Tame the toxins.
Pillar IV: Heal your infections and relieve your stress.
Dr. Myers shared the top thyroid toxins you need to avoid:
- Halides or halogens
- Parabens and phthalates
“A 2011 study found that women with high mercury exposure are 2x more likely to have positive thyroid antibodies.” The paper: Mercury and thyroid autoantibodies in U.S. women, NHANES 2007-2008, reports this increase for thyroglobulin autoantibodies.
As far as anxiety is concerned, Kris Homme shares much evidence to support her belief that mercury toxicity is a likely root cause of the other root causes of anxiety in our Anxiety Summit interview.
Halogens or halides also have an impact on thyroid health. In areas where fluoride is added to the water there are “2x the rates of hypothyroidism than non-fluoride areas.”
Bromine is also an issue and is found in “flame retardants, plastics, many baked goods and citrus flavored drinks.”
GABA in relation to thyroid health and fluoride was not covered in the presentation but there is research showing that GABA reversed fluoride-induced hypothyroidism in an animal study. I blogged about this research here: GABA protects against hypothyroidism caused by fluoride and reduces anxiety. The fluoride-exposed mice that were subsequently treated with GABA were found to have improved results for T4, T3 and thyroid hormone-binding globulin (TBG levels) and healing of the structural abnormalities in thyroid follicles that were observed after fluoride exposure.
The authors conclude with this statement, reporting that GABA acted as a natural antioxidant:
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to establish the therapeutic efficacy of GABA as a natural antioxidant in inducing thyroprotection against fluoride-induced toxicity.
The amino acid GABA helps with physical-tension and stiff-and-tense-muscles type of anxiety, often in certain settings like public speaking or driving, and the need to self-medicate to calm down, often with alcohol but sometimes with carbs and sugary foods. Insomnia can also be due to low GABA and you’ll experience physical tension (rather than the ruminating thoughts which is the low serotonin type of insomnia – although it’s not uncommon to experience both). GABA also helps ease panic attacks, muscle spasms and pain relief when muscles are tight.
“Nitrates, found in fertilizer and foods, resemble iodine enough to block thyroid hormone absorption.” In one study, Nitrate intake and the risk of thyroid cancer and thyroid disease women were found to be “more likely to develop thyroid cancer with higher nitrate levels in the water.” Research shows similar results with nitrites and children and thyroid cancer.
Since the amino acid taurine offers neuroprotection against ammonia in the central nervous system I suspect GABA may offer some protection against nitrates too.
Parabens and phthalates found in many personal care products (and fast-foods) “mimic estrogen and disrupt the hormonal cascade”, with higher estrogens resulting in higher TBG (thyroxine binding globulin).
“A CDC study found phthalates were 39% higher in the urine of individuals who ate 35% of their calories from fast food.” This CNN article: Fast food serves up phthalates, too, study suggests covers many of the hormonal impacts
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a report in 2013 stating that high levels of exposure to phthalates could lead to adverse reproductive outcomes in women. Research has linked these chemicals with increased risk of fibroids and endometriosis, which can cause infertility, and reduced IQ and behavioral problems in children exposed in the womb. High phthalate levels have also been linked with diabetes risk in women and adolescents.
There are countless ways that people can be exposed to phthalates. They are found in soaps, perfumes, nail polish, medications, and we can ingest, inhale and absorb them through the skin.
Out of all these routes of exposure, however, diet is emerging as a major one.
Dietary exposure is a major route of exposure of phthalates and this is one of many excellent reasons to cook and eat home-cooked meals. Dr. Myers makes it easy for you in her wonderful new book The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook.
Mycotoxins from mold are also an issue as is poor mouth health. I was pleased to see EMFs mentioned as it is a growing concern and is under-rated as having harmful effects on the thyroid and when it comes to unresolved anxiety, SIBO, oxalate issues and high cortisol.
As far as detoxification, Dr Myer’s has these general recommendations:
- Infrared sauna
- Glutathione, the master antioxidant and detoxifier
- Milk thistle, magnesium and alpha-lipoic acid (ALA)
- Cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage
- Sulfur rich foods such as onions, garlic, eggs
Have you identified and eliminated exposure to these toxins and seen improved thyroid health and/or reduced anxiety? Is ongoing detoxification a priority for you?