A quick Google search uncovers a rabbit hole of literature tying water to thyroid health. We sifted through the piles of research to pen this bite-sized blog designed to get you up to speed on the link between the two.
Keep scrolling to discover the surprising connection between water and thyroid health…
The Thyroid & How It Works:
For some, the thyroid is nothing more than a culprit friends and family point to as the source of their weight gain. But this small-yet-mighty gland, perched atop the base of your neck, has all kinds of impact on your health and wellness. In short, your thyroid is part of the endocrine system that controls your metabolism — which is why it can be blamed for both weight gain and weight loss — but its duties don’t stop there. The gland plays a part in nearly every bodily function from breathing to blood pressure.
The thyroid is powered by iodine from food. It grabs iodine from the bloodstream and uses it as fuel to create thyroid hormones. It then secretes hormones into the bloodstream to keep the body functioning properly. If the gland isn’t releasing the right amount of hormones, you could be in trouble. Translation: If it’s off, you’re off. So it’s best not to mess with this little guy... nor the iodine that activates it.
Common Thyroid Problems:
Let’s take a lightning-fast look at common thyroid disorders before we dive into their potential link to water:
Hyperthyroidism: The result of an overactive thyroid producing excess thyroid hormones, hyperthyroidism speeds up your metabolism and can lead to weight loss, anxiety, muscle weakness, and heart problems. Goiter — a noncancerous enlargement of the thyroid gland — can also be a symptom of hyperthyroidism.
Hypothyroidism: The opposite of hyperthyroidism, this condition occurs when an underactive thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormones. This can lead to weight gain, depression, fatigue, and additional complications specific to infants, children, and teens.
Autoimmune Disorders: Graves’ disease is a common cause of hyperthyroidism. On the flip side, Hashimoto’s disease can be connected to hypothyroidism. Like all autoimmune disorders, their triggers aren’t fully understood. But both disorders attack the thyroid.
Thyroid Nodules: These potentially cancerous growths on the thyroid gland can be linked to Hashimoto’s disease or iodine deficiency. Depending on the cause, they can mimic the symptoms of hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism.
Thyroid Cancer: There are several types of thyroid cancer, all of which occur when cells in the thyroid mutate. Nodules, swollen lymph nodes, and neck pain are common symptoms, and treatments can include surgery, radiation, or chemo. Unfortunately, thyroid cancer can be aggressive and even result in death.
All heavy stuff. But where does water fit in? Let’s take a peek...
What Everybody Gets Wrong About Water
Ask around and you’ll find those diagnosed with thyroid disorders making significant lifestyle changes to help manage and treat their symptoms, protect their thyroid, and control their iodine intake. And if they’re on medication, this may be more of a non-negotiable than a wise decision. The logical way to self-manage is to adjust your diet. Problem is: The treasure trove of dieting articles out there almost always miss one thing: Water. It’s a near-perfect replacement for the sugary drinks and caffeine-loaded coffee that can cause your thyroid to go haywire while theoretically sidestepping contaminants that do the same. But we say “near-perfect” for a reason: Not all water is created equal. Allow us to explain...
The Surprising Link Between Water Quality & Thyroid Health:
Now that you know the basics about the thyroid, let’s reveal what you came here for: Water’s impact on thyroid health.
The truth is water quality can affect thyroid function; for better or for worse.
We all know tap water is littered with contaminants. And several of those chemicals, metals, and toxins have the potential to throw your thyroid out of whack. We’ll unmask the perpetrators in a second, but first think about this: If the stuff you drink up and wash up in impacts iodine in any way, shape, or form, your thyroid could be at risk. It’s like filling your gas tank with contaminated fuel and expecting the engine to be in tip-top shape.
Contaminants Found In Water That May Impact Thyroid Function:
Some you’ll recognize, some you won’t. The scary part is all of these chemicals, metals, and toxins can be found lurking in tap water (and in some cases, bottled water). Which means if you trust the tap, you could be unintentionally inviting them to toy with your thyroid:
That’s not to say these contaminants put you on the fast-track to thyroid disorder. But when consumed in large volumes, they have the potential to do damage. Now that we’ve sounded the alarm, let’s zoom in on these sneaky assailants for a second…
Fluoride from drinking water has been associated with underactive thyroids. Due to its similar chemical structure, fluoride almost “tricks” the thyroid into thinking it’s pulling in iodine. But the thyroid can't use fluoride as fuel to create hormones, which means fluoride is stealing iodine’s space in the thyroid’s “gas tank” and opening up the door for hypothyroidism. The evidence hasn’t always been conclusive, but where there’s smoke there’s fire. And we’ve seen enough from various sources to be convinced fluoride can play a part in hypothyroidism. Unlike some countries, the United States fluoridates the majority of its water sources. So you can almost be certain your tap water has fluoride floating around in it. If the levels are high enough, it could be slowing your thyroid down.
Chlorine and bromine can deprive the thyroid of iodine, too. Like fluoride, these elements can be mistakenly absorbed by the thyroid in place of iodine due to their chemical structure that near-mimics the thyroid’s go-to fuel. For further proof, look no further than the periodic table. Chlorine, fluorine, and bromine are all in group 17, sharing a column with iodine. And let’s not forget, your skin can absorb chlorine almost every time you take a hot shower. You’re not just drinking it, you could be cleaning up in it.
Perchlorate can interfere with the production of thyroid hormones. Even the EPA has confirmed it. So, yeah: Sipping on this chemical found in rocket fuel, fireworks, and tap water, could eventually be detrimental to your thyroid. You may ask "Why have I never heard of Perchlorate before?" Well, what we classify as an emerging contaminant and is something that is being found more and more often in today's water supply but is not yet regulated.
BPA could be a trigger for Hashimoto’s disease and hypothyroidism. BPA can sneak into tap water sources and slowly make its way to your faucet. Plus, your tap water isn’t the only concern: Bottled water can expose you to BPA, too. Consider BPA B-A-D for thyroid health.
Nitrates might increase risk of thyroid disease. This is an admittedly tricky one. Older studies, like this one, provide evidence of a link between nitrates in drinking water and risk of thyroid cancer, but also call for more research to be done. A few years later, this 2010 piece seemed to confirm some related suspicions. Either way, we say play it safe and steer clear of nitrates.
Lead can be linked to depressed thyroid function. Look no further than Flint or the any old and aging municipal water district for proof that the threat of lead lurking in your water is very real. It’s not something you want to be sipping on by choice.
Other herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals that have been found in tap water have been linked loosely to thyroid-related concerns. Due to inconclusive evidence and limited research, we chose to leave these contaminants unnamed. But the fact remains: When it comes to thyroid health, there’s a lot to be weary of in your water.
What’s the Solution?
Clean water. Plain and simple. Our message is clear: You can’t trust the tap. And frankly, bottled water probably isn’t any better. In fact, those plastic bottles could just be tap water with a fancy label slapped around ‘em. There’s no guarantee your sink, fridge, shower, and go-to bottled water brand are going to terrorize your thyroid, but why put yourself at risk? Plus, ask anyone in the know, and they’ll tell you getting your hands on clean water is a phenomenal way to help self-manage symptoms and possibly protect your thyroid.
Your best bet: Invest in an advanced filtration system you can count on. Typical carbon or charcoal filters aren’t powerful enough to remove some of the hazards mentioned above. And expensive reverse osmosis systems remove the beneficial nutrients and minerals found naturally in water, while leaving behind buckets of waste (and frankly, still don't remove as much of the contaminants as Clearly Filtered does). Our breakthrough filtration systems recognize what should stay and what should go — snatching up almost all of the pesky contaminants listed above — while leaving beneficial nutrients and minerals untouched, so you never have to worry about what’s in your water again.