You know by now that toxins can pose a serious threat to your health. But did you know that some of the most common toxins in our air, water, and food are particularly damaging to your thyroid? As I explain in my upcoming book, The Thyroid Connection, continuous exposure to these toxins is partly to blame for the fact that 27 million Americans suffer from thyroid disease.
Let’s take a look at three toxins that pose the greatest risk to your thyroid and then six ways to reduce your exposure.
Mercury can be found everywhere from cosmetics, to fish, to pesticides, to vaccines, and even your dental fillings! Your thyroid needs iodine to produce its hormones. Unfortunately for your thyroid, mercury and iodine are chemically very similar to each other, so your thyroid is quick to absorb and store mercury too.
If your thyroid is storing mercury in place of iodine, it won’t have enough iodine to produce adequate levels of T4 and T3 hormones, which can cause you to develop hypothyroidism.
Perchlorate is a chemical used primarily to create rocket fuel, but is also used extensively to produce fireworks, and sometimes fertilizers. Due to runoff, it’s commonly found in the water supply, as well as produce irrigated with perchlorate-contaminated water. Like mercury, perchlorate is chemically similar to iodine and is quickly absorbed by the thyroid, preventing it from absorbing enough iodine.
In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that perchlorate met the criteria as a contaminant to be regulated, yet five years later there are still no regulations on the books.
Nitrates are a group chemicals that are used in fertilizer and foods. Some foods like spinach and celery naturally contain nitrate, but other foods, primarily processed or cured meats like sandwich meat and bacon, have nitrates added to them as preservatives. Just like mercury and perchlorate, nitrates are similar enough to iodine to competitively block its absorption, which reduces thyroid function, but they have also been linked to increased rates of thyroid cancer.
8 Strategies to Reduce Your Toxic Burden
Understanding the dangers toxins cause in your body will help you find ways to reduce your toxic burden. Here are some ways to avoid exposure, and clear your the body of accumulated toxins:
- Clean Your Air
Mercury can be found in the air near coal burning plants. An easy way to clean the air in your home and reduce your mercury exposure is to grow air-purifying indoor plants, such as aloe vera, spider plants, and bamboo palms. You can also purchase a HEPA filter. The Sierra Club created an interactive map that allows you to see if there are any coal-burning power plants in your area.
- Clean Your Water
To protect your water, you can install basic water filters on all of your taps and showerheads. Remember, chemicals can be absorbed through the skin too!
- Buy Clean Food
- Choose Clean Body Products
You aren’t just what you eat, you’re also what you apply to your skin! And you might be surprised to find out that body products and cosmetics are not as regulated as you may think. The majority of the ingredients in these products have not been tested for safety, and many of them mimic your hormones and disrupt the endocrine system. Try to reduce the number of products you use, and when possible, choose products with safe ingredients.
- Know Your SNP Status
SNPs, pronounced “snips” and short for single-nucleotide polymorphisms, are genetic mutations that can affect all sorts of processes in your body. Three of these mutations in particular, two in the MTHFR gene and one in the GSTM1 gene, reduce your ability to detox heavy metals like mercury, so you’ll need to take extra care to avoid exposure and use supplements to support your body’s detoxification process. You can test for these mutations through a regular lab, just ask your doctor.
- Examine Your Mouth
Most dentists use amalgam fillings, which contain mercury and emit mercury vapor that can leach into your bloodstream. If you have amalgam fillings you can visit a biological dentist to discuss the impact it might be having on your health and your options for having them replaced.
- Support Your Liver
To reduce your existing toxic burden it is important to support your liver, where most of your body’s detoxification takes place. Eating a diet rich in nutrients will support your liver, as well as eating actual animal liver. For a delicious way to incorporate animal liver into your diet, check out this recipe for Organic Beef Liver with Bacon and Rosemary.
- Sweat It Out
You can speed up your detox process by doing something that makes you sweat, such as exercise. Feeling fatigued from hypothyroidism? Even a walk outside on a warm day will help you sweat out the toxins!
Dr. Amy Myers is a functional medicine physician and New York Times Best Selling Author of The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection. Her second book, The Thyroid Connection, explores why thyroid disease is such an epidemic and what truly causes thyroid dysfunction, and provides a 28-day plan to jumpstart your health and reverse thyroid symptoms.