A guide to drinking with Hashimoto’s

May 23, 2024

Why alcohol may affect you more than your non-autoimmune friends and what you can do about it plus my favourite low or no alc options.

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I'm Tessa

I'm a Nutritionist, Metabolic Balance coach, foodie, Mamma & Hashimoto's thriver. A few years ago Hashi's was kicking my in the butt. Now I help other women to regain their energy & maintain a healthy weight with ease. 


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Hashimoto's and alcohol

Drink and be merry, isn’t that how it goes?

Except it’s not always merry for those with a chronic inflammatory condition such as Hashimoto’s disease. It’s no secret that Hashimoto’s can throw hurdles in various aspects of life and sadly that doesn’t exclude your social life.
Let’s take a closer look at the Hashimoto’s, alcohol & some guidelines to ensure a smoother and enjoyable experience.

Understanding Hashimoto’s and Alcohol
Hashimoto’s disease involves the immune system mistakenly attacking the thyroid gland, leading to inflammation and potentially causing hypothyroidism, where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. Alcohol consumption can complicate matters further for individuals with Hashimoto’s due to its ability to suppress thyroid function and thyroid hormone production. Not great news is it? It also affects your immune function negatively and in general Hashi’s sufferers don’t tend to handle the effects of alcohol well.
Drinking alcohol may result in bacterial overgrowth and dysbiosis and the overall composition of the gut microbiome. Not to mention, alcohol is highly irritating and inflammatory to the gut lining. If you’ve listened to me for more than five minutes you’ll know how much importance I place on healing the gut in your hashimoto’s journey. Regular benders are going to wreak havoc on your gut health including your microbial diversity or microbiome health. We are also more likely to have trouble with the high histamine content in alcohol.

Effects of Alcohol on Thyroid Function
Alcohol consumption can disrupt the delicate balance of thyroid hormones in the body. Heavy alcohol intake suppresses your thyroid function, lowering levels of thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) and messes with how another hormone (TSH) responds to signals from your brain.
Also, drinking a lot may reduce thyroid volume, or essentially shrink your thyroid gland. This happens because alcohol is like poison to your thyroid cells.
It also affects your immune system and nutrient absorption, which may intensify the autoimmune inflammatory response meaning worse flare ups. Not to mention that alcohol consumption increases your cancer risk.

Alcohol affects the liver:
Hypothyroidism negatively affects liver function due to low circulating thyroid hormones. When your liver is already sluggish, your detoxification pathways under pressure and you add alcohol to the mix it means that alcohol and its byproducts may spend longer in your system, exacerbating the head splitting effects.
No, you aren’t making it up, you are more likely to suffer the next day than your non-Hashi’s friends.

A guide for Drinking Responsibly with Hashimoto’s:
There is no point mincing my words, alcohol is a poison. So obviously my recommendation is that no alcohol is best for your health. However, the dose makes the poison as they say so with anything I do believe it is possible to reach a happy medium. Also, not everyone is at that point in their journey or willing to totally give up alcohol altogether (me included) so here are my recommendations.

Know Your Limits:
Understanding how alcohol affects your body is key. Be mindful of your tolerance level and how Hashimoto’s may amplify the effects of alcohol.
Firstly, always bring awareness to your consumption of anything. If you tend to drink too much and then regret it, when you do drink, start to negotiate with yourself on how many you’ll have & then stick to it. Consider limiting your alcohol intake or opting for non-alcoholic alternatives. Having that extra cocktail or glass of wine at the end of the night, may not be worth the effects on your health.
When deciding how many drinks you will have, the number you choose needs to align with your values for your health & how you want to conduct yourself around alcohol. Because binge drinking isn’t good for anyone. The definition of binge drinking might surprise you. For most women this equates to 4+ standard drinks within 2 hours once per month.
With that in mind I would recommend that if you choose to drink you stick to 1-2 standard drinks no more than 2 nights per week.

Choose Wisely:
If you decide that you do want to drink then let me help you with some options which are less likely to make you feel awful the next day:

  • Opt for drinks with lower alcohol content, such as light beer or wine spritzers, to minimize the impact on thyroid function. Avoid sugary cocktails and high-strength spirits, as they can cause fluctuations in blood sugar levels and exacerbate inflammation.
    Quality makes a very big difference when it comes to alcohol. Cheap spirits contain higher levels of acetone, acetaldehyde, fusel alcohols & methanol which are the hangover inducing poisonous compounds your body has to detoxify the next day.
    Ensure any beers you drink are gluten free.
  • If drinking wine then it needs to be high quality, splash out on a good bottle. The house wine will not cut it. Some find that red wine in particular affects them more than white wine. Riesling and Pinot Grigio/Gris tend to be lower in alcohol so may be a better option. One of my personal favourites is the Side Gate Organic Riesling from the Clare Valley SA which is a very reasonable price with only 11.5% alcohol content.
  • High quality distilled gin or vodka will be highest in pure ethanol & less likely to cause hangovers or flares. High quality gin tends to be made from ethanol made with grapes which also makes it gluten free.
    Avoid sweet mixers and opt for soda water with a lemon, lime or fresh herbs to garnish.
    Cocktails can be sugar filled with cheap ingredients & contain 2-3 standard drinks each, check with your bar tender or stick to the suggestions above.

Stay Hydrated:
Alcohol can dehydrate the body, which may worsen symptoms of Hashimoto’s such as fatigue and constipation. Stay hydrated by alternating alcoholic beverages with water and consuming plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Monitor Symptoms:
Pay attention to how your body responds to alcohol consumption. Note any changes in energy levels, mood, or symptoms related to Hashimoto’s. If you experience adverse effects, consider abstaining from alcohol.

Take Medication into Account:
If you’re taking medication for Hashimoto’s, be aware of how alcohol may interact with your medication. Some medications may have adverse reactions when combined with alcohol.

Eat Before Drinking:
Consuming a balanced meal before drinking can help slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream and mitigate its effects on thyroid function. Opt for foods rich in protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates to provide sustained energy.

Plan Ahead:
At first it can be quite frustrating to have Hashimotos and to feel like you can’t join in with all the fun of those enjoying alcohol. Yet, planning ahead means that you can choose to arrange social activities that don’t revolve around alcohol. Things like breakfast in a café, time in nature or activities like bowling, art classes or theatre. Alcohol consumption is just as often about socialisation and the reality is that there are other ways to joyfully connect with those you care about.

Listen to Your Body:
Ultimately, listen to your body. It gives its own signals and lets you know its own limits. If alcohol negatively impacts your symptoms or quality of life, consider modifying your habits and consumption.

Alternatives to Alcohol:
In Australia, drinking culture is deeply ingrained in social gatherings. These days there is a much bigger market for alcohol free options. In days gone by it used to just be juice and cordial filled mocktails – Shirley Temple anyone? These days there is a wide variety of more sophisticated non-alcoholic options to choose from:

  • Sparkling water infused with fruit & herbs can be just as refreshing and flavourful as alcoholic cocktails.
  • Non-alcoholic beverages including beers, wine and gin.
  • Herbal teas, infused water, and specialty sodas offer a wide range of options for socialising without alcohol.

One of my favourite’s is Etch Sparkling, who make non-alcoholic sparkling beverages infused with Australian Natives. The range is sugar free, preservative free and all natural (no artificial sweeteners in sight!) It’s locally made on the Mornington Peninsula and I love their ethos, ‘Every time choose health’.

Finally, if you’re struggling with hypothyroidism weight gain then trust me, alcohol will make it that much harder to shift. It raises insulin which puts you in weight storage mode. And if you’re having sugar filled alcoholic drinks then that effect is compounded even further.

Navigating social situations with alcohol can be frustrating, (especially if you are new to your diagnosis.) It doesn’t mean that you have to miss out though. It’s more about being mindful, drinking in moderation or enjoying the many alcohol free options whilst listening to your body. That way you can still enjoy social gatherings while prioritising your health.

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