Liver health is often forgotten when it comes to preventing and managing thyroid disease, but skipping over the importance of the liver is a big mistake.
In fact, I would say liver health is just as important as muscle health in Hashimoto’s. If you need a little background information on Hashimoto’s, or if you want to learn about why muscle mass is also essential in Hashimoto’s, go check out my previous article here.
The Connection: Liver & Thyroid
The liver affects the thyroid, and the thyroid affects the liver. These two are good friends, if they are getting along that is. The liver plays a role in the activation and inactivation of thyroid hormones as well as the metabolism and transport of thyroid hormones. On the other hand, thyroid hormones affect liver cells as well as liver metabolism. One common way this connection presents is with cholesterol. The majority of cholesterol is made in the liver, and thyroid hormones impact both the production and break down and removal of cholesterol. When thyroid hormone production is altered, as is often seen with Hashimoto’s, this process is affected and can result in elevated cholesterol levels.
Furthermore, many folks with Hashimoto’s struggle with glucose regulation and may be dealing with metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, and outright diabetes. Why does this matter in regard to liver health? A diet rich in sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and simple carbohydrates can lead to a condition known as fatty liver (aka hepatic steatosis) which, if left unchecked, can then lead to cirrhosis. Yikes! The even bigger issue is that this condition often presents without obvious symptoms, and is often only discovered through a lipid panel and elevated liver enzymes or incidentally through imaging. This is just another example of why getting regular blood work is important if you want to prevent disease or catch it early before too much damage is done.
Let’s go back to the liver and thyroid hormone metabolism for a minute. The thyroid gland is responsible for making thyroid hormones of which about 80% is T4 and 20% is T3. T3, however, is more biologically active and we rely on tissues outside of the thyroid gland to convert T4 into T3. The primary place where this takes place is, you guessed it, in the liver! So, if your liver function is not optimized your ability to convert into the most active thyroid hormone T3 will be impaired.
What You Can Do
There are many things we can do to support liver function, but I’m going to give you my top 3 to implement:
1. Avoid or limit alcohol intake
It’s no secret that alcohol has a dramatic effect on liver health. Alcohol is also inflammatory, can impair adrenal function, and negatively impacts sex hormones. For those who aren’t aware, adrenal health (cortisol) and sex hormones are intricately connected with thyroid health and are especially important for those with Hashimoto’s.
2. Reduce toxin exposure
The liver is the primary location for detoxification, so reducing toxin exposure reduces the burden on the liver. We cannot avoid toxins completely and this is typically a long transition process so be patient with yourself. Find a starting point and over time implement more and more strategies to limit exposure. For women, a great place to start is with what you put on your skin – makeup, shampoo, conditioner, lotions, potions, all the things! The Environment Working Group is a great way to find out how your products stack up and some good alternatives.
3. Move your buns
Exercise is a must-have for liver health for several reasons. Exercise reduces fat in the liver, decreases inflammation in the liver, and improves blood flow to the liver. Not to mention, muscle is another location where T4 gets converted into T3 so having good muscle mass supports the thyroid in other ways.
Hopefully you now understand the importance of taking good care of your liver if you want to improve thyroid health. Connect with a practitioner who can guide you along the path to optimizing liver function.