Recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has shown that a class of chemicals called perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) can alter thyroid function in men and women. The effects seem to be worse in women.

PFCs are known as endocrine disruptors, because they are capable of adversely altering the body’s hormone levels. They seem to target thyroid hormones in particular.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to completely avoid perfluorinated chemicals because they are used to manufacture so many items, including fabrics, carpets, cosmetics and paper coatings (such as the lining in paper coffee cups). These chemicals accumulate in your body, break down very slowly and take a long time to leave your body.

In this particular study, researchers analysed data from more than 1,100 people who took part in the 2007-2008 and 2009-2010 U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The researchers looked at blood levels of four different PFCs as well as the participants’ thyroid function.

PFCs were found to alter thyroid function in both men and women and were shown to raise the risk of mild hypothyroidism in women. Hypothyroidism is incredibly common in women and occurs when the thyroid gland cannot produce enough hormones. This slows down the metabolic rate and can lead to symptoms like weight gain, fluid retention, depression, fatigue, dry skin, scalp hair loss, constipation, or feeling excessively cold. Mild cases of hypothyroidism are often missed because the symptoms can be vague and put down to over work or lack of sleep, and also because many doctors do not offer the complete range of blood tests necessary to thoroughly evaluate thyroid function.

Perfluorinated chemicals can impair proper thyroid function because they reduce the ability of your thyroid gland to absorb iodine. Fluoride is well known for this. There is so much fluoride in our environment, as part of these chemicals and also in the water supply. Many Australians are already quite iodine deficient; the additional fluoride only makes this worse.

Iodine is predominantly found in seafood and seaweed, but many people find it difficult to obtain enough through their diet. Iodine supplements are available and in many cases are very necessary. Please be careful though; some iodine supplements on the market are incredibly concentrated and can actually do more harm than good.

If you would like more information, please see our book Your Thyroid Problems Solved, or call our health advisory line on (02) 4655 8855.

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, news release, July 17, 2013

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