Why Do Women with Hashimoto’s Need to Filter Their Tap Water?
Perhaps you’re wondering…
- What’s with all the hype about water filtration systems?
- Do you really need to invest in one?
- Is drinking tap water good for your thyroid?
- What is the best water to drink for hypothyroidism?
Thyroid disruptors are chemicals that affect how your thyroid works. They tend to also disrupt your other hormones such as estrogen and progesterone, causing hormone imbalances. Many of these substances are also obesogens, which can cause weight gain . These thyroid disruptors are commonly found in food, water, clothing, and other everyday household products. So, unfortunately, your home tap water and even bottled water can contain these thyroid disruptors.
Environmental Thyroid Disruptors Lurking in Your Water
Some thyroid disruptors are in our water naturally. Other chemicals soak through the ground and end up in water sources. Industrial manufacturing and farming are common culprits. However, common chemicals used in home lawns, gardens, and septic systems also contribute to this contamination.
Community water treatment systems protect us from getting sick from water-borne germs. They use different processes to filter and treat water before it gets to our homes [2,3]. These processes are based on the area you live in and what kind of contaminants are in the water source. These water treatment processes can add a lot of chemicals in addition to substances that are already in the water .
Your thyroid uses iodine to make the thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. Fluoride, bromide, and chloride are minerals that have a similar structure to iodide on the outside. When you have too many of these minerals in your body, your thyroid can confuse them with iodide. So, your thyroid may have trouble absorbing iodide or producing thyroid hormones. This is why fluoride, bromide, and chloride are bad for your thyroid .
The government started adding fluoride to water in 1945 to prevent dental cavities but it’s not 100% safe for everyone, especially if you have thyroid issues .
Key insight #2: Fluoride is a thyroid disruptor.
Fluoride may increase incidences of hypothyroidism in areas that have it added to the drinking water. Several studies specifically recommend home filtration to reduce fluoride in drinking water for those with thyroid issues .
Most tap water, swimming pools and hot tubs are disinfected with chemicals that contain chlorine, bromine, and iodine. These prevent you from getting sick if there are any water-borne germs present, but they can also have many long-term health effects.
Water disinfectants work by changing the bacteria, viruses or protozoa so that they can’t make you sick . Chlorine and chloramine are the most common disinfectants used. They are generally recognized as safe when used properly and prevent waterborne illness. However, these disinfectants interact with the metals and organic materials that they come in contact with.
When these disinfectants come into contact with any sort of dirt, plant matter, dead cells, body fluids, and other organic substances they create a group of chemicals called disinfection byproducts. They can enter your body through drinking, eating, breathing vapors, and through your skin (showers, baths, pools, etc) [6,8].
The disinfection byproducts interfere with many of your hormones. They can reduce the levels of your active thyroid hormone, T3. Also, they burden your detoxification organs, which may make your body struggle to eliminate other day-to-day toxins .
Plastic residues (building blocks)
Plastics are now a part of our daily life, including in:
- Food packaging. Most aluminum food cans are lined with BPA.
- Water pipes
- Medical equipment
- Coatings on clothing
- Dental materials
BPA (bisphenol A) and phthalates are two of the worst and most famous endocrine-disrupting plastic building blocks. However, there are also other plastic building blocks that you never hear of, like bisphenol S and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Most of these plastic building blocks have similar structures to thyroid and sex hormones. So, they can interfere with the functions of numerous hormones in your body.
Heavy metals like lead, mercury, aluminum, and cadmium are common in water supplies from both natural and industrial sources. These heavy metals affect some people’s thyroid function and trigger an autoimmune response [5,12].
- Lead – associated with elevated TSH and reduced thyroid function
- Mercury – persists in the thyroid and slows iodide absorption. This can slow down your thyroid hormone production.
- Aluminum – damages the thyroid and changes iodide absorption and how thyroid hormones are made. Aluminum also can trigger autoimmune responses that can target the thyroid.
Cadmium – accumulates in the thyroid, stresses it, and changes how thyroid cells function.
Nitrates and Nitrites
Nitrates are in our environment naturally but can rise to high levels in areas where there is a lot of fertilizer use, food processing plants, industrial waste, and septic systems. Nitrites can be formed as a disinfection byproduct .
Everybody has some nitrates and nitrites in their bodies, which perform some natural roles such as inhibiting germs and regulating blood pressure . However, excess nitrates and nitrites make it hard for the thyroid to absorb the iodine to produce thyroid hormones . Some genes may also make people more sensitive to nitrate and nitrate contamination.
A study in rural Mexico analyzed 102 people who regularly drank the high nitrate water from farming runoffs. 45% of them had subclinical hypothyroidism, and 15.7% of the ones with the susceptible gene had thyroid peroxidase antibodies .
What to Look for in a Water Filter if You Have Hashimoto’s
Removes the key thyroid disruptors, while leaving beneficial minerals
Aside from the thyroid disruptors, drinking water can also contain beneficial minerals. So, when looking for a water filter, make sure it is removing the thyroid disruptors while leaving the other minerals that your body needs .
Look for filters that remove disinfection byproducts, heavy metals, nitrates/nitrites, and fluoride.
Doesn’t add plastic residues to water
Many water filters are made out of low-quality components that can still release hormone-disrupting plastic residues into the water that you are trying to purify. Therefore, you want to look for products made with high-quality materials, and definitely BPA and phthalate-free.
Fits into your living situation
Take into consideration your living situation.
- Do you rent or own?
- What is financially doable?
- How much time do you have to maintain and clean the filter?
- Do you want to do the plumbing or use a detached system?
Why does hypothyroidism cause iron deficiency or anemia?
These water pitchers, such as those made by Brita, are the most common ones since you can easily find them in supermarkets and pharmacies.
- Makes water taste better
- Reduces chlorine, some heavy metals, and chemicals
- Space saving, easy to maintain, cost-effective, easy to use
- Filtration levels can vary widely between different brands
- Most don’t remove fluorides, nitrates, dissolved minerals, and germs
- Filters have to be replaced at regular intervals
- Made with inexpensive plastic
- Filters can grow mold
Overall, these basic water filters are better than nothing, but still leave many thyroid disruptors in the water.
Removes everything from the water
- Removes everything from the water including beneficial minerals
- Wastes a lot of water, which could be 4 – 20 gallons of wasted water to produce 1 gallon of purified water
- Most systems are expensive and require plumbing to install under the sink
If you can afford it, reverse osmosis could be okay if you add some minerals back to the water and are not in an area with water shortage issues.
Gravity-based water filter
These gravity-based water filters include those made by Berkey and other systems where you put water on the top and drink water that comes out the bottom.
- Depending on the filter, may remove the thyroid disruptors while leaving behind essential minerals
- Most have fluoride removal options
- Moderately priced but the good ones can still be a stretch for some
- Take up counter space
- May take a while to filter
- Filters have to be changed at regular intervals
- Can grow mold if not regularly cleaned. This can be especially bad if you’ve had health issues from mold exposure.
After doing my research, I’ve found ClearlyFiltered water filters to be affordable and solve the shortcomings of most other filters.
First, ClearlyFiltered has different types of filters to fit your budget and household needs, including:
- Water bottles
- Under sink systems
- Filters for your fridge
Their BPA and phthalate-free filters remove all kinds of contaminants at 99.5% efficiency, making their systems one of the best out there. They remove the stickiest of all contaminants, like fluoride and nitrates. Also, they are easiest to use and most cost-effective.
The CDC and EPA agree that people who are sensitive to chemicals or other health concerns should consider water filtration [6,16]. So, I recommend ClearlyFiltered to reduce your exposure to thyroid disruptors in your tap water.
Thriving and losing weight with Hashimoto’s involves much more than diet and exercise, so I made Thyroid Strong a comprehensive program. Inside Thyroid Strong, you’ll find 20+ hours of content from functional medicine doctors and other health experts in all areas related to thriving with Hashimoto’s. We also cover low-toxin living that minimizes exposure to thyroid disruptors. No other workout program includes this functional medicine piece; no functional medicine program out there covers the right way to exercise. In Thyroid Strong, you’re getting everything that I’ve learned putting my Hashimoto’s into remission after a decade of struggling and researching.
1 Heindel, J. J. and Blumberg, B. (2019) Environmental Obesogens: Mechanisms and Controversies. Annu. Rev. Pharmacol. Toxicol. 59, 89–106.
2 (2022, May 18) Water treatment.
3 Us Epa, O. W. (2019) Optimization to reduce Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs).
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5 Błażewicz, A., Wiśniewska, P. and Skórzyńska-Dziduszko, K. (2021) Selected Essential and Toxic Chemical Elements in Hypothyroidism-A Literature Review (2001-2021). Int. J. Mol. Sci. 22.
6 (2020, November 18) Water disinfection with chlorine and chloramine.
7 Us Epa, O. W. (2015) Lead and Copper Rule.
8 Gonsioroski, A., Mourikes, V. E. and Flaws, J. A. (2020) Endocrine Disruptors in Water and Their Effects on the Reproductive System. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 21.
9 Sui, S., Liu, H. and Yang, X. (2022) Research Progress of the Endocrine-Disrupting Effects of Disinfection Byproducts. J Xenobiot 12, 145–157.
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11 Gore, A. C., Chappell, V. A., Fenton, S. E., Flaws, J. A., Nadal, A., Prins, G. S., Toppari, J. and Zoeller, R. T. (2015) EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. Endocr. Rev. 36, E1–E150.
12 Kruger, E., Toraih, E. A., Hussein, M. H., Shehata, S. A., Waheed, A., Fawzy, M. S. and Kandil, E. (2022) Thyroid Carcinoma: A Review for 25 Years of Environmental Risk Factors Studies. Cancers 14.
13 García-Torres, E., Pérez-Morales, R., González-Zamora, A. and Calleros-Rincón, E. Y. (2022) Subclinical Hypothyroidism in Families Due to Chronic Consumption of Nitrate-Contaminated Water in Rural Areas with Intensive Livestock and Agricultural Practices in Durango, Mexico. Water, Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute 14, 282.
14 Ma, L., Hu, L., Feng, X. and Wang, S. (2018) Nitrate and Nitrite in Health and Disease. Aging Dis. 9, 938–945.
15 Gandarilla-Esparza, D. D., Calleros-Rincón, E. Y., Macias, H. M., González-Delgado, M. F., Vargas, G. G., Sustaita, J. D., González-Zamora, A., Ríos-Sánchez, E. and Pérez-Morales, R. (2021) FOXE1 polymorphisms and chronic exposure to nitrates in drinking water cause metabolic dysfunction, thyroid abnormalities, and genotoxic damage in women. Genet. Mol. Biol. 44, e20210020.
16 Environmental Protection Agency. (2005) Filtration Facts. Water Health Series. Site: https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-11/documents/2005_11_17_faq_fs_healthseries_filtration.pdf