Fluoride is everywhere – it’s in your toothpaste, your tea, your medicines and your tap water. It’s good for your teeth, but even low levels found in fluoridated drinking water can affect your thyroid health, leaving you tired, depressed and gaining weight despite your healthy lifestyle.
Fluoride and Thyroid Health
Hypothyroidism runs rampant in the US, with more than 15 million people diagnosed, the majority being women over age 40. The thyroid is the master regulator of metabolism, which includes how fast you burn calories and how fast your heart beats. When this butterfly shaped gland slows down, you can feel like your body has gone into hibernation – everything slows down, you hold on to excess weight and you just want to sleep.
Fluoride is an endocrine disruptor that suppresses the thyroid, and this effect is more severe when iodine is deficient. Iodine is an essential building block of thyroid hormones, including T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine), which you may have seen on your blood tests. Fluoride slows thyroid function and mimics these thyroid hormones, and can even damage thyroid tissue. This usually shows up on blood tests as low levels of these hormones and clinical hypothyroidism, but in the case where fluoride mimics thyroid hormones, the levels appear normal even though you have all the symptoms.
Fluoride in the Water
A large British study released in 2015 found where tap water was fluoridated at levels of 0.3 milligrams per liter, underactive thyroid rates rose by 30 percent. And rural areas where tap water was not fluoridated, rates of hypothyroidism were almost half of urban areas where fluoride was added to the water. Even if you don’t live in a community that fluoridates water, you are still exposed to it. It’s in almost all processed foods and drinks, from beer and soft drinks to chicken nuggets and baby foods.
In 2015, the US Department of Health and Human Services decreased the prior maximum of fluoride in the water from 1.2 milligrams per liter to 0.7 milligrams per liter. This change was not based on thyroid health but on the prevalence of fluorosis, a condition where too much fluoride causes cosmetic issues with teeth, weakening of the bones, and symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Fluoridated water at 1 milligram per liter is estimated to cause fluorosis in one out of every 6 people age 4-21 years.
Statistically, only 0.01 – 0.05 milligrams of fluoride per kilogram of body weight per day are associated with goiter and hypothyroid. Doing the math, this means when the average-sized adult takes in more than 3.5 milligrams of fluoride per day, it can slow the thyroid function and lead to hypothyroidism. This number drops to only 0.7 milligrams per day when you are iodine deficient. This means drinking only 1 liter of fluoridated water per day can lead to hypothyroidism. In children these numbers are even smaller.
Fluoride in Kombucha and Green Tea
Fermented food and drinks are the latest health heros, providing prebiotics and probiotics that boost the immune system and promote digestive health. Kombucha is one of the most popular – its caffeine, fizz and sweetness make it a common substitute for soda drinkers to kick the habit. If you’ve ever made kombucha, you know the main ingredient is tea. Black, green and white tea all absorb fluoride from the soil, and the older the leaves, the more concentrated the fluoride is. It’s even more concentrated in kombucha because the tea is fermented. It only takes 3 cups (24 ounces) of your favorite green tea to reach the levels of fluoride associated with hypothyroid. It takes even less of black tea (including iced tea) and much less of kombucha.
Fluoride in Medicines
It’s now estimated 20% of all pharmaceuticals contain fluoride. The most commonly used include the fluoroquinolone antibiotics like Cipro and antidepressants like Prozac (fluoxetine). Although most of these drugs have chemical bonds in them strong enough to hold on to the fluoride and escort it out of the body, some, like Cipro, do release large amounts of fluoride into the body and can cause toxicity.
4 Ways to Flush the Fluoride
- Eat organic and avoid processed foods. Common pesticides contain fluoride because it is so toxic to nerves and skeletal structures of insects and pests. Avoid these pesticides by eating organic foods. Grapes and grape juice, walnuts, cocoa powder, dried beans and dried fruits are the highest food sources of fluoride. Also, cooking in Teflon pans increases the fluoride content of foods dramatically.
- Choose fluoride-free dental products. Over 95% of toothpastes now contain fluoride, as well as many mouthwashes and the products used at the dentist’s office. Avoid the fluoride and look for natural products with natural antimicrobials like coconut oil and xylitol.
- Drink clean water. Water quality is an issue all over the country, and fluoride is only one chemical that’s concerning. Use a good quality water filter and drink plenty of clean water to hydrate. UNI KEY has several types of water filters that will filter out the fluoride and other contaminants.
- Consider iodine and boron supplementation. Dr. David Brownstein estimates over 80% of Americans are deficient in iodine, in large part due to excess fluoride. We accumulate milligrams of fluoride per day but get only micrograms of iodine, even through iodized salt. Iodine, selenium and magnesium all work together and can protect the thyroid from excess fluoride and optimize thyroid function. Just 3mg of boron daily displaces fluoride from deep tissues including bones and thyroid. A good multivitamin or bone health supplement should contain the boron you need to flush the fluoride.
- Peckham S , Lowery D , Spencer S . Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water. J Epidemiol Community Health 2015; 69: 619–624.
- McDonagh, Marian S.; Whiting, Penny F; Wilson, Paul M.; et al. (7 October 2000). “Systematic review of water fluoridation”. BMJ. 321(7265): 855–859.
- National Research Council (2006). Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.