Some 20 million Americans have an under-active thyroid — a condition that affects eight times more women than men. A surprising culprit: the global pandemic, explains Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of Zapped. “Some of the habits that have become especially important since the COVID-19 pandemic began — like talking on a mobile phone to stay connected with family and friends — contribute to thyroid slowdowns.”
The good news: New research from the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, Massachusetts, finds that simply being more mindful about your everyday habits can significantly lower levels of thyroid-slowing compounds in the body. “You can make some easy, practical changes to limit your exposure in a way that’s reasonable and impactful,” promises Aly Cohen, M.D., who is triple board certified in internal medicine, rheumatology, and integrative medicine.
Add Borax to your laundry.
Spending more time at home means more time wearing our comfiest clothing, like leggings and sweatpants. But these pieces often contain fibers that are made with lab-created chemicals per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). These chemicals make fabric water- and stain-resistant, but they can be problematic for your thyroid, asserts Dr. Cohen, coauthor of Non-Toxic and founder of TheSmartHuman.com. “These chemicals can disrupt the production or normal function of thyroid hormones.”
Fortunately, simply washing new clothes twice before wearing will get rid of at least 50 percent of chemicals clinging to fabrics. For maximum effect, add one tablespoon of Borax per gallon of water. The household staple’s high pH helps strip chemicals from the clothing.
Suds up after shopping.
Store receipts contain the thyroid-blocking chemical bisphenol A (BPA), which rubs off onto cash and your hands. This becomes a problem when you apply antibacterial hand sanitizer after touching receipts or paper money. The reason? “Studies show that compounds in hand sanitizer push BPA through the skin, where it enters the bloodstream,” reveals Dr. Cohen. “BPA can disrupt thyroid hormones by decreasing their production.”
Keeping yourself safe is as easy as washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water when you get home instead of using sanitizer immediately. Also helpful: Pay with a credit card and ask for an e-receipt, which many retailers and restaurants now offer.
Opt for low-tech headphones.
If you rely on a cellphone to stay in touch with loved ones, changing the way you hold the device can keep your thyroid healthy. Why? Spending more than 2 hours a day talking on a cellphone raises markers of slow thyroid by 39 percent. Blame electromagnetic fields (EMFs), radiation waves emitted by wireless technology. When you put the phone to your ear, the thyroid gland in your neck is exposed to EMFs. “The thyroid is supersensitive to radiation,” says Gittleman.
But EMF absorption drops by 15 percent for every millimeter a cellphone is away from the body, so she advises keeping distance between your head and the phone. Instead, chat on speaker or use a non-Bluetooth “air tube” headset — the kind that plugs into the phone — so you can keep your phone a safe distance away.
The article originally appeared in our print magazine.