Thyroid disease is one of the most common endocrine illnesses in women of reproductive age and if unrecognised, it can increase the risk of miscarriages, placental abruption, hypertensive disorders and growth problems.
Pregnancy poses a huge impact on the thyroid, particularly in the first trimester where the baby relies on the mother’s production of the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The HCG hormone stimulates the thyroid gland to produce more TSH as it is critical for foetal development.
If the mother is not consuming enough iodine and/or her thyroid health is impaired due to diet or lifestyle factors, it may result in huge repercussions in either the baby’s or the mother’s health. The two most common thyroid problems stemming from an autoimmune base are Hashimoto’s (hypothyroidism) and Grave’s (hyperthyroidism) disease.
It must be noted that genetics only play a small part in the prevalence of these thyroid problems, though environment (food, water, air, toxins, emotions etc) play a larger part in the diseases development. As Caldwell Esselstyn says, “Genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.” You can read more about epigenetics here. The following disease symptoms and prevalence may develop months after pregnancy, so it is important to continue testing or to stay in tune with your body’s symptoms.
This occurs when the thyroid gland becomes overactive, generating too much thyroid hormones.
- Sleep issues or insomnia
- Weight loss
- Increased appetite
- Heart palpitations
- Mood swings
- Increased sweating
- Enlarged thyroid gland.
This occurs when the thyroid gland becomes underactive, due to not enough production of the thyroid hormones.
- Weight gain
- Mood issues
- Dry skin
- Sensitivity to cold
- Decreased libido
- Menstrual cycle changes
- Sleep issues or insomnia.
It is absolutely essential that thyroid care and regular testing is in place before, during and after labour as thyroid disease can become prevalent at these times. To provide a true diagnosis or a greater understand of the health of your thyroid, it is strongly encouraged that you seek testing via a Full Thyroid Analysis.
This includes testing of the following:
- the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH)
- Free T4
- Free T3
- Reverse T3
- Peroxidase antibodies
- Thyroglobulin antibodies.
For nutrients that support thyroid health, it is great to get these tested; ferritin, vitamin D3, Selenium, zinc (in conjunction with zinc taste testing), magnesium and urinary iodine.
Due to the two most common thyroid problems stemming from an autoimmune base, it is absolutely crucial to calm down the immune system by removing inflammatory foods from the diet. Some inflammatory foods include:
- Gluten from wheats, oats, rye, spelt and barley
- Refined vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, soybean or corn oil and more
- Corn, particularly if it’s not organic
- Soy, particularly if it isn’t organic or been fermented
- Artificial colours and flavours
- If you have already eliminated the above foods, you may need to consider nightshade vegetables (the main ones are – potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers/capsicum), eggs, nuts, grains and/or legumes.
These foods stimulate your immune system, which will increase the attack on your thyroid and therefore worsen your condition and/or stop health improvements.
Foods that women can consume on a regular basis to support thyroid health includes:
- Iodine rich foods such as kelp noodles, dulse flakes and in some cases, women can supplement with liquid iodine that is painted on the skin only. NB Everyone requires different amounts of iodine depending on the individual’s circumstances, so it is important to seek professional help to assist in understanding your needs. One way to do this is through urinary iodine testing with your GP.
- Foods rich in selenium which include activated brazil nuts, liver, sardines, chicken, beef and tuna
- Liver, to ensure you receive an array of B vitamins, zinc and iron
- Wild caught fish for Omega 3 fatty acids
- Green vegetables, to support detoxification and to receive an array of micronutrients.
Your thyroid relies upon many nutrients though in particular iodine, so the list of the foods above is essential for maintaining or improving your thyroid health.
Other things to consider:
- Treat any potential gut infections to create a balanced amount of beneficial bacteria
- Make sleep a priority
- Ensure you receive adequate amounts of sunshine daily
- Do more of what you love to reduce stress and enhance happiness
- Seek personalised advice through a trusted holistic practitioner.
For pregnant women, it is crucial to pay attention to your nutrition and taking extra care, as the body changes dramatically during pregnancy.
For more information about the importance of the thyroid gland, you can read more on The Thyroid Foundation website.