Becoming a mother is a profound moment in time, and one that should be prepared for with intention. Pregnancy and the postpartum-state act like a magnifying glass on any hormonal imbalances, deficiencies or health issues that are already present. As such, in my opinion, there is no such thing as premature preparation for conception.
In my practice, there is a condition that I see most frequently in postpartum mamas, and I want to show you how you can help prevent them. For those already in their postpartum season who didn’t have the tools to prepare, the tips below will help you to heal your body, and nourish and nurture you back to health.
Our thyroid is an important gland in our neck responsible for producing hormones that control things like our appetite, metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and heavily influences the healthy development of our babys in utero.
Thyroiditis can present as hyperthyroidism (having too much of the thyroid hormone) or hypothyroidism (where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the thyroid hormone).
Both conditions often go undiagnosed due to women often being told that the anxiety, depression and other symptoms they experience are due to sleep disruption and the new mama angst around their baby’s health.
Symptoms of hypothyroid:
- Loss of lateral 3rd of eyebrows
- Aches in the joints and muscles
- Reduced milk supply
- Dry skin
- Feeling cold all the time
- Weight gain
- Carpal tunnel
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Trouble sleeping (even when baby is!)
- Weight loss
- Shaking, tremor like movements in one or more parts of your body
- Feel hot all the time or hot flushes
- Feeling like your heart is racing
- Heart palpitations
Left untreated, postpartum thyroiditis can become a permanent health issue that steals your joy, your energy, and your ability to embrace motherhood. Fortunately, there are things you can implement to heal (or prevent!).
- Heal gut permeability (AKA, leaky gut!)
Our gut linings can sustain damage via food intolerances, antibiotics, NSAIDS (e.g., ibuprofen), SIBO and multiple other factors. When the gut is damaged in this way, proteins can enter your bloodstream. The body then identifies them as unknown substances and begins producing antibodies. This can then initiate your body’s destruction of its own tissues.
Things you can do: Rule out any food intolerances and adopt an anti-inflammatory nutrition approach. This could look like reducing some types of grains and legumes that don’t feel good for you digestively and being mindful about your preparation methods of those types of foods, e.g., pre-soaking prior to cooking. I also recommend eating foods that support gut lining integrity like bone broths, slow cooked meats, and foods with gelatin + glycine. It can be helpful to incorporate anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger and turmeric, try adding them to soups, stews and teas.
- Ensure you have adequate levels of the nutrients needed for thyroid function.
Your thyroid gland requires various minerals and nutrients to produce thyroid hormones the way it’s designed to. These include zinc, selenium, vitamin C, b vitamins, tyrosine, and iodine (a note on iodine: please do not start supplementing with iodine if you are postpartum, although it is necessary for thyroid hormone formation it can exasperate autoimmunity. I.e., it can make your thyroiditis related symptoms worse!)
Things you can do: Incorporate as many of the foods high in the elements mentioned above. The best way to raise your levels is to consume the nutrients in the bio-available packages they naturally come in. I recommend lots of free-range eggs, cod liver oil, Brazil nuts, sesame and pumpkin seeds, grass fed beef, prawns and scallops.
- Support healthy stomach acids levels.
One of the ways we can be more susceptible to thyroiditis is when we get overgrowths or translocations of bacteria in the gut. This often happens due to low stomach acid levels. When we have adequate stomach acid, it inhibits the growth of ‘bad’ bacteria in the gut.
Things you can do: Try a ‘box breathing’ routine before meals to assist you in mindfully chewing and allowing your natural digestive enzymes to work. This looks like: breathing in for count of 4, holding the breath for a count of 4, exhaling for a count of 4, holding for a count of 4 and repeating the same cycle a few times. Endeavour to eat a diet that favours vegetables, fruits, and clean animal derived proteins over processed foods. My favourite, time-tested recommendation to improve stomach acid is supplementing with apple cider vinegar at a 1 + 1/2 tablespoons mixed with water prior to a meal.
Last but not least, you need to find your root cause! Pregnancy and childbirth may have been your trigger but there are other factors that have led to the development of your thyroiditis. I encourage you to seek the help of a practitioner and have a full thyroid panel done which include:
- free T3
- free T4
- Reverse T3
- Anti- Thyroglobulin
- Anti-TPO antibodies
In addition, these markers are very helpful in creating a targeted plan to help you heal on a bio-individualised level:
- CRP (or C-reactive protein) a test that detects inflammation
CBC (or Complete Blood Count) which can help detect anemias
- Folate, B12 and homocysteine which can provide us with information on how effectively your body is utilizing B vitamins.
Vitamin D3 which is essential thyroid and immune health + function
Based off the current research available, it is estimated 20-30% of women develop permanent thyroid issues after childbirth. Don’t let that statistic scare you, mama! Rather, let it empower you to advocate for your health and to start implementing the nourishment and nurture your incredible body requires.
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Author – Eva Acheson, owner of Fertile Foodie.