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Pregnancy and Hypothyroidism: Are You at Risk?

What do pregnancy and an underactive thyroid have to do with each other?

These are two seemingly unrelated conditions. However, postpartum hypothyroidism is more common than most people think and does not always show up in traditional thyroid blood tests that only test for thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). If you feel you have hypothyroid symptoms, but your blood TSH levels are normal, you may want to investigate other factors that could point to an underactive thyroid and lead to an effective treatment protocol.

Suffering from an underactive thyroid as a result of pregnancy is often difficult to detect in traditional thyroid blood tests. Find out how to protect your health and boost your immune system today!

The thyroid sits just under the thyroid cartilage in the region of the throat.

This endocrine gland is responsible for energy production in the body, maintaining body temperature, and has a significant impact on moods and emotions. This is why common signs that may indicate a hypothyroid condition are:

  • Chronically cold hands and cold feet
  • Weight gain
  • Depression
  • Hair loss
  • Low energy and constant fatigue

Hypothyroidism is often correlated with Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune condition where the body attacks its own thyroid gland.

It has been reported that in the US, 90% of adult hypothyroidism is autoimmune, mostly due to Hashimoto's. (1) This is an immune system disorder, and when treating autoimmune hypothyroidism, it is essential to treat the immune system. Often, thyroid-regulating medications are given, and immune system dysfunction is ignored. This causes hypothyroid symptoms to persist and leaves the root of the condition left untreated. The Body Ecology Diet is an important foundation for balancing autoimmune conditions.

Other factors that cause low thyroid function:

Hypothyroidism can be caused by an autoimmune disorder, or it can also be due to other factors, such as a truly underactive thyroid, adrenal fatigue, high levels of stress, hormone imbalance, or dysfunction of the pituitary gland, which is located in the brain. Any dysfunction of these metabolic pathways can lead to an underactive thyroid.

Pregnancy's role in triggering hypothyroidism:

During and after pregnancy, there is a shift in the immune system that has to do with the balance of what is known as T helper cell 1 (TH-1) response and T helper cell 2 (TH-2) response. Additionally, hormone levels fluctuate, and stress that your body may have already been dealing with, such as food sensitivities, gut dysbiosis, and blood sugar imbalances, can also lead to an underactive thyroid gland.

During third trimester, a pregnant woman becomes TH-2 dominant, whereas postpartum, she becomes TH-1 dominant.

TH-1 immune response and TH-2 immune response are both necessary immune pathways in your body. Think of it this way: once your body locates a pathogen, it uses a couple of different methods to protect itself from invasion.

The TH-1 response prompts the release of cytotoxic T-cells and natural killer cells (NK cells) that target the offender or antigen-presenting cell. The TH-2 response is more delayed and uses the B-cells to orchestrate a tagging system that allows the body to remember the offender, so that it can act with greater speed and efficiency the next time around.

Certain autoimmune conditions, like Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Hashimoto's, tend to be TH-1 dominant. (2) Under the right conditions, this can manifest in a patient as little or complete absence of autoimmune symptoms during pregnancy and a surge or autoimmune flare-up after pregnancy.

Pituitary hypofunction can also lead to an underactive thyroid.

The pituitary gland is one of the main regulators or hormones throughout the entire body. One hormone that it releases is TSH, which prompts the release of thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). What causes the pituitary to function at suboptimal levels? Active stress response, which can be the result of something like too little sleep to something else like too much caffeine, too much work, or too many carbohydrates.

Between meal times, driving through traffic, work, and home life, many people experience a stress response through much of the day. Postpartum depression is also an indication that the pituitary gland is overworked; after pregnancy, the hormones are working double-time and the pituitary can become exhausted. (3)

During and after pregnancy, there are dramatic fluctuations of hormone levels in the body.

As we mentioned above, these dramatic fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone can play a role in exhausting the pituitary gland. A pituitary gland that has fallen asleep at the wheel is of little use when directing TSH to the thyroid gland.  Additionally, stress can affect the amount of hormones available to the body.

High levels of cortisol will tax levels of pregnenolone, which is used to make hormones like progesterone and testosterone. This is known as the pregnenolone steal. Pregnenolone steal causes various hormonal imbalances and is another reason to check your stressors and hidden triggers that cause cortisol to rise. (4)

Doctors are still fine-tuning an effective model for understanding and treating the many variations of hypothyroidism.

New research is increasingly making more connections between seemingly unrelated biochemical pathways in the body. It's important to understand the interrelatedness between the thyroid gland and other endocrine glands in the body. Stress, not only the kind that you feel emotionally but also the kind of stress that goes unnoticed, like irregular sleep patterns, blood sugar imbalances, and a chronic inflammatory response, is one of the main culprits involved in hypothyroid conditions.

This means that diet and supporting the body with the right nutritional supplements can be absolutely pivotal when treating hypothyroidism.

While correct diagnosis is key, there are certain nutritional steps that you can take that will across the board benefit your thyroid and your overall health:

  • Follow the Body Ecology Diet. Too many carbohydrates will cause cortisol levels to rise. Not only that, but often, an unhealthy amount of carbohydrates is linked with foods that feed pathogenic bacteria. These are foods that are high in sugar and foods that are frequently associated with food sensitivities, such as gluten and other grains.  Avoiding these triggers, food combining, and the 80/20 Rule will also allow the body to maintain proper blood sugar levels.
  • Include fermented foods and probiotic beverages into your diet. Good microflora support a healthy immune response by working with T-regulator cells that keep the TH-1 and TH-2 system in balance.
  • Build the thyroid and adrenals. Sea vegetables, Ocean Plant Extract, and Ancient Earth Minerals will help balance the endocrine glands.

WHAT TO REMEMBER MOST ABOUT THIS ARTICLE:

Although pregnancy and an underactive thyroid may seem unrelated, postpartum hypothyroidism is a highly common condition. On top of that, it is not always detected in traditional thyroid blood tests. Pregnancy can often trigger hypothyroidism due to changes in the immune system as hormone levels fluctuate.

It is important to seek diagnosis for postpartum hypothyroidism as quickly as possible, and you can also protect your health by following the Body Ecology Diet, eating fermented foods and probiotic beverages liberally, and building up your thyroid and adrenals with Body Ecology products like the Ocean Plant Extract!

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REFERENCE:

  1. Bailleres. Autoimmunity and hypothyroidism. CEM. 1988 Aug; 2 (3) : 591-617.
  2. Cytokine-modulated regulation of helper T cell populations. JTB. 2000 Oct 21; 206 (4) : 539-60.
  3. Krysiak R, Okopien B, Szkrobka W, Herman ZS. Thyroid disorders in pregnancy and after delivery. Przegl Lek. 2007; 64 (3) : 159-64.
  4. Kharrazian, Datis. Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? MJ Publishing: New York. 2010.

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  • Robyn

    As a post-partum woman diagnosed with Hashimoto's, I think it is important to point out that iodine (very high in sea vegetables) can have unpredictable effects on Hashimoto's autoimmune disorder. While iodine is useful for the thyroid in general, Hashimoto's complicates the issue.

    I also have been taught that vegetables from the brassica family can agitate the thyroid, as they are goitregens.

    I learnt this information from my naturopath, but would be interested to hear other people's knowledge on the subject!

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