Suddenly on the radar: A well-fed thyroidMay 21, 2012
Got your umbrella handy? Because it’s raining thyroid problems, people! And if you think the raw kale salad pictured above is keeping you healthy, there’s actually more to the story. We’ll get to that in a bit. Let me just say that every time I turn around, another woman is telling me about hypothyroid, hashimoto’s, graves disease, T3, T4, Synthroid, Levoxyl, you name it. I myself had my thyroid tested twice in the past year, as I struggled and overcame postpartum depression.
All of this is actually quite new to me. Thyroid issues and new motherhood just seem to go hand-in-hand. Hmmm. No one ever mentioned that during childbirth class! My doctor sure didn’t say anything. So let’s take a quick look at why thyroid disease and being a mom go together.
I’m going to keep this very top-level because thyroid stuff can get so detailed and confusing!
Your thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones (makes sense, right?) Thyroid hormones control your body’s metabolism – which basically means they’re involved in just about everything your body does. Too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroid) can cause an elevated heart rate, shakiness, weight loss and insomnia – among other symptoms. However, for many moms, the problem more often is an underactive thyroid (hypothyroid). When your thyroid is producing too little thyroid hormones, the typical symptoms include fatigue, feeling cold, weight gain and depression.
So why do moms tend towards hypothyroid? Here’s the best way I understand it:
Our babies rely on our bodies as they develop in the womb. So, in broad terms, any organ or gland in the body that is low-functioning will be extra stressed during pregnancy. Before baby’s own thyroid begins functioning, mom’s thyroid does double-duty. The nourishment that feeds baby’s thyroid gland comes from mom too, during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In addition, the many changes a woman’s body goes through during these years demands a lot from the thyroid to begin with.
See how motherhood can be draining? And we’re not even talking about how my son keeps putting silverware into the recycling bin.
Again, this is a complicated issue and I don’t mean to oversimplify it. But it seems to me that if motherhood and hypothyroid issues have a correlation, moms should be taking extra steps to nourish themselves.
So, how can I nourish my thyroid?
Eat good quality seafood. There are accounts of very old, traditional societies who traded with coastal communities for precious seafood – to give to women of childbearing age. Coincidence? Seafood is typically recommended for brain health, and it’s also a wonderful source of thyroid-nourishing iodine. A homemade fish stock is brilliant.
Another way to get enough iodine is to eat what fish eat – sea vegetables. Dulse, wakame, kombu, arame, nori…they are all sold in the asian food aisle at Whole Foods or your local natural food store.
Other good foods known to increase thyroid function: meat, brazil nuts, sesame seeds and oysters.
Foods to minimize? Soy, gluten, and raw cruciferous veggies like kale, broccoli, cabbage, collards and cauliflower. Also strawberries, peaches, peanuts and millet.
So….wait, wait, wait – soy and gluten are common culprits of allergies and health issues. But raw cruciferous veggies? Strawberries? Peaches? Is the super healthy raw kale salad pictured at the top of this post maybe…not so healthy after all?
Wellll, it depends who you are. Nutrition can be complicated.
Here’s the deal on raw cruciferous veggies, strawberries, peaches, etc.:
Normal, healthy individuals can keep on rockin’ a healthy diet that includes all of these. (Absolutely – cruciferous veggies are some of the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat, with cancer fighting compounds!)
But if you are pregnant or nursing it may be worth minimizing such foods, as they can inhibit thyroid function (sometimes they’re called “goitrogenic foods”). And if you are already suffering from hypothyroid – you might want to outright avoid eating them raw. Interestingly, cooking your cruciferous veggies deactivates most of the goitrogenic properties. So that’s a good option.
I’m just shocked and amazed that for all the women suffering, this isn’t a more talked-about topic. To be perfectly honest, I’m just researching and learning myself.
Do you suffer from thyroid issues? Have other tidbits of advice for thyroid health during childbearing years? Please share in the comments.