For many women, the onset of their hypothyroid symptoms began either during pregnancy or just after. Most of these women went on to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease that attacks and destroys the thyroid gland. Pregnancy often triggers Hashimoto’s due to normal shifts in immunity that cause an already beleaguered immune system to tip out of control and begin attacking the thyroid gland.
Factors that can contribute to developing Hashimoto’s around pregnancy or childbirth include shifts in immune function during the third trimester, shifts in immune function postpartum, the dramatic shifts in hormone function, genetic tendency, and the exacerbation of existing disorders such as blood sugar imbalances, food intolerances, gut infections, and other autoimmune diseases (which may or may not be diagnosed).
How pregnancy can trigger Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism
Women make up the vast majority of people struggling with autoimmune diseases, about 75 percent. Researchers suggest this is because women have more complex hormonal systems that involve more fluctuations; hormone and immune function are closely tied. Hormone imbalances are a major contributor to chronic inflammation that can trigger autoimmunity.
Pregnancy simply exacerbates these fluctuations and underlying imbalances.
Shifts in immune function during and after pregnancy can trigger autoimmune disease
Women experience major immune shifts towards the end of pregnancy and then again immediately after birth. These are natural shifts designed to help protect the baby.
During the third trimester, a pregnant woman’s immune system becomes more heavily weighted toward what is called the TH-2 system. This arm of the immune system is the delayed immune reaction that produces antibodies that identify a foreign invader a short while after it enters the body. This response allows the body to recognize the invader in the future.
After the baby is born, a woman’s body then becomes more TH-1 dominant. This is the arm of the immune system that reacts immediately to a foreign invader, such as with swelling and pus around a splinter.
Most people who either already have an autoimmune disease or are at high risk of developing one are overly dominant in either the TH-1 or TH-2 arms of the immune system.
The immune swings that pregnancy and childbirth cause tip an already imbalanced immune system into full expression of an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
If you would like help understanding Pregnancy and Hypothyroidism, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Pregnancy and pituitary function
Although about 90 percent of hypothyroid cases are caused by Hashimoto’s, some cases are caused by chronic stress. As any mom can tell you, pregnancy and childbirth can bring inordinate amounts of stress.
Extreme or chronic stress depresses function of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is a small gland at the base of the brain that is like a control tower for the body’s hormones, telling the various glands throughout the body how much hormone to secrete in response to external and internal cues.
Chronic stress overwhelms the pituitary gland and depresses its function. As a result, the pituitary falters at its job of telling the body’s hormone glands to secrete hormones. In the case of the thyroid gland, this means it doesn’t tell it to release enough thyroid hormone.
This not only causes tiredness and other hypothyroid symptoms, but it can also explain postpartum depression in some women.
It’s important to understand that stress doesn’t just mean bad traffic or a demanding job. Many women enter into pregnancy already under enormous stressors they may not be aware of:
- Leaky gut or gut infections
- Blood sugar that is either too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (insulin resistance)
- Undiagnosed food intolerances such as gluten sensitivity or celiac disease
- Hormonal imbalances
- Undiagnosed brain dysfunctions, such as from an old brain injury, brain inflammation caused by poor diet, or PTSD or CPTSD
- Sensitivity to chemicals or over exposure to chemicals
- Poor liver detoxification
- Undiagnosed chronic bacterial, viral, parasitic, or fungal infections
Are you at risk? Check your TPO and TGB antibodies before pregnancy
It’s not a bad idea to screen for risk for Hashimoto’s before conceiving. You can do this by testing TPO and TGB antibodies. Many people have autoimmune mechanisms already in place that not advanced enough to cause symptoms. However, a big shock to the body such as pregnancy can be the tipping point to send you over the edge into autoimmune expression.
If you have Hashimoto’s in your family, other autoimmune diseases in your family, or you suffer from other inflammatory conditions, it pays to screen for your risk before pregnancy. This gives you an opportunity to use functional medicine strategies to slow down or send into remission your autoimmune condition.
Studies show that women with no thyroid symptoms but positive blood serum TPO antibodies have a 25 percent higher risk for developing an autoimmune response to their thyroid.
Reducing the risk of autism, allergies, eczema, and more in your baby
Using functional medicine to manage autoimmunity or heightened risk for autoimmunity is not only good for the mother’s health, but also for that of her child. Children born to mothers with autoimmunity such as Hashimoto’s show increased risk for varying health disorders, including autism spectrum disorder, eczema, asthma, food allergies, and food intolerances.
Researchers have increasingly found that autoimmune disorders underlie many cases of autism, which is caused by an autoimmune attack against the brain in these children. Whether it’s autism or other immune disorders, children born to mothers with imbalanced immune systems may be more vulnerable to environmental triggers that can tip them over into full blown autoimmunity.
Triggers can include food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, or toxic chemicals introduced into the bloodstream.
Of course, no one willingly or knowingly brings these hardships onto themselves or their children, but in today’s world the modern immune system faces significant burdens. Going into pregnancy knowing how to manage and minimize the impact of those burdens on the body can help minimize the risk. If you already developed Hashimoto’s during pregnancy or after childbirth, understanding why you did can help you better manage it.
Ask my office for help addressing the root cause of your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Want to know more? Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
When it comes to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, dampening inflammation and immune attacks on the thyroid is the primary goal. One of the most powerful allies in this quest is to support your regulatory T cells (T reg cells). These are immune cells that do what their name implies — they help regulate the immune system. This means they play a role in either activating or dampening inflammation. The good news is that when it comes to Hashimoto’s, we can do many things to influence the T reg cells to dampen inflammation and quell Hashimoto’s flare ups and attacks so you can have more good days.
Ways to support T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s
If you would like help understanding ways to support T Reg Cells to manage Hashimoto’s, you can schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Following are some proven ways we can support our T reg cells to manage Hashimoto’s.
Vitamin D (cholecalciferol). Fat soluble vitamin D is a powerful supporter of the T reg cells, especially at therapeutic doses (around 10,000 IU a day).
Vitamin D is also important because studies show many people with Hashimoto’s have a genetic defect hindering their ability to process vitamin D. Therefore, they need higher amounts of vitamin D to maintain health. This can be the case even if a blood test shows sufficient levels of serum vitamin D. That’s because the defect is at the cellular receptor site, preventing vitamin D from getting into the cells.
Omega 3 fatty acids. The EPA and DHA in fish oil support T-reg cells. It’s important to make sure you take enough; it’s estimated 80 percent of the population are deficient in essential fatty acids.
Research shows a healthy dietary intake of supplemental omga-3 is 3,500 mg if you eat 2,000 calories per day.
The average EFA capsule is 1,000 mg. Most people in the US eat between 2,000 to 3,000 calories a day and therefore should take 4 to 6 capsules of fish oil a day. Dietary sources of omega 3 include cold water fish, nuts, and seeds.
Glutathione. Glutathione, also known as the master antioxidant, supports T reg cells and is a powerful support in dampening inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. Straight glutathione cannot be absorbed well but there are other ways to take it, including reduced glutathione, s-acetyl-glutathione, liposomal glutathione, and glutathione precursors.
Glutathione precursors make glutathione inside the cells and include n-acetyl cysteine, cordyceps, Gotu Kola, milk thistle, and alpha lipoic acid. Don’t be shy to take large amounts of glutathione support to dampen inflammation.
Short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are powerful signaling compounds that influence the health of the body and brain. They are produced by healthy gut bacteria that come from eating a diet abundant in a diverse array of vegetables. The more abundant and diverse your gut bacteria the better your SCFA production.
This helps many functions in your body, including proper T reg cell function and dampening of inflammation and managing Hashimoto’s. You can also take the SCFA butyrate to support your SCFA levels, however, you’ll need to make sure you’re eating plenty of vegetables throughout the day too for this strategy to be effective.
Endorphins. Saving the best for last, did you know a powerful way to support anti-inflammatory function of T reg cells is to experience joy, happiness, love, and playfulness? All of these things produce endorphins, feel good chemicals that reduce inflammation. Methods for increasing endorphins include:
- Socializing regularly with healthy people
- Healthy touch
- Feeling love
- Meditation and breath work
- Massage and other forms of body work
- Doing something playful regularly
- Daily expression of gratitude via a journal or verbal affirmation
- Regular exercise that gives you a “natural high” but doesn’t wear you out
These are some of the ways you can manage your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Ask my office for more information.
Don’t take your health for granted. Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
If you are on an elimination diet for your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, the holidays might be a source of serious anxiety. Sticking to a specialized diet can be enough of a challenge on a normal day. When we add in travel, unfamiliar restaurants and grocery stores, family events and social outings, the challenge — and potential consequences — can seem insurmountable. However, with some good planning you can not only survive but thrive during the holiday season.
Below are time-tested suggestions to help you navigate the holidays with ease when you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism.
Look at your holiday schedule to see which events or plans pose challenges. Write them down and plan out what you need to do to avoid pitfalls.
Travel. Whether you drive or fly to see family and friends, plan ahead for your food options.
Airlines allow you to bring pre-made food even if it’s in a soft-sided cooler pack.
However, airlines won’t allow you to carry on any items in glass jars so make sure your pre-made items are canned or in a box.
If you are unsure about what you can bring on a plane each airline has a webpage where the food rules are listed.
Easy items to bring on the airplane or in the car include:
- Canned fish
- Protein bars
- Dried fruit (but not too much!)
- Coconut butter packets (not in a jar)
- Nut butter packets (not in a jar)
- Homemade energy bars
- Cut fruits and veggies
If you are driving overnight bring along a pre-made dinner and breakfast in a cooler.
If you plan to eat in restaurants along the way, research them in advance and call ahead if needed to verify gluten-free or other diet needs. Trying to figure it out in the car is likely to create poor results and leave you either hungry or sick.
Bring digestive enzymes to help your system break down food proteins.
Bring Gluten Flam by Apex in case you get glutened.
Stay hydrated — it’s one of the best remedies for recovering from food reactions.
Being a guest at a party or holiday meal
Educate your host. When your host is aware of your food limitations and the medical reasons for them they are in a better position to support you. Explain your diet and why it’s important for you to stick to it.
Send a list of ingredients you can eat or even a couple simple recipes well in advance so they can accommodate you (keep in mind their kitchen may not be gluten-free).
Bring your own food. When your host understands the importance of sticking to your diet they may welcome you bringing your own dish.
Bring food to share. It helps others to appreciate your dietary protocol when they can try your food. Bring something simple but delicious such as soup or pumpkin pie. They may not even realize it’s different — until you tell them. You may even provide a welcome surprise for another guest with food allergies who didn’t plan ahead.
Eat ahead of time. If you are unsure about what will be served, eat ahead. You can also tell the host ahead of time that you need to eat light due to a medical issue.
Always have an emergency snack in your purse and car. You never know when you’ll find you can’t eat what’s offered or get stuck in traffic or at an appointment. Having an emergency snack on hand can make or break your day. See the food list above for ideas.
Family and friends’ attitudes
This can be one of the hardest parts of the holidays for those on a restricted diet. The hard work of smoothing this over likely has to start with you, but the effort can really pay off.
Educate your family and friends. Explain your health condition and how your special diet helps it. Also explain what symptoms you experience when you eat the foods you are supposed to avoid. Not everyone will want to listen, but those who do are more likely to become your allies.
Find an ally. If someone in the room is on your side, whether sibling, parent, partner, or friend, it can make a big difference when others pressure you to “Just have a slice of pie!” Decide on a secret signal to let them know to speak up on your behalf in front of others.
Direct the conversation elsewhere. Nobody wants to spend the whole party telling the crowd about their Hashimoto’s brain fog, IBS, arthritis join pain. Try not to draw attention to your special food, and if asked, give a simple answer such as, “I’m on a medical diet for health reasons.” The use of the word “medical” tends to get more respect than other options.
If someone refuses to understand, or if you receive rude comments, share a link to the “Spoon Theory” of chronic illness.
Don’t take your health for granted. Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya.
Host your own event
One great way to enjoy holiday food is to host your own event. If you have the reserves, cooking a full meal for family and friends can be a great way to show them how amazing your “weird” diet is. It can also help bridge the gap of understanding and respect that commonly emerges in family groups.
If you don’t have the bandwidth for hosting a dinner party, create a potluck with specific food rules. Assign some dishes and explain why you need to keep certain foods out from under the roof.
More and more areas have autoimmune paleo, or AIP meetup groups, and the holidays are a great time to organize an AIP potluck. Many people on special diets have nobody who understands. Having a room full of people who understand and appreciate their needs — not to mention a room full of foods everyone can eat — can create new friendships and really make the holidays shine again.
Falling off the wagon
The holidays are about celebration and sometimes a bit of excess. If you fall off the wagon don’t punish yourself. Just get back on and keep goimg. If you start each day with intention it’s easier to stay on track.
However, don’t use the holidays as an excuse to throw caution and dedication to the wind. You worked hard to get where you are, do you really want to backtrack to square one?
Learn to say “no”
The holidays are full enough of stress. Sometimes we get invitations to events we’d rather not attend, unwanted requests to help with tasks or events for community or kids, or pressure from friends and family to try foods we know we ought not to eat.
It’s hard for most of us to say no especially when we’re worried about hurting the feelings of friends or family. But remember, your health is paramount and sometimes a “no” is the most appropriate and self-loving answer.
A simple way to say no is, “No, but thanks for asking.” Don’t give justification or any reason for them to attempt to dismantle.
Saying no can be difficult and scary for those who aren’t used to using it. However, the more you practice, the easier it gets and the less “bad” you will feel for saying it.
Ask my office for more advice on managing your Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism through diet and functional medicine protocols.
Schedule a FREE 15-MINUTE CONSULTATION with Dr. Celaya to get to the root cause of your health issues.