09 Aug Nutrition Tips to Manage Postpartum Thyroiditis: Three Things Every Woman Can Do for Better Thyroid Health
Postpartum thyroiditis is the inflammation of the thyroid gland after giving birth. It’s similar to what we see in Hashimoto’s without the same degree of fibrosis or follicular atrophy. It causes a disruption of the gland, releasing high or low levels of thyroid hormones in the blood. An estimated 5 – 10% of women experience postpartum thyroiditis; however, many are never diagnosed.
There are two phases in postpartum thyroiditis – thyrotoxicosis followed by hypothyroidism. And not all women experience both phases. The first phase, thyrotoxicosis, begins between 1 and 4 months after giving birth and is characterized by feeling anxious, insomnia, fatigue, weight loss, and irritability. This sounds on par for a new parent, right? These symptoms are often disregarded as normal postpartum experiences (which, really, they are).
The second phase begins between 4 and 8 months after birth. Hypothyroidism swings the body into full “slump mode.” Fatigue, depression, dry skin, and lack of energy are all characteristics of hypothyroidism, which, too, seem like normal reactions to adapting to life with a new baby.
In most cases, the thyroid goes back to normal function within 12-18 months.
So, what can a woman do?
- Know if you are at risk for developing postpartum thyroiditis: Antithyroid antibodies before pregnancy, Type 1 diabetes, a history of thyroid problems, family history of thyroid problems, women with a prior history of postpartum thyroiditis
- Talk to your ObGyn, primary care physician, or endocrinologist. Let them know what you’re feeling. Get tested for it. It’s important to reach out to your ObGyn or primary care physician. Find someone who will listen to you, so you can either get a diagnosis or get to the crux of what is happening with your body. Also, it’s important to note that many symptoms don’t often begin until after your official postpartum checkup. Work with a clinical dietitian nutritionist to help you develop a healthy diet plan to optimize wellness.
- The thyroid is highly nutrient-dependent. If you are at risk for this condition or have developed this condition, some of the food choices you make can make a difference. Keep in mind that though there are sweeping claims about a hypothyroid diet, there still is a lack of data to back them up. That said, there are eating habits, tips, and dietary practices that can help with your thyroid health.
- Take your thyroid medication at the same time each day.
- Avoid taking your thyroid medication with the following foods and/or vitamins (Mayo Clinic, hypothyroidism diet) as they may cause interactions: too much dietary fiber (watch your intake of pulses), walnuts, iron supplements or vitamins with iron, calcium supplements, antacids that contain calcium, aluminum, or magnesium, some ulcer and cholesterol-lowering medications. Also, though soy does not cause hypothyroidism, it might interfere with the absorption of your thyroid medication. Make sure there is a gap from the time you take your medication to the time you ingest soy.
- Eat a nutrient-rich, varied diet. Try the Mediterranean diet or other plant-forward options. This is a healthy diet plan for pretty much anyone.
- Steer clear of highly processed foods and fried foods. This, safe to say, is a great recommendation for everyone, but when it comes to thyroid health, unhealthy fats can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb your thyroid medication.
- Iodine deficiency or excess can cause thyroid problems. Most people in the United States do not experience deficiency, as there are iodine additives in many of our most common foods, including salt. Be wary of taking iodine supplements as they can often be more harmful than helpful.
- Your morning coffee … might need to wait. Studies show that coffee (caffeine) can also affect the absorption of your thyroid medication; however, this isn’t necessarily true for liquid thyroid medication. When in doubt, ask your doctor.
We know. Not only are women dealing with healing after birth, learning how to breastfeed, and trying to manage this new space of never sleeping, you might be thinking, “This, too?” Pregnancy, as incredible as it is, is hard. As postnatal registered dietitian nutritionists, we’re here to support you and listen to you. We can help develop a diet plan that works for you – something easy to stick to while you’re juggling the new demands of motherhood. We can help you implement individualized dietary interventions to help you manage your thyroid health and feel better.
Johns Hopkins Medicine