Postpartum Thyroiditis and A Plant Based Detox

Recovering from birth, sleepless nights, hormonal shifts, leaking fluids from just about every area of our bodies, breastfeeding challenges, sore bodies, you name it and a new mother is dealing with it. Bringing a baby home is hard enough as you try and plant your feet back on the ground, but what about as the weeks and months go by and you find yourself  physically sliding down further and further? You are eating a clean diet, exercise when you can, sleeping through the night by now, yet you still feel as though you might fall asleep at your desk or the opposite: run in circles around it. Perhaps you have anxiety that has flared up out of nowhere or your weight is fluctuating up and down. What gives?

One word. Thyroid.

Yes, thyroid. A tiny, butterfly shaped organ located in your neck that is small, yet packs a powerful punch to how well your body and mind will operate. The thyroid has a big job. It makes thyroid hormones, which are secreted into the blood and then carried to every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones helps the body use energy, stay warm and keep the brain, heart, muscles, and other organs working as they should. Pregnancy often gives it a beating that can keep it from running smoothly. It can either slow it down or speed it up and neither is fun! When this happens, it is called Postpartum Thyroiditis. Say what?

 “Thyroiditis is a general term that refers to “inflammation of the thyroid gland”; thus, postpartum thyroiditis. This is thyroiditis that occurs in women after the delivery of a baby. Thyroiditis can cause both thyrotoxicosis (high thyroid hormone levels in the blood) and hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels in the blood). In postpartum thyroiditis, thyrotoxicosis occurs first followed by hypothyroidism” – The American Thyroid Association

Symptoms vary depending on if you are experiencing low hormone levels or high ones. The symptoms can manifest and increase a new mother’s chance of experiencing Postpartum Depression or even worsen the effects that PPD brings. Symptoms include (from Medsape):

Depressed mood, often accompanied by severe anxiety

Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in activities

Appetite disturbance–usually loss of appetite with weight loss

Sleep disturbance, most often insomnia and fragmented sleep, even when infant is sleeping

Physical agitation (more common) or psycho-motor slowing

Fatigue, decreased energy

Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt

Decreased concentration or ability to make decisions

Recurrent thoughts of death or suicidal ideation

When my daughter Lillian was born in 2006, I was blessed with an easy pregnancy and baby. The word “easy” is said  loosely here because when is Motherhood ever easy? What I mean is, Lillian was a baby who slept through the night very early, fed easily and was very calm (can’t say that now that she is a tween!). Despite the low-key transition, I was feeling worse and worse as the months went by. I was clueless as to what was happening! Finally, my thyroid was fully checked through blood work and hypothyroidism was discovered. I knew that the pregnancy brought this condition out, even though it might have been brewing in my system before I became pregnant.

Years have gone by and I can easily say I have tried every single prescription medication that is on the market for it. I have seen multiple endocrinologists and even natural doctors, trying various protocols. I have gone up and down with my symptoms (especially weight!) and have even become so frustrated at times that I just give up and completely ignore it. So, how did all that play out for me? Not well!

I am here now to share what IS working for me and has even helped me wean off medications completely. Please note: I ALWAYS recommend not to go against your doctor’s recommendations and if you do want to wean off them, do so with medical supervision. What I am going to discuss is a detox that you can do in ADDITION to the protocol your Doctor has you on. This detox also helps thyroid’s right hand man: the adrenal glands. Without proper adrenal functioning, your thyroid doesn’t stand a chance!

So what type of diet and cleanse am I referring to in order to help your thyroid AND adrenal functioning?

A plant based, meatless one!

As I discuss this diet and cleanse, keep in mind, we are all completely different and therefore require different foods and other support to heal. For example, a meatless diet doesn’t have to be forever and it may not be for everyone, but it can be temporary to help reduce inflammation and jump kick your thyroid health back into gear. Reducing inflammation in your body brings other added benefits such as increasing your immune system functioning. If you are enjoying a plant based diet after a few weeks and want to stay on it, then go for it! I personally am still on a plant based  diet and it works well for me. Just make sure you are getting PLENTY of protein!

A Plant Based Diet

Detoxing with a plant based diet doesn’t have to be more than 6 to 8 weeks. There are some things to be aware of though. If you are breastfeeding (or even if you aren’t), again be very conscious of protein intake during the detox and making sure you get plenty of it. Keep taking your prenatal vitamin or if you stopped, get a good B complex to take and even iron, if you are prone to anemia. I will say, there are some very big key nutrients found in bulk in meat, but this doesn’t mean you cannot detox. Here is a great article for you! There are also dozens of delicious, nutrient and protein packed plant based recipes online to choose from. Just make sure to do your research and plan your meals carefully.

This is not the type of “detox” that will lower calorie intake, this is simply eliminating meats to help your body cleanse. This detox can give your body a chance to restore in order to heal itself. You can also choose to do a partial plant based diet for only breakfast and lunch and have meat for dinner to reduce the meat intake, instead of eliminating completely. You may also decide to eat just fish, and not red meat or chicken. The choice is yours!

Why eliminate meats to detox for your thyroid? Let’s start with alkaline balanced body. A healthy pH in your body should be 7.35 to 7.45 and meat, along with many other offenders, breaks down into acid in the body when consumed. When your body becomes too acidic, it can increase your estrogen levels and after birth your body is already estrogen dominant. Therefore, this detox gives your body a chance to rid of the excess estrogen.

Along with estrogen dominance, the normal stress of being a new mother adds to the unbalanced pH levels in the body, making it harder to balance your hormones out. Prolonged stress and estrogen can easily cause your cortisol levels to rise adding to the acidic state of the body. A plant based diet can help to detox and balance this by alkalizing the body. A diet that is an alkaline rich, through plant based, whole foods will help your hormones, stress and pH levels to normalize to be able to stay balanced.

Don’t forget! Finding ways to reduce stress after birth by getting extra help, resting when the baby is sleeping and seeking help where you need it can go a long way in becoming stabilized after birth and making the transition a bit smoother. I know, easier said than done!

Happy Detox!

Lindsay Gibson
Editor, Beautiful Births & Beyond