Thyroid issues can be a major source of stress. They’re also quite common: one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder in her lifetime . Thyroid conditions often come with frustrating symptoms: fatigue, rapid weight changes, trouble sleeping, cold hands and feet, and, in some cases, difficulty getting pregnant.
Imbalanced thyroid hormones can make it difficult to get pregnant. They can also cause issues during pregnancy itself. However, with a little help and the right lifestyle changes, it’s very possible to get pregnant, even with a thyroid issue.
As an integrative physician, I’ve spent the last decade working with thousands of women, many of whom had thyroid imbalances. In this article, I’ll share my top suggestions to manage your thyroid issues and improve your chances of conceiving.
Why do thyroid issues affect pregnancy?
Your thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland, located in your neck, that produces hormones to influence the speed of your metabolism. If your thyroid hormones fall out of balance, your metabolism can become too fast (hyperthyroidism) or too slow (hypothyroidism).
Either kind of thyroid imbalance can alter your testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone levels, which can cause you to stop ovulating. When your thyroid isn’t functioning properly and your body stops releasing eggs, it becomes very difficult to get pregnant. Furthermore, thyroid imbalances can cause miscarriages and other problems during pregnancy.
If you have a thyroid issue, you have to address it and get your thyroid hormones balanced before trying to conceive. Here are a few ways to bring your thyroid back into balance.
Work with an integrative physician
Thyroid issues are serious and often complex. An integrative physician or functional medicine doctor will help you figure out the root cause of your thyroid imbalance, and the two of you can work together to come up with a treatment plan.
A lot of mainstream doctors simply prescribe thyroid hormones, but the effectiveness of the hormones depends on why the imbalance happened in the first place. For example, inflammation can cause a decrease in thyroid receptor sensitivity, which may appear to be hypothyroidism. Where a standard doctor would prescribe T4 or T3 thyroid hormones, an integrative physician can help you address the underlying inflammation, either reducing or eliminating your need for medication.
If your doctor does suggest medication, don’t worry. Thyroid medication is safe and usually molecularly identical to the hormones you produce naturally.
Don’t try to figure out a thyroid imbalance alone, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant. Make it a priority to work with an integrative physician and get a full thyroid exam.
Improve your gut health
A lot of thyroid issues are the result of autoimmune disorders — your immune system gets out of control and starts attacking your thyroid as if it were a foreign invader. Gut issues and thyroid imbalances are also very common together, and each seems to worsen the other’s symptoms . That makes sense, considering 70% of your immune system is in your gut . Improving your gut health can relieve thyroid imbalances and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
You can improve your gut health a few ways:
- Get more probiotics. Eat lots of yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and other fermented foods. They all contain healthy probiotic bacteria that can strengthen your gut microbiome. You can also take a good probiotic supplement. Elixa is an excellent option.
- Cut out sugar. Sugar feeds bad gut bacteria and can cause intestinal inflammation, making your gut health worse. Minimize sugar and refined carbs to improve your gut health.
- Eat lots of fiber. Veggies and complex carbs are packed with gut-strengthening fiber that feeds good gut bacteria, decreases inflammation, and helps keep your gut lining strong.
Improving your gut health may decrease your thyroid symptoms and help balance your hormones.
Exercise to boost your thyroid function
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your thyroid. Working out consistently improves almost all markers of thyroid dysfunction .
Exercise also increases fertility, particularly in women who aren’t ovulating regularly . Just make sure you give yourself time to rest — training too hard for too long without down time can actually decrease fertility. So if you’re feeling sore or exhausted, don’t push yourself too hard in the gym.
Eat the right foods for hormone balance
Good nutrition is essential for both thyroid function and a healthy pregnancy.
Fortunately, many of the foods that improve your thyroid function also support fertility. The best foods for your thyroid and fertility include:
- Red meat. Beef and lamb are rich in iron and selenium, both of which are often low in thyroid disorders. Iron is also a common deficiency for women and can interfere with your ability to conceive. Plus, red meat is rich in fat and cholesterol, the building blocks of hormones. Eating plenty of red meat will give your body the raw materials it needs to balance your hormones.
- Wild fish. Get your omega-3s! Wild fatty fish like salmon, anchovies, and sardines are packed with anti-inflammatory omega-3s that will improve your cell membrane function and help keep inflammation low. Eat wild seafood at least twice a week.
- Olive oil. This kitchen staple is brimming with healthy fats that nourish your body and support healthy hormone production. Extra virgin olive oil is also a good source of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
- Raw nuts. Nuts are high in iron, selenium, and magnesium, all of which play important roles in both thyroid function and reproductive health. Brazil nuts are an especially good source of selenium.
- Colorful berries and veggies. Brightly colored vegetables are a rich source of polyphenols that improve gut health and keep inflammation low. Berries are also an excellent source of polyphenols, and are lower in sugar than most fruits. Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, chard, spinach, red cabbage, and sweet potatoes are all excellent vegetables to add to your diet.
- Low-sugar foods. Sugar and refined carbs interfere with your hormones, including testosterone and estrogen, which are essential for fertility. Sugar also triggers inflammation, which can worsen thyroid issues. Cut sugar and refined carbs out of your diet as much as possible.
Support your thyroid for a healthy pregnancy
For a healthy pregnancy, it’s important that your thyroid hormones are balanced. Work with an integrative physician to balance your hormones and use the above tips to get your body ready for a healthy, happy pregnancy.
And for some extra insurance, I suggest trying Hormone Helper. I formulated it specifically for women, and it’s full of precious essential nutrients that support healthy hormonal balance.
Finally, for health and lifestyle guidance that’s personalized to you, why not take my Power Type Quiz? It’s a free quiz that gives you insight into your personal biology, based on the answers to a set of questions. It can help you work with your unique body to feel amazing and get your body into balance. Thanks for reading!
- American Thyroid Association (2019). General Information/Press Room. https://www.thyroid.org/media-main/press-room/
- Patil, A. D. (2014). Link between hypothyroidism and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Indian journal of endocrinology and metabolism, 18(3), 307. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4056127/
- Vighi, G., Marcucci, F., Sensi, L., Di Cara, G., & Frati, F. (2008). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clinical & Experimental Immunology, 153, 3-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2515351/
- Bansal, A., Kaushik, A., Singh, C. M., Sharma, V., & Singh, H. (2015). The effect of regular physical exercise on the thyroid function of treated hypothyroid patients: An interventional study at a tertiary care center in Bastar region of India. Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences, 3(2), 244. http://www.amhsjournal.org/article.asp?issn=2321-4848;year=2015;volume=3;issue=2;spage=244;epage=246;aulast=Bansal