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Posts Tagged ‘pregnancy’

pregnancy can trigger Hashis copy

Some women find they end their pregnancy with not only a new baby but a new hypothyroid condition as well. That’s because normal immune shifts during pregnancy can trigger an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, depending on genetics and other predisposing factors.

The immune system can be looked as having two primary roles, one that reacts immediately to an invader (such as pus surrounding a splinter), and one that reacts later to produce antibodies (such as to build immunity to a virus). The part of the immune system that reacts immediately is TH-1 while the delayed response is TH-2.

When one of these arms of the immune system becomes overly dominant it can trigger an autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s disease. Researchers are increasingly finding factors that lead to immune imbalance and trigger autoimmune diseases. They can include not only a genetic predisposition, but also food sensitivities (gluten and dairy being the most common offenders), environmental chemicals (such as those found in plastics), leaky gut, viral or bacterial infections, brain injury or degeneration, and, when a woman’s immune system is already likely at the tipping point, pregnancy.

How pregnancy can trigger Hashimoto’s and other autoimmune diseases

Pregnancy and the postpartum period naturally polarizes the immune system. In the third trimester the TH-2 immune response is dominant. Postpartum the TH-1 immune reaction is stronger. If a genetically predisposed woman goes into pregnancy with an existing immune imbalance, these natural immune shifts could trigger Hashimoto’s or other autoimmune diseases.

For 90 percent of Americans with hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland, is the cause.

Pregnancy and hypothyroidism

Pregnancy can also trigger hypothyroid symptoms that are not autoimmune. A common cause of low thyroid function is chronic stress. Common stressors include leaky gut and gut infections, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances (hypoglycemia or insulin resistance), and hormonal imbalances. These stressors can depress the pituitary gland in the brain. The pituitary gland controls hormone function in the body.

When this happens the pituitary fails to signal the thyroid to produce enough thyroid hormone. For many women this manifests not only as low thyroid function, but also postpartum depression.

Because so many women enter pregnancy dealing with immune imbalances and chronic stress, the increased demands of pregnancy overwhelm the body, which can lead to hypothyroidism. Ideally, a woman will address health and immune imbalances before conceiving to reduce her risk of hypothyroidism.

A preconception health overhaul may also lower the risk of her infant developing eczema, asthma, food allergies, and even autism, which has been found to be caused by brain autoimmunity in many cases. When the mother’s immune system is healthy and balanced, there’s a stronger possibility her baby’s will be too.

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educational DVDs lower child IQ

Popping in a DVD for a baby or toddler can provide a brief but blessed break for the harried parent, and playing an educational video takes some of the sting out of the guilt. Unfortunately, even an educational video featuring classical music, shapes, colors, and early words may do more harm than good according to researchers. A child’s brain needs constant physical activity and interaction with the environment to develop properly, and time in front of the screen suspends that development, even if it’s an educational video or computer game.

Research shows the younger a child begins spending time in front of the screen, the lower they score on language tests, despite being taught language on educational videos or television. Unfortunately, almost 90 percent of children spend two to three hours per day in front of a screen by the time they are two years old.

Educational videos overlook brain development basics

A parent who wants her child to read or learn numbers early overlooks some basics of brain development. The timing of left and right hemisphere development is of utmost importance during these first years of life.

A child’s right brain is dominant through about age three. The right brain governs the ability to read emotions, see the big picture, intuition, creativity, and imagination. Experts say teaching more left-brained activities, such as language, critical thinking, logic, and math is not appropriate during this critical right-brain period of development.

In fact, childhood brain issues such as ADHD or autism spectrum disorders reflect lopsided growth of the hemispheres, with the left brain often dominating a weaker right brain. This explains why these children may be academically gifted but have difficulty with such right-brain tasks as reading social cues.

Although watching educational TV or videos won’t necessarily cause a brain development disorder, experts say it can delay the development of crucial wiring and even delay language development.

Better educational alternatives to TV and videos

Physical activity and healthy interaction with the environment are the most vital aspects to a properly developing brain. Babies and toddlers do not need traditional education on TV and videos. Simply becoming part of the world around them is highly educational for them. Ample access to physical movement appropriate for the child’s age (i.e., do not put a child who should be learning to crawl in a walker or leave her strapped in a car seat for much of the day) is vital for proper brain growth, as is playing with age-appropriate toys, loving interaction and touch from caregivers, the ability to safely observe and explore his world, and protection from overstimulation.

Healthy brain development starts in the womb

Although the early years of life are critical to brain development, brain health starts in the womb and is significantly affected by the mother’s health (and, according to newer research, the father’s age—children of men older than 50 are significantly more likely to have autism).

To maximize a baby’s brain power, both parents should start with functional medicine principles before the baby has even been conceived. These include stabilizing blood sugar, eliminating foods that cause inflammation, detoxification, balancing hormone, adrenal, and thyroid health, and repairing the gut, which is the seat of the immune system. The health of the mother’s immune system significantly impacts the development of her baby’s brain, and many women today unknowingly suffer from autoimmune or chronic conditions that imbalance their immune system.

Ask my office for tips on how best to support health nutritionally prior to conception, during nursing, or after your baby is born.

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mother s autoimmunity autism

While practitioners of functional medicine have long understood the link between the health of a mother’s immune system and the risk of giving birth to a child with autism, asthma, allergies, and other disorders, it is validating to see this information in the New York Times: An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism.

In this article, the author reports one-third of autism cases are the result of an inflammatory disease that began in the womb, thanks to the mother’s imbalanced immune system. Looking back through 20 years of data, researchers discovered that infections during pregnancy increase the risk of autism. Hospitalization for a viral infection (i.e., the flu) during the first trimester tripled the odds for autism, while a bacterial infection (including urinary tract infections) during the second trimester increased the risk by 40 percent.

Maternal autoimmunity increases risk of autism in children

While viral and bacterial infections have declined over the last 60 years, autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorders are steadily climbing. Autoimmune disease dwarfs cancer and heart disease combined, now affecting about 50 million people, or 20 percent of the population.

Investigation revealed it isn’t the infections themselves that cause autism, but instead the reaction of the mother’s immune system to infection (her inflammatory response), as well as the overall health of her immune system.

One study of 700,000 births found that a mother’s rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or Type 1 diabetes more than doubles the risk of autism in her child. Other research has connected additional autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, with an increased risk of giving birth to a child who develops autism.

In an autoimmune response, the immune system mistakenly creates antibodies to the body’s own tissue, thereby tagging the tissue for destruction. Researchers have found that some mothers of autistic children create antibodies to the brain tissue of their fetus, meaning the child is a born with a brain already developmentally imbalanced by immune destruction. In fact, research indicates that mothers of children with autism are five times more likely to have anti-brain antibodies in their systems.

Chronic inflammation in pregnancy raises risk of childhood disorders

Other risk factors for autism include maternal asthma, allergies, insulin resistance, obesity, and chronic low-grade inflammation. In other words, when a mom’s immune system is in constant overdrive—never getting the opportunity to rest—the development of the fetal brain is adversely affected and the overall risk for disorders is increased.

Western diet and lifestyle behind inflammation and autoimmunity

Unfortunately, the story An Immune Disorder at the Root of Autism veers into the promise of using whip worms—yes, worms—to tame the out-of-control immune system. The theory is that autoimmune disease has skyrocketed in developed nations because we are too clean.

The article fails to mention those other hallmarks of Western civilization besides good hygiene: overabundant diets laden with sweet, starchy, processed foods; chronic stress; a sedentary lifestyle; and daily bombardment of environmental toxins.

Thankfully, practitioners of functional medicine have measures other than the whip-worm therapy to manage autoimmune diseases and chronic inflammation, all backed by peer-reviewed science. These include an autoimmune diet and the use of targeted, customized nutritional therapies.

Ask my office how we can assist you in balancing your immune system and, in so doing, help you to lower the risk of giving birth to a child with asthma, allergies, autism, or other brain and immune disorders.

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pregnancy hypothyroidism Hashimoto's

A new study shows hypothyroidism during pregnancy may be more common that previously thought, thanks to new clinical guidelines for evaluating thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH). The study revealed hypothyroidism in one in six pregnant women, a 10 percent increase after using a narrower TSH range.

The new guideline for normal TSH is now 0.3 to 3.0, narrower than the former guideline of 0.5 to 5.0. In functional medicine we use a range of 1.8 to 3.0.

Gestational hypothyroidism poses a number of risks, including miscarriage, hypertension, gestational diabetes, low-birth weight, and risk for lower IQ in the baby.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism screening important during pregnancy

This study illustrates the importance of screening for hypothyroidism during pregnancy. Only about a quarter of the more than 500,000 women in the study were tested for TSH, meaning many more may have gone through pregnancy with an undiagnosed thyroid condition.

TSH shouldn’t be the only marker ordered. Pregnant women should also test other thyroid markers, such as T4 and T3, as well as TPO and TGB antibodies. The antibody tests determine whether the hypothyroidism stems from an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto’s, which attacks and destroys thyroid gland tissue.

Studies show about 90 percent of hypothyroidism cases in the United States are due to autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone medication alone does not effectively manage Hashimoto’s. Instead, appropriate thyroid care involves managing the immune system.

Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism risk to baby’s health

Although it’s always important to manage an autoimmune disease, it’s especially vital during pregnancy. Autoimmune Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is a sign that the pregnant woman’s immune system is out of balance. It also signals a high probability of intestinal permeability, or leaky gut (which allows undigested foods and pathogens to escape into the bloodstream, where they trigger an immune reaction). People with Hashimoto’s commonly have food intolerances, particularly to gluten, and high levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

These are health conditions that can affect the fetus. Studies show that infants born to mothers with high cortisol are at higher risk of developing allergies. An intolerance to gluten or other foods can be passed on to the infant, as can immune imbalances, which can raise the risk of such disorders as asthma, eczema, and allergies.

Hypothyroidism is a red flag that the body is out of balance and that the health of the child may be compromised.

Addressing Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism during pregnancy

It’s very important to screen for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s during pregnancy. It’s even better to screen for it before conception.

If lab tests identify hypothyroidism, optimal health of the mother and the baby depends on restoring thyroid activity.

While thyroid hormones may be necessary, a pregnant woman also should address the underlying cause of the hypothyroidism. We can do this through lab testing, an autoimmune diet, and nutritional support appropriate for pregnancy.

Detecting hypothyroidism early can help ensure a healthier pregnancy, a healthier child, a reduced risk of postpartum depression, and more energy for the mother during the demanding post-partum period.

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A calm, healthy pregnancy and postpartum period could reduce the risk of allergies in your baby, according to a new Swedish study.

Researchers found infants with lower levels of cortisol, an adrenal hormone released in response to stress, developed fewer allergies than other infants.

Stress hormone cortisol triggers allergies

The researchers believe environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy raise adrenal cortisol levels, which increases the risk of allergies.

Studies show high cortisol in a pregnant mother raises levels of the hormone in the fetus.

In functional medicine, we see many women enter into pregnancy with high cortisol. Common symptoms include excess belly fat, insomnia, insulin resistance (high blood sugar), hair loss, and an irregular menstrual cycle.

Stress isn’t just about too much to do on too little sleep (although that is certainly a factor).

Factors that cause high adrenal cortisol

Common factors that elevate cortisol are:

  • Sugary, starchy diets that consistently spike blood sugar (which causes excess belly fat).
  • Excess caffeine.
  • Undiagnosed food intolerances. Gluten intolerance and celiac disease are particularly common.
  • Poor gut health. Gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive symptoms are signs of a poorly functioning gut.
  • Improperly managed autoimmune disease. Do you have Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism or another autoimmune disease?

Rate of childhood allergies rising

The rate of allergies has risen sharply in the United States. About 54 percent of Americans are allergic to at least one thing, an up to five-fold increase the late 1970s. The number of children with food allergies has risen 18 percent since the late 90s; witness the prevalence of peanut-free classrooms.

Manage health before pregnancy

The best thing a mother can do to reduce the risk of allergies in her child is to address her own health and nutrition before conception.

An adrenal saliva test is a good way to measure whether cortisol levels are normal. A mother’s health before conception and during pregnancy greatly influences the health of her baby.

Stress is a fact of life for us all. How have you managed to lower stress levels during pregnancy?

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Question

Why did pregnancy trigger my hypothyroidism?

Answer

Natural immune shifts during pregnancy, together with a genetic tendency and other predisposing factors, can trigger hypothyroidism in some women.

Hypothyroidism is an immune disease for most

For 90 percent of Americans, hypothyroidism is caused by Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid gland.

The immune system has two major arms of function, one that reacts immediately to an invader, and one that reacts later to produce antibodies. When one of these arms of becomes overly dominant it can trigger an autoimmune disease.

Going into pregnancy predisposed

Pregnancy and the postpartum periods naturally polarize the immune system. In the third trimester the delayed immune response is dominant. Postpartum the immediate immune reaction is stronger.

If a genetically predisposed woman goes into pregnancy with an existing immune imbalance, these natural immune shifts could be the tipping point for Hashimoto’s.

When pregnancy is one stressor too many

Pregnancy can also cause hypothyroid symptoms secondary to chronic stress. Stressors such as gut infections, food intolerances, blood sugar imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can depress the pituitary gland, which controls hormone function in the body. As a result the pituitary fails to signal thyroid activity.

For many women this manifests not only as low thyroid function, but also postpartum depression. Because so many women enter pregnancy dealing with multiple chronic stressors, the increased demands of pregnancy overwhelm the pituitary gland and depress thyroid function.

Balancing health pre-conception lowers risk for mother and baby

A woman should address health and immune imbalances before conceiving to reduce her risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Doing so also may lower the risk of her infant developing eczema, asthma, food allergies, and even autism, which has been found to be caused by an autoimmune disease in many. When the mother’s immune system is healthy and balanced, there’s a stronger possibility her baby’s will be too.

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