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The Most Important Test for Preventing Miscarriage

Pregnancy is one of the most significant women’s health topics – we spend our teens and early 20’s avoiding pregnancy, and many of us spend our 30’s and early 40’s trying to get pregnant.  And once a woman is pregnant, we want to ensure a healthy pregnancy with the outcome of a happy, healthy baby.

Lack of Lab Testing

In Ontario, where I run my women’s health practice, the standard of care is for women to receive only very basic testing when they discover they are pregnant.  Women are screened for sexually transmitted illnesses (chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis), public health testing (rubella), blood type and Rh factor.  But few women are screened for one of the most common, and preventable, causes of miscarriage – one that can be easily identified and often has no symptoms. 

Comprehensive Testing

The one test I insist all women in my practice have at the first sign of pregnancy is a comprehensive thyroid panel.  The thyroid gland, sitting in your throat near your voice box, is one of the most important hormone producing gland in your body.  Thyroid hormones are essential for metabolism – creating energy in our cells to meet the demands of our body.  In pregnancy we need to be able to make a lot of energy – making a whole new human is hard work! 

In pregnancy our requirements for thyroid hormones increase – and if our body isn’t able to meet that demand, the result can be early pregnancy loss (miscarriage).  We can identify women who may be at risk for this by running a simple TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) test and treating women who fall outside the normal range with thyroid replacement hormones during pregnancy. 

But TSH isn’t the only important thyroid test for a pregnant woman.  Testing thyroid antibodies, especially anti TPO antibody is also essential for preventing miscarriage.  Thyroid autoimmune disease is the most common autoimmune disease in women who are in their childbearing years – impacting up to 15% of women.  Many of these women have no symptoms of thyroid disease and their TSH levels are totally normal.

Having TPO antibodies however, is a major risk factor for miscarriage.  There is a strong association with TPO antibodies and miscarriage, preterm delivery, and other negative outcomes in pregnancy (such as low birth weight and smaller head circumference). 

Getting Tested

Despite all the evidence, known to doctors since the 1990s, comprehensive thyroid testing still isn’t available as a screening test for most women in early pregnancy. But that shouldn’t stop you from seeking it out. Available from your Naturopathic Doctor for under a hundred dollars, this test could make all the difference in your pregnancy. And since this cause of miscarriage is completely treatable, I encourage you to have the test done as soon as possible after you discover you are pregnant. Miscarriage is all too common already, I don’t want any more women to have miscarriages that could be prevented.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.

Foods that Impact Thyroid Health

Hypothyroidism is one of the most common hormone imbalances affecting women today.  Thousands of women are diagnosed with low thyroid function every year, and it is estimated that there are thousands more who go undiagnosed.

The chances of developing hypothyroidism are increased during pregnancy, after pregnancy and as we age, with rates of diagnosis highest in women aged 40-60.

An imbalanced thyroid can leave you feeling exhausted, unmotivated and unhealthy.  The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary but can include:

    • Foods for hypothyroidismFeeling cold, especially in the hands or feet or an intolerance to cold
    • Constipation
    • Thinning of the eyebrows
    • Weight gain or inability to lose weight
    • Dry hair or skin
    • Hair loss
    • Swelling or puffiness around the eyes
    • Heavy periods
    • Decreased libido
    • Fatigue
    • Depression
    • Poor concentration

If you suspect you may have low thyroid function you should see your Medical Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor to have thyroid function testing done.  Discuss your results with your doctor because even mild disturbances in thyroid functioning can have significant impacts on your quality of life.

Foods that Impact Thyroid Health

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food” – Hippocrates

What we eat can impact our thyroid health in both positive and negative ways.  Learn which foods support healthy thyroid functioning and which ones can interfere with thyroid health.

See if you know which foods are good for your thyroid and which ones are bad.

Pumpkin Seeds – GOODPumpkin Seeds are a source of tyrosine

Pumpkin seeds are a source of tyrosine, an amino acid our body uses to manufacture thyroid hormone.  If we don’t get enough tyrosine in our diet hypothyroidism can develop.

Other food sources of tyrosine: almonds, avocados, bananas, plain natural yogurt, sesame seeds (including tahini), lima beans

Seaweed – GOOD

Seaweeds are a rich source of iodine, a mineral necessary for production of thyroid hormones.  Iodine combines with tyrosine to produce thyroid hormones.  A diet deficient in iodine is the most common cause of hypothyroidism worldwide.

Other food sources of iodine: table salt, fish (sea bass, cod, haddock), shellfish and sea vegetables including seaweed (Nori, Wakame, Arame, Dulse) and kelp.

Brussels Sprouts – BADbrussels sprouts are goitrogenic

Brussels sprouts are members of the Brassica family of vegetables.  This family of vegetables can have goitrogenic effects – they can induce an iodine deficiency by combining with iodine and making it unavailable to produce thyroid hormone.

Cooking the Brassia family of vegetables can lessen their harmful impact on the thyroid – and if your diet is rich in iodine they are unlikely to have a significant impact.

Other Brassica vegetables: cabbage, turnips, Brussels sprouts, kale, mustard greens, radishes, horseradish, rutabaga, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy)

Peanuts – BAD

Peanuts also have goitrogenic effects, similar to the Brassica family of vegetables.  Other foods that have this effect are: millet, cassava and pine nuts.

Mushrooms – GOODmushrooms are a source of selenium

Mushrooms are a source of selenium which is needed for the conversion of T4 to T3 (active thyroid hormone) in the body.  People with low intake of selenium may have high levels of T4 and TSH but low levels of T3, resulting in symptoms of hypothyroidism.  Selenium deficiency can also lead to elevations in thyroid antibody levels.

Selenium content of food depends on the selenium-richness of the soil that the food is grown in.  Southern Ontario soil tends to be low in selenium.  It is estimated that selenium is deficient in about 50% of diets.

Other food sources of selenium: brown rice, oats, Brazil nuts, shellfish, garlic, onions, broccoli, tomato, radishes

Soy – BAD

The main isoflavone in soy – genistein – is goitrogenic – it can bind to iodine and make it unavailable to the thyroid for thyroid hormone production.

If you have an underactive thyroid gland you do not need to completely avoid all soy products – but you do need to make sure you are getting enough iodine to counter any negative impacts from soy consumption.

Wheat – May be BADwheat is a common food allergen

If you are sensitive to wheat, dairy or any other food avoiding these foods is important for maintaining thyroid health.  Individuals with autoimmune thyroid disease are more susceptible to food sensitivities or allergies.

Because many people do harbour food sensitivities to wheat, dairy and other foods, an elimination diet or food sensitivity test may be useful to determine sensitivities and restore balance to the immune system and thyroid gland.

Hormone imbalances like hypothyroidism respond best to an integrative approach to treatment.  Dietary changes, like those discussed here, in combination with lifestyle changes, supplements, and medications where necessary can improve your condition and your quality of life.  It’s all about finding that perfect balance for you, and your health.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.