Dr Bernadette Carr answers your questions on food cravings and thyroid problems

Dr Bernadette Carr gives advice on food cravings during pregnancy and what to do when there is a history of thyroid problems in your family.

Q. I’m three months pregnant and have yet to get food cravings. Is this normal or are cravings an old wives’ tale?

A. Although food cravings are a common complaint in the first trimester, not all pregnant women will experience them.

Cravings and aversions to food happen because of the hormonal and blood- chemical changes that take place in your body.

These changes can affect your saliva. Some women experience a metallic-like taste in the mouth which can cause some foods or drinks to taste odd.

Good nutrition is important during pregnancy, particularly if you do develop cravings or aversions, so make sure your diet includes the vitamins and minerals which you and your baby need.

Here are some general suggestions to consider:

* You may feel hungrier than usual but don’t eat for two.

* Try to eat regular meals and always eat a healthy breakfast, this will help avoid snacking.

* If you do need a snack, try low-fat yogurt, fresh fruit, and porridge with milk or baked beans on toast.

* Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and include lots of fibre in your diet to prevent constipation.

* Carbohydrates are important but try to eat wholemeal varieties where possible.

* Aim to have some protein every day and two portions of fish a week.

* Avoid uncooked or smoked meats, uncooked egg, and soft cheeses. Make sure meat is well cooked and fruit and vegetables are washed to avoid any risk of infections such as listeria, toxoplasmosis or food poisoning.

Good luck with your pregnancy.

Q. I am a woman in my 30s. Recently, I have been tired all the time, feeling cold and although I eat a healthy diet, I have put on weight. There is a history of thyroid problems in my family.

A. Given the symptoms you are experiencing, and your family history, I would advise you to make an appointment with your GP so a diagnosis can be made.

The thyroid gland makes a hormone called thyroxine, which is carried around the body in the blood stream so that the body’s metabolism works correctly. 

If the gland does not produce enough thyroxine it is described as being an underactive thyroid gland or ‘hypothyroid’.

Underactive thyroid is a common condition, particularly in women. 

A shortage of thyroid hormone causes the body’s metabolism to slow down, which causes the symptoms of hypothyroidism. 

While it is not an inherited (genetic) condition it can run in families. 

Most cases of underactive thyroid are thought to be the result of an immune reaction.

An underactive thyroid can cause symptoms such as:

* Tiredness

* Weight gain

* Constipation

* Feeling cold

* Dry, thickened skin.

* Dry coarse hair

* Heavy periods.

As you can see the symptoms of underactive thyroid are not very specific, and can also be caused by other conditions. 

Underactive thyroid can normally be diagnosed on a simple blood test, and treatment usually involves taking a tablet every day to replace the missing hormone. 

If your thyroid blood test is normal it is important to consider other conditions which might explain the symptoms.

It is very important that you make an appointment to see your GP to discuss these symptoms and family history of thyroid problems as soon as possible. 

Your GP will decide if any investigations are needed, and make a diagnosis.


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