In honor of Pregnancy Awareness month, the next few weeks’ posts will feature guest bloggers who specialize in this area. So if you’re pregnant, have little ones at home, or a woman of childbearing age, you don’t want to miss this month’s posts!
By Kim Corrigan-Oliver, CNP ROHP at Your Green Baby
I am often amazed at how little thought and time woman take in preparing their body for pregnancy. The journey of pregnancy is a demanding one; you are building a human being from scratch…yes, you are building a human being. It truly is an amazing gift women have been given, and preparing for this journey before you conceive sets the foundation to support a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
Research now suggests your preconception nutritional status sets the foundation of your baby’s long term health and well being. With this in mind, what should you be eating preconception?
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables. Fruits and vegetables supply the body with minerals, vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and phyto-nutrients. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables will ensure you get all the nutrients you need. Aim for lots of color and choose organic as much as possible. Don’t forget about nutrient dense dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collard greens, watercress, swiss chard, spinach, etc. These are especially important because they supply so many vitamins and minerals, including vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. Leafy green vegetables are also a rich source of folate, a must-have nutrient for any woman trying to conceive. Folate is a B-vitamin that prevents serious birth defects. Folate deficiency has also been linked to infertility.
Protein. Required for every function in the body, protein is very important for health and well being. Protein is important for building tissues, muscles and digestive enzymes, and will help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Choosing plant-based proteins is best for optimal health and well being. Nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables, beans and grains (especially quinoa) are excellent choices. If you will be consuming meat or poultry, choose organic to avoid hormones, antibiotics and pesticides. If choosing to eat fish, be cautious with your choices – avoid tuna, swordfish, Chilean sea bass, grouper, orange roughy, shark, king mackerel, halibut, bluefish and tilefish due to mercury concerns. Instead focus on anchovy, mackerel, pollock, herring, rainbow trout, salmon (not farmed), sardines and smelt.
Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates in the form of whole grains provide us with fiber, important minerals and vitamins and immune supporting properties. Fiber is an extremely important nutrient in our diet – it helps the body get rid of excess hormones and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, which in turn aids in balancing hormones. It can be beneficial for some woman to avoid gluten. Gluten is a protein found in some grains – wheat, spelt, kamut, barley and rye. Many people have difficulty digesting gluten and are sensitive to it. Creating an environment of healing is important preconception and avoiding foods that cause sensitivity is imperative. Gluten is also known to be very sticky and can “gum” up the intestine, which in turn means things don’t move quite as well through your body. Gluten free grains include quinoa, millet, oats, amaranth, rice, buckwheat, sorghum and teff.
Calcium rich foods. Calcium is important to create an alkaline environment in the body, which is a very friendly environment for the sperm and the fertilized egg. Choose plant-based calcium rich foods including sesame seeds, almonds, quinoa, chia seeds, beans, lentils and dark leafy green vegetables. Why choose plant-based calcium rich foods over dairy? Dairy is very congesting to our bodies. This congestion can have an impact on your ability to conceive; even more so if you are experiencing any hormonal imbalances. It is also important to note that non-organic dairy production uses hormones and antibiotics during production, both of which can lead to increased levels of estrogen in your body and hormonal imbalances – both unfavorable environments for conception. When trying to conceive, it is best if we are easy on our digestive system; unfortunately for many of us dairy is difficult to digest. When our digestive system is stressed the other systems in our body don’t work as well. Your body must use a lot of energy to digest dairy; energy your body needs elsewhere to ensure optimum health and well being for conception.
Fats. Fats are necessary for hormonal balance and the production of hormones. The right fats control inflammation in the body, aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, are important for healthy egg production and are important in every step of the reproductive process. Omega-3 fatty acids are also very important in the development of the brain, nervous system and retina of your baby. Choose fish oils, flaxseed oils, hemp seed oils, nuts (especially walnuts), chia seeds, hemp seeds, avocados and olives to meet your needs. Minimize animal fats and avoid hydrogenated fats.
If there was ever a time to provide optimum nutrition for your body, preconception is it! During this time it is important to choose the freshest, healthiest and most natural foods to support reproductive and general health. By optimizing your health you will increase your chances of conceiving, having a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. This is within your control; you have the power and the choice to make a difference in your health, fertility and in the health of your baby. Take control and become empowered.
Kim is a mom, holistic nutritionist and writer. She is passionate about cooking, real food and raising happy healthy babies. Kim specializes in mom, baby and toddler nutrition, offering workshops, consultations and cooking classes through her company Your Green Baby. She has recently published her first book “Raising Happy Healthy Babies” which focuses on nutrition preconception right through the toddler years and included 95 recipes for mom, baby and toddler.
Find out more about Kim and read her blog at www.yourgreenbaby.ca
Receive daily tweets about mom, baby and toddler nutrition by following Kim’s Twitter page @yourgreenbaby
Many of you know that I do hot yoga as a form of exercise. A lot of you ask me, “What is hot yoga and is it really that good for you?” Let me start off by saying that I have experienced the benefits of hot yoga, and I’m hooked! My entire life, I’ve been a huge cardio junkie and never cared for yoga because it was too slow and I never felt like I was getting a good work out. I didn’t give yoga enough of a chance, and my perceptions were definitely wrong.
My first hot yoga class was last September (2010) at Hot Yoga Nashville, and I can’t say that the first class was amazing because it was hard getting used to working out in the heat. Yet, the feeling I had afterwards is honestly what brought me back again and again. The more that you go, the better it feels. It’s hard to describe to you, so you should try to experience it for yourself. The month of January, I did hot yoga 4-5 times a week. That month, I felt better, my mood was lifted, my stress levels were diminished dramatically, and I had so much more energy. After the month was over, I went to the gym to lift weights, and when I started doing lunges with dumbbells, I couldn’t believe how easy they were. Right then, I realized just how much hot yoga had strengthened my legs. Hot yoga is one of the ways I de-stress when life gets overwhelming. It’s very important that you have an outlet for your stress because the toll it takes on your body can be extremely harmful. The effects of stress are listed here.
What is Hot Yoga?
Hot yoga is a scientifically-designed series of postures that systematically stimulate the muscles, organs and glands, as well as the nervous system. As you progress through the postures, you move freshly-oxygenated blood throughout the entire body. The studio is heated to approximately 100°-105° so that your muscles are warmed, which helps prevent injury, and it allows you to go deeper into the stretches/poses. Sweating helps to cleanse your body from toxins through the skin.
Benefits of Hot Yoga:
Yoga builds strength and flexibility to the entire body. “A recent study at the University of California at Davis found that 90 minutes of yoga practice four times a week over eight weeks increased muscular strength up to 31%, muscular endurance up to 57%, and flexibility up to 188% in a group of healthy college students.” The average calorie burn is 600-800 per class. People who practice frequently lose inches of fat, develop muscle tone, and increase strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. Many athletes with injuries practice hot yoga in hopes to avoid surgery by strengthening their muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Runners love hot yoga as they are able to shave seconds and even minutes off their race time. Hot yoga also helps to:
- Accelerate weight loss
- Reduce stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Relieve headaches
- Increase energy
- Promote relaxation
- Lessen menopausal symptoms
- Reduce arthritic pain
- Improve coordination
- Increase strength
- Build stamina
- Restore healthy immune system
- Improve functioning of circulatory system
Hot yoga is for all fitness levels. The classes are full of people with different levels of ability, so don’t let that scare you. We are all beginners at some point. I have experienced the benefits first hand, as have many others. If you’re in a city that offers hot yoga or bikram yoga, you should definitely give it a try! Namaste!
Kristen M. Pardue, RD, LDN
It all started on Feb. 17, 2010. I was at the hospital welcoming my twin niece and nephew into this world, and I casually showed my mom the bumps on my hands around the knuckles, asking her what she thought they could be. My mom has always been a worry-free mom, so of course she said it was nothing. Over the next few weeks, my hands started aching pretty badly, and the pain continued to get worse until one night I woke up with extremely stiff hands; this went on for weeks, which turned into months. Waking up in tears almost every night as I was in excruciating pain and fearful for what was happening to me. I couldn’t bend the fingers in my left hand. I remember countless nights that consisted of pain, crying, and waking up my husband, Eric, and asking him to pray for healing.
At first, my doctor just gave me a prescription NSAID (anti-inflammatory) to see if that would take the pain and inflammation away. (It didn’t.) At my next visit, he took an x-ray of my hand to see if anything could possibly be broken. (It wasn’t.) I asked him to do a complete blood work-up on me, and he agreed as he was then concerned that what I had could be several things: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, parvovirus, & other diseases that scared me to death. While waiting on my blood results, I did exactly what I shouldn’t have done; I went home and researched every disease that he mentioned I “could” have. Now this was also a time when my husband worked almost every night, so I was home alone a lot and didn’t have anyone to take my mind off of all my fears. Panic, depression, and worry all filled my mind, especially after reading articles that talked about fertility problems being linked to some of these diseases. More than anything, I want to be a mom someday, and my mind kept going back to “what if I can’t have children?” “Will I have to live in pain the rest of my life?” The information you read online is downright scary. My results came in and the doctor couldn’t tell me much except that my ANA levels were high and that he wanted me to see a specialist, a rheumatologist. Unfortunately for me, the first appointment available was weeks away, so the waiting and worrying continued….along with the pain.
By the time my husband and I went to see the rheumatologist, I had talked to several people about what was going on with my health and from my own research, I decided to ask the doctor if he thought I should go on a gluten free diet to help my pain. He said absolutely not, and that the only people who need to go on a gluten free diet are those who have celiac disease and since I was not having intestinal pain/diarrhea, that I didn’t have celiac disease. (He was misinformed). Check out the symptoms of celiac disease here. I also talked to the doctor about whether I should try eating an anti-inflammatory diet to see if that would help. He told me that changing someone’s diet could not change inflammation in the body. (As a dietitian, I was shocked that he said and believed this). So I asked him what he though was wrong with me, and while he wouldn’t admit that he “didn’t know,” he said he wasn’t convinced it was Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus because all of my symptoms didn’t seem to match up perfectly. He said, “Well, you have arthritic pain. Here are steroids for you to take, and come back in a month.” This is the problem I had with all my doctors, and I cannot begin to tell you how frustrated I was with the fact that these doctors were giving me a drug to treat the symptoms, but didn’t try at all to find the CAUSE of the symptoms. Honestly, what hurt me worse was not the pain; it was not knowing what was wrong with me and not knowing if I was going to be okay. The unknown hurts a lot worse than physical pain.
So I reluctantly took the steroids everyday and hated that my appetite increased quite a bit (side effect of steroids). Some people take steroids the rest of their lives, and I just couldn’t do it. I’m not sure if this was a good or bad thing, but they didn’t work. The pain, stiffness, and swelling continued. Not only that, but when I would wash my hands, my fingers would get this burning, tingling sensation. Scary. When hurting that badly and not knowing what was causing my body to fall apart, I couldn’t help but let my mind go places I didn’t want it to go. I wanted to feel better. I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted the pain to go away. And most of all, I wanted answers. Someone please just give me some answers!
In the midst of all this, I did get a blood test done for celiac disease. (I had to BEG my doctor to perform this test.) The doctor called me and said I did not have celiac disease, but I had him fax me my results anyway. Being a health care professional, I know how to analyze labs, and one of the antibodies in this panel was slightly positive. Therefore, while I may not have celiac disease, I could possibly be sensitive to gluten. Unfortunately for most people, blood tests are inaccurate a lot of times. Biopsies are also sometimes falsely negative because it is easy to miss the damaged spots of the small intestines.
On May 5, 2010, I decided to do the elimination test myself to see if I would feel better without gluten. I don’t know exactly how long I was gluten free until I started to feel better, but I would say approximately one month. My joints became less stiff and the pain started to ease up. I wasn’t completely better, but any improvement was fine by me. Not only did I remove gluten from my life, but I also did my best at removing chemicals from my home. I’m still doing this, but slowly as I would run out of a cleaning product or beauty product, I would replace it with a natural product, free of harsh chemicals and toxins. Financially, we didn’t have the means to completely throw out everything and buy all new, so this worked for us. My sweet husband, Eric, was extremely supportive through all of this. He would even eat some things gluten free with me.
Just when I think all my prayers are answered because I’m starting to feel better, I start having twitching in different parts of my body. This wasn’t minor twitching that you get in your eyelid every once in awhile. This was every 10 seconds of spasms, twitching, or whatever you want to call it all over my body. Eric told me that every night while I was sleeping, he would wake up and feel what was happening to my body. He said it felt like a wave traveling down from my back to my feet. Eric also described the waves as very faint, but that they would move so fast down my body that he knew it wasn’t anything I could possibly control.
So I went to two more doctors who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, and then I ended up at a neurologist. He performed a nerve study and an MRI on my brain to see if I had MS. Both were negative, and he said he could give me a muscle relaxer but I declined. The twitching and spasms continued, along with tingling that shot up my arms. My body was out of control. I remember crying out to God and begging him to heal me. There were numerous times when I was home by myself and just lost it. As a dietitian, I so valued health and wellness, and the fact that I was sick and didn’t have answers killed me. I wanted to be healthy and feel good again.
God did answer my prayers by providing just the right people and resources that would help lead me to healing. On October 27, 2010, I went to an alternative doctor here in Nashville. To make this already long story a bit shorter, he agreed I should stay clear of gluten (1 in 7 people have a gluten sensitivity) and he also took lots of blood work and did a stool test. Several things were off, but the main things were my elevated ANA, which I already knew, my thyroid levels were low, and my stool test showed very high amounts of heavy metals in my body (which he says lots of people have). He started me on a chelation process which consisted of me taking supplements to rid my body of the heavy metals. A very healthy diet would speed the process up of detoxifying my body. “Eat healthy? I’m good at this, but I can be even better.” Eric and I switched to organic for most foods, and we ate more vegetables than ever before (still do). My doctor also gave me Armour, which is a natural form of thyroid hormone, unlike the synthetic kinds that drug companies and most conventional doctors prescribe.
I am a new woman and have never felt better! I go back in May 2011 for more blood work, and I’m just praying that my ANA and thyroid levels are normal again. What matters most right now is how I feel, and I can tell you that I have never been so thankful for my health. I could have continued letting all my doctors tell me to continue taking drugs (that weren’t working) and go on with my life, but I wanted to get to the root issue. I healed myself naturally and so can YOU.
Kristen M. Pardue, RD, LDN