Whether it is your first pregnancy, your third pregnancy, or you are trying to get pregnant, nothing is more important for you at this time in your life than you and your baby’s health. There is an abundance of information out there from books, magazines, articles, and the internet that can be helpful guides to follow for a healthy pregnancy. But at times you may find that they contradict each other or come to find out that it is just a sales pitch. However, there are some main guidelines that every pregnant woman should follow in which mostly are agreed upon by both the medical community and the holistic approaches. Let’s take a further look into the nutrients which we are speaking of. I always recommend food first then supplement to fill the gaps, if necessary. What Foods should I Eat? Recently I read the book Real Food for Pregnancy by registered dietitian Lily Nichols. She does a great job simplifying what foods we should eat and those we would be best avoiding during pregnancy. The book is backed with research and provides more than nutrition advice. The summary of the book explains the importance of embracing real food during pregnancy. What is “real” food? Simply stated it is food in its natural form from nature that is not processed in a way that removes its nutrients. When one eats real food, you will be eating food that is nutrient dense and satisfying. Prenatal nutrition can be confusing. We all want the best for our babies, but an astonishing amount of what we’ve been told about pregnancy nutrition is not backed by current research. Prenatal nutrition doesn’t have to be confusing. Below are five foods for a Healthy Pregnancy:
- Whole Eggs (Whites & Yolk). Eggs are packed with protein, choline, B-vitamins and other vital vitamins and fats that should be part of every prenatal diet.
- Avocado. An avocado a day keeps morning sickness at bay. It is rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, both have been shown to reduce morning sickness. Avocados are also packed with healthy fat and 10g of fiber.
- Kale. Leafy greens are the riches source of folate. This is a vital component in nervous system development. Kale is also rich in magnesium, potassium, fiber, vitamin C and beta-carotene.
- Bone Broth. Lucky for you, you can find bone broth premade in many stores. It is a fantastic source of calcium and magnesium. It is also packed with glycine. Glycine is an amino acid that the body uses to create protein, which it needs for the growth and maintenance of tissues and for making hormones and enzymes. For example, add bone broth instead of water the next time you cook rice.
- Full-fat Kefir or Yogurt. These are filled with calcium and other minerals. Don’t be afraid of full-fat. Full-fat food sources provide the benefit of fat-soluble vitamins and ensure you are absorbing other minerals properly. These two products are also fermented, which will provide probiotics that benefit your digestion.
High Potency Multiple with Iron When purchasing a Multiple Vitamin look at the other ingredients at the bottom of the label. Are there artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin or sucralose? Are there artificial colors or dyes such as FD&C blue #1 or yellow #6? How about artificial preservatives? If it contains any of these ingredients, put it back on the shelf. Acceptable sweeteners are sucrose, fructose, stevia or xylitol. Monitor yourself for a few days when you start to take a new multi-vitamin. If you have stomach upset, it could be the sweetener being used. Remember that a supplement is not a substitution for eating healthy foods nor is it a replacement for foods. It is, in fact, to enhance the quality of your food and correct nutritional deficiencies caused by years of suboptimal eating and environmental exposures. Take your Multiple Vitamin with meals to avoid upset stomach. Iron is recommended to be included in the Multiple Vitamin for the prevention of anemia and can be significant for mothers who are deficient. Anemia during pregnancy is especially a concern because it is associated with low birth weight, premature birth and maternal mortality.1 Pregnant women are at higher risk for developing anemia during pregnancy because the body produces and excess amount of blood to help provide nutrients to the baby. Types of anemia during pregnancy include:
- Iron deficiency (accounts for 15% to 25%)
- Folate deficiency
- B12 deficiency
Before you purchase your multiple with Iron you want to check your Iron and Ferritin levels first. You can do this with a simple blood test. Ferritin, your back up supply for Serum Iron, can have a tendency to be too high in individuals. These women may not need Iron. Omega 3’s The part of the brain that Omega-3 affects is the learning ability, anxiety/depression, and auditory and visual perception. The Omega-3 fats are necessary for the complete development of the human brain during pregnancy and the first two years of life.2 John Finnegan, an experienced nutrition consultant and author of The Facts About Fats, explains that DHA, Omega 3’s derivative, is so essential to a child’s development that if a mother and infant are deficient in it, the child’s nervous system and immune system may never fully develop, and it can cause a lifetime of unexplained emotional, learning, and immune system disorders.2 Foods that are rich in Omega 3’s are healthy fatty foods such as avocado, nuts, seeds, nut butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and fish. You can supplement with an Omega 3 at 1000-2000 mg/day. Without knowing the outcome of your labor and delivery, I typically recommend taking a break from omega 3’s the last four weeks of your pregnancy because it can cause blood thinning. After delivery we want the blood to clot and bleeding to stop to avoid hemorrhaging. One of the number one things to avoid on every list for pregnant women is fish with high levels of mercury. The American Pregnancy Association advises that mercury be avoided due to it being linked to developmental delays and brain damage.1 Even the conservative FDA has warned that women should avoid most fish during pregnancy.3 A sample of these types of fish include: shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish. Canned, chunk light tuna generally has a lower amount of mercury than other tuna but can be eaten in moderation (no more than 6 ounces per week). Salmon, Tilapia, and Cod are also types of fish that are lower in mercury levels. Avoid fish that is farm raised and opt for fresh water fish. It may be a bit more expensive, but it is worth it to avoid fish exposed to industrial pollutants. Make sure that the fish is cooked thoroughly and avoid eating it raw. Antioxidants Your immune system is naturally suppressed when you are pregnant because your baby is foreign to your body. This makes the mother more susceptible to colds, the flu, and other bacterial or viral diseases. Vitamin C is vital to the immune system and is a powerful weapon when it comes to tissue repair, bone growth and cell protection. It will stimulate collagen production which is a protein important for connective tissues.
- Lack of vitamin C has been linked to premature deliveries and preeclampsia.4
- Eat fresh citrus fruits and vegetables that contain Vitamin C such as oranges, grapefruit, cantaloupe, sweet red peppers and broccoli.
- Vitamin C can help protect against toxic effects of Mercury and further DNA damage 5
- One can safely consume 2000 mg/day of Vitamin C as a supplement.
Zinc is a trace mineral that is important for fetal growth. The requirement of zinc during the third trimester is approximately twice as high as that in nonpregnant women.6 Zinc deficiency has been associated with preeclampsia since the 1980’s. However, studies have shown that the fetus has notably higher zinc concentrations compared to the mother, indicating that the baby, itself, can maintain adequate zinc homeostasis.6 Selenium is important for early stages of embryonic development and protection of membranes and DNA.6 Also, selenium concentrations may be a potential factor in women at risk of preeclampsia. B-Complex It is wise for pregnant women to take a B-Complex vitamin. This complex consists of the 8 B-Vitamins. Each of these vitamins are vital for many structures and functions of both the mother and baby. These include:
- Muscle, nerve, and brain development of the fetus
- DNA synthesis
- Circulation Support
- Hormones development and balance
- Cholesterol control
- Reduction of Morning sickness7
I recommend making sure you check labels and your B-vitamins are in the methylated form. Why does methylation matter? A certain percentage of the population, approximately 30%, is unable to metabolize the unmethylated forms of B vitamins, mainly folate and vitamin B12. The active methylated form is what the body can use and absorb. Vitamin D According to the American College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists, women who are most at risk for Vitamin D deficiency includes vegetarians, women with limited sun exposure and ethnic minorities, especially those with darker skin. Research concludes that Vitamin D supplementation at 4,000 IU per day for pregnant women was safe and most effective in achieving sufficiency in all women and their baby regardless of race.8 You may need more and a blood test can help determine your specific needs. It is unlikely that your multiple vitamin has enough D3 in it. The Vitamin D should be D3 or cholecalciferol. It should not be the synthetic form D2 or ergocalciferol. You can easily check your Vitamin D levels through a 25-hydroxyvitamin D blood test. So where do you go for the most accurate information on how to eat right, take the correct supplements, and avoid potential toxicities? Nothing tells you the truth more so than your own individualized testing. We can provide this testing in our office if it is something you are interested in exploring further. It may be more involved than what you are looking for at this time, so we can always provide you general guidelines that best fit your current needs. If your looking for great ways to improve your nutrition through food check out the book Real Food for Pregnancy. Pregnancy should be a joyful time in your life and you want to feel the best possible. Don’t let time pass you by; just ask us how we can help! In addition, to nutrition and lifestyle changes, chiropractic care throughout your pregnancy has been shown to reduce labor times, reduce discomfort throughout pregnancy, assist baby to move in the optimal position, and improve overall function for mom and baby. We specialize in chiropractic care for expectant mothers and would be honored to be a part of your care team as you prepare to welcome a new baby to your family! By Melanie Dockter DC CACCP References:
- The Facts About Fats, by John Finnegan, published by Celestial Arts, 1993.
- How to Avoid Having a Premature Delivery. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2003/11/22/premature-delivery-part-two.aspx, (Accessed October 26, 2018)
- Stresing, Diane. Everything you need to know about vitamins. http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/vitamins-meds.aspx. (Accessed October 26, 2018)
- Vitamin C Detoxifies Oxidized Fat, 2001, Jan Frederik Stevens, Ph.D
- WHO/FAO/IAEA, Trace Elements in Human Nutrition and Health, World Health Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland, 1996.
8. Hollis, Bruce Ph.D., Johnson, Donna M.D. et.al. Vitamin D Supplementation during Pregnancy: Double Blind, Randomized Clinical Trial of Safety and Effectiveness. J Bone Miner Res. 2011 Oct; 26(10): 2341–2357.