What to eat when you're in labour

Just like a big day of running in the heat, labour requires the right fuel to keep your body working at it's very best. 

Just like a big day of running in the heat, labour requires the right fuel to keep your body working at it's very best. 

Labour is HARD WORK! Hey, they don’t call it “labour” for nothing. Fuelling your body properly is essential for any intense physical or emotional output. Labour is no exception. Your uterus is one big muscle and without a steady supply of glucose for fuel, it can become inefficient and uncoordinated. Think about a marathon runner who's bonking...she can't run in a straight line, she trips and stumbles eventually falling right on her face! Nobody wants to fall flat on their face...sheesh.

Here's the quandary, when you’re working so hard bringing your baby into the world you won’t feel like eating much of anything at all. This is when it will be up to your partner, support team or care provider to encourage you to keep up your consumption of the fluids, electrolytes and calories that are necessary for you to sustain yourself and your uterus in labour.

What to choose?

The best choices are things that are quick and easy to digest. Things that you can take a fast nibble of or sip of between contractions and won’t cause any additional discomfort or nausea are your best bets. You want foods that make it easy for your body to mobilize into fuel. 

Gummies

  • Putting some of these pre-made energy chews into your birth bag is a smart idea. They are by FAR the most consumed snack I see women eat. Brands I like include, Honey Stinger and ProBar Bolt Chews

  • Or, you can make your own! Try Meg's Blueberry version. You can sub the blueberry for any flavour, raspberry works well too. 

Meg's Blueberry Ginger Gummies

These healthy low sugar gummies are a source of electrolytes thanks to the sea salt. They are a great quick snack, pick-me-up during a training session or or as an easy to digest labour fuel. The ginger can also make them great for nausea in the first trimester of pregnancy. 

  • 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

  • 1/2 cup boiling water

  • 2 tbs balsamic vinegar (or more water)

  • 2 tbs grassfed gelatin (find it here

  • 2 tsp sea salt

  • 1 tsp powdered ginger

  • Stevia as desired to taste 

Place the blueberries, stevia and balsamic in a small saucepan and cook for 5-10 mins or until cooked and have released there sweet juices. Transfer to blender or use an immersion blender (careful if your mixture is hot!) and puree until well blended. Return to pot. Mix gelatin into water and allow to "bloom" for 5 mins. 
Re-heat blueberry mix adding in sea salt, ginger and gelatin mix. Don't let boil but get hot enough to mix in gelatin. Stir well until combined. Allow to sit for 30-ish mins and then transfer into a silicon mini muffin pan or molds of some sort. Chill for 3-4hrs and enjoy! 

Solids:

  • In the early part of active labour you may still be able to handle some solid foods. Glucose rich foods are easy to digest and don't tax your liver unlike foods that may be high in fructose like many fruits like watermelonapplescherriesmango and pears or applesauce.

  • Good Choices include: Fruits such as, blueberries or strawberries or starches such as cooked salted potatoes & yams

Be sure to add some salt to them spuds to keep your muscles firing at maximum capacity.

Be sure to add some salt to them spuds to keep your muscles firing at maximum capacity.

Electrolyte Drinks:

Try Meg's Homemade Coconut water "Labour-ade"

3 cups Coconut Water

1 cup filtered water

¼ cup lime juice

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ tsp pink himalayan sea salt or other salt

Add a few drops of Rescue Remedy also is a good idea to calm and soothe your nervous system

Don't have time to make your own? 

How to choose a good Prenatal Vitamin

One of the most common questions I get from readers and clients is, "What prenatal vitamin should I choose"?  I've avoided answering this question for a while because it's hard to give specific brand name recommendations when there is so much to choose from and product availability varies tremendously depending on where you live. That being said, this week I'm going to offer a launching point for women. You'll find a much more in depth answer to this question on Baby Making and Beyond but for now, here's a great place to start. 

Why do I need a Prenatal if I eat a real food or clean Paleo diet?

This is a great question. Some women do decide not to take a prenatal combination, which is cool, but there are some things that are important to consider:

- Pregnancy (and while breastfeeding) is a time with increased, some might say insane, nutrient demands. We quite simply just need, LOTS of essential micro nutrients to support the body's process of creating a new life. Most diets, even the best, can't provide all you need. The good news is that most of the time your baby will get what he or she needs by depleting you of nutrients. If you aren't replenishing your stores, you can, and will become deficient. This is especially true if you are having multiple babies  2-3 years apart or less.

- Soil and food quality just isn't what it used to be. Even the cleanest of diets won't provide all of the nutrients you need for optimal fertility and pregnancy. The carrots our grandparents ate are not the same as the ones we find in the grocery store today, even the organic heirloom rainbow ones. A Scientific American article looked at several different studies which demonstrated time and time again that from 1975 to 1997 average calcium levels in 12 fresh veggies dropped by 27%, iron levels by 37%, vitamin A by 21% and vitamin C by 30%. 

- The stress of our modern busy lives will depletes all of us. Stress and high cortisol will drain you of several critical fertility and pregnancy nutrients like B- vitamins (including folate), vitamin C, zinc and magnesium. 

- If you've are a recovering vegan/vegetarian, have had a history of food restriction, over exercise or spent much of your life (like most of us) eating a standard american diet, you are nutrient depleted. It takes many years to correct these imbalances.

What to look for in a Prenatal Vitamin

- Look for a brand that lists Folate (5- methyltetrahydrofolate) not "folic acid" especially if your have or suspect you have MTHFR or other methylation issues as you won't be able to utilize the synthetic form of this B-vitamin. High dose folic acid supplementation has also recently been linked to various forms of cancer and can a mask B12 deficiency. Baby Making and Beyond will have lots more on this critical difference. Folate must be sourced from real food so a "raw or whole food" like brand will usually have folate not folic acid in it. 

Innate Response 1/2nd Trimester Formula

Innate Response 1/2nd Trimester Formula

- Look for synergistic combinations of vitamins with cofactors to aid in absorption and assimilation. These may include fruit powder extracts, enzymes or herbs.

- Ensure they don't contain soy, gluten or dairy and look for 3rd party testing and verification. 

- Ensure they don't contain soy, gluten or dairy and are 3rd party tested and verified. 

Meg the Midiwife's Favourite Prenatal Vitamin

 Innate Response Baby and Me. There is a 1st/2nd trimester blend and a 3rd/postpartum blend. I love the ingredient list and in my mind this company is legit. 

Runner up: 

Garden of Life Raw Prenatal

 If you live in the USA you'll have access to a much greater variety of products than we have here in Canada. I'd love to hear about what prenatal you've chosen and why! Send me a message or leave me a comment below! 

Pregnancy cravings. The why and heck, why not!?

I was recently asked by a reader about why she craves carbs so intensely during her pregnancy. Given that 80% of women experience pregnancy cravings, I thought this would make a spectacular next blog post topic. Please keep your comments and questions coming. Your questions inspire my future posts and direct my otherwise mindless evening research projects, preventing me from online shoe shopping purchases that I will likely regret. Who really needs purple patented leather wedges after all? 

What’s a craving?

By definition, a craving is “a powerful desire for something” (like my frequent shoe purchases). Food cravings can totally hijack your brain and consume your thoughts. This is a common and well documented occurrence among dieters who are restricting a certain type of food or calories in general. Why do cravings happen to so many pregnant women who are not dieting or restricting? Is there any science to help us understand this phenomenon? Well, according to the research, not really….but, here’s my take on the situation.

There seems to be no defined physiological reason for pregnancy food cravings, however, they do seem to have a sort of 'bio-psycho-social' paradigm. What do I mean by that? Research suggests that cravings, particularly in pregnancy, may be influenced by a complicated relationship between sociocultural factors, stress and hormonal fluctuations. Basically, we are complicated creatures and we sometimes turn to food for reasons that aren’t simply nutritionally driven.

To demonstrate this complicated relationship, let’s look at a crowd favourite ...chocolate.

Chocolate contains certain properties that influence our feelings of satiety and contain compounds such as tyramine, tryptophan and magnesium that act as mood altering psychoactive agents. Milk and turkey have these same compounds and yet don't seem to elicit the same intense cravings. 

"I just NEED to eat a turkey breast",  said no one ever. 

Here my friend Laurie demonstrates the power of a chocolate craving. Nothing like cake in the car. 

Here my friend Laurie demonstrates the power of a chocolate craving. Nothing like cake in the car. 

The answers may lie in our complicated socio/cultural influences. Chocolate cravings, particularly among women, may result from a combination of factors such as, a reaction to stress, hormonal fluctuations and modulations of certain neuropeptide concentrations but also from our relationship with food. For example, studies from countries, like Spain, where chocolate consumption viewed as a part of a healthy diet and is generally higher, report very limited cravings for chocolate. This is contrasted by American women, who’s chocolate consumption is more restricted or considered a "treat". American women report the strongest craving for this rich delicious treat.

In North American culture, chocolate, and carbs in general are often turned to in order to treat and soothe our emotional selves. It is possible that when pregnant, especially in the first trimester, when we might feel nauseous, bloated, tired and crabby (because of hormones), we turn to foods that are easy to digest (make us less nauseous and require less energy to process), increase our comfort levels and boost our feel good serotonin levels. 

Craving Carbs? 

Carb cravings in particular, may also be a result of a more relaxed attitude surrounding food when pregnant. Women who were previously restricting carbs, a common practice in the Paleo community, may see pregnancy as a ‘hall pass’ to enjoy carbs in all forms and as a result may experience intense cravings for these starchy and/or sweet delights.

While we are on the topic of carbs, I think it’s also important to recognize the biological aspects of carb cravings, aside from chocolate, in pregnancy. Your body needs carbs when you’re nourishing your fertile self. Carbs are required for proper hormone function and once you become pregnant, your body becomes increasingly more insulin resistant as a way of increasing fuel availability to your growing baby. This insulin resistant can cause carb cravings particularly in the first trimester. More on Carbs can be found on my previous post, "How Many Carbs Should I Eat When Pregnant?" 

What about fat and salt ? 

Want really really good and good for you bacon? Don't fart around, pick up some Pete's Paleo Bacon...it will change your life forever. 

Want really really good and good for you bacon? Don't fart around, pick up some Pete's Paleo Bacon...it will change your life forever. 


Many women experience strong cravings for the fat and salt. In particular, the combination of the two. This craving seems to be more prominent in the second and third trimesters when our body's increasing its blood volume. During this time we naturally want to hold on to excess water and building new fat stores. Just as carb cravings are 100% biological, the combination of fat and salt have a real psychological component. This combination seems to activate certain pleasure centres in our brains, again, making us feel happy and satiated. I have had several friends who just couldn't get enough Cobb salad (blue cheese plus bacon = fat + salt heaven). Real Food Liz's most intense craving was Caesar salad...much for the same reason.

Citrus and fruit?

The craving for citrus is another very common one. Like salt, it tends to become more prominent in the third trimester. Real Food Liz has been going crazy over pineapple and I have TONS of clients who just can't get enough orange juice and watermelon. What does this mean? Well, it could indicate a deficiency in vitamin C but I think that it could also be your body's way of trying to boost your natural iron levels in preparation for the inevitable loss of blood during birth and the postpartum period. Your body requires high vitamin C levels to absorb iron from your diet...maybe your cravings are trying to help you fill up on nutrients? Just a theory. These cravings also may be a result of your increasing insulin resistance in the third trimester. During this time your body is a sugar monster. It does this to try to create a robust baby who can withstand the stress of the first weeks of life.

Cravings to pay attention to

While the most cravings are more or less meaningless from a health standpoint, there are a few that are worthy of paying attention to and telling your health care provider about:

  • Ice: If you crave the crunch of ice and find yourself chewing on ice cubes this is a strong sign of anemia. Why ice when you have low iron? Being anemic causes swelling of the tongue and mouth. Ice relieves it. That's why it feels soooo good.  Have your blood levels checked and increase the animal based heme iron rich foods in your diet.
  • Chalk, dirt or other 'non-food' based items (aka Pica): These cravings may seem insane but women DO experience them. They often indicate a mineral or vitamin deficiency. See your doctor and don't eat chalk. It can be harmful to you and your baby.

What should a Real Food or Paleo Mama do about these cravings?

  • Eat carbs, just don’t go crazy. Aim for a diet of between 30-45% carbohydrates from a variety of sources such as non-starchy vegetables, starchy veggies like sweet potato, winter squash, plantains and purple potato (more on that little jewel on my next post). If you need a better list, check out this post all about carbs.

  • Limit your sugary treats. Notice I said limit, not restrict. Don’t deprive yourself. Deprivation only creates stress and will intensify your cravings. Practice portion control, enjoy your treat and then be done with it.

Meg the Midwife Approved Craving Busters

 While it's reasonable to 'cave' into some of your cravings, pregnancy is not time to fill your diet with garbage. Try to find good paleo, primal or real food versions of the things your heart so desires. Here are a few ideas to get you started. 

  • Watch out for high fructose sources of carbohydrates like agave, honey, apples, pears, and dates. Stick to glucose based sources of sugars such as bananas, berries, potatoes. Eating too much fructose can wreak havoc on your liver and increase stress within your body.

  • Consume your carbs with a fat or protein. This will slow the glycemic response in your body making it gentler on your system. Added bonus, your body will LOVE the combination of fat and sugar so hopefully it will satiate you and put a halt to your craving.

 

My Paleo friendly version of 'Cherry Garcia'

My Paleo friendly version of 'Cherry Garcia'

  • Baked hot Yam/Sweet Potato smothered in Almond, Sunbutter or Coconut butter and sprinkled with cinnamon (cinnamon will also slow down your glycemic response and balance your blood sugar)....feel the need for salt? Pop a pickle on that bad boy. No joke. I've tried it and it's a winner.

  • Full fat dairy or coconut based ice creams. Try my Dairy Free "Cherry Garcia" Recipe...it's sure to satisfy your chocolate, fruit and fat cravings! 

  • Dianne has a great avocado based chocolate mousse

  • Yams, plantains or purple potatoes sliced thin and then either baked or fried in ghee or coconut oil. Once cooked, salt those tasty nuggets (duh!) with mineral rich sea salt or pick up a bag of Jackon's Honest chips. My fav is the purple potato...I'll tell you why next post. 

  • Real Food Liz's Pregnancy Cesar Salad (Recipe to come) 

  • Good Food For Bad Cooks Cinnamon Whipped Parsnips. Not only is this treat easy to digest and made from real food but, the cinnamon will help balance your blood sugar. 

  • Need salty? 

I'll have LOTS more real food paleo friendly recipes, and a TON of information to help you optimize your fertility, have a healthy paleo pregnancy and nourish your postpartum body over at Baby Making and Beyond. Sign up for for updates to stay in the know about this exciting project launching in mid-2015. 

Probiotics in your Paleo Pregnancy. Meg the Midwife approved!

If you've been following me on Instagram or listening to the Fertility tips on the Balanced Bites Podcast, you've likely heard some chatter about the benefits of probiotics in pregnancy. 

Liz and I are going to have an ENTIRE section on Baby Making and Beyond dedicated to probiotics, just what to take, when, why and how, but until that program launches late in the spring of 2015 I wanted to share a brief run down of just why you should consider daily supplementation of probiotics during pregnancy. 

While it's great to consume probiotic foods such as raw sauerkraut, fermented veggies (carrots are my faves) and natural yogurts as a part of your daily diet, you may want to consider the addition of a probiotic supplement during pregnancy. Foods are great to support your digestive health but probiotics are even better to support your vaginal flora and the development of your babies bacterial kingdom. 

Not only do certain strains of bacteria found in your vaginal tissues influence the types of bacteria (harmful and beneficial) that will be found in your babies gut, but recent research shows that bacteria can actually cross the placenta and may affect fetal health and wellbeing. This is mind blowing research! Literally, it's blowing my mind over here. Previously, we used to thing that the infant was born 100% sterile. Obviously this isn't the case. 

Probiotics are great and here's why :

  • Reduce the chance of swabbing positive for Group B Strep (GBS) at term
  • Reduce the risk of developing Bacterial Vaginosis, a risk factor for preterm labour
  • Reduce the incidence of yeast infections, which can be common when your pregnant.
  • Reduce the incidence of constipation both prenatally and postpartum
  • Aid in the formation of short chain fatty acids, which are made in the small intestine. These fatty acids are key building blocks for your baby's nervous system and critical for your own mental and physical wellbeing. 
  • Reduces your overall systemic inflammation
  • May reduce your risk of gestational diabeties
  • Increase the number of lactobacillus species in your vaginal tract. These are associated with infant health and wellness and will form the backbone of your babies GI and immune systems. 
  • Reduce your risk of mastitis after the baby's born

What to take? 

I just became aware of this AMAZING new company called Hyperbiotics. They make a product called Pro-Mom's. This proboitic is a combination of 8 strains of high potency proboitics that are clinically proven to support a woman during her childbearing years. 

Pro-Mom's is awesome BECAUSE:

  • It's formulated with Kiwi extract which helps: Act as natural  insoluble fibre to support healthy bacterial growth. It contains an enzyme called actinidin, which aids in digestion AND it contains a polyphenol, which is a natural antioxidant. 
  • It contains the strains clinically proven to be beneficial for pregnancy and is highly potent, having just the right amount! 
  • It has a long shelf life and requires no refrigeration aka you can keep it in your purse.
  • You only need to take it once a day. It's time released.
  • It's Paleo friendly, contains no gluten, dairy, soy, corn, sugars or artificial anything 

Go out and get some! You can order it directly from their website and it's ON SALE right now

As always, check out Baby Making and Beyond and sign up for updates. You can also check me out on Balanced Bites where Liz and I will be sharing weekly fertility tips :) 

How many carbs to eat when you're breastfeeding and following a Paleo diet

To carb or not to carb? That is the question....it seems like I'm asked about carb levels all the time and when I received an email from a client about a suddenly low milk supply after starting a Paleo diet, I knew her story would probably resonate with lots of other gals. So, here you have it. 

My former (most wonderful client) is about 4 months postpartum. She started going to Crossfit mom's as a way of connecting with other women and it was the only program in town that made it easy for her to workout with her baby. Since the start of the new year, her Crossfit group decided to start a one month "Paleo Challenge". Of course, I support this kind of awesome nutritional reset ANYTIME, no challenge required, but I was thrilled to hear she was going to give paleo a good ol' college try.

10 days into the challenge, she had lost 6 lbs. She wasn't sleeping and neither was her baby, who previously slept through the night. She also noticed that her milk supply had significantly decreased. What was going wrong? Should she give in to the bread cravings that were taking over her life?

Typical SAD Macro Levels

Typical SAD Macro Levels

I asked her to punch her nutrition into an online app (I usually recommend My Fitness Pal) which as it turns out, she already did (she's so smart). When she told me her macro's, I instantly knew what the problem was. Carbs were only making up about 20-25% of her diet. Not by choice, just by accident. This would explain the insane weight drop, often caused by rapid water loss when switching from a SAD diet where carb levels are anywhere between 50-60%. The most common mistake folks make when going Paleo is going too low carb by accident. While a Paleo diet is typically lower in carbs than the modern SAD, it isn't designed to be a "low carb diet". Going low carb can happen by accident when we replace the grain laden starches with more filling veggies, fats and meats. 

What was going on?

Her body was STRESSED. While going low carb can result in weight loss, it also can result in systemic stress on your body. Cortisol levels will ramp up disturbing your sleep patterns and your body will begin limiting how much energy it spends on "unnecessary" reproductive functions like ovulation, menstruation and, in this case, breastmilk supply. After all, what body wants to sustain another growing life when it's having a hard time sustaining itself?

If this diet was to continue, it may also cause her thyroid hormones to plummet. Low thyroid in a postpartum woman can cause postpartum depression, stall natural weight loss and cause breastmilk to all but disappear. 

This would explain why both she and her baby were not sleeping through the night.  Her body was holding on to extra calories by dropping her milk supply. Some studies have suggested that when a mom is calorie depleted, her milk may also decrease in fat content. This can cause babies to get hungry faster (aka waking up needing to feed more often) and may also cause them to miss out on critical DHA fatty acids they need for brain and neurological development. 

What To Do if this is happening to you? 

Eat Paleo Friendly Starchy Carbs!  Breastfeeding women NEED carbs. Please ladies, eat the sweet potato, eat the white potato....eat all the potatoes.

These are some good macro's for a breastfeeding mama

These are some good macro's for a breastfeeding mama

While 20-25% may be a good level for an active male or to optimize body composition, it isn't enough to support fertility, pregnancy or lactation. I generally recommend 30-40% depending on activity levels and individual needs. Does she need to eat the bread? Well, no, but, at the end of the day if you eat a slice of gluten free bread, will it really be the end of the world? Probably not. Dianne has a great post about starchy carbs found here with a handy chart, which you can downloadable chart to help you on your way. 

 Eat sufficient calories. When starting a Paleo challenge it's not uncommon for women to drop their calories down too low to support healthy womanly functions. When breastfeeding, this can lead to low milk supply and an unhappy baby. Never drop below around 1800 cals/day when breastfeeding, you'll likely need more if you're active. 

 Lose weight slowly. When women lose weight rapidly they are not only at risk for low milk supply (for the reasons stated above) but, it's also been documented that weight loss of more than 1 lbs or 0.45kg/week can increase the toxic load found in your milk. Say what? True story....

Environmental contaminants such as PCBs and pesticides, are stored in body fat. According to Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (3rd Edition, Riordan, pp 440), when a breastfeeding mother loses weight rapidly (>1lbs/wk), these toxins are released into her bloodstream, and the toxin load of her milk can dramatically increase. These toxins are directly offloaded to a growing baby. Not bueno. 

What about Ketones? When a woman goes very low carb (20-50g/day) she may start producing ketones. Ketones are the waste products of fatty acid metabolism, aka when the body burns some of its own fat for fuel. Ketones will pass into the breastmilk and I wondered if these could be damaging to infants. Apparently not. When I asked famous Breastfeeding Physician Dr. Jack Newman about them, he said that they don't pose any dangers for infants. For more info on ketones during pregnancy, check out this post. Your biggest danger when dieting seems to be is low milk quality and overall supply.

Need more help?

Liz and I will be covering a whole swack more info just like this a little bit more in detail over at Baby Making and Beyond. Sign up for launch specials and updates here. Can't wait for the BMB program and need help now? Fill out this handy form and register for a nutritional assessment. Let me help you on your journey towards being a rad nourished mama! 

Take home message....eat the sweet potatoes and enjoy them! 

New Year, Baby Making and Beyond and Stress Reduction tips

I can't believe it's been almost a month since I've had time to write a blog post. As many of you may know, I'm a solo practice Registered Midwife in a small mountain town in the Canadian Rockies. Being the only midwife in town can sometimes make personal time next to impossible...the babies come when the babies come and man, did they ever come during the holidays this year. I welcomed 6 babies into the world in less than 12 days. Most of these labours were on the longer side of normal, but, all babies were safely born into their mothers arms and everyone is healthy, happy and thriving. Although my personal life, sleep and holiday enjoyment suffered, I feel the satisfaction of a job well done. 

After such a busy time, I wanted to share some easy tips I used to keep myself grounded, healthy and balanced during this time. 

 

A good hike in the fresh air during a moment of calm...restorative and refreshing in the -20 temps! 

A good hike in the fresh air during a moment of calm...restorative and refreshing in the -20 temps! 

How to stay balanced (and eat paleo) when life has you on the run

Leftover liver from my pate recipe made a fast and easy dins and coconut manna never fails to satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth! Follow me on Instagram to see more of how I stay fuelled and healthy. 

Leftover liver from my pate recipe made a fast and easy dins and coconut manna never fails to satisfy my insatiable sweet tooth! Follow me on Instagram to see more of how I stay fuelled and healthy. 

  1. Have the fridge stocked with healthy paleo friendly food choices! Whether you work 100+ hrs a week, like me, or have a new little paleo baby on the way. When you're busy there is little time to shop and going to the grocery store when you're stressed can manifest itself into a cart full of bad decisions (chips and ice cream are my nemesis). I counteract this by subscribing to a weekly box of groceries from our local SPUD box program. Spud is a grocery delivery service that prides itself in local (when possible), organic and sustainably raised foods. From carrots to kale to grass fed steak, to skin care products and coconut butter. Having my fridge stocked made it easy for me to feed myself at 3am when I get home. SPUD has programs in Calgary/Canmore, Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria, San Francisco/Bay Area and LA/Orange County. They are certified RAD. 
  2. Have some meals in the freezer ready. I made a paleo bison stew the week before in preparation for a busy time. Re-heating this was key for me to enjoy warm meals while working away. I also made some meatloaf muffins, kale salad, roast purple potatoes and hard boiled eggs for quick grab and go's. 
  3. In times of stress, load up on Vitamin A, B12 and vitamin C rich foods and stay AWAY from sugar, which may lower your immune system. I made a blueberry liver pate (which I will share on the Baby Making and beyond site aka BMB) which was rich in all three of these micronutrients. It only took 5 mins to make and provided me with an easy healthy snack as well as satisfying my craving for something a little sweet.
  4. Balance sleep with gentle movement and mindfulness. After being up all night, I would sleep and then rise to the sunlight, trying to get some exposure to the light every day. This could mean doing some gentle yoga in a sunny window or going for a quiet walk outside. 
  5. Practice meditation or yoga to slow and calm your mind. I am NOT a yogi. I used to think yoga was for granola crunching vegan hippies that just didn't want to work that hard or break a sweat. What I've come to realize is that gentle restorative yoga is a critical tool for stress management and is sometimes a much better choice than a sweaty WOD. This is something our BMB course will cover in detail! 
Set the stage...it's not just about the gentle movement of restorative yoga, it's about creating an atmosphere of calm. I find it makes a big difference when I turn on my infuser and light some candles. Ahhh... zen never felt so good. 

Set the stage...it's not just about the gentle movement of restorative yoga, it's about creating an atmosphere of calm. I find it makes a big difference when I turn on my infuser and light some candles. Ahhh... zen never felt so good. 

Baby Making and Beyond

So...you may have heard me drop a hint a few times and may be asking....what is this Baby Making and Beyond Site? Well, if you're a regular listener to the Balanced Bites Podcast you may have heard my friend and college Liz Wolfe drop a few hints, if not, here's the scoop.

Baby Making and Beyond is a new super fantastic website launching in 2015. I'm partnering with NTP extrodinare and Eat the Yolks (now available on audio book btw) author Liz Wolfe to bring you this comprehensive guide to fertility, pregnancy, breastfeeding and the postpartum period.  It will be Paleo/Real food focused site but will also talk about how to be a responsible vegan or vegetarian during your fertile years. I'll never judge someone for making an informed choice! 

It will include audio, video and downloadable files so you can sit and read content or take it with you as you walk or drive. It will cover just what to eat (with meal plans and recipes galore), what supplements to take and how to move during your childbearing years. It's fun, comprehensive, interactive and I'm so excited to be brining something to women and their families that I feel good about. It will launch with a 28-day Baby Makin' Bootcamp program and if you'd like to be notified once it's available check out our site at www.babymakingandbeyond.com to get on the list! 

You can also check us out on the Balanced Bites Podcast. In the upcoming weeks and months we will be featuring "Baby Makin' Tips" and answer your questions about fertility, pregnancy and beyond. Have a question you'd like answered on the podcast? Submit it to me here or to Balanced Bites

Welcome 2015...it's gonna be a great year Yo! 

MTHFR, have you heard about it? What's the big deal anyway?

Warning! I'm going to get a bit geek squad on this weeks post. There will be big words...bear with me. I hate it too :) 

Have you ever heard of MTHFR Mutation? It seems to be getting a bit of attention lately in the Paleo/real food sphere and it inspired me to write a little bit about this very common genetic mutation. If you've been following a real food diet, reduced your stress, are getting good quality exercise and sleep lots but are still feeling blah, learning you have this mutation might just be the missing piece that you've been searching for. 

MTHFR AKA Methyl-tetrahydrofolate reductase mutation is a relatively common group of mutations that effect many major systems in the body. There are a few different types of MTHFR mutations. MTHFR C677T and A1298C are the most common and are responsible for breaking down the amino acid homocysteine.

Homocysteine is a sulfur containing amino acid that lives in your blood plasma. It must be broken down in the presence of B-vitamins (B6, B12 and B9/Folate).  High levels of homocysteine (aka that isn't broken down) causes scaring and possible damage to vessels, which can lead to a host of inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease ect ect.  

In normal folks, active folate, known as 5-MTHF or 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, works in concert with vitamin B12 as a methyl-group donor to convert homocysteine to methionine. When homocysteine is broken down into methionine, it's used by the body to help metabolize fats, make proteins, utilize antioxidants, reduce the risk of depression caused by sam-e deficiency. Methionine also helps to reduce systemic inflammation and convert estradiol into estriol (a pretty rad form of estrogen). 

About 50% of homocysteine is remethylated with the remaining 50% trans-sulfurated into cysteine which then uses Vit B6 to make glutathione.Glutathione is a key antioxidant and detoxifier in the body. In fact, some may even call it a master controller. The less glutathione you have the more you are susceptible to stress and toxic build up. Glutathione is a key element of may processes in the body including:

  • Cell mediated immunity (aka immune function)
  • Bile production
  • Liver detoxification
  • Removal of heavy metals
  • Cellular growth, proliferation and death

When you have an MTHFR mutation one or more of these pathways becomes less efficient or disrupted (depending on the particular mutation) resulting in diminished levels of glutathione or methionine. Low levels of these amino acids cause a host of generic symptoms such as fatigue, anemia, low B12, hypothyroidism...the list can go on and on. 

 MTHFR is most common amongst Mediterranean and Hispanic populations (~22%) but is also found in white European populations in about 5-15%, Japanese/Chinese 8-18% and only in about 2% of African populations. That's a lot of people when you think about it! 

How do you find out if you have MTHFR mutation?

If you suspect you may have this mutation or, like me, are just super curious you can find out a few different ways:

Exhibit A- My spit...ready for processing. I'll share my results in 4-6 weeks.

Exhibit A- My spit...ready for processing. I'll share my results in 4-6 weeks.

  1. Submit your saliva sample to a company such as 23andme. I just did this last week and am waiting for my results. I'm pretty curious to find out about my ancestry and my genetic make-up, not to mention my MTHFR status.
  2. Have your blood tested by your functional medicine physician. These tests are a bit hard to find in standard labs but ask to see what's available in your area. 

 

 

 

 RECENTLY DIAGNOSED WITH MTHFR? 

Saunas can be great detoxifiers when you are preparing to become pregnant. 

Saunas can be great detoxifiers when you are preparing to become pregnant. 

  • Consider a period of supportive detoxification 
    • Because MTHFR mutations can make it more difficult for your body to detoxify itself, consider a 3-6 month period of gentle supportive detoxification. Castor oil packs, saunas/sweating and gentle activity all support detox.
      • Eliminate all food sensitivities and allergies. You're body's detoxification system is overburdened and stressing it out by consuming foods you are sensitive too will only further contribute to poor health. Consider some allergy testing or follow an elimination diet for a period of time.

      • Avoid toxins: choose natural skin & household cleaning products. Consider removing any mercury fillings.

      • Drink clean filtered water

      • Lay off the booze and Fructose: (agave, honey, high fructose fruits): These substances get processed through the liver and can stress out an already stressed out organ. 

      • Eat a clean paleo diet rich in leafy greens (high in natural folate). Avoid any packaged foods that may be fortified with folic acid. Folic acid and unmethylated B-vitamins commonly found in fortified processed foods can be potentially very harmful to you. 

      • Eat proboitic foods which will help your body absorb nutrients from your foods by optimizing gut function. 

  • Practice Intelligent Supplementation:

    • I'm never a big fan of just throwing a heap of generic supplements at a problem. Warning...I'm about to rant! Supplement recommendations are based on averages not individuals. Having a genetic mutations does not mean that an individual will have every deficiency that may be associated with a specific each condition. It depends on the expression of each unique gene by each unique individual (think epigenetics). See your ND or Functional Medicine MD and have some testing done. This may include checking levels of homocysteine, essential fatty acids, vit D, Vit B12, folate, iron, iodine, ferritin, calcium and more. Supplement based on your individual deficiencies. Trust me, the money you save in useless and even potentially harmful supplements will more than cover the cost of additional testing. 

 pregnant or trying? 

Trying to become pregnant with an MTHFR mutation can create a few special challenges. Not to worry however, there are things you can do to support your body's special needs. Many women who are diagnosed with the MTHFR mutation and have healthy pregnancies. Here are a few things to consider.

Newly Pregnant? 

  • I don't mean to freak you out but you are at increased risk for blood clotting and preeclampsia. Your care provider may recommend taking an anticoagulant or low dose aspirin to prevent blood clotting and reduce the risk of these complications.
  • Your baby may also be at risk for for neural tube defects such has spina bifida which are caused by folate deficiency. Ensuring you have adequate folate levels in very early pregnancy (ideally beforehand) is critical to prevent this serious birth defect. If a supplement is required (quite likely) always choose folate rather than folic acid.
  • Elevated homocysteine has been associated with low birth weight babies and increase the risk of preterm birth. Continue to support your body's natural detoxification systems by not overburdening it with toxins or allergens. Follow the guidelines in the above section but stay away from saunas, which are not recommended during pregnancy.
  • Specific supplementation guidelines for pregnancy can be found on Dr. Lynch's Site and offer a few starting points. 

Struggling to become pregnant? See my recommendations above and try waiting a few months. You just may need a bit of time to detoxify and nourish yourself. A body that is toxic and undernourished (despite a clean diet) may not be ready for a baby just yet.

  • Consider genetic counselling  Learning what the odds are of passing on your mutation to your child can be important. New research is showing that babies with MTHFR mutations who are supplemented with methylated vitamins right from birth have a MUCH lower incidence of developing chronic and potentially life threatening conditions. 
  • See a health care practitioner such as a Naturopath or Functional Medicine physician to get your hormones in balance. In particular, estrogen and thyroid hormones may be all out of whack. These can play key roles in becoming fabulous and fertile. 
  • Does your partner have a MTHFR mutation? New research shows that spermatogenesis (told ya I'd be using big word ) aka sperm production is effected in Dads with this mutation. Read all about it here.
  • Supplement wisely according to your bodies own needs. Choose folate from whole food baed supplements and ensure you have adequate B12, iron, ferritin and Vitamin D levels. 
  • Got that burn? If you experience heartburn during your pregnancy it's important that you stay away from tums or other antacids which may block critical B12 absorption from your diet.  
  • Stress less: chillax....a mellow body functions at it's best and is supportive to our detoxification process. Practice daily meditation, relaxation, hug the ones that love you and for heaven sakes...laugh a little everyday. 

Laugh a little every day. As seen here, my friend Laurie thinks her hat is rather hilarious. Quite frankly, so do I. 

Laugh a little every day. As seen here, my friend Laurie thinks her hat is rather hilarious. Quite frankly, so do I.