Postpartum weight loss: How to lose your baby weight effortlessly

Whether you're thinking about becoming pregnant, currently have a bun in the oven or, are already gazing into your new baby's eyes, the topic of postpartum weight loss can instil feelings of anxiety, stress and fear in many (if not all) women.

It's natural and necessary to put on weight during pregnancy. During this magical time, there are a myriad of hormonal changes that happen within your body. You produce human placental lactogen (HPL) which  promotes insulin resistance. This state of insulin resistance does two things, first it helps you increase your blood glucose to feed your growing baby and second, it increases visceral fat stores that will be utilized during breastfeeding. Both totally necessary and vital functions.

I get letters from new mom's frequently who are putting oodles or pressure on themselves to shed the baby pounds within weeks of giving birth. While there is no quick fix, magic pill or underground liposuction network, there are a few things you can do to help the baby weight fall off effortlessly. 

Breastfeed

As demonstrated by Gisele...breastfeeding, the new celebrity weight loss plan....sorry, cheesy but I couldn't resist.

As demonstrated by Gisele...breastfeeding, the new celebrity weight loss plan....sorry, cheesy but I couldn't resist.

By far, the easiest way to lose your baby weight is to breastfeed. Remember that hormone HPL that helps you hang on to weight during pregnancy? When you breastfeed, HPL is replaced by Prolactin. Prolactin's job is to support lactation, reduce estrogen levels (causing freedom from menstrual periods) and mobilize nutrient stores to feed your growing baby. Prolactin produced during breastfeeding is an easy way to essentially 'reset' your postpartum metabolism. 

It's not just about the hormones either, your body requires an additional 500 calories per day to produce milk to feed your baby. It's kind of like natures built in weight loss system. Most weight loss experts recommend a caloric deficit of about 500 calories/day in order to lose a healthy and sustainable pound per week. In essence, breastfeeding is kind of like natures built in weight loss system. That being said, please DON'T starve yourself. Ensure you are getting adequate calories to support your body's recovery and activity levels. If you drop calories too low your milk supply will suffer. 

Balance your hormones

Ensuring your hormonal levels are balanced and stabilizing post baby is a critical part of weight loss.

Thyroid:

One of the most common and under-diagnosed postpartum conditions is postpartum thyroiditis. This form of hypothyroidism (aka not enough thyroid hormone) is often diagnosed between 4-9 months after baby arrives and can cause symptoms that include weight loss plateaus, weight gain, fatigue, constipation, depression and irritability. Since these symptoms are rather general and may be applicable to ALL postpartum women, it's often missed. You're at greatest risk if you've been diagnosed with a thyroid condition before, have suffered from adrenal fatigue, have an autoimmune disorder or are under-eating. A simple blood test is all you need to check your levels. 

Estrogen:

If you have suffered from PCOS in the past, aren't able to breastfeed or you're baby has weened early you may suffer from a condition called estrogen dominance. In hormonally healthy women, estrogen levels should be balanced by progesterone levels in ratios of roughly 1:5 on day 21 of their cycle. Having too much estrogen or too little progesterone can create this state of estrogen dominance which can cause weight gain, fatigue, cravings for sweets, trouble sleeping and thyroid dysfunction. See your functional medicine specialist if you think this may be happening to you. There are a number of supplements and lifestyle changes that can support a healthy estrogen/progesterone balance. 

Even if you don't have a diagnosed condition like thyroiditis, you still do need to take good care to support your natural hormone function to be able to effortlessly lose the baby weight. Here are some other things you can do to help get things back in check:

My fav CARB...the purple potato 

My fav CARB...the purple potato 

  • Eat Carbs: Low carb or ketogenic diets are in vogue right now in the weight loss world. For most women, the childbearing years are not the time to experiment with ultra low carb diets. Limiting carbs in your diet (below 100g/day) can cause a host of issues for postpartum women. It can stress your adrenals, tax your thyroid, decrease your milk supply and cause insomnia or other sleep disturbances.  We'll be sure to dive into the carb-conundrum and get into specific levels in the upcoming Baby Making and Beyond program, but for now, just be sure to add healthy paleo friendly carbs like purple potatoes, yams, squashes and even some rice into your diet.

 

Spend some time enjoying the small things in life.....stress reduction is a key part of a postpartum weight loss plan

Spend some time enjoying the small things in life.....stress reduction is a key part of a postpartum weight loss plan

  • Stress-less: Stress can increase cortisol levels (produced by your adrenal glands) making weight loss very difficult. Support your adrenal glands by following the recommendations in this previous post of mine. Limiting caffeine, practicing regular meditation and SLEEPING will all make the journey so much easier. 


Spending time exercising outdoors is a BONUS. Outdoor movement increases endorphins and dopamine levels helping you stay happy and balanced.

Spending time exercising outdoors is a BONUS. Outdoor movement increases endorphins and dopamine levels helping you stay happy and balanced.

  • Exercise: A little intelligent movement will support muscle growth and help sustain fat loss. Please, don't go crazy and don't start too soon. Start walking around 2-4 wks. After 6 wks, you can introduce some light weight bearing exercise. The best combination of exercise for postpartum women is lots of walking, a little yoga and some form of weight lifting, trx or body weight movement. 

 

Remember, it takes 9 months to gain the baby weight and it will take 9-18 months to lose it. Practice gentle loving kindness for yourself and don't sweat the small stuff. In the grand scheme of life, 10 extra pounds is a first world problem, focus on the things that really matter like family, friendships and being an active and informed citizen of your community and planet. 

When life gives you lemons.....

Finding a moment of calm in the midst of a busy day

Finding a moment of calm in the midst of a busy day

My post this week is going to take a slightly different tone. No hard science, no, "eat this", "supplement with that".....I'm going to take a step back and wax poetic about life and the choices we get to make each and every day.

Challenges....we've all got them. For some, it may be financial hardship, for others it may be the challenge of a stressful job, lack of social network or chronic illness. I hear from women all the time who struggle with adrenal fatigue, infertility or just straight up lack of mojo for life. So many of these conditions are exasterbated by how we view the world and our place in it. I don't mean to offend or place blame on the many women, myself included, who have struggled with adrenal issues and anxiety. I'm writing this post for everyone out there, who, like eeor, finds themselves shrouded in a little black cloud more often than not. How can we change the way our minds work so that we can welcome more pleasure into our lives? What do when we feel like we've been handed a big ol' box of lemons?

When one is handed a box of lemons, one has a few choices:

1. Pucker, grimace and complain wondering why you were so unlucky to be handed such a batch of bitter, sour fruit.

2. Juice those little babies and make some sweet lemonade. Wait, why stop there, make a lemon pie, make lemon tarts, lemon poppy seed paleo pancakes and heck go all out, make some beautiful lemon cupcakes. 

My point, aside from my obvious cravings for lemon flavoured confections is this; we all have a choice about how we want to view the world. Some of life's great hardships are created, in one way or another, by decisions we've made in the past, while others, like accidents or misfortune, we have no control over.

The one thing we certainly DO have control over each and every second is how we cope with the stress these little lemons create. Every moment of everyday we can choose optimism, positivity and happiness over pessimism, negativity and sadness. We can choose to feel stressed or, when we start to feel the stress of life build up within us, we can choose to recognize it and release it.

Sounds simple, right? Well, if it was that simple then I'm guessing the world would be a much happier place. The practice of becoming mindful and aware of your own stress, anxiety and tension takes great patience and repetition. In my case, it's taken about five years to work with my own  neuroplasticity. As a result of a lot of hard work, I've changed the way my brain thinks and responds to stress. I didn't read any books or follow any guru's methods or recommendations, I just simply made a decision to choose happiness, practice loving kindness for myself and release feelings of stress about things I could not control. 

Ask any of my friends, I still get stressed! No doubt about that, But, the difference is now I know when I'm stressed and I can consciously change my thought patterns away from negativity, towards positivity, creating lightness in my mind, body and spirit. The result, I smile more, even when I should be crying. My health is better, my sleep is deeper and I love my life. 

Meg the Midwife's Favourite 5 ways to create a happier verison of you

(even when you've been handed a box of lemons)

A little play can go a long way

A little play can go a long way

  1. Play. Find an activity, preferably outside, that makes you feel like a kid again. It can include doing something fun with others like rock climbing or biking (some of my faves), or playing a silly board game or do something more solitary like practicing headstands. Laugh, smile, dance and sing. Play makes us all feel good and turns our mind away from our troubles. 
  2. Give Back. Stepping outside of ourselves and giving back to others has an enormous benefit for both our communities and for our own sense of fulfillment and self worth. If fosters a connection with others which, studies have shown, is an important component of feeling content with ourselves. 
  3. Meditate. Quieting the mind and body can be like a grown up form of 'time-out'. Meditation teaches us to be still, present and in the moment. So often in our daily lives, we are focused on the past or driven to push ahead for some lofty future goal. Staying present has been associated time and time again with a sense of wellbeing. I practice a form of meditative yoga that has totally rocked my boat! This practice has taught me stillness and brought so much REAL joy into my life.  Baby Making and Beyond will have lots of info about how to get started with meditation. Our resident yoga guru Erin Urton will be your guide and teach you some easy ways to get started. 
  4. Gratitude. Studies have shown that feeling a sense of gratitude can drastically increase our happiness and protect us from stress, anxiety, depression and illness. Gratitude is easy to practice. Some people start a gratitude journal or share a few things that they are grateful for at the end of each day with their kids or partner. Even in the worst moments we can ALWAYS find something to be grateful for. It's an easy way to change your mind from that of a 'negative nelly' to a 'positive polly'. 
  5. Don't chase happiness. What? I thought it was about being happy? Well, sometimes it's a good idea to 'be' with your feelings of negativity. They are real and do need some attention. Get mad, get sad, get frustrated or hurt. Let the feelings move thorough you so you can release the power they have on you and move on. Practice gentle loving kindness with yourself. It's okay to feel every feeling under the sun, just don't dwell. If your feelings of negativity start to dominate your thoughts then maybe it's time to get some help processing them. Talk to a friend, loved one or a well trained therapist. 


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!