It's raining babies

This is more or less my life right now! Happily and steadily catching little cavebabies. Some at home, some in hospital and one due any-day now in the birth center.  It's a busy but lovely time.

Stay tuned for a new post and be sure to check me out on Instagram. I'm still cooking up a storm to fuel my adventures and hope to share some new paleo pregnancy and fertility friendly recipes just in time for the holidays really soon. After all, it can't rain babies forever! 


It's my B-day Ya'll and there are some big things on the horizion

Fancy Fall days in the US and A

Hi Ya'll ! I feel like it's appropriate to say "ya'll" because I've just spent the past 8 days in the USA. Here's how it all went down:

After a long summer away from clinical care, I’ve returned to my lovely midwifery practice and had the pleasure of welcoming in several beautiful little babies into the world. It’s been busy, but a total joy to come back to baby catching.

After all the craziness that September brought, I decided to take a week off for my birthday and do some travelling! Well, it turns out that taking a week off is harder than it may seem!

 If you follow me on Instagram you may know that I just spent the first half of the week visiting fellow blogger and best selling Eat the Yolks author, Liz Wolfe at her homestead in Middle America. I’ve had tons of respect for Liz over the years and we’ve been in casual contact ever since I wrote a guest post for the Balanced Bites site last summer. Liz and I are in the beginning stages of a new AMAZING project! 

We also enjoyed some fantastic Kansas City Farm-to-Table

We worked our butts off and generally had a blast both getting creative and starting to lay the fertile groundwork for this lady focused paleo, primal and real-food friendly fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding site. Thanks to Chameleon Cold brew and Pete’s Paleo for keeping us well fed and watered during the whirlwind visit! Stay posted for more updates about this amazing new adventure on The Modern Paleo Midwife as well as over at Liz’s site, Real Food Liz and on the Balanced Bites Podcast.

Earthy Fall day in Boulder Co

From Liz’s happy abode, I flew to Denver and went straight from the airport to Inspyre Boutique! Juli over at Paleomg blogs about this place all the time and man, did I find some cool stuff.  Everything is under $100! Dangerous. Very dangerous. From Denver, I headed North to Boulder to visit friends, eat my face off, hike and trail run in the beautiful foothills of the Colorado Rockies. The weather was chilly but we got some great days in outside. I spent my birthday feeling pretty blessed and well loved.

In short.....Happy Birthday to me 



The Real Deal on Vitamin A

Last week was all about pumpkin! Man, there is something so magical about that precious veggie. I've been eating my pumpkin gelatin recipe I posted almost every night. #obsessed! Pumpkin is a great nutrient dense starch that is loaded with all sorts of good things, including vitamin A...but did you know, there are two types of vitamin A? Yup, it's true...hang tight, let's explore the wonders of this over achieving vitamin. 

The Scoop on Vitamin A 

Vitamin A is important for many key functions in the body. These include: 

  • Eyesight
  • Hormone Balance and Fertility  
  • Thyroid function
  • Bone growth and skin health
  • Cell differentiation and multiplication
  • Immune Function (viruses and bacteria seem to retreat in the presence of high vit A)
  • Specifically for pregnancy, vitamin A is important development of the neural pathways between the brain and sensory organs and in the development of the nephrons in the kidney. Vitamin A deficiency is also associated with pregnancy loss...needless to say, it's an important part of a healthy diet. 

Two Types of Vitamin A

This blooger has her diet down! Eggs and liver on one plate! 

Retinoids (Reteinol Esters): Derived from animal sources. Retinoids are found in the liver of any animal and in smaller quantities in egg yolks,  butter and cream from grass fed cows. 

Kabocha squash...amongst my fav! 

Kabocha squash...amongst my fav! 

 

 

 

Carotenoids:  AKA Beta-carotene. Vitamin A derived from plant sources. Think carrots, PUMPKIN, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe. If it has an orange hue, it's probably rich in carotenoids. Carotenoids must be converted by the body into retinol in order to be used by the body. This is kind of tricky for the body to do and is a pretty inefficient process. This process can be even trickier if you suffer from a hormone imbalance, thyroid condition, don't have enough fat in your diet or if you have digestive problems. Babies also don't convert well (another reason to feed your infants over 6months liver).  

Vit A in a Nutshell

  • Fat soluble Vitamin. This means it must be consumed with a fat to be properly absorbed.
  • Both Retinol Esters from animals and Beta Carotene from plants must be converted by the body into Retinoids. Once converted they are stored in the liver as Retinol Esters. This  is why liver is such a rad source of Vit A .
  • Traditional cultures around the world seem to instinctively know the the benefits of proper vitamin A consumption. In fact, liver is found in the diets of almost every tribal group around the world, from the Canadian Inuit to the Maori in New Zealand. Many cultures even make special efforts to ensure pregnant women consume liver regularly. They instinctively know that vitamin A is critical for the health and wellbeing of our growing babies and is an KEY part of there development. Weston A Price has a great article that goes into the details about why Vitamin A is so critical for fetal development. Take home message....CONSUME LIVER! 

Vitamin A Toxicity in Pregnancy

The fear about Vitamin A toxicity in pregnancy over the past 20 years is something that commonly worries women whenever I suggest regular  dietary liver consumption. Here's the deal.....In 1995, a small study based in Boston found that high does of vitamin A could cause neural tube defects. The issue with this study is that it only looked at higher does (25,000 IU+) Vitamin A consumption from SYNTHETIC sources (retinol & retinol esters).  Follow up studies from several sites in Europe concluded that doses up to 30-50,000 IU in pregnancy from REAL FOOD sources were very safe, in fact, potentially beneficial to pregnant women. Sadly however the FDA did not change it's message and the public was once again misinformed.

Retinol Sources and Levels

I like this cod liver/butter oil blend. A natural, real food based source of vit A.

I like this cod liver/butter oil blend. A natural, real food based source of vit A.

  • High-vitamin cod liver oil 230,000/100g
  • Regular cod liver oil 100,000/100g
  • Duck liver 40,000/100g
  • Beef liver 35,000/100g
  • Goose liver 31,000/100g
  • Liverwurst sausage (pork) 28,000/100g
  • Lamb liver 25,000/100g
  • Egg Yolk 1,442/100g
  • Pasture Raised Butter 2,500 /100g (this level varies greatly depending on diet of cows)

The US  and Canada currently recommend 5,000 IU per day . From the work of Weston Price, we can assume that the amount in primitive diets was about 50,000 IU per day. Current Weston A Price recommendations include 20,000 IU-35,000IU  from  a modern diet of  butter and eggs from pastured animals; beef or duck liver several times per week; and 1 tablespoon regular cod liver oil or 1/2 tablespoon high-vitamin cod liver oil per day.

What's a Pregnant Paleo Mama to do?

Lambs liver...one of the milder livers. It makes great meatballs and pate spreads.

  1. Always enjoy your vitamin A sources with a fat. Vitamin A is fat soluble and needs fat to be properly absorbed.

  2. Enjoy liberal amounts of butter from grass fed cows and egg yolks. 

  3. Enjoy liver from grass fed animals once or twice a week to ensure you have a good supply of retinoids. Unless you are consuming Polar Bear or walrus liver, a serving or two of liver per week is not likely to cause any trouble. 

  4. Consume beta-carotene rich foods to your hearts content. This includes PUMPKIN! 

    • Always consume vitamin A rich food with a FAT. This helps you absorb to absorb the nutrient. This gives you full permission to slather your pumpkin or kabocha squash liberally with grass fed butter or coconut oil. 

  5. Make sure you are getting enough Vitamin E in your diet

    • Vitamin E is necessary for the absorption of Vitamin A. Vitamin E can be found in: spinach, turnip, chard, sunflower seeds, almonds, bell peppers, asparagus, collard greens, broccoli, kale and brussels sprouts.

 

Everything Pumpkin !

 

If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed the rather 'unseasonable' weather we've been having here in the Canadian Rockies. It isn't unusual for it to snow in early September, but,  it typically disappears pretty quickly....not this time. We got a HEAP of snow (30cm to be precise) and it stayed below zero every day last week. These frigid temps sent me lunging for my slow cooker and craving all of my favourite PUMPKIN recipes.

Circa Thanksgiving 2013...pie...best enjoyed with Scrabble

Circa Thanksgiving 2013...pie...best enjoyed with Scrabble

What is it about pumpkin? I swear, it's the veggie equivalent of bacon! One mention of it sends people into a tizzy. Perhaps it's the slightly sweet, carby nature of this starchy veggie, or maybe it's the spices we often pair with it that conjure up good memories of family and warm cozy days spent fireside. Regardless , I wanted to share a few amazing pumpkin recipes with you and talk about the benefits of pumpkin as a part of your healthy fertility or pregnancy Paleo diet.

 

 

Pumpkin's Paleo Pregnancy Friendly Nutritional Benefits at a Glance

  • Pumpkin is one of the lower carb starchy winter squashes. A 100g serving typically contains 8g of carbs (3g of which are fibre). It's also rich in soluble fibre which can help feed your happy belly bacteria and optimize your gut microbiome. This can be a good choice even when you're following a reduced carbohydrate diet or if you have gestational diabetes.
  • Rich in vitamins such as folate, niacin, vitamin B-6 , thiamin and pantothenic acid, vit-c, vit-a (more on this next week! and vit-e.
  • A good source of potassium. This can help re-fuel you after a workout and can also help to keep your electrolytes in balance. If you suffer from pregnancy related leg cramps this can really help. 
  • Excellent source of many natural poly-phenolic flavonoid compounds such as α, beta- carotenes, cryptoxanthin, lutein and zea-xanthin. Zea-xanthin is a natural anti-oxidant which has UV (ultra-violet) rays filtering actions in the retina of the eyes. 
  • It tastes great is is often well tolerated in the first trimester when food aversion and nausea can dominate your life. In fact, the vitamin b-6 in pumpkin may actually HELP your morning sickness, especially if paired with ginger...think pumpkin pie! 

Slightly sloppy but seen here sporting a good dollop of coconut manna. 

Meg, The Modern Paleo Midwife's Pregnancy Pumpkin Gelatin Treat

This delightful single serving recipe utilizes the flavours of classic pumpkin pie while benefiting from healthy fats from coconut milk and the healing qualities of gelatin. There is also a sugar free option if you use stevia. 

Serves: 1

2/3 cup Coconut Milk (From a carton, light or full fat depending on how rich you'd like it)

1/3 cup Bpa free canned pumpkin or puree from homemade roast pumpkin

3/4 tbs Grassfed Gelatin

2 tsp Cinnamon 

2 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 tsp Ground Ginger

1/2 tsp Nutmeg and Sea Salt (brings out the sweet and spice)

Stevia to taste (for sugar free) or 1-2 tbs coconut palm sugar, honey or maple syrup

Combine 1/3 cup of the coconut milk and the pumpkin and heat in microwave (for 1 min) or pot on the stove until just starting to bubble but not boil. In the mean time, bloom gelatin in remaining 1/3 cup of coconut milk, stirring well to combine.  Add spices (adjusting to taste), salt, vanilla and sweetener to gelatin mix. Once pumpkin/milk is hot, add the gelatin/spice mix and stir until gelatin mix is totally dissolved. 

Let set in fridge for 1-2 hrs until firm. Top with more cinnamon, melted coconut butter, whipped cream or my personal fav, vanilla coconut milk ice cream! 

Other Great Paleo Pumpkin Recipes (all Modern Midwife Approved!) 

Pale OMG's Round Up of her fab pumpkin recipes. 

Spunky Coconut's Pumpkin Chili 

Eat Drink Paleo's Pumpkin Garlic Cauliflower Mash and Meatballs

Classic Pumpkin Paleo Pancakes from Diane Sanfilippo's Practical Paleo

Elana's Pantry's Classic Paleo Pumpkin Pie

Paleo Mama's Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

 

 

 

Pregnancy "detoxing" and the 21 Day Sugar Detox

Goodbye Paleo Treats.........

Last week I aired my dirty laundry about my stevia addiction! Today is day 1 of my 21-day sugar detox and so far it's going pretty well. This past week I've been weening myself off the sweet nectar and learning to drink my coffee and tea without any stevia at all...this is a big deal for me and the first time it's happened since probably 1992. Now that I've sufficiently dated myself, I wanted to talk a bit about "detoxing" during pregnancy. 

I've been asked by a number of clients and readers about the safety of 'detox' diets during pregnancy. While pregnancy does spark a strong, primal desire to clean up our diets in order to give our growing babies the best we can give them, it is NOT a time to 'detox'.

What is a 'detox' anyhow?

A traditional detox refers to a diet that utilizes a variety of different nutritional guidelines and occasionally herbal supplements to aide the body's natural detoxing process and remove toxins from our tissues and organs. 

Raw juice detox programs are one of the more traditional and still popular methods of detoxing. These are not Midwife approved. 

Toxins are often stored in our fat cells and many of these diets encourage release of toxins by decreasing calorie levels thus encouraging fat loss by simple caloric deficit. Other programs use herbs and certain foods to stimulate the liver (our natural detoxifiying organ) ,  kidneys and colon (excretion organs).  When toxins are released in large loads many people experience side effects such as : headache, acne, bad breath and fatigue or flu-like symptoms.

These sorts of traditional detoxing diets are not safe for pregnancy. You need more calories not less during pregnancy not to mention that the "detoxing" of toxins from your body's tissues could potentially harm a developing fetus and placenta. Stay away....stay far far away.

HOWEVER...... there is one "detox" program I would recommend....The 21 Day Sugar Detox

21 Day Sugar Detox and Pregnancy

The 21-day sugar detox is a safe diet to follow during pregnancy, particularly in the 3rd trimester when your glucose tolerance is low and insulin resistance becomes high.

Say what??  I've written about it before but to to re-cap: when you are pregnant your body wants to store and accumulate extra fat stores by becoming more resistant to insulin, thus increasing your blood sugars and storing additional energy (aka sugar) as fat. It does this for two reasons:

1- To ensure that you have sufficient calories to breastfeed your baby in the event of a famine. Of course our bodies have not quite got the memo that we live in a society of the 24hr drive thru and let's face it,  Wholefoods opens at 7am, there is little chance we will miss the breakfast bar.

2- To fatten up your baby (for similar reasons). Unless you're care provider has told you that you are at risk for a small for gestational age baby, it is reasonable to assume that you don't need to over indulge in sugars to 'fatten' up your baby. 

As long as you are having a healthy, low risk pregnancy, the 21-day sugar detox can also be used at any point in pregnancy to re-set and help re-focus your diet around clean healthy eating.  

I like this program for a few reasons:

Hello duck leg and sauteed rainbow chard! This meal is 21-day sugar detox approved ! 

- This is not a traditional 'detox' but rather a healthy, whole food diet. There is no danger that you will offload toxins to your baby or enter into a caloric deficit as long as you eat sufficient portions and healthy meals. 

- The focus of the diet is obtaining maximum nutrient density from healthy fats, well sourced proteins and lots of vitamin rich colourful veggies.

- This is not a calorie restrictive program making it suitable for pregnant women. 

- The emphasis of this program is blood sugar regulation. This is exactly what we are trying to control in the third trimester and throughout pregnancy.

- The program comes with lots of great recipes and menu ideas for a busy mama-to-be. 

- There are options for different carb amounts included in the program. When pregnant, eat the approved carbs to satiety. Include at least 150g/day of carbs in your diet more if you are pregnant and active or breastfeeding. 

- The diet includes three levels to suit different diet styles or family members. Level 3 is strict paleo (think whole 30)  and Level 1 and 2 can include some gluten free grains (rice, quinoa) and full fat grass-fed dairy. Needless to say, it's pretty darn flexible and includes TONS of great recipes. 

Want to join me on my 21-day Sugar Detox Program? Sign up here! You can start anytime...you won't regret it! 

Always consult your care provider before starting any new diet.

 

The problem with Stevia and The start of my 21-Day Sugar Detox Journey

 I don't often share my personal stories but decided to share my story with stevia and share why I'm joining in on the next 21 Day Sugar Detox (starting sept 1st!).

This is what Stevia looks like in nature

This is what Stevia looks like in nature

I have a confession...I love SWEET tastes. I love anything sweet...but, I hate what sugar does to me. Sugar (even fruit) makes me jittery, strange and overall rather gross!  As a result I have become addicted to Stevia. It's true. My friends even make fun of me for it. When they come over, they instantly try to guess how many things on their plate have stevia in them. From tea to salad dressing and cupcakes, if I can, I add it.  It's a problem. It's both totally insane and completely hilarious.

I first discovered this sweet herb as a teenager when I went into a tiny funny smelling health food store WAAYYY back in 1990 when my naturopath put me on a gluten free vegan diet (that's another story!). Let me tell you, back then, there were no such products like Truvia, Sweetleaf or other tasty extracts, I got into the green leaf stuff. I grew to love the slightly metallic, overly sweet flavour and being a weight obsessed athlete I loved that it was calorie free. I grew up with Nutrasweet and figured this was a much healthier option.

Now, over 20 years later, I realize I have a mega problem with stevia! It's changed the way I experience my food. I overly sweeten my tea and espresso, make my gelatin coconut milk treats sickly sweet and have even been spotted dropping the stuff right into my mouth. I know....gross but true.

This is how we turn a plant into a problem...or at least it's a problem for this Paleo Midwife ! 

This is how we turn a plant into a problem...or at least it's a problem for this Paleo Midwife ! 

Although Stevia is one of the better sweeteners out there, over consumption of any highly refined product is never recommended and can even have negative effects on your health. Mark Sisson did a great post outlining the benefits and risks of stevia that is worth checking out.

Some studies show that stevia consumption can cause hypoglycaemia. This may be a good thing if you are insulin resistant or diabetic, but for a normal active gal with a high stress job, this hypoglycaemia may end up taxing the precious adrenals and effect the delicate hormone balance. These are important things to have if you have a stressful job like me or are trying to maximize your fertility.

I came across this post from Kate Skinner who does a beautiful job explaining it. 

" Stevia is “sweet” on the palate, so the body assumes it is receiving sugar and primes itself to do so. Glucose is cleared from the bloodstream and blood sugars drop, but no real sugar/glucose is provided to the body to compensate. When this happens, adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize sugar from other sources (liver and muscle glycogen, or protein, or body tissue) to bring blood glucose back up. 

The whole process is stressful to the body. We don’t want to be relying on raising blood sugar at the expense of skin health, muscle mass and immune function. Since we want to be avoiding increasing stress hormones (for many reasons, but they are inflammatory, strongly linked to weight gain, low thyroid function, insulin resistance and other health problems), avoiding hypoglycemia is really important for increasing and maintaining overall health.  " 

SOOO, I need to stop and reset. I'm not saying I'm going to give up using stevia as a sweetener all together but I need to cut way back! How on earth am I going to break this long standing habit? The 21 Day Sugar Detox of course! 

Bacon wrapped pork tenderloin from the 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook. So delicious and got me rave reviews from my guests. 

If you're not familiar with the 21 Day Sugar Detox let me tell you, you should be! It's a wonderful program put together by the author of Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo. I have recommend this program to a number of my clients who want to help bust through sugar cravings in the third trimester or do a general reset after their baby comes. It's a nutritionally dense program that doesn't put women in a caloric deficit. This is critical if you are aiming to maximize your fertility, are pregnant or are breastfeeding. That being said some folks loose weight on this program. This is likely due to having a more optimal blood sugar balance and eliminating excess sugars from their diet.

So, what's included in this program? LOTS! This includes: a quick-start guide you can download right after you buy it, downloadable meal plans, tons of great recipes (from some super cool guest bloggers as well as Diane), shopping lists, workout and lifestyle guides, audio programs and guides to modifications for athletes and those with autoimmune issues. You have the option of buying the print book and cookbook (at a great price) too. There will even soon be an online community to connect to others sharing this road to wellness. 

No Joke Chocolate Cake from ZenBelly with my signature Paleo "Buttercream". The coconut chocolate whipped filling is AMAZEBALLS

No Joke Chocolate Cake from ZenBelly with my signature Paleo "Buttercream". The coconut chocolate whipped filling is AMAZEBALLS

As a pre-amble to my journey away from sweet tastes, I made one of the recipes in the 21 Day Sugar Detox Cookbook  for a friends going away party! (see above) It was amazeballs. Can you say pork wrapped in more pork? My guests loved it. Oh, I also made a GIANT chocolate cake! I used this recipe from ZenBelly. She's right, this chocolate cake is NO JOKE! Perhaps it would make a great treat at the end of your detox or like me, something to help you kick it off :) 

Stay tuned next week to learn more about why the 21 Day Sugar Detox is great for Pregnancy, in particular the third trimester! Send me your questions or join me on this journey. The next 21 Day Sugar Detox starts Sept 1st! 


Essential Fatty Acids: What's the Deal?

It's summer in the Canadian Rockies and the alpine wildflowers are in peak bloom. It's times like these I feel blessed to enjoy where I live and am thankful for the clean air, open spaces and wild country that I call home!

This was a cloudy day last week and a beautiful run through the wild arnica (good for tissue healing) around Buller Pass. This was 30mins from my house. That makes me happy! 

All these beautiful flowers, plus a post by Paleo For Women's Stefani Ruper inspired me to want to write own post about Evening Primrose Oil. I got going on that and then whamo! Up popped a post by Mark Sission that inspired me to write a more general post about Fatty Acid Supplementation.

This wee story may be the starting point for a longer novella about fatty acids in pregnancy but for now, here's my two cents on essential fatty acids. Before we jump right into why I encourage DHA supplementation during pregnancy, let's look at why, in the Paleo community, we talk about balancing our omega-3 and 6 ratios.

Why should I care about Omega3's vs Omega 6's? 

Good question! Why the heck should you care? I'm not a big fan of  'micromanaging' what you eat, but, I think it can be beneficial to take a big picture approach and look at your diet every once in a while. This is especially important if you are suffering from a chronic condition, are trying to optimize fertility or are expecting a little cavebaby! 

To explain it briefly and simply, omega-6 fatty acids (mostly Arachidonic acid ) promote systemic inflammation in the body by stimulating inflammatory prostaglandin's. Omega-3 fatty acids (mostly EPA/DHA)  aren't in themselves anti-inflammatory but rather stimulate a concurrent cascade of chemical activities that basically slows the entire inflammatory cycle down by competing with binding sites and decreasing tissue concentration of inflammatory prostaglandin's. 

Therefore, the amount of omega-3's you need in your diet should correspond to the amount of omega-6's in your diet. Too much omega-6 and you run the risk of developing diseases that are related to inflammation. These include cardiovascular disease, Chrohn's disease, hormone dis-regulation and insulin resistance. Being in a constant state of inflammation can also make conceiving more difficult. This is why we are all so fascinated and obsessed with omega 3:6 ratios. 

Back up here....Prosta-'what'-dins? 

Prostaglandins are autocrine or paracrine regulators rather than hormones. They are produced an act locally within cells and tissues. Prostaglandins have a wide variety of important functions in our body including: being responsible for the cascade of hormones to start labour, smooth muscle regulation, cell growth, hormone regulation, platelet aggregation (formation of blood clots) and localized inflammatory responses. 

This is a great visual that helps point out how much omega:6 is in our diet

 What is the optimal Omega 3:6 Ratio?

Well, good question. I don't think anyone really knows. A standard american diet (SAD)  typically includes ratios of 1:10 or upwards of 1:25. That's totally nuts! Many paleo authors have suggested a ratio of 1:1 -1:3 is a more reasonable ratio for optimal health. These ratios more closely resemble the ratio's that our traditional ancestral diet may have contained.

Should I Supplement?

Well, good question. If you eat a squeaky clean paleo, ancestral or primal diet, with no processed food, no inflammatory seed oils (think canola based margarine) it's easy to think you're doing a smashing job! That being said, even I occasionally cave and eat a bag of organic chips made with canola, and there are tons of Omega-6 fatty acids found in many paleo/primal friendly foods too. These include delicious delights such as avocados, nuts, nut flours (aka paleo treats), poultry and pork products (yup...bacon).  

Most of us aren't perfect in balancing these ratios and we tend to be exposed to many more omega-6 fatty acids in our diets than may be optimal. It's good to look at your intake of these foods and be honest about how much poultry, nuts and avocados you really consume.

To aid in ratio optimization, try to add in more grass-fed beef, game or organ meats, watch your consumption of nuts and seeds (walnuts and macadamias are a good choice), and try to include more cold water fish like herring, mackerel and sardines. You can also get DHA from flax, hemp and chia but it must be converted in the body from ALA to EPA/DHA. Unfortunately, this process isn't very efficient. According to Chris Kresser, less than 5% of ALA getting converted to EPA with less than 0.5% being converted to DHA. Best to stick with the fish and grassfed meats.

If you are trying to treat a specific health condition, trying to conceive or are pregnant or breastfeeding, supplementation may be a good choice and is supported by both mainstream medical doctors and most natural health practitioners alike.

DHA/EPA Supplementation

There are numerous studies touting the benefits of supplementation with DHA, most notably from fish oil. Supplementation of DHA from fish oil has been shown to be beneficial for fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding.  

DHA supplements may help:

DHA helps babies brain, eye and overall neurological health

DHA helps babies brain, eye and overall neurological health

  • Enhance male fertility by aiding in sperm quality and motility
  • prevent pre-eclampsia in pregnancy
  • prevent mood changes and postpartum depression
  • Support fetal neurological development (brain/eyes)
  • Reduce of the risk of allergies in infants
  • Supplementation during breastfeeding dramatically increases DHA content of breastmilk...essentially making it "super-milk" 

DHA is one of the few fatty acids that crosses the placenta. Fatty acids are required by the developing fetus as a source of energy, to maintain the fluidity, permeability and conformation of membranes and as precursors of critical bioactive compounds such as prostacyclins, prostaglandins, thromboxanes and leukotrienes. DHA synthesis is limited in the fetus and supplementation or high dietary intake of DHA has been shown to increase overall fetal DHA levels and effect m-RNA expression. Translation: these are all good things! 

DHA absorption by the fetus is shown by studies to really get ramped up in the final 10 weeks of pregnancy. So, if you are nauseated or just can't tolerate fish oil caps in the first half of pregnancy, no biggie. You can make up for it later when you are feeling better. 

What supplements should I buy?

This is a wee little Krill...he's a good choice if you're going to supplement with DHA. 

This is a wee little Krill...he's a good choice if you're going to supplement with DHA. 

Good question! I coach clients to look for DHA from krill or other small marine animals. Krill oil has been show to be more easily absorbed and increase blood DHA levels faster and more efficiently than traditional fish oil capsules. Plus, krill are small little animals and the lower you eat on the food chain, the less risk you have for being exposed to contaminants and toxins. Make sure your supplement has at least 200-300mg of DHA per cap and take between 1g-2g daily.  Chris Kresser wrote a long post all about how to choose a fish oil that is worth a read. 

For the Fish/seafood allergic there are options! 

For the Fish/seafood allergic there are options! 

Don't do fish?  If you're like me and are allergic to fish/seafood/shellfish there is one other option for getting your DHA. Marine algae. Studies have shown that taking a supplement of marine algae based DHA can be just as effective as fish oil. It's more expensive but if you have no other options, it can be a good solution. 

 

 

 

 

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose...not just a pretty flower

Evening Primrose...not just a pretty flower

What is Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)? 

Evening primrose oil is a pressed flower oil that contains omega-6 fatty acids, much like safflower or canola oil. I know what you're thinking,

"HOLD THE PHONE, aren't additional omega-6 fatty acids a bad?" Well, , yes, I'd agree, but, EPO is an exception. 

EPO is unique in that it is mostly comprised of (75%) Gamma-Linoeic Acid or GLA. GLA is one of the  few "anti-inflammatory" omega-6's fatty acids. It does this by it mitigating the inflammatory prostaglandin response caused by Arachidonic Acid (aka canola, safflower, sunflower oil) via similar pathways as DHA and EPA.

Evening Primrose Oil's Role in Women's health, Fertility and Pregnancy

There is very little research on the benefits of EPO but here is what we do know...or think we know :)

Manage PMS

  • Inflammatory prostaglandin excess can be responsible for a myriad of PMS symptoms including cramps, breast tenderness, joint pain and bloating. Taking a supplement of EPO may help to reduce these effects and make PMS a bit more manageable. Many PMS sufferers are found to have unusually low levels of GLA in their systems, which is why supplements might help so much. EPO can also help promote the absorption of iodine, a mineral that can be present in abnormally low levels in women with PMS and hypothyroid conditions. 

 Balance your Mood

  • What woman doesn't want help with the delicate balance of mood regulation during their menstrual cycle or pregnancy?  Studies have shown that supplementing with EPO can help reduce some of the mood changes associated with PMS, pregnancy and in the postpartum period. Many studies focused on the use of DHA, not GLA for pregnancy mood related changes so for clients who have struggled with mood in the past, I usually recommend a high dose fish oil or placental encapsulation (that's another post!) for this particular complaint.

Aid in Fertility

  • There are some claims that claim that taking evening primrose oil can help a woman conceive by making her cervical mucus more stretchable and slippery, enabling the sperm to move more quickly through the uterus and into the fallopian tube. Can't hurt!  

Supplementing with EPO during the third trimester of Pregnancy

  • Many midwives recommend supplementation of EPO during the third trimester of pregnancy to help soften and ripen the cervix in preparation for labour. I used to recommend this too until I did some further research. Honestly, it doesn't really seem to work. There have been many midwifery led studies in North America and Europe that show no change in cervical ripeness with EPO supplementation. Bummer. Does it hurt? Nope. Will it help? Probably not, but again, it doesn't hurt!