The Beautiful Cervix Project

Have you ever wondered what your cervix looks like? Curious about how it changes during your cycles? What's up with cervical mucus? How does it change as your hormone levels fluctuate during your cycle?

Taken from Beautiful Cervix Project

 The Beautiful Cervix Project is an amazing site I discovered this week. It encourages women to  check out their own cervix as it changes and has beautiful photos documenting various women during various times of the month.

Checking out your own cervix is a great way to become more in touch with your own fertility and menstrual cycles. 

  

Micronutrient needs for Fertility and a healthy Paleo Pregnancy: Sometimes it's the little things that really matter!!

A CaveGirl’s Micronutrient Needs for Fertility and Paleo Pregnancy

While a paleo friendly diet based on whole-foods is critical for any healthy CaveGirl's fertility, there is a tendency out there to focus all of our attention on macronutrients.  That is, the protein, fats and carbs. I'm continually asked, "how many carbs should I eat when pregnant or breastfeeding." While I work on a great answer to that question,  here are some key micronutrients that deserve some attention! These micronutrients are essential for an optimal state of ripe and ready fertility and pregnancy. As the old saying goes, “it's the little things that really matter”, in this case, 'they' couldn't be more right.

 

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B-Vitamins: Important for the prevention of open neural tube defects (spina bifida), energy metabolism, as well as healthy growth & development. Vitamins require healthy stomach acid in order to be properly absorbed, so if you have issues with low stomach acid, you may want to consider something like an HCL supplement. 

Paleo Sources:

  • B12: Highest in animal proteins with the richest sources being found in liver, clams, fish*, beef and grass-fed milk 
  • B9 (folate): Dark leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, citrus fruits, avocado, nuts/seeds, squash and beets. Folate is the key nutrient we need to protect against neural tube issues, like Spina Bifida. It needs to be in our diets BEFORE getting pregnant so while trying to conceive you need to get in those greens! Want to learn the important difference between folic acid and folate? Check this post out! 

Magnesium: Magnesium helps build strong bones and teeth, regulates insulin and blood-sugar levels, and helps enzymes function properly. It can help reduce anxiety, aid with sleepless nights, constipation and help to prevent painful leg cramps.

Paleo Sources:

  • Bananas, spinach, pumpkin seeds, chard, cashews and almonds
  • You can also apply magnesium oil directly to your skin or find it as a dietary supplement. Natural Calm makes a great product that many people enjoy as a hot drink. Take magnesium in the evenings to help you sleep.

Calcium: Critical for development of little baby bones and nervous systems. A pregnant woman’s dietary calcium needs go up in pregnancy. While babies will always get what they need, they do so at the expense of mom’s bones. If you become calcium deficient in pregnancy it can pre-dispose you to osteopenia (or low bone density) later in life. Some women just choose to supplement with calcium in pregnancy which I don't recommend. Calcium in a pill form isn't well absorbed, can cause constipation and there is no evidence to support supplementing for bone health. Instead, try to get calcium from dietary sources. A smoothie with greens and grassfed yogurt is a pretty spiffy way of getting in your daily calcium! 

Paleo Sources:

  • Grass-fed Dairy, sardines (crunch the bones), collard greens, kale, swiss and rainbow chard
  • Nuts (like Almonds) but is poorly absorbed due to the phalate content of nuts and seeds. If you soak your nuts for 24hrs, it will help. You can also buy pre-soaked and sprouted nuts here
  • Calcium blocks the absorption of iron, so it’s best eaten away from your big iron containing meal or on it’s own.

 

Vitamin D: Helps you absorb calcium from your diet and it’s important for bone health as well as metabolic and immune function (which is reduced in pregnancy). Babies born to Vit-D deficient mothers may also be predisposed to Type-1 diabetes. You can have your vitamin D levels tested by your Midwife or OB/Gyn. In some places it costs extra, but it's worth the $20-40 investment. It's one of the most common vitamin deficiencies I see in my office. 

Paleo Sources:

  • Egg yolks, fish*, cod liver oil
  • You can also feel free to take a pill
  • Get outside! Sunlight helps us make our own vit-d.

Vitamin K2- Works together with Vit D/Calcium to protect your brain, nervous system and skeletal system. K2 helps to shuttle calcium around the body as well as aiding in gene expression. Some folks claim it helps babies facial structures develop symmetrically…. Therefore vit k2= pretty babies.

The Weston A Price foundation has a pretty comprehensive list of K2 sources found here.  

Paleo Sources:

There are two forms of Vit K2 we can get from our diet:

  • MK-4: found in highest amounts in grassfed butter and egg yolks
  • MK-7: found in fermented foods. Taking a fermented cod liver oil/butter blend would be really your best bet when it comes to getting enough K2

Choline: Helps our baby’s brain develop. Some studies show that it may also reduce the risk of nervous system disfunction and mental illness in our growing little cavemunchkins.

Paleo Sources:

  •  Egg yolks, beef liver and cube steak. Smaller amounts in spinach and potatoes

Zinc:  Pretty darn important for DNA/Gene expression. As Madonna taught us in the ‘80’s, it’s so important to “express yourself”. You're needs for zinc in pregnancy go up and as we are unable to store it in the body, it's important to get it from dietary sources. 

Paleo Sources: 

  •  Oysters, liver, beef, dark meat from poultry, pumpkin seeds (or pumpkin butter), dark chocolate (yessss), lamb and goat

Vitamin A (or if your Canadian, vitamin eh?): Prevention of placental insufficiency, low birthweight babies and preterm birth. Here's a great article by Mary G. Enig about vitamin A and fetal development. 

Paleo Sources:

  • Liver from all animals (including cod liver oil)
  • While yellow/orange coloured vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash and apricots contain Beta-carotene (the inactive form in vegetables) most of it is not  converted into Vitamin A, which is used by the body. You'd have to eat a whole lot of veggies to get all your vitamin A needed for optimal fertility,  pregnancy, breastfeeding so it's best to supplement your diet with a bit of liver or grass-fed dairy (if tolerated). 

Vitamin C: Aids in immune function and in the absorption of iron from food sources.

Paleo Sources:

  • Citrus, fruits and berries, colourful peppers, cauliflower

 

Omega- 3 :  Or more specifically DHA. DHA aids in brain and eye development as well as protecting CaveMama from cardiovascular problems in pregnancy. DHA can also prevent mood imbalance during pregnancy and specifically postpartum, so if you're prone to depression or anxiety, DHA in higher doses may be for you. 

Paleo Sources: 

  • Krill oil, fish*, blue green sea algae (for fish allergic)

Iron: As your blood volume expands (by 50%) during pregnancy, your iron stores become naturally diluted making anemia (low iron) the top “complication” in pregnancy. Iron is important for energy levels and most metabolic functions in the body.

 

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Paleo Sources:

  • Liver, red meats, dark turkey, pumpkin seeds
    • If your levels get really low your midwife or OB/Gyn may recommend a supplement. Floridix and Inate Iron Response are the most natural supplements out there and are very well absorbed. Remember to always take your iron away from anything containing calcium and always with something containing vitamin C for optimal absorption.

    * Always choose wild caught fish rather than farmed fish and aim for species that is low on the food chain: think trout, salmon, shrimp, lake fish. Stay tuned for a full post about mercury content in fish/seafood in a future post.

     

     

    5 Paleo Powerhouses for a healthy CaveGirl Pregnancy

    "What should I eat?", I hear this almost every day! It can be so confusing navigating all the nutritional advice for pregnancy and optimal fertility. I thought I'd throw in my 2 cents and give you a short list of 5 Paleo Powerhouse foods that are often overlooked in our diets. These foods support your fertile body as your grow a little Cavebaby and can help prepare  you for pregnancy as well as breastfeeding.

     #1 Fermented Cod Liver Oil: Fermentation allows the oil to be separated from its source without heating and without changing the structure of the oil. This optimizes the  nutritional components and keeps all of the beneficial nutrients intact. Fermented cod liver oil is extremely high in fat soluble vitamins A,D,E and K2 (stay tuned for a super informative micronutrient post), all of which are splendidly important for pregnancy and fertility. Does it taste good? Not in the least. There are however certain brands that taste better than others. Green Pastures carries a line of excellent flavoured oils you can buy online if your local store doesn't carry them.  

    #2 Pumpkin Seed Butter: Yes, PSB contains Omega-6 but in the context of a healthy paleo/primal menu, it has it's rightful place. Not only is this little gem high in protein  (10g/serving), it's also high in zinc, multiple forms of beneficial vitamin E, tryptophan, magnesium and iron. All key nutrients for a pregnant Cavemama. Plus it tastes delicous...unlike powerhouse #1 and is has funky green colour, which will totally gross out your friends and family. There is value in that.

    #3 Gelatin: A rich source of amino acids as well as protein, gelatin helps our connective tissues (which are stretching and growing), skin, nails and hair stay healthy and look great. It also helps to support the lining of our guts, aiding in digestion as well as essential liver function. Both of which can be challenged in pregnancy. You can get gelatin by making your own bone broth or by taking a Collagen Hydrolysate powder. I use Great Lakes Brand. It's flavourless and easy to use, either in a recipe (see my recipage for some ideas) or added to a hot liquid, like tea or soup.

    #4 Liver: Sorry folks, but liver is great. Liver is one of the best sources of iron, b-vitamins, zinc and vitamin A. Gram for gram, it contains the riches sources of nutrients  than any other food and it's also super affordable!  I always recommend organic grass-fed liver, as conventionally raised animals may have come into contact with high amounts of hormones, pesticides or toxins, all of which will be present in their meats. 

    I think they even look kinda "fertile".  Mother nature know's her stuff.

    I think they even look kinda "fertile".  Mother nature know's her stuff.

    #5 Avocado: Besides being creamy and absolutely delicious, the avocado is an excellent food for pregnancy and fertility. Avocados have a unique nutrient profile being high in vitamin A, C, E, zinc, ALA omega-3 fats and selenium. What a total gem!  

    No I didn't forget coconut oil or eggs!  I had to choose just 5! They deserves their own posts..so please standby !  

    What foods do you consume the most during your pregnancy or while trying to conceive ?