Video: In this informational video from Beeyoutiful Views, Steph gives some tips on reducing stretch marks.
Category Archives: Birthworld
by Mary Ewing
“Pack an extra change of clothes for baby and yourself.”
“Sleep when your baby sleeps.”
“Have a diaper ready and waiting before you start changing in case
he ends up going again…um, make that three or four ready!”
“Keep a nursing station in several rooms with snacks, water, and reading supplies.
That way you stay nourished, hydrated, and well read.”
These were just a few of the sage tidbits passed along to me before my first baby was born. And while they came in handy, what I did not realize until after the birth was that no one had even come close to preparing me for the realities of what it’s like to have an infant to care for.
I was ready for myriad diapering problems, knew chapter and verse about nearly every possible philosophy on how to get babies to sleep, was up on most spit-up and peed-on stories, but no one had sat me down and shared serious probabilities like:
∙ I would need an entire six weeks to recover after having the baby;
∙ I may have a lot of inflammation, maybe even a tear to heal from;
∙ Nursing may not be the entirely glowing and bonding experience it is touted to be (although it was bonding and often glowing, it was also at times uncomfortable and hard work);
∙ I would need to eat a good deal of nutrition-dense foods so my baby would get enough to satisfy her;
∙ My body would not be the same again for a long time, if ever.
I was not prepared for standing in my hospital room 24 hours after having our first daughter, battling nausea (from blood loss), continuing pain (I tore badly), exhaustion, and being disillusioned that my body looked really bad. On top of all that, I now had an infant who was totally dependent on me for her survival.
I don’t say this to discourage you from having children, because I gladly endure all of this to have my four kids (and hopefully more in the future)! I’m writing this because I wish someone had forewarned me, so I could be a bit more prepared and not so shocked by the “new normal.” Had I known there were things I could do to boost my blood supply immediately and eliminate some of the nausea and exhaustion or that there were simple things to help with some of the pain after labor, I would have definitely had a leg up in starting motherhood.
With what I learned, my subsequent postpartum recoveries have gotten progressively better. So pull up a cup of tea, and let me share with you a few things out of my postpartum experiences that may help you avoid the unnecessary problems I encountered my first time around.
Diet Not Thyself!
For nine months, I relished having a good excuse for my expanding waist line. Once I held my baby, though, I was ready to fit immediately back into my “real” clothes. I remember looking at my middle right after that first birth and literally crying at how terrible my abdomen looked. I was ready to jump on the diet band wagon—and I did. Wrong move.
Even though I was due to be a bridesmaid in three weddings just months after having her, my Emma would have been better off if I hadn’t tried so hard to “get in shape” for the events. She was fussy and not satisfied with nursing so I, like a lot of people, thought my milk was just not very good. I began to supplement immediately. What I have since learned is that when I was dieting—i.e., starving myself—I was also depriving Emma of the rich fats, proteins, and other nutrients needed to help her feel satisfied and full. Therefore, during the postpartum weeks and throughout nursing times, you should not try to lose weight by limiting foods.
By the time we welcomed my third baby into the world, I was so flabby that my midwife could actually put her hand between my abdominal muscles, but by then, I also knew how to manage my diet the right way for baby and me. What you can do after a birth is to eat the same diet I suggest for pregnancy.
The Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org) nursing mother and pregnant mom’s diet provides both you and your baby with a fantastic, balanced array of nutrients to help you both: you to heal and restore and your baby to grow and develop. It also offers the added benefit that, because it disallows all junk foods, you should better achieve your optimum weight. Add to that the calorie-burning properties of nursing, and there is a real possibility you actually will achieve a slim waist (just don’t make that your primary goal).
Many people recommend a postpartum exercise plan to help with slimming down, but please be cautious about over-exercising during nursing. While functional exercise is tremendously beneficial to maintain functionality and movement, I would caution against extreme exercise routines or rigorous training regimens—especially long distance running—because most such approaches burn too much fat. This can deplete your fat reserves which are needed to help your baby. Find a functional routine that encourages moderate cardio exercises and flexibility.
Oh So Tired!
Tiredness comes with the territory when you have a new baby. Your infant needs constant attention, and tending to her is only made more exhausting if you already have other children that need you, too. Despite what everyone says about sleeping when your baby sleeps, you still need to wash clothes, shower, and cook. The blood loss that comes with a birth also contributes to your exhaustion. And while I can’t solve your laundry problem, I can suggest some great supplements for extra energy and help with post-birth anemia.
Beeyoutiful’s Liquid Chlorophyll is terrific for boosting blood cell formation. This will help your body produce what you need to replace what you lost. In addition, it’s a great anti-inflammatory which will help decrease inflammation caused by birth. For my last two children, I’ve started taking Liquid Chlorophyll within minutes of the birth and have not experienced the nausea and vomiting I did with my first two children.
Regardless of which sleeping philosophy you choose for your child, remember this as you are helping your little one adjust to life: your baby has lived in a warm, peaceful place for nine months, always soothed by your heartbeat and your movement. Taking a baby out of that and expecting him or her to self-soothe immediately is an unreal expectation. The first few weeks should be a time of holding and teaching a baby to soothe. Don’t set yourself up to fail by expecting yours to be a perfectly scheduled baby from day one. Soothing skills must be learned, and you are the teacher. So give yourself and your new one some time to recover and to enjoy each other, even if that means a few more days until you attain your perfect schedule.
The Pain that Didn’t Go Away
Once the birth trauma is past, it can be disappointing to find out how much you still hurt. You ache all over and have afterpains—and it tends to get worse with each baby. With my first two children, I used a large amount of narcotics and other pain relievers. But I was super excited to use Beeyoutiful’s Ow!-Ease to reduce soreness with my most recent baby. I rubbed the salve on my abdomen and back to relieve pain. Combined with Bromelain, using it eliminated any need for prescription or over-the-counter pain medications. I was thrilled because this not only prevented my baby from ingesting the drugs but helped me stay more alert and able to care for the baby. (Note: Ow!-Ease is not for use on broken skin. Do not apply it to any cuts or abrasions, and use it with care around the baby. Thoroughly wash your hands of any residue before handling your infant.)
Miracle Skin Salve was my second, equally loved, friend. I wish I had known of Miracle with my first baby. I had such bad lacerations I couldn’t walk without pain for over a month. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced such bad ruptures since, but I have had a lesser one which my midwife still thought may need stitches to heal properly. Wanting to avoid suturing, I applied Miracle Salve liberally to the one-inch tear, and when my midwife did her five-day checkup, she was amazed to find that the tear had almost healed. Although she cautioned me to take it easy, she said I was free to resume normal activities. Not only had Miracle helped heal the tear super-fast, it had completely relieved the pain. Other than the first day, I felt no discomfort at all. Definitely worth having—and spreading—around!
Getting Your Hormones to Behave Again
Emotions are raging, skin is dry, your body is rearranging itself, you’re hot then cold, your world feels like it will never be the same again. Thankfully, time does help, the support of family and friends is invaluable, and there are some great supplements that can relieve a lot of the symptoms—or at least make them tolerable.
Beeyoutiful’s Red Raspberry Leaves has probably been a friend throughout your pregnancy, and it can still be your friend now. It helps tone your uterus and allow it to shrink back into its regular size and place. Raspberry also helps some women increase milk supply. I love the convenience of the capsules, especially since adjusting to life with a new baby can be hectic. Although I love to drink red raspberry tea, it is much simpler to use the capsules and be assured I’m getting an appropriate amount each day.
Evening Primrose Oil is my next favorite. Unfortunately it has taken me four postpartum periods to realize what an asset this simple fatty acid can be for a recovering mom. I had horribly dry skin after having my latest baby. A nutritionist suggested I add Evening Primrose Oil to my regimen. After just 24 hours of consistent use, I saw a marked decrease in skin dryness, and my emotions seemed a lot quieter. My skin regained its turgor and softness within three days of starting EPO. I also realized the hot flashes had stopped, my breasts were no longer tender, and I felt much less soreness. In addition, EPO helps relieve hemorrhoids, and the oil’s fatty acids are tremendously important in relieving postpartum depression.
I’ve outlined below a few other helpers that are important during this time.
- Magnesium Citrate. Your body is working hard to keep up with the demands of your newborn baby and her growing body. As a result, the reserves in your own body can get depleted. Magnesium levels in particular are often reduced quickly. One of the biggest symptoms of this is “being snippy.” There are, of course, a load of potential reasons to excuse your snippiness, but wouldn’t it be nice to alleviate the need for them with just a few capsules? Magnesium helps relax muscles, including your baby’s. A baby lacking magnesium is often fussy, so by taking your daily magnesium, you can relax both you and your baby.
- Tummy Tuneup and Digestive Enzymes. You may have worked on your digestion prior to and throughout pregnancy, and it isn’t time to stop yet! Anything you take into your body will also help your baby as he adjusts to eating, drinking, and eliminating. These two supplements will help build baby’s digestive tract, as well as help her process anything in your breast milk she may be having a hard time digesting. It also helps you because the last thing you need right now is an upset stomach! I have not only taken the Tummy Tuneup myself, but from Day 1, I give it to my children. For a nursing baby, I sprinkle a small portion on the nipple just prior to nursing. My goal is to get an entire capsule in my wee one each day.
- Colic Calm Gripe Water. This one is for the baby! I learned about Gripe Water when my son was small and very colicky. After I spent weeks walking and rocking a screaming child, my mother-in-law found this great bottle of gold. After giving it to him just a few times, we were both in heaven, and I’ve never since been without it while there is an infant in our house. It quickly relieves pain and helps baby rest. I’ve recommended it to many friends who are always quick to sing its praises. Several key ingredients help calm the digestive system, bind with eliminate and the offenders, and relieve pain. It is safe for daily use or can be used for breakthrough problems as well.
Wouldn’t Trade It for the World
Even with the pain, exhaustion, long days and long nights, irritability, depression, unknowns, and emotional moments, I still would not trade a second of mothering for anything. In the midst of all that happens after birth, you won’t get these days back again. The sweet cuddles, the tiny baby melted onto your chest as he sleeps, the smells of a newborn, the tiny clothes, and adorable grunts and coos will only last for a few short weeks before they’re gone forever. Cherish and enjoy each minute. Love on that baby, and take care of yourself. Hopefully with a little help from the friends I’ve introduced you to, you can look back at these times and have only good memories of your recovery!
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Practices for a Pleasant Pregnancy
By Mary Ewing
After three pregnancies, each featuring a number of “pregnancy symptoms” and baby complications following the birth, I had resigned myself to the idea that all my pregnancies would be difficult, and my health would never be great while pregnant. Still, I envied women who actually enjoyed pregnancy. Many feel wonderful and love every minute of it. But I had never experienced such a thing!
Throwing up was a way of life form me with most of my pregnancies-sometimes the entire nine months. I was constipated, had blood sugar problems, anemia, back aches, swelling..you name it! Since I was convinced a lot of my problems centered on nutrition. I decided to change my diet and be faithful with supplementation to see if my next pregnancy would be any better.
The first few weeks of my fourth (and current) pregnancy were still hard-tiredness, vomiting, migraines, and dizziness-but I stuck with my plan to stay on a healthier diet, get moderate exercise, and use supplements. Slowly I noticed a difference and by week 15, I was actually starting to feel good. By 20 weeks, I consistently felt wonderful. For the first time ever, I was pregnant and felt fine at the same time.
Despite my success, I was quaking in my boots as I went for gestational diabetes and anemia checks around 30 weeks. I just knew some of my problem was “genetically me.” I’ve always battled hypoglycemia and anemia, so when my midwife took blood samples, we waited nervously as her machine ticked down the seconds. I almost fell off her couch when the results came back not only normal but textbook normal. As the weeks have passed, I continue to feel fine, sleep well, and have fairly decent energy levels.
So what did I do this time? Three things:
1. Traditional Diet with Supplementation;
2. Moderate Exercise
3. Good rest.
Traditional Diet with Supplementation
In my “Pre-Pregnancy” article (Beeyoutiful Fall 2010 Catalog), I recommended the Weston Price Foundation approach to a healthy diet: raw milk, farm fresh eggs, good fats (butter, animal fats, coconut oil, olive oil, cod liver oil), bone broths, lacto-fermented vegetables, and grass-fed meats and vegetables (see Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon on page 12). This has become the mainstay of eating for my family and me. I’ve also limited my intake of white flour, white sugar, empty calories, preservatives, and chemicals. Eating 2 tablespoons of coconut oil each day has helped to decrease my cravings for carbohydrates and starches and to maintain my pregnancy-appropriate weight gain. My protein intake is 80-100g per day, equally spaced throughout the day, and making sure to have a healthy portion in the morning. Protein is crucial to the development of your baby during pregnancy. Most people consume only about 35g per day. That level can sustain you and your baby, but it increases your risk for developing toxemia or pre-eclampsia.
Early on, it was sometimes a struggle to eat these things when I felt yucky-Sprite and a chocolate chip muffin sounded much better. But if I chose to eat a bowl of bone broth, I would often start to feel normal again soon. Thankfully, as I entered my second trimester, I felt much better and was able to eat the suggested diet without problems.
Even the best diet often lacks key nutrients crucial for ourselves and our developing babies. Therefore, supplementation is essential, and I cannot tell you what a difference this pregnancy has been. My husband is grateful for Beeyoutiful because supplements have meant a lot less complaining on my part!
SuperMom-an excellent prenatal multivitamin. I’ve had some problems early on with tablets, but using the capsules four times a day instead helps ease my indigestion or discomfort. On days I was having a particularly hard time stomaching things, I found that taking SuperKids was a great way to get my vitamins without the discomfort. These supplements provide important building blocks to help keep you healthy and nurture a strong baby.
Tummy Tuneup or Ultimate Defense probitoics. I’ve taken Ultimate Defense because of nausea and to insure the best gut health possible, eliminate nausea, and pass on a healthy gut to my newest addition. A recent study links a decrease in childhood allergies to use of probiotics during pregnancy.
Digestive Enzymes. There’s a theory about morning sickness that links it to the live and a back-up of toxins. Digestive Enzymes can help the body break down these toxins and ease morning sickness. It also helps the body use the nutrients in food, decrease bloating, and indigestion (see Beeyoutiful’s article “The Essential Work of Digestive Enzymes“.
Folic Acid. Although Folic Acid is most critical during the first few weeks of conception and growth, it’s important to continue supplementation throughout pregnancy. Check with your midwife or health practitioner for the specific amount to take, because this varies between individuals. Typically 400-800 mcg per day is recommended. SuperMom contains 400 mcg, so you will likely need to take extra. Also, on the days you just can’t stomach much else, Folic Acid’s small tablet is a great source of folic acid without having to take a bunch of pills.
Magnesium. Wow! I can’t say enough about this one. The migraines and constipation I feared were the norm for all pregnancies…are not. I had heard many years ago that magnesium was crucial for migraine sufferers, so when my migraines peaked again in the middle of pregnancy, I took a healthy dose of magnesium every day. Within several weeks, I no longer suffered the constipation my OB had told me was completely normal and expected in pregnancy. My husband was thrilled, too, because it meant I no longer read a full novel every three days, camped out in the bathroom. I also slept much better than I ever had. In addition, magnesium helps prevent pre-eclampsia and pre-term labor. I take Beeyoutiful’s Magnesium and split my dose with two capsules in the morning and two before bedtime. I take it with raw milk because calcium is great coupled with magnesium.
Cod Liver Oil. Another “Wow!” moment when I started taking this. Although it had been on my shelf for years, I just didn’t want to take another thing. But the energy, clarity of mind, and overall vitality I experienced was incredible. To be sure that Cod Liver Oil was making the difference, I took myself off of it for a few days. Within a week, I was sluggish and feeling drained again, so I haven’t missed it since. It not only nourishes your brain but provides your body with crucial Vitamin D3 which helps keep your immune system in high gear. In my first three pregnancies, I struggled with colds and viruses several times during each one. (Nothing more miserable!) But with this pregnancy, I was 35 weeks along before catching even a slight cold, and it ran its course in just 48 hours!
Red Raspberry Leaves and Evening Primrose Oil. These two are excellent hormonal supports during pregnancy, and they prepare the uterus and body for labor. I did take these in my third pregnancy, and although I can’t confirm their overall impact, my labor was only four hours long-tolerable until the last two hours or so! I have read many different suggestions regarding when to start taking them. I suggest personal research and asking your midwife or health practitioner what is best for you. Each woman’s body is different, and the needs should be specifically addressed.
Supplements to keep on hand:
Activated Charcoal. This has been a lifesaver during this pregnancy, for two reasons: (1) A horrible stomach flu went through our family while on vacation. I immediately grabbed the charcoal and began regular doses. Although I typically catch any and all stomach viruses, it totally skipped me! (2) It greatly relieved morning sickness and indigestion. When I felt bad or had that acidy feeling in the pit of my stomach, I drank a slurry of Activated Charcoal powder. While I don’t mind the slurry’s taste and texture, others may prefer tablets or capsules. (NOTE: With regular use of charcoal for morning sickness, be sure to take either a mineral supplement or to mineralize your water because charcoal can decrease the mineral population in your intestines.)
Pregnancy Tea. Oh, what a comfort you are! When I am not feeling well, have a lack of energy, feel extra emotional, cold, or just want to enjoy a cup of warm tea that’s good for me, I relish Pregnancy Tea. Its slightly spearmint flavor is quite a comfort when mixed with a little honey and sipped in my favorite rocking chair.
Ow!-Ease. For those back aches or round ligament pains, Ow!-Ease is my favorite pain reducer. If occasional back or neck-aches creep up, Ow!-Ease delivers instant relief.
Exercise and the Rest
During this pregnancy, I’ve tried to stay as limber as possible. In the past, I’ve tried to stay active, but by 30 weeks, I usually take to the couch. Backaches are my biggest enemy, along with swelling of the legs and feet, and being generally uncomfortable. I have found several things to help combat this.
1. Regular/weekly chiropractor appointments. Find a reputable chiropractor who will work with your midwife or health practitioner to privde the care you need while pregnant. I found an incredible chiropractor-a young dad himself-who has been diligent to communicate with my midwife about my specific needs. The results have been amazing. I’ve had no backaches since seeing him, no nausea, no swelling or round ligament pain (which plagued me non-stop with my last two pregnancies), and I am much more active. In addition, he convinced our little one to flip head down and engage early in the third trimester. He advises that pregnant women find a chiropractor who is familiar with natural medicine and trained and/or certified in the Webster techniques. Most chiropractors will work a cash payment deal with patients who do not have insurance, so make sure to ask them about arrangements for paying.
2. Bradley-recommended exercises. I had hoped to take a class in the Bradley method this pregnancy-yes, even though it’s my fourth time around! Unfortunately it didn’t fit into our schedules. Yet, I checked several resources out of our local library that offer a few chapters about moderate, appropriate exercise-mainly stretching and positioning. Kegel exercises are very important as well. I spend at least half and hour a day relaxing my body and practicing relaxation. This has helped tremendously to relieve stress or tension pain that often accumulates with pregnancy, and I am hoping to experience its benefits in labor as well! (Editor’s note: Mary reports that this was the first of her four labor/delivers that she was actually able to maintain relaxation throughout the entire time. Her support system, which most had been with her through all four delivers concurs! She is thrilled with the results of this exercise in relaxation.)
3. Drinking plenty of water. Water retention is usually a sign of dehydration. I’ve known this through all my pregnancies but have not followed it as closely as I should. Usually by 30 weeks, I look more like a sausage than a person. But thankfully, between the chiropractor helping blood flow through the pelvis with a loose and straight spinal column, the stretching and increased water consumption, I have not had to battle thick extremities. This in not only beneficial to me but also to the baby. It helps insure good blood flow to the little one.
4. Get enough sleep. Sometimes easier said than done-but important. Since I am a night owl, I began enforcing an earlier night time for myself and thankfully began sleeping longer stretches. Also, turn off all electronics in your room.
Even though I haven’t attained that “perfect” pregnancy yet, I’m excited about the progress on my journey of making this process healthier for myself and my future child. Sitting here tonight, I feel the kicks and jabs of my little one as she stretches and grows, and I’m extremely thankful for the insights I’ve gained over the last few years. I hope it won’t take you as long as it did me to discover the joy of feeling good while pregnant!
Editor’s Note: Please join us in Celebrating with Mary on the safe birth of her fourth child on December 26, 2010. Charlotte Elizabeth Rose Ewing weight 7lb 8 ounces, 20 ¼ in. We are so happy for Mary and her husband, Talmadge Ewing, and the proud siblings, Emma, Elliot, and Maggie! Mama and Baby are both doing very well, which Mary credits in no small part to the nutrient dense diet she enjoyed during her pregnancy.
Mary Ewing is a part-time employee for Beeyoutiful, as well as wife, mother, and aspiring homesteader. She stays at home with her four children and enjoys exploring life with her brood as they cook, clean, garden, and play. Her passions are traditional cooking, essential oils, gardening, learning about raising lifestock, and traditional forms of art such as sewing, crocheting, knitting, and smocking!
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For Mom’s to Be
By Mary Ewing
When I married seven years ago, I was almost 26, and my husband and I knew we didn’t want to wait to have children. Although many women have children after thirty, we both wanted a large family and weren’t sure how long our “child-bearing years” would go on. Even so, we were slightly surprised when just six weeks after the wedding we found ourselves expecting our first child. Excitement filled our house! To add to our own joy, this would be the first grandchild for both his parents and mine.
At this time, I was a practicing registered nurse (I have since retired to be a mom). Although I did not work in obstetrics, I have always been fascinated with the study. Yet despite the fact that I had scored a perfect 100 ranking among my peers that year in the OB/GYN nationals competencies. I understood little about the importance of preparing to be a mom. I knew I needed to take a prenatal vitamin once the pink line appeared on the pregnancy test. I knew the importance of Folic Acid. I knew I needed to generally take care of myself. But I did nothing to really prepare for pregnancy.
My pre-pregnancy diet consisted largely of fast food, meals from a box, and sodas. I had done nothing to eliminate my chronic gut problems, build nutritional storehouses, or make sure my body was in shape for the miraculous event. Due to work hours during pregnancy, my entire day’s nutrition consisted of an orange for breakfast, half a sub sandwich for lunch , and half for dinner (and when I say sub, I mean a foot-long white bread sandwich with nothing but processed cold cuts, American cheese and jalapeno peppers.) I washed that all down with the largest cherry limeade I could buy, because it had to last my entire shift-a healthier choice, I figured since it did not have caffeine. I often went an entire week without a real meat, fresh vegetable, and whole grains.
My bouts with morning sickness-to the point of throwing up-lasted from early in the pregnancy until three days after my baby was born. Along with my second pregnancy, came nine months of migraine headaches and then my son’s chronic health issues. I finally decided there had to be a better way to do pregnancy! The challenges have leg me to some fascinating ingredients that make for a healthier momma and, therefore, a healthier baby.
Our health is a gift, not just from the Creator, but also from our parents. The health of our parents when they brought us into the world plays a large role in determining what our level of health will be. Likewise, your health plays a major role in your children’s health.
People generally assume that most health issues depend on the genes we pass on-that they determine what makes us more or less vulnerable to various diseases and health conditions. Typically, we do not make the connection that we directly pass on to our children a reflection of our own health. As a result, our children often suffer from the same digestive, immune, and chronic health issues that we do-not just because of genes but also because of how we care for ourselves. It should not be a surprise that your child is colicky if you have had problems with your digestion. So before you think about having a baby, you should first rebuild and restore your own health. Not only will you be passing on to them a head start in health, but the habits you develop will benefit them throughout life.
Getting Your Gift in Shape
The place to start building your health is with your diet-your nutritional lifestyle. Nutrients are the building blocks of cells, and it is vital to take in nutrients that build healthy cells. Diets full of healthy fats, grass-fed and organic proteins, fermented foods, properly prepared grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables are vital. While there are several very good diet suggestions out there, I recommend Diet for Pregnancy and Nursing Mothers (http://www.westonaprice.org/childrens-health/311-diet-for-pregnant-and-nursing-mothers.html) , published by the Weston A. Price Foundation. It offers great guidance for nourishing your body and preparing the inner stores necessary for pregnancy.
While most people recognize the need for protein, iron, and vitamins from fresh fruit and vegetables, it is only recently becoming known that healthy fats are needed as well. A British publication noted that for a healthy reproductive systems, a woman needs 25 to 30 percent body fat, and the American recommendation for women of child-bearing years is 21 to 33 percent. Healthy fats include coconut oil, whole milk, extra virgin olive oil, grass fed butter, avocados, and grass-fed meats (with healthy portions of the fat included). A great primer in the study of fats is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (found on page 14).
Just as important as what you put in your body, is what you don’t put in. Fats to avoid are shortening, margarine, vegetable oils like corn oil, soybean oil, canola oil and the like. Other no-no’s include artificial sweeteners, white sugar, white flour, MSG, High Fructose Corn Syrup, caffeine, and soft drinks (even cherry limeades!). Not only are they empty calories, they are often toxic to the body.
Another crucial part of your lifestyle evaluation is your level of physical activity. At any time in life, exercise keeps the body feeling well, the joints moving, aches and pains dispelled, and there is an overall vitality. To “get in shape” for pregnancy, it’s important to incorporate into daily life activities and exercises that increase stamina, flexibility, and cardio function. If you’re wary of exercise because of pain, I recommend you read Pain Free (see page 14). I’ve followed its guidelines for almost a year now and have found incredible relief from aches and pains, while increasing my flexibility and balance.
When you exercise, it’s important that you not burn too much fat. High impact aerobics and long distance running often burn more than recommended amount of body fat for a healthy pregnancy. The key here is to research the regimen you will be participating in and maintain a level that’s right for you.
Our Food Doesn’t Always Cut It
Ideally, you would get all your nutrients from food, but that is just not possible these days with our nutritionally-depleted food supplies, busy lifestyles, and other deficiencies. That’s where the wonderful resources of Beeyoutiful are invaluable if you’re preparing for one of life’s greatest joys-and hardest tasks.
Both parents should take a multivitamin derived from whole sources, easily absorbed, and one that works within the body to help build and restore. SuperMom and SuperDad are excellent multivitamins which also feature “bonus” nutrients such as spiralina and cholorella. Bear in mind, that dad contributes on the front end to the baby’s health, so he needs to take his vitamins to build his system as well.
In addition to the multivitamin, Folic Acid is a must. A sufficient level of Folic Acid in both parents decreases the rate of several genetic problems including spina bifida and Down Syndrome. Although SuperMom and SuperDad offers 400 mcg of Folic Acid, most midwives and health practitioners advise 800 mcg per day for those anticipating pregnancy. For more on the benefits of Folic Acid in pre-natal care, check out Beeyoutiful’s Fall 2009 article “Pre-natal Peace of Mind” (available in the online archives at http://www.beeyoutiful.com/pre-natal-peace-of-mind).
To make sure your body can use the foods and supplements you’re giving it, you’ll need to do all you can to keep your digestive system working is best. Even if you are blessed with an iron-clad stomach, you have likely taken antibiotics sometime in your life or have been exposed to toxins that could wreak havoc on digestive flora. I’ve outlined below two key supplements to help build a strong digestive tract.
1. Tummy Tuneup, taken daily, rebuilds good intestinal flora which will pass to the baby growing inside of you. It is also protecting against harmful bacteria. And a big plus I wish I had known during my first stomach-churning pregnancy: Daily use of probiotics can help decrease nausea while pregnant.
2. Digestive Enzymes are crucial because enzymes are the tools your body uses to extract nutrients from food. Most people are deficient and unable to use well what their food offers. Without sufficient enzymes, many people experience fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, food cravings, and various stomach complaints. Eliminating these problems before pregnancy will help you feel better during pregnancy. And it will help maximize the “building blocks” or nutrients available to your child.
Cod Liver Oil, One of my new personal favorites. I wish I’d taken it prior to all my pregnancies, not just the current one. Cod Liver Oil provides the EPA and DHA required for proper brain development. I suggest using Rosita Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil along with Organic 3 Extra Virgin Butter Oil because between the two you get Omega 3’s and good amounts of Vitamins A, D, and K. These three vitamins work together to help build strong bones, maintain the cardiovascular system, keep skin clear and healthy, balance the clotting in your blood, reduce the chance of diabetes, strengthen the immune system, and a myriad of other great things. Taking these vitamins in the form of Fermented Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil helps you receive the greatest benefit. Since these are fat soluble vitamins, it is also crucial to take them with a meal containing a moderate amount of healthy fats.
Red Raspberry Leaves. This herb is invaluable to women of all ages, but specifically for pre-pregnancy, Red Raspberry Leaves are known to increase fertility in both men and women, prevent miscarriage and hemorrhage, and decrease morning sickness. Many midwives agree that Red Raspberry Leaves are safe to take throughout your pregnancy, but some advise against use during the first trimester, so (as always!) check with your preferred health care provider before continuing any supplement during your pregnancy.
A Matter of Timing
The plans I’ve shared here should be started six months to a year prior to pregnancy if at all possible. Certainly, if you are experiencing specific health concerns such as thyroid issues, extreme fatigue, chronic sinus problems, et al, it would be best to get control of them immediately-whether or not pregnancy seems to be in your future. Either by diet modification or through adding supplements or working with a naturopath: the more you work to restore your health now, the less work it will require to restore it in the future-and you’ll reduce the chances of passing on these problems to your children.
Whether your first or your tenth, pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in life! Every baby brings a wealth of expectations, joys, and new experiences. So as you contemplate bringing a life into this world, I hope you can learn a little from my bad choices and the subsequent better ones. For me, the most rewarding part of all has been my youngest child, who is by far healthier than my older two. We are so looking forward to our fourth addition in December and seeing firsthand how our hard work has paid off!
Mary Ewing is a part-time employee for Beeyoutiful as well as wife, mom and aspiring homesteader. She stays at home with her three children and enjoys exploring life with her brood as they cook, clean, garden, and play. Her passions are traditional cooking, essential oils, gardening, learning about raising livestock, and traditional art forms such as sewing, crocheting, knitting and smocking!
Partners in Hormonal Health:
The Adrenal-Thyroid Dance
By Jessica Bischof
In our rushed society most of us could use huge does of energy and stamina, topped off with a serving of something to boost our ability to deal with stress. If anyone had such a concoction for sale, they would do quite well–even in our uncertain economy. Unfortunately, no magic pill can provide a boost like this, but the good news is that, with proper care, support and lifestyle choices, you thyroid and adrenal glands can make a magical difference in how you feel.
Eight years ago, I could hardly make it through the day. A new mom in my mid-twenties, my energy levels and stamina were nil. Finally, I woke up one morning and thought dismally, “This must be what it feels like to be old.”
For a long time, I just sucked it up and pushed through, going about my responsibilities as a wife and mom. No one but my husband knew that, after attending church and Bible study three mornings a week, I would spend the rest of my week on the couch, doing only the basics of feeding and caring for my toddler. I tried improving my diet, being more faithful with vitamins, even exercising. Three times a week for a year and a half, I met a friend at the gym at 5am! But, no matter what I did, I couldn’t build up stamina and would often go home from a 45-minute workout and sleep for the next 4 hours. The final straw came when I experienced three miscarriages back-to-back. Although I still didn’t think anything was seriously wrong with me, my mom was wise enough to suggest one day, ‘You should look into thyroid problems. Miscarriage can be related to that.’
I started reading about thyroid dysfunction, and it was like reading out of my diary. I was horrified and thrilled at the same time. My problems weren’t all in my head–and there was a way to fix what was wrong!
The thyroid is the butterfly-shaped gland in your throat, just below the Adam’s apple. Place your fingers on either side of your windpipe, gently press as you run them up and down, and you will probably feel this soft, squishy gland.
The thyroid serves two primary purposes. Its foremost job is to produce thyroid hormone which “powers” each and every cell in the body. Think of your thyroid as the power plant, but instead of providing electricity, it “feeds” thyroid hormones with the energy cells need to function correctly. Since all cells have thyroid receptors, a deficiency in this hormone can cause many different symptoms, although the most common are low energy, feeling cold all the time (caused by low body temperature), weight gain, hair loss, tiredness (no matter how much you sleep), and “brain fog” where you feel like you just can’t think and everything is cloudy. I’ve compiled a list of more than 200 symptoms thyroid patients report resolving once they balance thyroid levels.
The second purpose of thyroid hormone is to be a “gatekeeper” to protect us from toxic substances. Radiation and excess iodine are both collected in the thyroid, often with disastrous results. The good news is that if you’re exposed to radiation, it will accumulate in your thyroid and potentially protect the rest of your body from destruction, but the thyroid is often killed in the process. Not only is our thyroid a gathering place for “big bad” toxins, but it is sensitive to chemical and toxin exposure across the board.
Topping the list of chemicals we should avoid for thyroid health are fluoride and chlorine, two toxic substances found in most municipal water supplies. These substances, along with bromine (often use as a preservative in baked goods!), compete for the same receptor site that needs to get plugged with iodine so the body can produce thyroid hormone. Even a little exposure to these substances will crowd out the iodine we need.
We have another hormonal powerhouse in our bodies, the adrenal glands. Even more critical than thyroid hormone–and more far reaching–the adrenals control nearly all the hormonal activities of the body. About the shape and size of a walnut, the adrenals are a pair of glands, one residing on top of each kidney. The health or impairment of these two tiny glands is felt by nearly every system and function of the body–energy levels, memory, immune system, processing sugar, and cardiovascular health.
Adrenals produce a host of significant hormones, among them adrenaline, cortisol, and DHEA. Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone. We’ve all experienced the warm rush that makes our hearts pound and palms sweat and can give us a burst of energy to react quickly to a high-stress situation. Adrenaline is supposed to be an occasional hormone triggered only in the face of surprise, danger, or threat. In our modern world, though, we experience more adrenaline rushes than our forefathers. Everything from having to react quickly to the car in front of us slamming on its breaks to conflict in the relationships to being late for one of the many events we put on our schedule activates adrenaline.
Cortisol and DHEA are two hormones released to respond to “long term” stress. These stresses are more subtle but equally prevalent in our lives. Food and environment allergies, chronic illness, acute injuries, long-term financial problems, feeling “trapped” in an unsatisfying job or unhappy home life, environmental toxins, lack of rest, and pregnancy are stressors that our bodies must respond to continually.
Although our adrenals must “refuel” in order to have more to give, most of us habitually draw and draw and draw on our adrenals and fail to provide them with the nutritional fuel and rest and they need to keep meeting our demands. Some people, for example, who at one point are “super-achievers”, sail through a demanding period only to crash afterward and never regain their previous stamina. Others gradually experience their adrenals slowing down–by not recovering from illnesses or noticing that the adrenaline rush from watching a suspenseful movie last for 30 minutes instead of quickly going away. Either way, the adrenals are depleted to the point where they simply cannot provide the hormonal stress management the body needs.
In the traditional medical world, only complete adrenal failure or severe adrenal “overdrive” is recognized as treatable conditions. Common sense, though, would suggest that most things work poorly before they stop working altogether. You take your car to the mechanic when your brakes are squeaking and don’t expect to be told “brakes problems are only real if the brakes completely fail or it they lock up your tires.” Just as no one wants to wait until their brakes fail to take care of them, so we should not wait until our adrenals fail before nourishing and protecting them.
Partners in Health
The thyroid and adrenal can be thought of as partners in a dance. They each have unique moves, but depend on each other to operate the way they were created to. The adrenals are the lead or male dancer and set the pace. Adrenals influence thyroid hormone indirectly by controlling the organs that control the thyroid. The thyroid controls the “energy” of all cells, including the adrenals. In this way, the two systems are mutually dependent.
It’s rare to find a person with thyroid imbalance who does not also suffer from compromised adrenals. But sadly, many people fortunate enough to have a thyroid problem diagnosed are never told about or tested for adrenal function. Often, the patient with low thyroid will be started on a dose of thyroid replacement medicine, only to feel worse and have new symptoms pop up. This is because, over time, the adrenals have slowed the manufacture of thyroid energy because they’re so burned out they can’t keep up. They’re trying to work less and recover. When you introduce a bunch of thyroid hormone in this scenario, it stresses the adrenals further with unpleasant side effects.
For this reason, wise practitioners will try to determine both a patient’s thyroid and adrenal health. In some people, adrenal healing needs to begin before introducing thyroid hormones. In others, the adrenals are trying to perform their half of the dance, but the thyroid partner is lagging, and the extra energy from a higher supply of thyroid will balance the dance.
By taking steps to fuel and nourish adrenals and to provide the thyroid with nutrients specific to making its powerful hormone, you can reverse adrenal burnout and support thyroid health. If you have been told your thyroid is “low normal,” you may be able to resume balance by strengthening your adrenals and providing supporting nutrients to you thyroid. If you low thyroid is due to adrenals slowing down thyroid production, adding thyroid nutrients is not going to help. Supplementing with thyroid nutrients in appropriate doses is the safe solution for most people (check with your health professional to see if you’re a candidate).
Regardless of which dance problem you have, good health for thyroid and adrenals will help. The top five ways to nourish your thyroid are (for in-depth explanations of each, visit http://www.thyroidadvisor.com):
1. Drink and cook with fluoride and chlorine free water.
2. Avoid soy and soy products
3. Consider supplementing with the amino acid L-tyrosine.
4. Consider supplementing with the trace mineral selenium.
5. Eliminate as many chemicals from your life as possible. Makeup, skincare, shampoo, cleaning supplies, and food with additives are all areas to work on. Anything you ingest or rub on skin is especially important.
The top 5 ways to nourish your adrenals are:
1. Get adequate rest–best if you can be in bed by 10pm.
2. Be ruthless about avoiding known food allergens–get tested if you suspect allergens are a problem for you.
3. Maintain blood sugar levels. Eat small meals more often and avoid processed carbs.
4. Consider supplementing with L-tyrosine.
5. Take Vitamin C daily, to bowel tolerance.
To learn more about physical clues that indicate adrenal and thyroid problems, please visit http://www.thyroidadvisor.com and read about the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and thyroid imbalance. It’s a great step toward getting the adrenal-thyroid dance in rhythm.
Beeyoutiful co-owner, Stephanie Tallent, and I have talked a quite a bit as she has sought to better understand her thyroid and adrenal problems. As a result of some of my suggestions for her health, Beeyoutiful now carries two products specifically designed to provide foundational support and healing of the thyroid and adrenal systems. Thyro-vival, and Selenium Secure can be found on page 24 and page 23 of this catalog.
Jessica is a Nutritional Therapy Consultant and the owner of Simple Steps Nutrition where she works with clients both in the US and internationally to create customized nutritional protocols to support their health, using nutrition, diet, and lifestyle modifications to support healing and function in the body.
Her own health challenges started in her early 20’s after the birth of her first child and forced her to become educated about what her body needed to heal. She believes that through healing and supporting the underlying cause you can actually regain health – not just treat symptoms.
Jessica specializes in restoring energy, resolving fatigue issues, hormonal balancing, digestive issues, and adrenal healing. Jessica offers a complimentary 15 minute consultation for anyone who would like to find out more. Visit www.simplestepsnutrition.com for information.
Pre-Natal Peace of Mind:
And Other Benefits of Folic Acid
After massaging countless pairs of names to prepare for the birth of our twins, my husband and I had settled on Grace and Rachel if we were blessed with two girls. Whoever came out first would be Grace. But when Greg held “Twin A,” the name “Rachel” felt more right to him. Within a few days we would realize why “Twin B” would need an extra measure of God’s grace.
After the Friday morning birth, I spent the weekend reveling in the wonder of having delivered the twins that I had prayed for nine months before. My husband spent the weekend secretly studying books and online sources about infant abnormalities. When he first held Twin B, he thought he saw something different about her eyes.
What he saw was Down syndrome. The midwife attending the birth had missed it. Our delivering obstetrician hadn’t noticed and none of the nurses at the hospital detected anything different about Grace. But at the twins’ Monday morning post-natal check-up, our pediatrician confirmed Greg’s suspicion.
Now 13, our twins are a delightful pair, if strikingly different from one another. Rachel rides pony trails and climbs mountains while Grace tours the zoo in a wheelchair, because severely flat feet make her legs and hips ache after much walking. Rachel catches on quickly while simple, often-repeated activities frustrate Grace into blank stares. Rachel’s alto contributes handsomely to classical performances of the local children’s community choir, while Grace can only attend performances.
Of course, Grace would not be Grace if she didn’t have her Down syndrome. Without her, we would miss out on the mysterious, masking-taped presents of a toilet paper tube, a rock, or utensil from the kitchen–accompanied by her standard card, a crayoned picture of a multi-layered cake with candles, signed “GRCE.” And we might take for granted her mastery of reading a new word.
Still, if there was something I could have done to prevent her Down syndrome, I would have done it. There’s no denying life is harder–and maybe burdened with a few more inexpressible disappointments—for Grace.
At the time Grace and Rachel were conceived, I was homeschooling four children, ages two to eight. My oldest daughter needed speech and occupational therapy, which meant hauling the entire crew back and forth to tri-weekly sessions. One son suffered gastrointestinal problems, which entailed specialist visits and many home treatments.
Although by the time I’d learned quite a bit about healthy eating, life was so huge that fish sticks and tater tots made their way onto our table far too often. I knew we should do better with our eating, but Real Life was so overwhelming, it couldn’t happen as I wanted. I didn’t even remember to start taking pre-natal vitamins until four or five months into the twin pregnancy.
Researchers have found that nearly 60% of mothers of children with Down syndrome have a genetic mutation that impairs the mother’s ability to metabolize folic acid. “Maternal non-disjunction” occurs before conception and is responsible for 95% of all Down syndrome cases. Mothers of babies with neural tube defects like spina bifada and anencephaly have a similar problem metabolizing folic acid.
Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate, vitamin B9. Found naturally in leafy greens, citrus, liver, tuna, eggs, and legumes, among other foods, folate is necessary for synthesis of DNA, RNA and proteins, and for the production and maintenance of all new cells. The body’s requirement for this vitamin increases during periods of rapid growth, such as pregnancy and fetal development. As a result, since 1992, the U. S. Public Health Service recommends that all women who might become pregnant should take a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid supplement per day. Studies suggest that if all women did this, the risk of neural tube defects would be reduced by up to 70%.
Waiting until you’re expecting a baby is not good enough. It takes up to a year to build up reserve of this vitamin, and the lack of folic acid at conception may result in brain and spinal cord damage as the fetus develops. Folic acid supplements taken for at least a year before conceiving is also associated with a 70% reduction in premature births between 20 and 28 weeks and a 50% reduction between 28 and 32 weeks. Another benefit of folic acid is protection against congenital cleft lip (with or without a cleft palate). It is estimated that 1/3 of facial clefts can be avoided with the help of folic acid.
Dads are not off the hook here, either. There’s a connection between folic acid and chromosomal abnormalities in men’s sperm. Men who consume high levels of folate or folic acid tend to have fewer sperm in which a chromosome is lost or gained. Extra or missing chromosomal material causes genetic abnormalities like Down, Turner’s, and Klinefelter’s syndromes. As with moms, future dads should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid per day for a minimum of three months prior to conception.
You are more at risk of preclampsia, placental abruption, fetal growth restriction, or even fetal death if you take medicines for epilepsy, mood disorders, hypertension, or infections because these medications are folic acid “antagonists.” You may require more than the usual recommendation of folic acid to counteract these bad effects.
Folic Acid- Mixed Reviews
In cancer research, there’s good news and bad about folic acid. On the good side: It counteracts cancer by strengthening chromosomes. Folic acid helps prevent colon cancer in men, and a study at Harvard Medical School found it can reduce women’s colon cancer rates by 75 percent.
However, too much folic acid can be a problem. While maintenance levels seem to offer protection against prostate cancer, too much folic acid may actually increase chances of prostate cancer. In other mixed news, studies show that people who get sufficient folic acid reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps by 40 to 60 percent. On the other hand, one researcher estimates that ingesting too much folic acid may cause an extra 15,000 cases of colorectal cancer each year in the US and Canada.
Folic Acid intertwines with vitamin B12 in many body processes, including synthesis of DNA, red blood cells, and the myelin sheath which insulates nerve cells and helps conduct signals throughout the nervous system. But, again, too much folic acid in the interaction can worsen a vitamin B12 deficiency. This problem is common in older patients and causes dementia and other complications like depression, apathy, withdrawal, and lack of motivation. Taking a combination of the two vitamins protects against this problem.
Vegetarians, whose diets tend to be especially high in folate-rich green vegetables and folic-acid fortified grains, are prone to vitamin B12 deficiencies. Because the body stores a good amount of B12 in the liver, though, there may be a delay of 5 to 10 years between the start of a vegetarian diet and the onset of deficiency symptoms.
Folic acid supplements offer good news to people over 50 through improved mental performance and memory. A study of adults age 50 to 70 who had low levels of folate were given folic acid supplements for three years with the result that memory, reaction speeds, information processing, and overall thinking tested similar to that of people two to five years younger.
In addition, a folate deficiency elevates homocysteine levels which contribute to heart disease and stroke. Folic acid supplementation is beneficial in preventing these cardiovascular problems. But too much folic acid throws these levels off in the other direction.
Allergy sufferers will likewise want to be sure their folic acid intake is good. Patients consuming higher levels had fewer antibodies that trigger immune responses such as allergies and asthma.
Folic Acid– The Sources
Since 1996, the USDA has required cereals and grains to be fortified with folic acid to ensure folks get an adequate amount of this vital nutrient. Although this has show a reduced incidence of babies born with neural tube defects, it’s wise for prospective parents to supplement with folic acid as extra insurance– especially mothers who already have a child or two (or more!) and may be depleted.
So how much should you take? Because folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin, it is hard to overdose. The ideal dosage is between 400-800 micrograms per day for all populations. This will be safe for you unless your favorite daily snack is liver, which contains 170-190 micrograms for every three ounces!
Healthy bodies seem only able to process a maximum of 1000 mcg/day. Above this, some people report itchiness and rarely, gastrointestinal discomfort or insomnia. Sometimes doctors prescribe up to 4000 micrograms per day of folic acid supplementation for special cases, like a jump-start in healing certain anemias, or for mothers planning another pregnancy when they’ve borne a child with a neural tube defect. The folks at Beeyoutiful urge medical supervision before consuming mega-doses.
The Weston A. Price Foundation recommends getting the necessary pre-natal nutrition (also good for people of any age!) from properly prepared, nutrient-dense foods. This includes organic liver and other organ meats, seafood, eggs, and the best quality butter, cream and fermented (preferably raw) milk products you can find. Organic meats, vegetables, grains, and legumes should round out the diet, with a special emphasis on leafy green vegetables. (For more about the ideal way to prepare and eat foods, I’ll recommend yet again the excellent book by Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions, available from Beeyoutiful.)
Healthy meal preparation too often collides with Real Life making a thoroughly healthy diet difficult to achieve regularly–which is where the importance of using the right supplements come in. For those in their child-bearing years, the elderly, allergy sufferers, heart patients, and people taking medicine for epilepsy and mood disorders, supplemental folic acid intake is essential. You can get it through Beeyoutiful’s SuperMom and SuperDad vitamins as well as Beeyoutiful’s separate Folic Acid tablets which contain an ample 800 mcg. of folic acid, plus 25 mg. of B12. Whatever your stage of life, knowing you’re getting the rewards of proper folic acid intake will add to your peace of mind.
Nancy Webster is a free-lance writer, homeschool mother of eight, and an avid researcher on health and nutrition. She lives with her family on their partially working farm in Tennessee. Nancy and her husband Greg’s sixth child Grace (smiling atop their old Belgian horse) is a big sister to a brother and sister who do not have Down syndrome or neural tube defects. The Websters believe siblings are the best gift you can give your child with Down syndrome. Nancy has recently started the Southern Middle Tennessee chapter of the Weston A. Price Foundation (see Nourishing Traditions in the Beeyoutiful book section for more about the WAP Foundation.)