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Preparing for Pregnancy, Part 1: Laying a Nutritional Foundation

Preparing for Pregnancy: Laying a Nutiritional Foundation

This material originally appeared in a slightly different form in our Fall 2010 catalog

When I married in 2004, I was almost 26, and my husband and I knew we didn’t want to wait long 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 last. Even so, we were slightly surprised when just six weeks after the wedding we found ourselves expecting our first child! Excitement filled our house, and to add to our own joy, this would be the first grandchild for both his parents and mine.

Preparing for Pregnancy: Laying a Nutiritional FoundationAt the time, I was a practicing registered nurse, and although I did not work in obstetrics, I’d always been fascinated with the subject. Despite the fact that I had scored a perfect 100 ranking among my peers that year in the OB/GYN national competency exams, I gradually found that I actually understood little about the importance of preparing my body to be a mother.

I knew I needed to take a prenatal vitamin once the pink line appeared on the pregnancy test. I knew the importance of Folate to prevent birth defects. I knew I needed to generally take care of myself. But I did nothing to really prepare my body 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 this miraculous event.

Due to long work hours, 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 jalapeño peppers). I washed that all down with the largest cherry limeade I could buy, because it had to last my entire shift; it was a healthier choice, I figured, since it did not have caffeine. I often went an entire week without eating unprocessed meat, fresh vegetables, and whole grains.

My bouts with morning sickness (to the point of vomiting) lasted from early in the pregnancy until three days after my baby was born. With my second pregnancy came nine months of migraine headaches, followed by my newborn son’s chronic health issues. I finally decided there had to be a better way to do pregnancy! The challenges I faced have led me to some fascinating factors that make for a healthier momma and, therefore, a healthier baby.

The Two-Way Gift of Health

maryOur health is a gift, not just from the Creator, but also from our parents. The field of genetics is still full of mystery, but we do know that the health of our parents when they brought us into the world plays a large role in determining what our own level of health will be, and your health will play a major role in your children’s health.

People generally assume that most health issues depend simply on the genes we pass on, that they determine what makes us more or less vulnerable to various diseases and health conditions. Many of us don’t make the connection that we directly pass on to our children a reflection of our own state of health, apart from genetic factors.

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. If you’ve had problems with your digestion, it should not come as a surprise that your child is colicky. So before you think about having a baby, first consider how to rebuild and restore your own health. Not only will you be passing on to your future children 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 and 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 personally recommend Diet for Pregnant and Nursing Mothers as a good starting place. It’s published by the Weston A. Price Foundation and offers great guidance for nourishing your body and preparing the inner stores of nutrients necessary for pregnancy.

Most people recognize the need for protein, iron, and vitamins from fresh fruit and vegetables, but it is only recently becoming known that healthy fats are needed as well. A British publication noted that for a healthy reproductive system, a woman needs 25 to 30 percent body fat, while 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, avocados, and grass-fed butter and meats (with healthy portions of the fat included). A great primer in the study of fats is Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

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, soybean, and canola oil. 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 increases 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. 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 while pregnant, it’s important that you not burn too much fat. High impact aerobics and long distance running often burn more than the 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.

Join us tomorrow for Part 2 when we discuss choosing supplements and avoiding morning sickness. 

Mary Ewing has been with Beeyoutiful for six years (through three pregnancies!). She enjoys exploring life with her husband and five children as they cook, garden, play and dream of homesteading. Her interests include traditional cooking, learning about herbs and essential oils, and traditional art forms such as sewing, crocheting, knitting and smocking.

8 Lifestyle Choices to Support Heart Health

The best thing you can do for your heart is feed your body nutrient-dense foods, and that includes healthy fats, organic and pastured meats, organically-raised produce and properly prepared grains. When there is an adequate range and quality of nutrients being taken in, your heart can maintain good health.8 Lifestyle Choices to Support Heart Health from Beeyoutiful.com

We’ve found Nourishing Traditions to be a fabulous resource as we have made choices with our own families of what foods to use on our tables and how to prepare them. Diet & Heart Disease: It’s NOT What You Think is also packed with specific information about supporting heart health.

Deficiencies in key nutrients can cause significant stress to your heart and its health. 

  • Vitamin C. According to Fallon and Enig in Diet & Heart Disease​ (p4), “Vitamin C deficiency makes for weaker arterial walls, subject to more inflammation and tearing.” Correcting the deficit leads to strong and healthy vessels and heart muscle. Some of the best sources of Vitamin C are raw milk, fresh fruits and vegetables, and herbs.
  • Minerals. Minerals are found in organic butter, organic animal organs, dark leafy vegetables, raw nuts, and sea products, and if your diet is lacking in these, you may also be lacking in minerals. “Heart disease has been correlated with mineral deficiencies. Coronary heart disease rates are lower in regions where drinking water is naturally rich in trace minerals, particularly magnesium, which acts as a natural anti-coagulant and aids potassium absorption, thereby preventing heartbeat irregularities.” (Diet & Heart Disease, p61-62) When supplementing, make sure to consider the fact that your heart needs a variety of minerals such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, chromium, selenium, iodine, and other trace minerals.
  • Folate, B6, and B12. These nutrients are primarily found in animal products, but can also be found in dark, leafy vegetables. Sufficient intake of this trio of B Vitamins decreases the likelihood of atherosclerosis, and “these three nutrients also lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that can trigger heart disease.” (Diet & Heart Disease, p62)
  • Antioxidants. Free radicals, such as pollution, toxins, unnatural chemicals, tobacco smoke, food additives, and even the byproducts of our own metabolized nutrients can attack and damage the body’s tissues (from DNA to arterial walls) if there are not adequate amounts of antioxidant nutrients in the diet. Increased free radicals without sufficient antioxidants increase stress and damage to the heart and its vessels. Examples of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals include Vitamins A, C, and E, Selenium, CoQ10, Zinc, and Glutathione. Sources of antioxidants are dark green leafy vegetables, organic pastured meats, grassfed butter, all orange and yellow fruits and vegetables, and even some spices such as turmeric. In addition, supporting the liver and its detoxification of free radicals as part of the metabolism process is extremely beneficial.
  • Powerhouses of A, D, and K. Dr. Weston Price was one of the first to notice the link between fat-soluble vitamins and heart health. He observed that during winter months when Vitamin D and A were not as naturally plentiful in the diet and lifestyle, the incident of heart attacks went up. “Vitamin A is required for numerous bodily functions, including protein and mineral utilization and the uptake of iodine by the thyroid gland. Since poor thyroid function is a cause of heart disease, a deficiency could be an indirect cause of heart disease. Since Vitamin D is needed for calcium utilization, a deficiency may cause increased calcification of the arteries, leading to accelerated atherosclerosis.” (Diet & Disease, p64-65) In addition to A and D, Vitamin K2 is very important. According to the Rotterdam Study in 2004, K2 is the only known nutrient that not only prevents but reverses atherosclerosis (for more information on K2, please see our post here). Sources of A and D are salmon, fish roe, grassfed butter and cod liver oil.

8 Lifestyle Choices to Support Heart Health

  1. Eliminate Processed Foods. Increase nutrient-dense foods in their whole forms.
  2. Avoid refined sugars. Use whole sweeteners such as maple syrup, honey, stevia or rapadura.
  3. Avoid all trans fats. ​Exclude vegetable oils, shortening, and margarine. Increase saturated fats such as grassfed butter, unrefined animal fats, and coconut oil.
  4. Throw out the pasteurized and homogenized milk. Replace with fresh raw dairy products (if you tolerate dairy well).
  5. Just say no to low-cholesterol and low-fat foods. These foods are often filled with chemical additives, artificial flavorings, and sugars. Pick healthy whole foods to nourish and provide the needed nutrients.
  6. De-stress your life. Stress increases the presence of free radicals in the body. Increase relaxing activities such as short breaks where you focus on a pleasant hobby.
  7. Functional exercise. Choose a physical activity that allows for an increase of heart rate without putting undue stress on the body.
  8. Dry brushing. Encourage good circulation and detoxification by using a stiff brush to stimulate the skin.

With these nutrients and lifestyle choices, you’ll be giving your body a toolbox full of heart-healthy options.

Three Crucial Companions for Heart Health

3 Crucial Companions for Heart Health from Beeyoutiful.com

My husband’s family history of heart disease used to scare me. Honestly, with my background as a nurse, I felt that aside from some basic dietary precautions there was very little we could do to ensure he did not journey down the same path that his grandparents were walking. I frankly worried that I would eventually be the one in the recliner by the hospital bed, hoping to hear that he didn’t need bypass surgery.

3 Crucial Companions for Heart Health from Beeyoutiful.comThankfully, the more I studied and learned, the more delighted I was to realize that we could walk a different path and that heart disease might not be our story’s end.

In the past few decades, fat-soluble vitamins have increasingly taken their place and been recognized as major actors in heart health. Traditional lifestyles and diets were examined and concluded to be rich in fat-soluble vitamins from nutrient-dense whole foods, whereas conventional modern diets tend to be poor in fat-soluble vitamins and heavy in processed foods. Incidentally, cultures that have abandoned their traditional diets are documented to have a much higher rate of heart disease than their ancestors.

When Beeyoutiful began a few years ago to offer products like Cod Liver Oil, Butter Oil, and Katalyst, I thought it was a great thing to make Vitamin K available, since it does so much with the blood and its ability to clot. But there’s so much more to that vitamin that I had yet to discover!

​Vitamin K: Just For Clotting?

I really did not understand Vitamin K at all, specifically K2 (the form present in Katalyst and Butter Oil). The modern American diet is very low in K2 because we typically consume very little in the way of grassfed dairy (made from milk from cows that graze on pasture rather than eating grain) or eggs from truly free-range chickens, two primary sources of K2.

What I have learned about Vitamin K2 recently has caused me to prioritize these traditional foods in my family’s diet, and to decide to never leave off supplementing fat-soluble vitamins when I cannot get them from food sources.

There is a gentle dance in our bodies that involves many nutrients. Most need another nutrient to help them do their jobs properly. The complexity of these interactions is fascinating, and it explains how easily we can get out of balance when an important companion nutrient is deficient.

When Calcium Acts Alone

We are all well aware of the vital role that calcium plays in our bodies. It’s known for nourishing our bones and teeth, supporting heart health, helping nerves communicate, causing muscles to contract, and even supporting healthy blood clotting factors. In order for calcium to move around the body, it depends on other nutrients, and without them it simply takes the path of least resistance.

The ugly fact about calcium without its companion nutrients is that the path of least resistance leads straight to the soft tissues such as arteries and muscles. Those aren’t exactly the places where we’d like for our minerals to lodge, and these calcium deposits can cause plaque buildup in the blood vessels and pain in the joints and muscles.

​The Vital Companions: Vitamins D and K

One of calcium’s companions is Vitamin D3, helping to increase absorption of calcium through the intestines, directly helping bone health. But unfortunately Vitamin D can only get calcium as far as the blood stream; it cannot get it into the bones. Actually, if you stopped the process here, it’s possible that taking Vitamin D alone could lead to even more calcium buildup in the blood vessels. 

While D cannot move the calcium into the bones and out of the blood vessels, its other companion can! Vitamin K2 is a little-known supplement that functions as a cofactor that’s necessary to activate the two proteins that are responsible for moving calcium around the body. Without these two proteins (known as Osteocalcin and MGP), calcium simply remains in the blood vessels, creating buildup and contributing to a lack of calcium in the bones.

By simply adding K2 to your diet, you are benefitting both your heart and circulatory system, and your skeletal system. All three of these nutrients– calcium, D3 and K2– play vital roles in blood clotting as well, so you’re not only helping to ensure that blood vessels stay open and free, you are also helping to ensure the balance of clotting stays correct.

A Little Note About Vitamin A

While Vitamin A does not play a direct role in this cascade, what we do know is that A, D and K work synergistically together to regulate each other and protect the body. We highly suggest when supplementing with fat-soluble vitamins that you take Cod Liver Oil along with a Butter Oil to get a balance of all three.

Getting Adequate A, D, & K

The most superior way to take in fat-soluble vitamins is through grassfed butters, whole grassfed and raw dairy, cod liver oil, and fish. When these are not optimal in the diet, we highly recommend Cod Liver Oil and Butter Oil as a secondary option, or the pairing of Dynamic Duo and Katalyst as a budget-friendly backup plan.

It amazes me that the body is built to work with such intricate balance that when fed the correct nutrients it actually has the power to strengthen itself against future disease. Don’t shy away from the butter and enjoy those delicious farm-fresh eggs! Have another helping and call it a tasty contribution to your heart health.

For more reading on this topic, I highly recommend the following resources:

The Skinny on Fats
On the Trail of the Elusive X-Factor: A Sixty-Two-Year-Old Mystery Finally Solved
Diet & Heart Disease: It’s NOT What You Might Think by Stephen Byrnes, PhD, RNCP
Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life by Kate Rheaume-Bleu

The World-Conquering Power of Cod Liver Oil

The World-Changing Power of Cod LIver Oil

If you want to be as healthy and strong as Erik the Red, you might want to consider a special food that was an influential part of the Viking diet.

Norsemen such as Erik, being rooted in a seafaring culture, relied heavily on fish for their sustenance and carefully reserved the nutrient-laden fatty livers of the fish for use after the peak fishing season was over. Traditional methods were passed down through the generations to extract “liquid gold” from the livers, and this oil was prized for its health-giving properties.

The World-Changing Power of Cod LIver Oil

The purest fish oil was used for food, with the lower-quality batches being used topically on the skin for wound care and to treat aching joints. Not a drop went to waste as even the lowest-quality oil, left after the best had been extracted, was used as a fuel and lighting oil.

The elements that made the Vikings such hardy folk included the powerful Omega-3 fatty acids (specifically EPA and DHA) and Vitamin A and its partner Vitamin D that are abundant in oil extracted from the livers of the Atlantic Cod. These nutritional building blocks are even more important to health now, as modern diets are chronically low in these and other crucial nutrients.

Science began revealing as far back as the 1800s that diets rich in nutrients from fish oil can protect healthy heart and brain function, contribute to strong teeth and bones, and can even have an impact on cognitive ability and emotional balance. Cod liver oil can boost immunity, especially valuable during the dark, germ-laden winter season when cold and flu are so prevalent and our own reserves of the “sunlight vitamin”, Vitamin D3, may be running low.

How can you incorporate these benefits in your daily life without going to sea and catching the fish yourself? Thankfully, there are several kinds of Cod Liver Oil (CLO) on the market today, each with its own advantages.

Regular

Standard CLO is extracted commercially through a steam process which cooks the livers and separates the oil from the organ tissue. The resulting liquid is then purified and sometimes encapsulated or flavored for ease of use. Beeyoutiful®’s Cod Liver Oil is screened for mercury and other impurities and is free of additives and preservatives.

This kind of CLO is readily available and inexpensive. It makes a concentrated source of fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins easy to find and use, making it a simple way to partake in a healthful habit that’s been proven over a millennia.

Extra Virgin

The highest quality and cleanest tasting of all the CLO options is Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil. It is extracted in Norway in a natural process that uses no heat, solvents, or mechanical processes, thus preserving intact a wide array of nutrients and micronutrients. Extra Virgin CLO is fresh, raw, and completely unrefined, resulting in a purity of both quality and taste that is beyond compare.

Butter oil and cod liver oil have been treated by traditional societies as sacred foods, important for pregnant and nursing mothers and young children, and has been recommended as a tool to help rebuild decaying teeth.

Helpful Links

Here’s a 2-minute video on how to use CLO in your diet to prepare for pregnancy, and more information on the crucial role played by fat-soluble vitamins in overall health and immunity. More details on Extra Virgin Cod Liver Oil are here. The powerful combination of Butter Oil and Cod Liver Oil is discussed in reference to tooth decay here.

Bring a bit of Scandinavia into your health routine with the addition of Cod Liver Oil, and you just might find yourself empowered to conquer new lands and leave your mark on history just like the Vikings!

*Consult with your physician before using doses of Cod Liver Oil substantially higher than recommended, or taking this product if you are pregnant or lactating, diabetic, allergic to fish or iodine, using blood thinners, anticipate surgery, have a diagnosed cardiovascular condition, nutrient absorption issues, are dealing with a chronic disease, bleeding, or immune system disorders.