Morning Sickness Remedies

My friend Diana is not having an easy time of her first trimester! She’s constantly nauseous, throwing up all the time, and over-all exhausted– the heat isn’t helping things!  Since morning sickness is caused by the hormones that support your pregnancy, she knows that feeling constantly nauseated is actually a good thing… well, her brain knows it but her stomach doesn’t!  Her personal remedy is sucking candies, my other friend Miriam relies on candied ginger. But there’s no one trick that works for everyone, so you may have to try a few different things before you find something that helps settle your stomach. Here are some foods that may help you feel a little less nauseous.

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Crackers: This is an old standby, but crackers were actually one of the things I could tolerate whenever I was hit by morning sickness.  Basically any bland, crunchy food works the same way: bread, toast, rice cakes, even potato chips (not that we recommend subsisting on potato chips throughout your first trimester).

Soft foods: Some women find that the chewing is what triggers nausea, so try some soft, bland foods that are nutritious, gentle on the stomach, and don’t necessitate much chewing.  Applesauce, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit smoothies, etc.
Ginger: Can be found pickled, candied, in a tea bag, or a capsule– whatever the format, ginger is a natural remedy for nausea.

Lemons & Peppermint: Simply take a whiff  to relieve nausea. Try putting a couple drops of peppermint oil in a bowl of hot water and inhale the steam. Some women also find the scent of lavender to be soothing.

Apple cider vinegar: Try taking 2-3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar (not any other kind) in warm water first thing in the morning. Apple cider vinegar is pH neutral and may help to neutralize excess stomach acid.

Bananas in Coconut Milk: This remedy comes from iVillage:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon flaxseeds

Directions: Peel the bananas and cut each into one-inch segments. Combine the coconut milk, water and maple syrup in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the sliced bananas to the mixture and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, add the salt and boil for 20 minutes. Serve topped with flaxseed.

Why it helps: The potassium in the bananas can help alleviate some of your body’s aches and pains. The coconut milk works to build body mass for your baby. The maple syrup is so much better for you than sugar, and flaxseeds are full of essential fatty acids. The flaxseeds also help with that other delightful digestive symptom of pregnancy: constipation.

Alternative therapies: Hypnosis,  acupressure wristbands, and homeopathic remedies have  helped some women cope with nausea.

Give in to your cravings: Satisfying food cravings during pregnancy, whether you’re hankering for pickles or a big, juicy steak, may actually be beneficial. If you have an urge to eat a particular type of food, this may be your body’s way of telling you what it needs.

Other tips:

  • Eat small, frequent meals or snacks, so that your stomach is never empty or too full at one time.
  • Chew food well.
  • Avoid fatty, fried, and spicy foods.
  • Try eating a few whole-grain crackers before getting out of bed in the morning. Low blood sugar early in the morning may contribute to morning sickness (hence the  name). Crackers are also helpful for middle-of-the-night hunger pangs.
  • Try drinking in between meals rather than with meals. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if you’ve been vomiting a lot.
  • Identify your personal triggers and avoid them. This includes foods, odors, perfumes, and anything else that makes you nauseous.
  • Eat your food cold or room temperature; hot foods have a stronger aroma that may turn you off.
  • Nausea may become worse if you are tired or stressed out. So try to fit in a nap, some relaxation time, on an enjoyable activity.
  • Try taking your prenatal vitamin at night or with food. Also ask your doctor about a supplement that’s low-iron or iron-free at least during your first trimester. Iron can be hard on your digestive system.
  • Increase your intake of Vitamin B6. Ask your caretaker about dosage before taking any extra supplements.

As always, it is wise to consult with your doctor or midwife about any dietary changes, treatments, or supplements.

Breastfeeding, Dieting, and Weight Loss

Congratulations, you have a new baby! Amidst all the excitement and exhaustion, we know there’s one thought niggling at the back of your mind… when will I get out of these maternity clothes and back into clothes my “real” size?! Ah, have patience… Remember that your pregnancy weight wasn’t gained overnight. And for many moms, it won’t disappear that quickly, either.

The extra weight is there for a reason!

La Leche League points out that one reason you gained extra weight during pregnancy is so you would have plenty of reserves for feeding your baby. This is particularly reassuring for nursing mothers because it means that breastfeeding help in shedding these extra pounds, as the “reserve” are converted into nutritious breast milk for you baby.

Breastfeeding helps with weight loss

You may be surprised at how much weight you can loose in the early months by simply following a normal diet and eating when you’re hungry. The LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK says, “Breastfeeding mothers tend to lose more weight when their babies are three to six months old than formula-feeding mothers who consume fewer calories… Another study of mothers at one month postpartum found that mothers who breastfed (either exclusively or partially) had slimmer hips and weighed less than women whose babies received only formula…” (Yet another good reason to nurse your baby!)

Breastfeeding mothers can loose about one pound per week, while still consuming 1500 to 1800 calories per day.  The BabyCenter Medical Advisory Board says that most nursing moms actually need more like 2,000 to 2,700 calories per day! It’s very important to eat well in order to feel good, prevent mood swings, and have energy to care for your baby (especially if you are compensating for lack of sleep!).

It’s interesting to note that the composition of your milk really does not vary much with your diet. LLLI points out that mothers in famine conditions can produce perfectly nutritious milk for their babies. The main reason it’s important to eat well during lactation is for yourself– your health may suffer if too many of your own reserves are used to provide milk. Be sure to take care of yourself by “eating to hunger” and “drinking to thirst.”

Exercise and Dieting

If you feel like to need to actively work to lose weight, it is best to wait at least 2 months for your body to recover from childbirth and establish a good milk supply. Starting a diet too soon after giving birth can delay your recovery, affect your milk supply, and make you feel more tired (and no one with a newborn needs to feel MORE tired!). Always check with your doctor about increasing your activity level or reducing your calorie intake.

Exercise, not just calorie-counting, is important if you want to loose weight.  Try to be more active, whether it means hitting the gym or just walking your baby in the stroller instead of driving everywhere.

Don’t skip meals in an attempt to lose weight. It won’t help because you’ll be more likely to eat more at other meals. All you’ll accomplish is probably making yourself feel tired and grouchy. Breakfast really is important in helping you stay active and energized throughout the day. According to the National Weight Control Registry, 78% of successful dieters eat breakfast daily.

Go Slow

BabyCenter explains another danger of strict, restrictive diets. Too-rapid weight loss can release toxins that are stored in your body fat into your bloodstream and milk supply. These toxins include environmental contaminants like the heavy metals lead and mercury, persistent organic pollutants like PCBs and dioxins, and solvents.

Be realistic about weight loss

You should know that not everyone is able to return to their exact pre-pregnancy weight or shape. Pregnancy often causes permanent changes such as a softer belly, a larger waistline, and wider hips. With this in mind, you might want to adjust your goals a bit. (For a reality check, see Baby Center’s photo gallery of real post-baby bellies.)

Make good food choices

Some good food choices include:

  • low-fat milk and dairy products
  • whole grain products like whole wheat bread and whole grain cereal
  • high-fiber, low fat fruits (like apples, oranges, and berries)
  • raw vegetables (like carrots, jicama, and red pepper strips)
  • broiled or baked foods rather than fried foods
  • limit sweets and processed snack foods
  • choose “good” fats (mono- and polyunsaturated fats) like olive oil, avocado, olives, nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon.
  • cut calories by drinking water instead of juice, soda, and coffee

Some suggestions for squeezing more fruits and veggies into your diet:

  • Make fruit (or veggie) smoothies
  • use fruit or vegetable salsas or sauces made from puréed vegetables over fish or chicken
  • add shredded carrots to your sandwich
  • try grilled vegetables,
  • try puréed vegetable soups. Puréeing gives you a creamy soup without having to add cream.

feature image from www.indidenim.com

Helping Your Prenatal Vitamin do its Job

The use and necessity of prenatal vitamins are a growing source of controversy.  What exactly is in your vitamin? Do you have to take one or can you get everything you need from your diet? Does it have everything it should have in it?  Does it have anything in there that shouldn’t be there?

It’s important to realize that prenatal vitamins are not meant to be your sole source of nutrients. They are meant to supplement!  Pregnant women need more of almost every vitamin and mineral than non-pregnant women. Some say that most of these increased nutrient requirements can be met through a carefully planned, nutritious diet.  You should try your best to eat lots of fresh, non-processed foods. However, a supplement is important if you are NOT getting the required amounts from what you eat (and most of us probably are not!).

Not all prenatal vitamins are created equal. If you are unsure about the best one for you, do some research and talk to your doctors. Avoid artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, and sweeteners. You may want to follow this advice and purchase your vitamins at a health food store, instead of a drug company that “loads them with plenty of of low-quality, synthetic vitamins.”  Here are some other aspects to consider:

Iron
If you’re suffering from extreme exhaustion, you’re not alone. March of Dimes claims that anemia caused by lack of iron affects half of all pregnant women!

Your multivitamin won’t contain the 27 milligrams of iron that pregnant women need, so you can add to your levels by eating iron-rich foods like red meat or fortified cereals.

You may also be prescribed a supplement if you have low iron levels, or have pernicious anemia, sickle cell disease, or uterine fibroids. If iron makes you nauseous, try taking it in the evening, and improve your body’s ability to absorb it by avoiding coffee, tea, egg yolks, milk, fiber, and soy with your tablet.

Calcium
Calcium is so important for your baby’s bones that your body will steal your stores and give them to baby, if necessary – putting you at risk for osteoporosis. Prenatals don’t contain anywhere near the recommended 1,000 milligrams (and women carrying multiples need even more). So add calcium-rich foods to your diet, or ask your doctor about a supplement.

The World Health Organization recommends that in order to reduce the risks of preterm birth and eclampsia, pregnant women should consume 1,500 milligrams of calcium.  (Note that anything beyond 250 mg of calcium, or 25 mg of magnesium, should not be taken at the same time as supplemental iron since both calcium and magnesium interfere with the absorption of the iron.)

Vitamin D
Sunshine is the body’s leading source of vitamin D. There are many reasons why vitamin D is vital during pregnancy. Women with darker skin and those who get little sun should be tested for vitamin D, says the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you’re deficient, you should consider a supplement.

Omega-3s
Studies have shown that DHA, found in omega-3 fatty acids, improves baby’s visual-learning ability and attention span, and may help stave off postpartum depression. You can get enough DHA with two or three servings of salmon, herring, or sardines a week, but to be on the safe side, you might take a DHA supplement. The American College of recommends that pregnant women get 300 milligrams a day.

Iodine
Iodine is critical for your baby’s brain development, says Donnica Moore, M.D. You should use table salt that specifically says, ‘iodized.’  If you are on a low-salt diet or have trouble with water retention, it may be better to find a prenatal supplement with iodine.

Choline
Choline helps develop the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, but is not included in many prenatal supplements. Eating two eggs a day can help you meet the 450-milligram daily choline requirement.

Folic Acid
Most moms have heard about the importance of folic acid in preventing pina bifida and other defects. The recommended dosage is 400 to 600 micrograms a day, but you need more if you’re carrying multiples, have anemia, sickle cell disease, or who’ve had a child with a similar brain defect.  (I did find one source saying that eating green, folate-rich foods is safer than taking folic acid, but I don’t know enough to comment on that.)

Sleep more, Loose weight!

If you want to loose that baby weight, and have any spare time between feedings and diaper changes, you’ll need to work on 3 steps to a slimmer you: Exercise, eat right, and get a good night’s sleep.

“Researchers have presented a conundrum to new mothers, saying that women who want to lose the extra weight gained in pregnancy should try to get more sleep,” according to an article at smh.  “…This study shows that getting enough sleep – even just two hours more – may be as important as a healthy diet and exercise for new mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight,” said Erica Gunderson of Kaiser Permanente, which runs hospitals and clinics in California.  Gunderson and colleagues studied 940 women taking part in a study of prenatal and postnatal health at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

This is not surprising, as studies among the general population also link adequate sleep with weight loss. The Diet Channel points to a link between sleep and the hormones that influence our eating behavior.  When you’re sleep deprived, mixed up hormone levels result is an increased craving for food, while not feeling full.

Bottom line: New mothers who sleep seven hours a night or more loose more weight. (Most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night.) This is easier said than done, and research is needed in a new area: How to accomplish this with a fitful newborn in the house! Be sure to wake me up when they figure that one out!

image from intmedny.com

Can fertility be affected by what you eat?

Yes, according to Pregnancy Examiner!  Lackluster nutritional habits and deficiencies may impair hormonal function and inhibit proper ovulation in women, or sperm production and viability in men, thus reducing the chances for conception.

On the journey to parenthood, fertility issues are split pretty evenly between men and women. It’s important to visit a doctor, OB/GYN or fertility specialist, who can run tests and do blood work to diagnose any underlying obstacles that need to be addressed in order to get pregnant. But in addtion to these efforts, there are dietary choices that can help boost fertility for both men and women.

Fertility Boosters for Her

Water: Staying hydrated helps maintain optimal health and proper reproductive function.

Spinach: Leafy green vegetables like spinach contain folic acid which is important for preventing birth defects and is a vital ingredient for producing viable eggs. It is also rich in antioxidants and iron.

Yellow and Orange Vegetables: Beta carotene, an antioxidant, has been shown to maintain hormonal balance and ward off miscarriage.

Broccoli and Cabbage: Cruciferous vegetables contain a phytonutrient called DIM that helps with estrogen metabolism. They are also known to prevent fibroids and endometriosis in women.

Carrots, peas and sweet potatoes: Containing beta-carotene, these veggies help regulate the menstrual cycle, thus improving chances for conception.

Strawberries, blueberries, oranges, papaya, kiwi and cantaloupe – Full of vitamin C and antioxidants, these fruits offer healthful reproductive benefits to women trying to conceive.

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products: Protein is made up of amino acids which are vital for viable egg production and for making LH and FSH, important fertility hormones. NOTE: Scientific research suggests women who get more of their protein from PLANTS and less from animal sources have fewer overall ovulatory issues.

Whole grains: Try to consume natural unrefined whole grain bread products, as the refining process removes more than 15 key nutrients, such as B vitamins and iron.

Oysters: With an abundant amount of zinc, oysters are known fertility enhancer, however high mercury levels from seafood have been linked to miscarriage. Think moderation.

Fertility Boosters for Him

Water – To maintain optimal health and proper reproductive functions, one must remain optimally hydrated.

Spinach* – Rich in antioxidants and full of folic acid and iron, leafy green vegetables are a vital ingredient for healthy sperm.

Red vegetables* – Containing lysopene, tomatoes are a carotenoid and are a known sperm count enhancer. 

Fruit* – Oranges contain the antioxidants glutathione and cryptoxanthin, which are associated with strong, viable, healthy sperm. Strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe and papaya offer wonderful healthful benefits as well.

Meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products (Protein) – The amino acids in protein are vital for sperm production.

Oysters – With an abundant amount of zinc, oysters are known fertility enhancer. Be certain to monitor mercury levels when consuming seafood. One Dutch study cites sperm production increase by up tp 74% by using a zinc and folic acid supplement.

Vegetarian sources of protein – Beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains, nuts and seeds.

Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds – Pumpkin seeds (¼ to ½ cup a day) are naturally high in zinc and essential fatty acids which are vital to healthy functioning of the male reproductive system. Sunflower seeds are a great source of protein, which is also vital for optimal sperm production.

Whole grains – Try to consume natural unrefined whole grain bread products, as the refining process removes more than 15 key nutrients from grains such as B vitamins and iron.

Organic foods – Switch to organic foods. Some studies suggest chemicals and pesticides used on foods can impair sperm viability.

*Studies have indicated the more fruits and produce a man consumes, the less sluggish his sperm is.

Source: Pregnancy Examiner

Doctors OK vegan and vegetarian diets for healthy pregnancies

Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are healthful choices for pregnant women and their children, and vitamin B12 needs can be easily met with fortified foods or a multivitamin, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). This declaration comes in response to a new Pediatrics study showing that low levels of vitamin B12 may increase the risk for neural tube defects.

Experts agree that pregnant women can thrive on vegan diets. The American Dietetic Association, the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, states that “well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.” Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher levels of fiber, folate, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.

“Women who follow vegan diets not only have healthy pregnancies, they are often healthier than moms who consume meat,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., staff dietitian with PCRM. “By eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other healthful vegetarian foods and including breakfast cereals or other foods fortified with vitamin B12, mothers and their children can obtain all the nutrients they need to thrive.”

Choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet can also help women avoid the unhealthy hormones and environmental toxins found in dairy products, meat, and fish. Analyses of vegetarians’ breast milk show that the levels of environmental contaminants in milk are much lower than in non-vegetarians.

Vitamin B12 needs can be met easily with fortified breakfast cereals and soymilk, which are low in fat and calories. The most convenient and reliable B12 source is a daily multivitamin.

Source: www.eurekalert.

Eating a Raw Food Diet while Pregnant

For those who are unfamiliar, eating mainly raw foods is not a fad diet, it’s a way of life for some people who believe that the most wholesome way to consume your food is in the raw form (no!! Not raw meat!!!) Dieting for weight loss is discouraged during pregnancy, but a healthful diet is strongly encouraged!

According to altmedicine.about.com:

The raw food diet is a diet based on unprocessed and uncooked plant foods, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, sprouts, seeds, nuts, grains, beans, nuts, dried fruit, and seaweed.

Heating food above 116 degrees F is believed to destroy enzymes in food that can assist in the digestion and absorption of food. Cooking is also thought to diminish the nutritional value and “life force” of food.

(Side note: I have a friend who is very enthusiastic about eating raw. I don’t have plans to convert to her way of thinking just yet, but it’s definitely an option to check out if you are interested in a food-centered change!)

If you are wondering how this diet would affect your pregnancy, Happy Foody might have some answers.

I have been VERY nauseous during the first trimester, and unfortunately, most raw foods made me want to run in the opposite direction! :) Including green smoothies. It was very frustrating because I knew my body needed it, but it would reject it every time. Now that I’m in my 13th week…the fog has lifted a bit, and I am able to start adding back my favorite raw foods. It’s amazing to me that just a few weeks ago, a big salad turned my stomach, and today I devoured an entire head of kale. I will slowly be adding back smoothies, as my stomach allows.

According to the research she did on the subject,eating a completely raw diet during pregnancy produces wonderful results. She advises anyone who’s interested to check out a website/e-book called Ecstatic Birth, which she says is well worth the read. She also takes Rainbow Light “Complete Prenatal System” vitamins, along with fish oils, and some grapefruit seed extract for yeast prevention, etc.

The raw food diet may not be appropriate for certain people. As with any diet or diet changes, consult a competent health-care professional before you begin (or once you become pregnant)!

Post-Pregnancy: A no-fuss plan to get back into shape

Congratulations! You have a new baby! Between taking care of your bundle of joy, keeping your house passably clean, perhaps taking care of other kids (and don’t forget the husband!) and various other duties, you barely find time to shower at the end of the day. So how is one expected to cook healthy, balanced meals and find time to exercise as well??

Nutritional therapist Kate Cook and postnatal fitness instructor Lucy Wyndham-Read have written a new book called An Unfit Mother: How to get your Health, Shape and Sanity back after childbirth. “New mothers need a no-fuss plan to take control, without beating themselves up about slip-ups along the way.” Sounds good, doesn’t it?

So how do you prevent yourself from feeling knackered (they’re British chicks. They use funny words)? Here are a few helpful tips, courtesy of Keep the Doctor Away:

  • Get motivated! Start making really small changes rather than trying to tackle a huge health program. You can easily feel overwhelmed at this time, and are much more likely to stick to the small changes and get bigger results.
  • Eat right! Don’t fall into the trap of snacking on junk because you don’t have time to prepare food. Instead, snack on “superfoods” such as nuts and seeds. They’re “full of zinc, a great food to balance the blood sugar and to ward off the blues.”
  • Forget the gym; exercise at home! You can tone your body with simple exercises such as this one: Start knitting the abdominals back to their pre-pregnancy state by simply pulling your belly button in tight towards your spine and holding for up to 10 seconds, then release. Do this several times a day. Not only does it tone your deepest abdominal muscle, but it will also help strengthen your lower back and improve your posture. You can start right now, as you read this!

Lose that Pregnancy Weight… for your Husband’s sake!

fatwife.jpgI found this fabulous blog where people send it questions, and a donkey (that’s the husband) and a wife offer solutions.

One reader sent in the following question:

Dear Donkey and Wife
What should you do if your wife wants to keep a few extra pounds on? I’ve done a good job of convincing my wife that I love her no matter what and that I don’t mind when there is “a little more to love.” I overheard her recently tell a friend that she doesn’t want to get back to her pre-pregnancy weight, because “he likes me with a few extra pounds.” I always thought she would just lose the weight. Now what do I say to that?
-Weighting for an Answer

Oh my! “This question takes the cake…” says Donkey, “Assuming your wife hasn’t eaten it off the counter already.” He has a number of solutions, some better than others (Please don’t blame us if the suggestions don’t work for you. You’re the one taking advice from a donkey.) and the Wife has some ideas as well.

But two points of interest that I gleaned on this topic, from the bloggers and the commenters, are as follows:

1. For the husband: It’s all about the tact. It’s about doing things together that promote a healthier lifestyle (get a gym membership together… help cook healthy meals together… take brisk early morning walks together… you get the point!)

2. For the wife: Even if your husband truly does love you when there’s a little (or a lot) more to love, it’s only fair to make an effort to get back into shape. Although he loves you too much to say it, maybe he’d like to see you looking more like you did when he first fell in love. And even if it’s not realistic to think that you’ll get your pre-baby body back, at least he’ll find it endearing to know that you are making an effort!

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