Real Food Remedies for the Childbearing Years
**This post is part of the Get Real series. Please remember that this is meant as a learning community. We know that many of you are passionate about what you do and we want you to express that, just please do so in a way that will be an encouragement and aid to others making a transition. We want this to be a “safe space” for participants to learn. For that reason, we reserve the right to delete any comments that are not handled in this manner.
One of the most important things I happened upon a few years ago was this notion that food can heal our bodies and support us during different life circumstances. I had been having issues both with my reproductive system and with my fertility. At my wits end and with nothing to lose, I decided that changing my diet and going against a bit of conventional dietary wisdom was a chance I had to take.
And boy am I glad I did.
My entire life and up to that point in my marriage I had eaten and based my meals on plenty of processed foods, so the change to a whole foods diet was not an easy or a quick one. But within just a few months I began noticing differences in my body and I’ve never looked back. I’ve also found a lot of great information along the way, just as I’ve found plenty of new recipes to help feed my family and nourish my body.
Pre-conception and Fertility
So you’re thinking about having a baby? Or maybe you’ve been trying for a while and it hasn’t happened yet. It’s an exciting time when you’re open to new life, but what we do (and eat) in the months before conception is incredibly important!
Both the egg and the sperm have about a three month life cycle, so what you eat and put in to your body today, will still be affecting these microscopic parts of you that will join to form your new little one. A healthy and nutrient rich diet can directly affect the quality of them both, meaning increased fertility. And we also have to remember that inside the egg and sperm is genetic material. These genes, if they are strong, can bring about proper development and lifelong health. If they are damaged (there are many causes to this of course) it could mean a possibility of health and development issues.
A healthy pre-conception diet is one based on whole foods. Specifically foods that contain the nutrient rich fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K2 as they help to balance hormones and nourish a growing baby. Many of these vitamins can be found in foods like eggs, whole dairy, butter from grass-fed cows, dark leafy greens, properly prepared whole grains, and almonds. I highly recommend the OAMM whole foods menu for those looking to get help in a basic menu. I also have a Fertility Foods Checklist on my own blog (free for you all!) that will help guide you in making sure you’re getting in the nutrients you need. This checklist is based off of the recommendations I outline in my new book “Naturally Knocked Up“.
If you’ve been trying for some time, it may be time to look at changing your basic whole foods diet to eliminate possible food intolerances that may be causing inflammation or mal-absorption of the nutrients you’re consuming. OAMM has a a gluten and dairy free menu that may be quite helpful as these two seem to be foods that a lot of people react to, even if they haven’t yet seen a direct correlation from their symptoms to a food intolerance. I personally think that any couple dealing with infertility should try a gluten-free diet for at least 30 to 60 days to rule out any ill affects from these foods. (both recurrent miscarriage and male factor infertility also have ties to gluten intolerance)
The food you each during pregnancy are going directly to your baby – so eating a whole foods diet is just as, if not more, important now than ever before! I recommend each and every one of the nutrient rich foods that I do for the pre-conception period as a way to nourish both you and your baby’s bodies. The recommendations from Dr. Brewer to eat approximately 80-100 grams of protein per day is also an important one.
Sometimes there come a problem when morning sickness show up though! For that, I would look in to trying to include more foods that contain a high amount of vitamin B in them – specifically beans. (if you’re worried about a bit of extra tooting, just prepare them properly and it shouldn’t be an issue) Because not only are beans high in our B vitamins, they also help the body get rid of excess hormones and toxins because they are very rich in fiber, a couple of reasons that morning sickness might be worse.
If morning sickness is becoming a major problem during your pregnancy, it becomes very important to find out which foods, and which type of foods, you can tolerate and make sure to try and get in the most nutrients when you can. If you feel better at a certain time of day, eat your most nutrient rich foods then, especially protein as it can help lessen the nausea. Or take a look at what types of foods you now enjoy – during my last pregnancy it was cold foods, and hot foods made me sick. So if you tolerate cold foods, try frozen smoothies with yogurt, fruit, and greens. If hot foods are better, try soups with homemade broth and lots of veggies and clean meats.
Miscarriage and Stillbirth
Unfortunately, many of us will experience the loss of a baby, me included. Our third baby passed away around 10 weeks.
And I ate all the wrong stuff!
As a well known advocate for a whole foods diet, it’s rather embarrassing, but you know what? It happens to most couples who experience a loss, especially if the woman is the one who normally cooks. What we have to remember is to not let a short term “survival mode” become our long term diet. Beyond trying to eat “real” foods, I do have a couple of recommendations to help support the body in healing and balancing the hormones.
Firstly, try not to consume your body weight in ice cream. Or chocolate. Or candy. You have to remember that your body is going through some major hormones shifts that will cause your mood to be quite unstable, making grief harder to deal with. Excess sugar also makes it difficult for your hormones to balance themselves which can cause reproductive problems in the long run. If you must have something sweet, try to stick to items made with unrefined sugars, or at least more natural products that contain ingredients you can actually pronounce.
Second, it’s going to be important to consume foods rich in iron as you may lose quite a bit of blood during the process. For those that had excess or prolonged bleeding, a supplement like Floradix may be beneficial.
The last thing I might recommend is to reach out to your support network, whether it’s family, friends, co-workers, or your church. It’s weird asking for meals, but in many ways I really wish I had. And I wish that it came to peoples minds to do it without having to be asked, but you’ll probably have to. (many people just don’t know what to do or say when a baby passes away) This way you’ll be more apt to eat healthier foods, even if what they prepare you isn’t as healthy as you normally eat. Food prepared at home (or someone else’s in this case) is always going to be healthier than fast food!
Basic Nutrient Guidelines
We all have different nutrient needs, so it’s hard to specify one specific diet for everyone. But I do think that if we take certain steps to clean up our diets, we’ll be healthier in the long run, and better apt to deal with different life events.
- Eat your greens (spinach, kale, etc), most people don’t touch them and yet they are chock full of nutrients.
- Add more vegetables to your diet – again, most people don’t’ eat near enough! Make sure your plate is colorful, not brown.
- Consume wholesome fats like extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, and butter from cows that eat grass. (and stay away from vegetable fats)
- Eat less sugar. Actually, if you can only manage one thing in your diet – let it be this! (and if you need help cutting out sugar I also have a free Sugar Detox Challenge ebook)
- Put wild caught fish in your meal plans each week as the healthy omega 3 fats are really important for proper body functions AND for growing babies.
- Use only whole grains in your meals and try your best to prepare them in ways so that you get the most nutrient absorption.
With a little bit of preparation, a whole foods diet will nourish your body for both you and your baby!