If you think children might be in your future, nutrition for pregnancy is something to be thinking about now. It is never too early!
In Part 2 of PerformancePro’s Nutrition for Women series, we asked our Nutritionist and Naturopath, Cathy Williams, to share some essential guidance on nutrition for pregnancy,
“You know the saying we are what we eat. During pregnancy, our growing babies are also what we eat… and breathe and absorb. AND the things that are beneficial for your baby before and during pregnancy are also super important for your own good health, now and well beyond becoming a mum.”
There are some basic essentials to consider when it comes to nutrition for pregnancy. There may also be the need to address any hormonal imbalances that may cause problems with conception and pregnancy. If you have concerns about your wellbeing and nutrition uptake, seeking the guidance of medical practitioner prior to trying to conceive may be helpful. The right tests and the right interventions can make all the difference for a healthy happy pregnancy, mum and baby.
When it comes to nutrition for pregnancy, there are three essentials to consider before conception:
TOXIN EXPOSURE AND ELIMINATION
Taking steps to reduce your exposure and eliminate stored toxins should be the first step for anyone, anywhere, anytime. It’s advisable for everyone, not just when you decide it’s time for children.
You can reduce your exposure by choosing organic foods, eco-friendly products and chemical free shampoos, soaps and other personal care items. Opt for things made from glass, ceramic, stainless steel and natural wood to reduce exposure in things like furnishings, food storage, cups and drink bottles. For example, ditch the cling film in favour of beeswax wraps or glass jars and containers.
PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), Phthalates, BPA (bisphenol), Heavy Metals and Parabens are found in every day products including plastics, cosmetics, food and crop sprays, paints, nail varnishes, furniture and foods. They are called endocrine disruptors because they literally disrupt the balance and modulation of hormones and messengers within the body.
Phthalates and PCBs can be transferred from mother to foetus at critical times including during brain development . Higher levels in pregnant women have been linked to lower IQ, an increase in ADHD-like behaviours and reduced long term memory in their children.
Since BPA-free products became a trend, manufacturers have been developing other plastic variations to use in their products such as BPS, BPF, BPAF, BPZ, BPP, BHPF etc. They all have BP in their names because they share the same basic chemical structure of a bisphenol. As yet, the effects of these BPA alternatives on the body are largely unknown. But, if they follow suit, they could be just as dangerous.
IMMUNE ACTIVATION AND INFLAMMATION
If you have intolerances or allergies to certain foods, your body mounts an immune response which often leads to inflammation when you eat those foods. In pregnancy, increased wheat antibodies (showing your immune system is reacting) and inflammatory chemicals have been linked to increased mental health issues in the offspring.
Finding out which foods you react to and avoiding them during pregnancy is important for two reasons:
Tests are available to check your antibody levels and to find out which foods might be causing you problems.
The right nutrients in the right amounts are SO important for detoxification and a healthy pregnancy. Here’s a quick rundown on what’s needed and why.
Folic Acid – This is an important nutrient in detoxification pathways. It also has a vital role in developing nervous systems of foetuses. Sources include leafy greens, citrus fruit and beans, but a supplement is definitely recommended to ensure adequate levels.
Omega 3s – These fatty acids are vital for brain development and healthy cell function and development. Every cell has a membrane that is made of fatty acids.
As we know, there are good fats and bad fats. Trans fats from foods such as chips and fried chicken can lead to cell membranes that don’t function quite as well, impacting nutrient, hormone and waste transfer. So, enjoy plenty of good fats from nuts, seeds and fish to help keep cell membranes healthy, flexible and functioning.
Be Sensible – Pregnancy is not an excuse to binge because ‘baby wants it’. Remember, you are what you eat and your baby is what you eat! High quality food creates healthy, high quality cells and a healthy mum and baby. Avoid inflammatory sugar and refined foods in favour of rich, colourful fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds legumes, pseudograins etc.
While your nutritional needs do increase during pregnancy, it isn’t an excuse to binge eat because ‘baby wants it’ or you’re ‘eating for 2’. Remember, you are what you eat and your baby is what you eat too!
High quality food creates healthy, high quality cells and a healthy mum and baby. Avoid inflammatory sugar and refined, processed foods in favour of rich, colourful fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds legumes and pseudograins such as quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth etc.
Eating a lot of high glycemic/high carb foods that spike blood sugar may put you and your baby at risk. For you, there’s the risk of gestational diabetes. For your baby, who takes its cues from mum’s internal environment, there could be weight and/or metabolic issues in childhood or later life.
Probiotics and prebiotics – Getting the right bugs is a good way to help modulate immune response, reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut during pregnancy. Again this may promote a healthier cue for the developing baby too. As well as ensuring you have optimal microbiome balance, this is transferred to the baby during vaginal births, skin to skin contact and breastfeeding.
In Part 1 of our Nutrition for Women series we looked at the menstrual cycle. Look out for Part 3 of Nutrition for Women over the coming weeks. Next time round, we’re looking at Nutrition for the Menopause.
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