My pregnancy diet probably looks different than what most doctors think it should look like. I don't really follow the rules and have kinda made up my own pregnancy diet because it works for me and my family. First as most people who read my blog know my daughter and I are gluten and dairy free. She is a very strict no gluten or dairy and I am a strict no gluten but will very occasionally eat dairy (out to eat, pizza, etc.).
Lately I have been doing lots of reading and research on different healing diets (GAPS, Body Ecology, Paleo, etc.) and have come to the conclusion that at some point I know we may need to implement one of these diets for complete gut healing. Scarlett is stooling so much better (1-2x per day compared to 3-6x) since implementing the gluten/dairy free diet but still has loose stools occasionally especially when given high fiber foods, citrus fruits or lots of grains. She also still gets awful watery diarrhea and intense stomach cramps with dairy. I know most doctors would probably diagnosis her with toddlers diarrhea and just say she will grow out of it. But in all the reading I have been doing I know that gut health is extremely important and is linked to brain function. If she is still having some issues with digestion she has a gut health problem. I also notice various behavioral things (such as being less compliant and having more sensory issues) when she eats too much sugar or any food additives.
According to Dr. Natasha Campbell the author of The Gut and Psychology Sydrome (GAPS) Diet many conditions such as ADHD, Autism, learning disabilites, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and many other disorders are linked to gut health. Our gut health can become damaged by so many factors in our society including stress, SAD (standard american diet), antibiotic use, contraceptives, not being breastfed and the gut health of your mother. I am definitely not a expert on the subject so for more information I will turn you over to this website.
However, the diet is extremely intense. It is meant to be a healing diet and not followed forever. Some of the things she incorporates include probiotics, fermented foods, bone broth, lots of healthy fats, no grains, and no starches (including potatoes). I know that right now doing this diet or any of the diets mentioned above would stress me out. I tend to get stressed out about food already having taken out dairy and gluten and cannot picture myself having the energy while pregnant to do all the cooking/planning that is necessary with any of the diets above especially the GAPS diet. I also know I would fall of the band wagon after the baby was born with sleep deprivation and constant feedings. Another reason I have decided to put it off is my toxic load. I know I have a larger toxic load with getting my mercury fillings out before pregnancy and don't want to detox to quickly while pregnant. So what exactly did I decide to do then?
I decided to follow a more balanced approach throughout my pregnancy while implementing many of the ideas in these diets.
1. Limit Grain Consumption - I have decided to limit grains since feeling better. I know we technically don't need to even eat grains (it provides no nutrients that cannot be gotten elsewhere) and actually contain anti nutrients that prevent our body from absorbing it and can acutally damage our gut. That being said I take a more balanced approach and include soaked /sprouted grains (this is extremely important if you are going to eat grains) in 1-2 meals a day 4-5 times a week. It varies day to day and some days we don't eat grains at all and others we have more. I do however occasionally splurge on non soaked grains like popcorn/corn chips and salsa, rice noodles and when we go out to eat. The grains we mainly eat are buckwheat and quinoa (both technically not grains but act like them in the body) and rice. This makes me less stressed and I like the variation in my diet. So you may be wondering where do I get my carbs. There are plenty of carbs in fruit, potatoes, and winter squash. We still eat some soaked beans and lentils too. So altogether I am getting plenty of carbs.
2. Probiotic Foods - I have started to include even more probiotic foods into my diet. I have started learning how to make my own sauerkraut water kefir, and kombucha. If you don't have time to make these things you can usually buy them at your local health food store. My favorites are Bubbies sauerkraut, Bubbies pickles, synergy kombucha, and lately we have been doing Tula's young coconut kefir. Probiotics are extremely important during pregnancy and some studies have even shown it can reduce the likelihood of eczema and possibly even some allergies. It is also very important in Group B Strep testing. The more healthy bacteria you have in your body, the harder it is more the possibly harmful bacteria to build up. Supposedly a baby's first gut flora actually comes from the vaginal environment of their mother. If you are pregnant educate yourself on GBS and decide if you even want to be tested for it. Also know if you do test positive there are other options besides antibiotics (which you very much want to avoid if possible because it will damage not only your gut flora but your new baby's). For more information on GBS you can go here, here and here. It will also help prevent yeast infections so common in pregnancy. The thing about probiotic foods or even a probiotic supplement is that you want to introduce them slowly into your diet to prevent detox and die off symptoms. It is attempting to reset all of your gut bacteria so it will take time to adjust. I always start with 1 tsp of whatever probiotic I am starting and gradually increase. If you are pregnant and have never had any probiotics I would start with water kefir, saurkraut, or coconut kefir.
3. Grass fed Meats and their organs - I have also started including grass fed meat/organ meats into our diets. Doctors will tell you not to consume organ meats during pregnancy especially liver, but to me this is crazy. These meats are full of nutrients important for a growing fetus and it is a great source of iron for a pregnant mom. Many of the fears of eating liver during pregnancy come from the fact the accutane, an acne medication extremely high in vitamin A, causes severe damage to a growing infant. Liver is high in vitamin A. However, we know that the body reacts differently to isolated vitamins than to a whole food. I wouldn't recommend going crazy and eating liver every day. I usually only eat 2-3 oz once a week. The Weston A Price Pregnancy Diet (which is a great diet to follow during pregnancy) recommends 3-4oz once or twice weekly. This being said I actually very very much dislike liver and down it as fast as possible followed by an orange or orange juice. My husband cringes the whole time he watches but Scarlett loves to eat it right along with me. I have tried to hide it in chili but you can still feel the displeasing texture. I have heard of people putting it into capsules but that seems like too much work to me and just opt to swallow quickly.
4. Juice Plus - I cannot say enough about Juice Plus! I love it! It is such a great whole food supplement and this time I opted not to take any prenatals and just take juice plus. If you decide to take prenatals it is a good idea to take whole food ones (rainbow light brand, etc.) because your body will actually absorb some of the nutrients and you have less chance of getting constipated. I love juice plus though because it is just fruits, vegetables, and some grains and it is actually absorbed by your body. Plus it is gluten free! They have gummies too if you are struggling with morning sickness. Here is a sheet comparing the gummies, which you can give to your children, and flinstone vitamins. After reading it I am pretty sure the flinstone vitamins are doing more damage than good to the children and pregnant women with morning sickness who are taking them.
5. Bone Broth - I have been trying to consume more bone broth because it is just so good for you. Bone broth is actually surprisingly easy to make it just takes a little time. I use my crockpot because I am lazy :). I just make a whole chicken and save the bones or save beef bones from roasts (or you can buy them) and put them into my crockpot. I cover them with a little apple cider vinegar for a half an hour to draw out the nutrients, cover them with water, put in some sea salt, and add leftover celery or carrot shavings if I have them and let it sit on low for 24 hours. Then I strain it, put it in mason jars, let them cool, and put it in the freezer for later. I don't always have time for broth so I have also been making "jello" out of beef gelatin. Sounds gross right! But you can't even taste the beef gelatin and it is so easy to make. This link will explain the benefits and this one will show you how to make it.
6. Follow Dirty Dozen - I try to follow the dirty dozen as much as possible although it isn't as realistic in our town's organic selection and our personal monthly budget. I try to do as much organic as possible and we still are using some things from our CSA last year. We also will be doing that again along with our little garden.
7. Omega 3's - It is so important to get omega 3's especially when pregnant. It is crucial for baby's brain development. We don't often get enough fresh fish and are encouraged not to eat a lot of it due to mercury levels so important to supplement. Make sure you find a good brand. Most chiropractors/health food stores carry them (very different from the Walmart, Walgreens, etc.). Our whole family takes Nordic Naturals.
8. Pregnancy Tea - Full of nutrient rich herbs and is a great support for pregnancy.
9. Sunshine or Vitamin D - Sadly as I write this I am still supplementing with Vitamin D. I take around 2,000 mg a day. Once it gets sunny out I won't supplement and will just get some sun! Vitamin D is so important when you are pregnant and can help prevent pregnancy complications. It also helps in forming baby's bones.
10. Eat as Many Healthy Fats as Possible - Anyone who tells you fat makes you fat is not correct. Healthy fats are so important to our bodies especially when pregnant. They are crucial for hormone balancing and for baby's brain development. According to Dr. Sears they are brain building, provide energy, build healthy cells, help the body use vitamins, and provide healthier skin (some have even said prevent stretch marks though who knows). So what exactly are healthy fats. Healthy fats are avocados, coconut oil, real pastured butter, good quality olive oil, bone broths, whole raw milk (we would totally drink if we could), animal fats, and omega 3 supplement or wild caught low mercury fish. Avoid unhealthy fats such as anything hydrogenated or basically anything processed. And limit/avoid vegetable oils which are extremely high in omega 6 and throw off our omega 3 to 6 balance. They have also been linked to cell mutations and possibly cancer.
11. Eat more protein - This one wasn't too difficult for me except in the first trimester. I just try to eat protein (usually meat or eggs) at all my meals and snack on high protein things such as nuts/nut butters, jerky, beef gelatin "jello", hardboiled eggs, or occasionally a piece of cheese. If you can tolerate dairy raw is best and it is a very good source of protein.
12. Water - I am trying to drink lots and lots of water. I try to get a gallon a day, but do struggle a little sometimes. It is important for staying hydrated and also prevents constipation.
13. Limit Sugars - The only thing with sugar I eat a lot of is fruit. I know some people even say to limit fruit but I don't really feel it is necessary for me while pregnant. I usually eat 3-5 pieces of fruit a day or possibly more some days. I also limit my sugar to honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, date sugar, and occasionally sucanant. I also use sugar when making kombucha and water kefir but most of it gets used up during the fermentation. My dark chocolate also has a little bit of sugar in it. I do splurge occasionally on dessert when we go out too!
14. Limit Caffeine - I was already limiting caffeine before pregnancy. However, I do occasionally drink green tea and I eat dark chocolate (80% or higher). I am not opposed to a cup of coffee here or there either, but since my adrenals get a little stressed out from it I limit to a occasional thing.
15. Greens - I have been trying to include more greens in my diet. Greens are full of vitamin K and folate both very important during pregnancy. I usually do smoothies, salads, and my latest favorite kale chips!
16. Enjoy life a little - Okay so sometimes life is not perfect. I will be the first to tell you I occasionally stray from the diet. I believe you have to live a little and we don't eat perfectly when we go out. We sometimes order dessert, I eat grains, vegetable oils and dairy. We eat chips at barbecues and occasionally a hotdog with nitrates and MSG(gasp!). We don't always feel the best afterward but that becomes normal when your body isn't used to it anymore. My brother has always talked about the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time eat how you are supposed to and 20% treat yourself. I think that is a good rule and makes life more enjoyable. And remember to start by slowly incoporating healthy habits. We didn't go from eating frozen pizza almost every night to eating this way instantly. It has been a very long process for us starting from around a year before Scarlett was born. It has gradually changed the more educated and informed I have become. We had to make big leaps in terms of cutting out gluten and dairy for Scarlett (that was so hard at first) but now it is just how we live and doesn't seem hard at all.