Thursday, January 9, 2014

Whole Grains in Pregnancy




There is a chance that you will encounter grains at every meal of your day. The wheat berry taken from the fields will have been processed and milled into flour, and served at your table as a loaf of bread, or baked good in some form or fashion. While grains have gotten a seriously bad rap in the recent past, they are not the food villains some foodies make them out to be. Traditionally prepared sprouted or soaked whole grains have been a staple food for thousands of years for a variety of cultures.  References to grains are even found throughout the Bible. Grains are versatile, easy to cook, and relatively inexpensive, making them a necessary addition to a pregnant and nursing mother's life.

Dr. Weston Price (1870-1948) was a Cleveland dentist who began searching for the causes of dental decay and physical degeneration. While searching the globe, he found answers among isolated groups of people in various societies with perfect teeth, minimal evidence of tooth decay and physical degeneration or disease. Dr. Price moved his laboratory to these isolated societies and studied their diets. His analysis found that isolated peoples living off of their traditional diets were provided four times the amounts of calcium and minerals, along with ten times the fat soluble vitamins than their modern neighbors eating processed foods.

Dr. Price found that isolated populations eating a traditional diet prepared their grains much differently than their modern neighbors. While their modern neighbors ate processed white breads full of sugar and  milled flour, the traditional societies minimally milled their grains, and either sprouted or soaked grains for long periods of time before eating.

The science behind traditional diets shows whole grains require proper preparation in order to remove anti-nutrients; phytic acid being a significant culprit. Phytic acid in whole grains can bind with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and zinc and bind absorption of these minerals. A diet high in improperly prepared grains has the potential for bone loss, mineral deficiencies, along with plenty of disease processes, including chronic abdominal pain,  irritable bowel syndrome, decreased resistance to immunity, mental health disorders, etc. This can create significant problems when growing a baby, and breastfeeding.

Another culprit includes gluten. Everywhere you look, you will find an emphasis on "gluten-free" foods. As stated earlier, products from wheat hit the table at almost every meal. Due to the increasing emphasis on the inability to digest gluten, along with the myriad of health problems associated with ingesting gluten, a large amount of the modern population has chosen to remove gluten from the diet. This has lead to an explosion in the gluten-free market. While this has the potential to improve some of the health problems associated with gluten ingestion, the processed substitutes for gluten are not much better.

As stated by Sally Fallon in her book, Nourishing Traditions, a review of traditional peoples and their recipes from around the globe reveal simple grain preparations with minimal or no amounts of processing. Traditional Europeans baked slow rise breads created from fermented starters; American pioneers were famous for sourdough breads, pancakes, and biscuits (remember Little House on the Prairie....) Oriental and Latin American rice recipes called for brown rice to receive a long fermentation process before consumption. In Africa, the natives soaked corn or millet at least eight hours to create a porridge called ogi. The Welsh similarly prepared oats by soaking overnight to create a hardy oatmeal and oatcakes. Teff, an ancient Ethiopian grain, was fermented for several days before becoming injera bread. In India, rice and lentils were fermented to create idli and dosas; and Mexican corn cakes, called pozol were fermented in banana leaves for up to two weeks.

While we can't go back to traditional times, and there are currently few cultures Dr. Price studied who are still eating their traditional diets; it is possible to consume our grains like our ancestors. If you are not ready to make the leap to traditional preparation of grains, there are plenty of  products on the shelves available to get you started. Look for organic, stone ground, sprouted or sour dough whole grain products and eat them with a fat source such as real butter or cheese to get the most nutrients from your grains.

For those who love to experiment and cook, my favorite cookbook written by a woman dedicated to following Dr. Price's food philosophy, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats can help you get started on the soaked and sprouted road. While it may take a little more time and exploration than grabbing a muffin off the shelf; I guarantee you that your future children will thank you for it.








Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ham and Bean Soup


Having an enormous family, and trying to eat more regularly from Weston Price Diet is a challenge, especially financially. My family loves soups and stews, and because I can make them so nutrient dense with minimal amounts of money, I tend to make them often.

Ham and Bean soup is an especial favorite for my clan, and is wonderful for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers as well. While I tend to use mostly Great Northern Beans, I like to add in Navy, Cannellini, and Pinto as well, not only to increase flavor, but to make my soup more nutrient dense. It is also not easy to get a large amount of salad into my family, so I add a plethora of vegetables into my soups. My kids inhale the soups and get their veggies in as well. Home made stock not only increases the nutrient content of the soup, but creates a protein sparing effect, and I can decrease the amount of costly animal meat without giving up the nutrients my children need.

Ham and Bean Soup

Ingredients:

Great Northern Beans (dried): 1 pound
Navy Beans (dried): 1/2 pound
Cannellini Beans (dried): 1/2 pound
Pinto Beans (dried): 1/2 pound
Bay Leaf: 1 to 2
Home made chicken stock: 2 quarts
Water: 2 quarts
Onion: 1 large diced
Carrots: 3 medium diced
Celery: 3 medium diced
Anaheim pepper: 1 small seeded and diced
Organic Ham: 1 pound
Sea Salt: 1 tablespoon
Pepper: 1/2 tablespoon


Recipe:

1. Rinse the beans and pick through them to pick out any stones. Soak all beans overnight with water. In the morning, in a large crockpot, place the beans and enough water to cover inside. Add 1 or 2 bay leaves to water and beans. Set the beans on low heat for at least 4 to 6 hours. Watch the beans through the day if possible. If the beans have cooked down and need more water, you can add in a cup or two at a time until the beans remain completely covered with water.

2. When the beans are softened and cooked through, add in the stock, onion, carrots, celery, anaheim pepper, salt, pepper, and ham, and let cook another hour on high heat.

3. This is served well with homemade sour dough bread or corn muffins.

4. Enjoy!!





Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Kombucha in Pregnancy

Kombucha tea, with its plethora of health-promoting benefits, has mixed reviews when it comes to pregnancy usage. While some sites and some health care professionals advocate its usage during pregnancy, there are just as many denouncing its use during this critical baby building period. While I have drunk small amounts of the tea both during pregnancy and breastfeeding with no ill effects, it does not mean the practice should be the norm for every pregnant and/or breastfeeding woman.

Kombucha tea, a probiotic beverage,  is made by fermenting black tea with sugar and a flat, pancake looking culture of yeasts and bacteria called a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). It can also be called a "Kombucha mushroom" due to the culture's shape and size as it floats on top of the tea after fermentation. Kombucha tea originated in East Asia and was introduced into Germany in the early 1900's.  Since then, it has been promoted for boosting immunity, increasing energy, improving digestion, reducing high blood pressure, maximizing nutrient absorption, and strengthening the body against certain ailments.

Ailments caused from physiologic side effects of being pregnancy have been noted to be alleviated from drinking Kombucha tea. Kombucha has been touted as a remedy for constipation, indigestion, heartburn, and other digestive issues.

Those who denounce its use during pregnancy and breastfeeding give some of the following reasons, which should be pondered prior to discerning whether or not to partake of the drink.

1. Kombucha contains alcohol, and alcohol has the potential to cause birth defects such as  Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Kombucha contains anywhere from 0.3 to 2.5% of alcohol, depending on the amount of alcohol produced during the fermentation process. Beer contains anywhere from 3 to 10%, wine 8 to 20% and spirits anywhere from 20 to 70%. While most literature encourages mothers to completely steer clear of all alcohol during pregnancy, a study published in The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2010 reported five year old children of women who drank up to one or two alcoholic drinks per week were not at increased risk of behavioral or cognitive problems. If you are concerned about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, and the possible risks to baby, then do not consume Kombucha while pregnant.

2. Kombucha is a detox agent, and there are concerns that a woman should not start a detoxification program while pregnant. Detox is a natural process that occurs every night. The organs rest and release  built up waste, which is why most people feel the need to eliminate shortly after awakening.  Kombucha aids in this process, and could easily be consumed during pregnancy; however, it is imperative to stay well hydrated. Eight to ten glasses of water daily will keep you hydrated during pregnancy, and the toxins will be removed naturally through the urine and feces. If you are dehydrated, those toxins will move out of the body through other organs, one of which can be the uterus.  If you are concerned about toxins moving out of the body into baby, best to stay away from Kombucha.

3. Kombucha can cause an allergic reaction in first time drinkers. If you have never consumed Kombucha prior to pregnancy, it is imperative to use caution, or stay away completely. While it is very rare to have an allergic reaction to Kombucha, having an allergic reaction during pregnancy could be a dangeous, nightmarish, and deadly experience. If you choose to start drinking Kombucha during pregnancy, begin slowly. Start off with no more than 2 oz per day, and monitor your body's response. Do not drink if you know you have allergies to mold.

4. Kombucha has been reported to cause kidney failure, lactic acidosis, and liver dysfunction. While  these findings were reported, the patients were also diagnosed with serious diseases and on medications which could cause these same problems.

If you are going to drink Kombucha tea while you are pregnant and planning on brewing it at home, it is imperative to brew it only in glass jars as the tea will leach any metals out of other containers. Do NOT use ceramic, lead, steel, or any other material for brewing. Purchase your Kombucha SCOBY from a reputable source as some SCOBYs can harbor potentially dangerous bacteria. Watch the PH of your brew. It should be no more than 2.5 to 3.0. You can use PH strips to test.  If there is obvious mold growing, dump it out and start over.

As with all things natural health related, be certain to check with your health care provider prior to starting Kombucha consumption.

This article is featured on Pennywise Platter on The Nourishing Gourmet Simple Lives Thursday on Gnowfglins 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Doula for pain control during labor

Having both utilized a doula for my own births, and acted as a doula for others' births, I have found them to be invaluable in getting through pregnancy, and especially labor & delivery.

 A friend of mine (who I offered to act as doula for her labor) recently shared that her husband was less than enthusiastic about having another person at the birth, and didn't quite understand what my role would be. My friend explained that her husband thought I must be quite a hippie. When she asked him to explain, he said, "I don't know....with a name like "Doula", she must be a little off....."  Laughingly, my friend explained that my name wasn't "Doula." That's just the name of the role I would be performing during the labor and delivery.

What exactly is a doula? While doulas have been around for many, many moons, there still are not many women who utilize their services.  The word "doula" is Greek in origin, meaning "a female birth companion."  A doula can be either a birth doula or a post-partum doula.  Birth doulas attend birth, and may help prepare women during pregnancy for labor and delivery. Post-partum doulas attend new mothers during the difficult days following delivery. Many doulas offer their services both at birth and post-partum.

In the book, Mothering the Mother, the authors explain that using a doula has been shown to result in less need for pain relieving medication, fewer operative deliveries (forceps, vacuum extractor, Cesarean section) along with fewer episiotomies.  Babies typically tend to be in better condition at birth, and mothers report more positively about their birth experience than not.  This could be a result of the fact that a doula is continually looking to making your labor and delivery as comfortable as possible.

 Your doula will use a variety of techniques to help with the pain of labor, especially during transition.  She may move your body in different positions when you are feeling like you can't handle it anymore.  During transition, you tend to become very suggestible, and while trying to be helpful, your doctor or nurse may suggest pain medications.  During my own labors, when I would get to that point, my doula would say to me, "You've already done it.  You're almost there." This is just what I would need to get me through the rest of my labor, and I would deliver shortly thereafter.

While you may utilize anyone who you believe would be a fantastic support person during your birth and after, there are many who have chosen to make helping women during pregnancy, birth, and afterwards their careers. There are multiple organizations providing professional certification for doulas.  DONA international, Childbirth International, and ICEA provide programs preparing and certifying those seeking credentialing as a doula.  These professionals typically charge anywhere from $200 to $600 or more per birth.  Because of the increasing popularity of having a doula at the bedside, many hospitals offer their services, and a web search will turn up a plethora of names.  You can also ask your doctor or midwife for a referral, as they have probably worked with many doulas with their past patients.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) / Bladder Infection



Urinary tract infections (UTI), cystitis (also known as bladder infections), and kidney infections are not only uncomfortable, but can cause serious complications during pregnancy if left untreated. While the burning during urination and low to mid back pain may seem like just another discomfort during pregnancy, an untreated UTI can lead to a more serious kidney infection (called pyelonephritis) and end up with a stay in the hospital due to sepsis which would necessitate IV antibiotics to kill off the infection.

Women's anatomy generally make for an easier transition for bacteria to travel from the meatus (pee hole) up through the urethra and into the bladder. From there, if left untreated, bacteria can travel even further up through the ureters to the kidneys and wreck havoc on this important organ.  The infection can then travel throughout the blood and lymph system and cause a nasty blood infection caused sepsis.

During pregnancy, women can be more susceptible to UTI's/bladder infections due relaxation of the muscles (which can affect the ureters) from pregnancy hormones such as progesterone and relaxin. Because the uterus sits on top of the bladder, pressure from an enlarging uterus can block the drainage of urine from the bladder, further complicating the problem.

Preventing a UTI...

The following is a list of steps you can take in order to help prevent a UTI or bladder infection from occurring:



  • Drink six to eight glasses of purified water daily to help flush the kidneys.
  • Drink unsweetened cranberry juice to help keep bacteria from sticking to the urinary system walls-Note...it will be very sour. Sweetened cranberry juice will not work at all and will actually work to feed bacteria. 
  • Eliminate all refined foods, along with caffeine, alcohol, and sugar as these feed bacteria.
  • Do not let urine sit in the bladder for long periods of time, make certain to urinate as soon as you feel the urge to do so, and empty your bladder completely as bacteria thrive in more concentrated urine.
  • Urinate both before and after intercourse, as this can lead to bladder infections.
  • Wear cotton underwear and pantyhose, and avoid tight fitting pants, as bacteria breed more easily in tight, moist areas. 
  • Avoid douches, powders, and antiseptic creams to the genital area, as bacteria thrive when the acid/alkaline balance is changed. 
  • After urination, wipe front to back, as bacteria from the rectum can travel to the meatus. 
  • Take extra vitamin C to help fight infection; however, too much vitamin C can cause loose stools.
  • During baths, place two to three drops of tea tree and lavender oil in the bath. These are anti-septic and anti-bacterial and will help prevent infections. 
  • Take acidophilus daily to keep up the friendly bacteria. Also make certain to include kefir, yogurt, kombucha, cultured vegetables such as saurkraut on a daily basis. This maintains the friendly flora in your body to help keep bacteria at bay. 

Regardless of how well your diet is, and how many preventative measures you take, you may still develop a urinary tract infection during your pregnancy.  An untreated urinary tract/bladder infection can lead to a nasty kidney infection called pyelonephritis, as well as a blood infection called sepsis. Untreated kidney infections can lead to premature labor.

Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:


  • Pain/burning with urination
  • Urgency with urination (feeling like you have to urinate all of the time; however, when you do urinate, it is a very slight amount)
  • Low abdominal pain/cramping
  • Blood or mucus in the urine
  • Foul smelling, dark, or cloudy urine
  • Pain during sexual intercourse
  • Fever, chills, sweats
  • Pain or pressure over the lower abdomen/pelvis  (over the bladder)
If the infection spreads to the kidneys (pyelonephritis), you may experience:

  • Low back pain/flank pain
  • Blood in urine
  • Fever and/or chills
  • Nausea/Vomiting
These are serious symptoms and necessitate immediate treatment from your health care provider. 

If you are currently experiencing these symptoms, or have been diagnosed with a UTI/bladder infection, your health care provider/OB may prescribe antibiotics to kill off the infection. Because antibiotics kills off all of the bacteria in your body (even the good bacteria), it is important to re-populate the good bacteria after your course of antibiotics is over. This is where it is especially important to include lots of kefir, kombucha, yogurt, kimchi, and properly cultured sauerkraut in your diet. These foods help re-introduce the good bacteria into your system. A midwife I am acquainted with also recommends placing plain yogurt in the vaginal vault over night for three to five nights after a course of antibiotics to help re-populate the good bacteria. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cod Liver Oil and High Vitamin Butter Oil


In preparing for pregnancy, there are some specific superfoods which should be included in the daily diet. One of these is a combination of high quality cod liver oil along with high vitamin butter oil. Cod liver oil provides fat-soluble vitamins A and D, along with high amounts of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). The omega-3 fatty acids from these nutrients promote proper function of the brain and nervous system, along with visual acuity.(Sally Fallon, 2001) During the crucial formation time in pregnancy, the nutrients from this superfood can help properly form these systems.

While it is important to be taking cod liver oil daily during pregnancy, adding in a high vitamin butter oil, provides not only vitamins A and D, but also the X Factor, which was discovered by Weston Price.

In Weston Price's book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, he tells the following story...."Under the stress of the industrial depression, the family dietary of the children we studied was very deficient. They were brought to a mission where we fed them one reinforced meal at noon for six days a week...It is important to note that the home nutrition, which had been responsible for the tooth decay, was exceedingly low in body building and repairing material while temporarily satisfying the appetite. It usually consisted of highly sweetened strong coffee and white bread, vegetable fat, pancakes made of white flour and eaten with syrup, and doughnuts fried in vegetable fat....The nutrition provided these children (in the mission) included the following foods.  About four ounces of tomato juice or orange juice and a teaspoonful of a mixture of equal parts of a very high-vitamin natural cod liver oil and an especially high-vitamin butter was given at the beginning of the meal. They then received a bowl containing approximately a pint of very rich vegetable and meat stew made largely from bone marrow and fine cuts of tender meat. The meat was usually broiled separately to retain its juice and then chopped very fine and added to the bone marrow meat soup, which always contained finely chopped vegetables and plenty of very yellow carrots; for the next course they had cooked fruit, with very little sweetening, and rolls made from freshly ground whole wheat, which were spread with the high-vitamin butter. The wheat for the rolls was ground fresh every day in a motor driven coffee mill.  Each child was also given two glasses of fresh whole milk.  The menu was varied from day to day by substituting for the meat stew, fish chowder or organs of animals...Several incidents of special interest occurred. Two different teachers came to me to inquire what had been done to make a particular child change from one of the poorest in the class in capacity to learn to one of the best...

While cod liver oil is great as a supplement, studies have shown that the unsaturated fatty acids in cod liver oil may be toxic in large amounts, so it is important not to consume more than necessary. Children should not ingest more than 1 teaspoonful per day, and adults 2 teaspoons.

And while cod liver oil is touted as a superfood in and of itself, Dr. Price noted in his studies of diverse cultures that cod liver oil worked best when combined with high vitamin butter oil.  Take it in fresh orange juice for better absorption, and easier palatability.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Superfood Sunday, December 16




Welcome to the thirteenth edition of Superfood Sunday Blog Carnival.  I started it on Superbowl Sunday 2012 because I live in Indianapolis, and we hosted our very first Superbowl, and the city was bathed in a bit of a festive frenzy at that moment. 

Going with the Superbowl Sunday theme, I decided to start Superfood Sunday, a blog carnival focusing on recipes featuring superfoods fit for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. There are a couple of rules, so be certain to read through them before posting so I won't have to delete the link.

1.  Keep the ingredients nourishing. If you want the complete lowdown, visit the diet page, but a quick synopsis requires your recipes to use whole grains, meats, legumes, beans, unrefined salt, and sugars. Stay away from processed foods (no fake foods, margarine, vegetable oils, processed sugar, etc.) 

2. Link back to the carnival. This is common carnival courtesy. When I was new to blog carnivals, I didn't know how to link back to the carnival. Your blog should have a link button on the posting page, and you can add a simple link at the bottom of your post stating this is a blog you are linking your post up with.  

3. Leave comments. I read all of my comments, and visitors tend to as well. Leave an interesting comment about your piece and a link back to the post, and that will send more traffic your way. Don't have a blog?  Comments are a great way to share your own pregnancy and breastfeeding superfood tips, and I would love to read them.

4. Follow this site, like it, pin it on pinterest... This is by no means a requirement, but I love to see who is interested in keeping up with my natural pregnancy and breastfeeding site!!