Monday, January 9, 2012
My pregnancy diet checklist
Towards the end of my pregnancy I decided to keep a checklist so I would remember all the various foods and supplements I was trying to eat or take on a daily basis. As you can see, the list was quite long and could be difficult to keep track of. I am still more or less eating the same way, though I'm not drinking the teas anymore or taking all of the supplements.
This checklist (the food portion at least) was developed with the Weston A. Price Foundation pregnancy diet in mind, which is designed for ensuring the developing baby (and its mother!) obtain all the nutrients they need on a daily basis. Here are the other things I added, as well as a few that I tweaked to suit me better:
1) first, I don't tolerate plain raw milk very well so instead of having 1 quart daily (recommended by the Foundation) I aimed for 1 cup kefir, 1 cup yogurt, and 1-2 servings of cheese (cottage cheese, or aged raw cheeses). All raw of course. The kefir and yogurt I made myself. I felt this was actually a better way of consuming dairy since it was much more highly digestible and provided probiotic benefits. Also, raw cheeses provide highly concentrated nutrients and if they are aged they are a good source of vitamin K which plain milk is not.
2) 2 tsp. of fermented cod liver oil is recommended for pregnancy and breastfeeding to supply natural (not synthetic) vitamins A and D. It also helps to either consume high-vitamin butter oil or plenty of raw grass-fed butter alongside the cod liver oil; they work synergistically to provide the best results.
3) 4 tbsp. daily of raw grass-fed butter was difficult for me since I don't eat the butter "vehicles" that I used to before the GAPS diet (like oatmeal, potatoes, toast, etc.). I increased my consumption of raw Jersey cream in conjunction with butter; butter is 4 times more concentrated than cream, which means that 1/4 cup of cream (4 tbsp.) is equivalent to 1 tbsp. of butter. There were times earlier in my pregnancy that I was eating over a cup of raw cream a day, and it helped tremendously with cravings!
4) clay -- I took 1 tsp. of Bentonite clay (Redmond brand) daily for iron and its great digestion-regulating benefits
5) thyroid capsules -- 2-4 of these daily from Dr. Ron's line of organ and gland supplements. Consuming animals' organs and glands is a traditional practice that provides essential nutrients to our own corresponding organs and glands. I wanted a little extra insurance for my thyroid and liked using these capsules since these days it is virtually impossible to obtain actual thyroid gland from an animal -- not to mention that it probably wouldn't be very fun to eat!
6) my vitamin D level was low (27) in the summer, so I grudgingly added in a D3 supplement. I consider this a synthetic supplement since it is made by exposing lanolin from sheep's wool to ultraviolet light, but it was something I had to do since cod liver oil alone wasn't cutting it. I have since observed that many (if not most) people living in NYC are low in vitamin D, including those eating a healthy traditional-foods diet that contains foods high in vitamin D like pastured pork lard and fermented cod liver oil. The lack of exposure to quality sunlight seems to be the main issue since in summer we don't spend much time outside exposing lots of our skin, and for 6 months out of the year we have what is termed a "vitamin D winter" which means we can't synthesize vitamin D in our skin even with sun exposure, due to the latitude at which we live. Pollution contributes to dimming of the sun's rays as well, which makes things still more difficult. I still don't like taking a D3 supplement, but unless I can eventually afford to fly off to sunnier climates every few months to soak up some rays this is going to have to be it -- along with plenty of cod liver oil and lard of course!
7) I continued cooking with my iron skillet to help boost my iron levels.
8) vitamin K supplement -- I used the Jarrow brand supplement that is derived from natto, a traditional fermented soybean dish and the richest known food source of vitamin K. I decided to add this supplement because I planned to skip the vitamin K shot for Weston, which is given to all babies at birth unless you opt out. Eventually we decided to give the vitamin K drops based on the anecdotes my midwife shared with me on her experience with babies who hadn't received vitamin K, or whose parents had chosen the K drops but hadn't continued with the protocol past the first few weeks (you need to give it over the baby's first 12 weeks of life!). She and all the other NYC homebirth midwives had seen babies with hemorrhagic disease (vitamin K prevents this) in their practices -- despite the international statistics that cite much lower incidences of this disease (is it 1 in 10,000? something like this -- a much lower number than Joan and the other local midwives had observed). When she told me about a baby who had needed a brain shunt I decided I really didn't care what I had read about the incidence being so low, and about the ability to boost K content in breastmilk by taking supplements, eating high-K foods, and drinking nettle tea. It seemed the natural vitamin K drops were the way to go. We ordered them along with our home birth kit from Birth With Love. At $31.00 instead of $13.00 for the pre-filled vitamin K syringe, this seems like a lot more to pay for just a little supplement, and I can see why hospitals don't bother carrying the oral drops. However, when you consider all the bad stuff that is in the vitamin K injections, the drops are definitely the way to go!!
9) teas -- nettle tea to boost vitamin K, and Final Countdown Tea from Divine Daughters Herbal, a line of pregnancy-specific herbal products that is created by Karen Rose, master herbalist of Sacred Vibes Apothecary in Flatbush (Brooklyn). [To order, you can call Sacred Vibes or visit their Etsy store]. This is what is written about the tea: "Our 'Final Countdown' Tea was formulated with the 9th month of pregnancy in mind. We included Squawvine which has been used traditionally by North East native Americans to strengthen the uterus for birth. We blended it with supreme uterine tonic red raspberry leaf tea and cramp bark along with wild yam to ease the tension that sometimes comes along with Braxton Hicks contractions in the final weeks of pregnancy to support efforts to rest. 1 cup a day from week 36 onward offers supreme herbal support for your body and its process." (P.S. I also used their Motherwort analgesic herbal tincture postpartum for cramping and loved it!! I only had to resort to Ibuprofen twice when the cramping was very bad. It was also helpful for some terrible headaches I had in the first week, probably from anemia.)
10) bitters -- an herbal tincture that promotes good digestion of fats by prompting the liver to release bile (you can read more in this great article about the role of bitters in promoting digestion). I took about a dropperful of this before each meal. [Have just ordered the Digestive Tonic from Sacred Vibes and am excited to try it! Note: when ordering, it seems the shipping costs about $4.00 less if you order through the Etsy store -- I wish I had known this.]
11) probiotics -- I continued taking my 2 daily capsules of BioKult, which I've taken since starting the GAPS diet early in 2010 (Note: when starting any probiotic, you should always begin with a very small amount of the powder, released from the capsule, and increase gradually to a therapeutic dose to avoid "die-off," which is detox symptoms from pathogenic microorganisms dying off in the digestive tract.)
12) EPO (evening primrose oil) & EPO suppository -- begun at Jessi's (my doula) suggestion towards the end of pregnancy to support the production of healthy prostaglandins. Jessi also recommended that I insert an EPO gelcap vaginally every night to help my cervix get "ready."
13) yogurt application & probiotic suppository -- will write about this in a subsequent post!