Congratulations! You are pregnant!
And how fabulous that you are reaching out on how to maximize your nutrition and lifestyle for this so very important period of your baby’s development.
The foods that you eat indeed provide the essential nutrients that you need to support the life of your little one to be, to support all it needs to grow to optimal health.
A nutritious, well-balanced diet in combination with the right lifestyle and environmental factors can be one of the greatest gifts to your developing baby.
Ideally, you have prepared your body and mind before falling pregnant (please reach out if that is the case for tailored modifications). However, regardless of whether you have prepared or not, there are certain things that you can do to optimize the health of your baby. There are certain things that apply to all stages of the pregnancy, and a few additions that are more important in certain trimesters than the others. We will dive into all of these below.
There are 5 major tweaks for optimal pregnancy support
- Hormone Balance
- Gut Health
- Nutrients for optimal development of all organs and tissues
- Environment & Stress Reduction
- Herbs & Supplements for Optimal Pregnancy Support
1. Hormone Balance
In the first trimester, for the egg to grow and pregnancy to be sustained, the intrinsic balance of our hormones is very important. Of special importance are our ‘sex hormones’, especially progesterone and estrogen, our thyroid hormones, stress hormones, and blood sugar regulating hormones.
Often times in our modern society, we are in a state called ‘estrogen dominance’, where we have more estrogen in relation to progesterone than is good for our intricate female masterworks.
Progesterone is the master fertility and pregnancy hormone, and especially during the first trimester, is very important for sustaining pregnancy and stimulating optimal growth of the baby.
Especially if you had PMS, PCOS, Endometriosis, irritability, anxiety, cysts, heavy breasts or difficulty falling pregnant prior to this pregnancy, you may well have estrogen dominance, and want to make sure to pay attention to the below steps to optimize your hormones throughout the first trimester.
Reasons for estrogen dominance can be overabundance of synthetic estrogens in your environment (see below for specifications on where these can be found), an overburdened liver from too much alcohol, sugar consumption, gut problems such as candida, constipation, and excessive stress.
Here are easy steps to balance your female sex hormones, normalize your cycle, and support your back:
- Rid your life from estrogen mimicking compounds
- Detox your liver
- Reduce sugars in your diet and balance your blood sugar levels
- Add in good fats and plenty of vegetables to give your hormones the signal that you are not in ‘starvation’ but in the land of plenty, which increases progesterone production
- De-stress your life
- Add in herbs to support healthy progesterone during your first trimester (see below)
Rid your life from estrogen-mimicking compounds
Unfortunately we live in a world full of something called ‘xenobiotics’- compounds that mimick the action of estrogen in our body. These include
- Plastics (also the BPA free version!) in water bottles, your microwave container, your plastic smoothie maker, your synthetic fiber activewear. Go for glass, stainless steal and silicone where possible.
- Cosmetics – Yes your favourite shampoo, lip gloss, deodorant and skin cream all most likely have compounds that tip your body over the edge. Go for natural, organic, paraben free options where possible.
- Househould products – Dishwashing detergent, Washing powder, Cleaning products – they all have estrogen mimicking compounds, unless you go for the natural, organic or DYO version of it.
These substances not only mess with your own hormones, but also with the growth of your future baby.
Luckily there are a ton of great natural options out there by now, like crystal deodorants, sophisticated organic skin- & haircare, and nice looking glass bottles. Or you can go ‘all natural’ with simple items like coconut oil, macadamia oil or shea butter as skin and hair care.
Support your liver and anti-oxidant capacity
Now that you have minimized your intake of ‘estrogen mimickers’ (see substances above), the next step is to keep expelling the toxins that you come across regardless in daily life. That is, help our detox organs. Our liver is the most important one here, as it turns all the substances into molecules that can be transported out. Next step is the actual transport out- via stool, sweat and lungs.
Ideally you would have done a detox programme before the pregnancy, to clear out stored toxins. If you haven’t, now is NOT the time to force detoxification. You do not want stored toxins to free up and circulate in your blood. Just make sure to gently support daily detoxification of the ones you encounter each day. Enough fiber in your diet to soak up the toxins and remove them via your stool, exercising and sweating (saunas are great too) for removal via skin and lungs are great and gentle ways to support this.
Implement following to help your liver do its job on a daily basis:
- 1-2 servings of cruciferous vegetables daily. – Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onion, garlic, kale, radish, etc. – Make sure to lightly steam or cook, don’t eat raw.
- Eat beets 2-3x/week. Raw or cooked
- Add Whey Protein Powder unless dairy intolerant as it helps your body’s master antioxidant glutathione to get rid of toxins
- Add the juice of ½ lemon into a glass of water daily to increase bile production
- Limit fruit to 1-2 piece per day with meals and eliminate processed sugars as they harm your liver and blood sugar
- Adequate fiber (LOTS of vegetables) in diet to support elimination
Another very important part for you future baby’s health is a well functioning thyroid. Thyroid hormones are important to sustain pregnancy, and to aid adequate development of nervous tissues. Low thyroid functioning has been linked to difficulty conceiving, premature birth and developmental conditions. Make sure to avoid substances that harm the thyroid, and instead focus on upregulated thyroid support (see box below).
2. Gut health
Research has shown over and over that the health of the mother’s gut flora influences the development of the baby, and its future immune system function, and even future stress resilience.
Make sure to avoid taking antibiotics, sugar that would feed candida, and add in gut flora supporting probiotics, fermented foods, prebiotics, plenty of fiber rich vegetables, and organic butter. You also want to make sure to add in bile supporting lemon juice on a daily basis.
If you have digestive issues such as gas, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, please let me know.
3. Fuel yourself and your future baby with all the right nutrients
Our typical Western diet fuels inflammation, blood sugar and gut flora imbalances, which create hormonal imbalances in your body and in that of your future baby. Try shifting towards a more whole foods, gut healing and low sugar diet for optimal health and growth.
A rough rule here is to eat plenty of vegetables, plenty of good fats, moderate amounts of protein, and small amounts of starch and fruit.
Our babies need plenty of nutrients, but especially
This will not only reduce your blood sugar spikes and consequent cravings, but also give your baby’s bodies all the right building blocks it needs.
Good fats for healthy brain and cell membrane development are:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Brazil and Macadamia Nuts
- Organic butter
- Organic fullfat hard cheese
- Organic farmed fish (unfortunately wild caught might be polluted with plastics these days L).
Reduce sugars to:
- 1-2 piece of low sugar fruit/day such as not quite ripe banana, green apple, berries
- Starchy carbs such as potato, sweet potato, quinoa, chia, buckwheat (can also be a ‘healthy treat’ such as buckwheat flour – banana – coconut sugar chocolate cake J). Avoid processed foods and gluten other than on a 1x/week cheat day, if even.
If you are craving sweets, try stocking up on ‘healthy treats’ (see recipes on website) to avoid binging on damaging synthetic foods. Blueberries, other berries, grapes, olives, cheese, nuts are great cravings quencher.
4. Stress & lifestyle
Stress & Nurture
Our stress hormones and our female sex hormones are made from the same precursor. If we are stressed out, from work, family life or a toxic environment, our body prioritizes the production of the stress hormone over our other hormones, especially Progesterone (the one we want more of to sustain pregnancy!). Stress also lowers our good gut bacteria with above mentioned effects. Good gut health is very important for the baby’s immune system and stress resilience development (yes, the gut bacteria have an impact on our mental state and coping mechanisms!) It is therefore really important to reduce stress in your life, and to create a positive, loving and nurturing environment.
Being stressed out during the pregnancy has been shown to have similar effects on the unborn baby as nutrient deficiencies – it signals the baby ‘fight or flight’- that the world it is getting born into is ‘not save’. It therefore overdevelops its stress response and body fat storing capacity, and upregulates the genes that are responsible for these. This is also called epigenetic change, which means our environment can change how our genes are expressed. Stress during pregnancy can turn on the wrong kind of genes, and turn off the happy bliss go lucky kind of genes in the future baby. Luckily you can counter that, by upping your nutrients and loving nurture anytime during the pregnancy.
Find something that you love doing and that helps you relax, and do it often! That can be yoga, meditation, deep breathing, watching a movie or hanging with your loved ones.
Make sure to create a supportive, nurturing environment, where you feel completely accepted and supported. If external circumstances are less than optimal, create that kind of environment internally for yourself by practicing loving kindness meditation and gratitude visualizations.
If family and friends are far away or having busy lifes, joining a pregnancy preparation group class can help too, so you don’t feel as overwhelmed with the new role. Feeling socially connected has been shown to have immense benefits on our blood sugar, inflammatory and gut health levels.
Sunshine and Nature
Getting enough sunshine for vitamin D is also crucial for our hormonal balance, and proper immune system development of the baby, as is making sure to get into nature. Surrounding yourself with nature and especially greens has been shown in several studies to improve the stress response in the brain, and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. If you are pregnant during winter, do not be scared, simply make sure to up your vitamin D3 supplement intake, and go outside anyways, whenever you can!
Make sure to get adequate sleep – sleepy herbal tea in the evening can help, plus a spoon of raw, organic honey at night. If still having trouble sleeping, try valerian or melatonin pills, they are save to be taken during pregnancy.
Gentle exercise has numerous health benefits, but also aids your babies development by increasing blood flow and oxygen supply. If you haven’t previously exercised, make sure to ease into it under supervision.
Gentle yoga, pilates and mindfulness training can also be great tools to connect with yourself, the new human being created within, and prepare for a smoother delivery.
5. Herbs & supplements for optimal pregnancy support
- Herb: Chaste Tree – a strong hormonal balancer and support for a healthy, painfree cycle (also called Vitex Agnus) –
- 2x 500mg/ day
- To be used during the 1st trimester only to support progesterone production
- B vitamins – especially folate. Avoid folic acid, make sure it has the active form (methyl folate) in it.
- Krill Oil
- Vitamin D3
- Cod Liver Oil by Rosita
- Bone broth or collagen powder from grass-fed animals
- If indicated by your doctor, additional iron, zinc
- Magnesium supplement at night for better sleep, stress relief and overall health
Please note that it is always best to ingest your nutrients from whole foods. There are many unknown little substances in natural products that we are yet to discover, that support their intrinsic healing and nourishing capacities. However, as our soils are not as nutrient rich anymore as they used to be, we may not be getting enough from diet alone, especially as nutrient requirements are upped during pregnancy. Choose the most natural source of supplement as possible, as it will be much more effective in your body than synthetic, processed versions.
Depending on your diet preferences, lifestyle and environment, some may be more important for you than others, and some may have to be added (for example if you are vegan).
If you would like help with where you are standing on the scale of your sex & thyroid hormone status, or need help implementing to specifically suit your needs and lifestyle, please email. I am looking forward to helping you on your journey to a healthier and happier baby! xxx