Friday, March 31, 2017

Prenatal Nutrition: Basic Building Blocks for Baby

Whether you are trying to conceive or are currently pregnant, providing your body with the essential nutrients is important for proper fetal development. Most mamas only take a prenatal vitamin and assume it will be enough to create a new life. However, one of leading causes of infertility is maternal nutritional deficiency. Let's dive into the basic building blocks, both dietary and supplemental, that it takes to build a baby.

Macronutrients are the basic building blocks that allow our bodies to generate energy, in the form of calories. The 3 macronurtients are:
  • Fat
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
Diets throughout history have consisted of a balance between these nutrients. Fat made up 50-80%, protein between 10-30%, and carbohydrates between 5-35%. Both history and research suggest that the ideal ratio for fertility and pregnancy is a high fat, moderate protein, and low to moderate carbohydrate diet.

Our bodies require fat for healthy cellular structure and function. Breast milk is a perfect example of how nature gets it right, as it is made up of 55% fat, 38% carbohydrates, and 7% protein. Also, eating fats with vegetables (i.e. olive oil on a salad or steamed veggies) helps your body better absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. These vitamins will support a healthy cell function in mom and growth of baby. Protein is important for muscle creation. However, studies have found that pregnant hunter gather women are mildly adverse to protein intake. This is due to a decrease in the body's ability to make urea, a waste product of protein metabolism. Typically, a pregnant body will crave less protein. If the body require more protein, she will crave more. The prental body needs 10-15% protein, which equates to 50-75 grams (g): 1 egg has 6 g, 1 cup of chicken breast has 43 g, 1 cup of black beans has 39 g.

Major prenatal nutrition goals:
  • Eat real, whole foods
  • Maintain steady blood sugar levels
  • Maintain steady blood pressure levels
  • Incorporate essential nutrients to support developing baby and maintain mom's health
  • Reduce risk of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, over or under weight gains
  • Promote best post-partum recovery
Supplementation is important during pregnancy to provide mom with the essential nutrients to create a new life. Prenatal vitamins are essential, but quality matters. It is recommended to avoid options that are full of filler, artificial ingredients and colors, low doses or missing ingredients. I recommended taking whole food based prenatal vitamin with methylated B vitamins. Methylated B9 (L-5 methylterahydrofolate) and B12 (methylcobalamin) are the active forms of these vitamins and are easier for mom's body to use in developing her baby's nervous system.

Links to a few of my favorite prenatal vitamins:

Beyond a prenatal vitamin there are 3 other essential nutrients for building baby.

Vitamin D3 is a hormone that influences almost every cell in your body, and has been linked to boosting fertility rates in women and men.

Vitamin D benefits:

  • Improves reproductive health
  • Improves sperm quality and count
  • Higher fertilization and implantation rates
  • Lower risk of miscarriages
  • Reduces risk of pre-eclampsia, premature delivery, and pregnancy complications
  • Enhances immune system
  • Decreased risk of infection, asthma, and eczema in baby 

It is recommended to have your vitamin D levels (serum 25(OH)D) checked prior to supplementing.  Optimal vitamin D levels are between 50-100 ng/mL. A minimum of 50 ng/mL is recommended to be hormonally healthy. Maternal levels greater than 65 ng/dL are optimal for transferring vitamin D to infant while breast feeding. The general recommended dosage is 2,000-4,000 IU per day to meet your body's needs; however, higher dosage may be necessary depending on you level.

Fish Oil/Omega 3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA) are important in promoting fertility and development of your baby's brain, eyes, and heart during pregnancy.

Fish oil benefits:

  • Regulate hormones and increase blood flow to the uterus
  • Help normalize menstrual cycle 
  • Promote ovulation
  • Increase white cervical mucus to help the sperm reach the egg
  • Produce healthier sperm
  • Higher rates of conception
  • Lower rates of miscarriage and premature birth
  • Decreases chances of developing postpartum depression
  • EPA is necessary to grow a healthy circulatory system (heart and blood vessels)
  • DHA is important to build a healthy central nervous system (brain and spinal cord)

Sources of fish oil:

  • Dietary: fish, eggs, meat, nuts, seeds, dark greens, and leafy vegetables
  • Supplements: 1,000 - 3,000 mg/day

Probiotics help to establish a healthy microbiome. Microbes (bacteria, viruses, and fungi) colonize our mouth, gut, genitourinary tract, skin, and breastmilk. Supplementing with probiotics (10-20 billion c.f.u/day) will support a healthy immune system and digestion during pregnancy. During vaginal delivery mom gives baby their first dose of microbes. She continues to share and help baby's colonization through skin on skin contact and nursing, which helps the developing immune system and digestion.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Take Care of Your Ticker

February is heart health month, but it's important to keep this subject on our minds year-round. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. You probably know someone who has suffered from heart disease. So let’s learn a bit more about your heart and learn five simple lifestyle tips to reduce your chance of heart disease.

The Basics:
-          The Cardiovascular System: consists of the heart and blood vessels (arteries and veins), as well as the blood that circulates oxygen, nutrients, hormones, and immune factors throughout the body.
-          The Pump: an adult heart pumps 5 quarts of blood per minute, which is 8,000 quarts of blood per day!  
-          Heart Disease: an overarching diagnosis of a variety of health concerns involving the heart and blood vessels including:
o   high cholesterol
o   high blood pressure
o   heart attack
o   stroke
-          How it starts: typically, heart disease begins with cholesterol plaque build-up or increased pressure on the arteries causing them to narrow. Narrowed arteries limit the amount of blood and oxygen allowed to circulate throughout the body, which leads to chest pain, erectile dysfunction, heart attacks or strokes.
-          Why it starts: genetics play a role in heart disease; however, lifestyle and environment factors are highly influential in your risk for heart disease. 

How to slow, prevent, recover from heart disease:

  1. Water: Take your weight in pounds, divide it by 2, drink that many ounces of water a day, repeat every day.  Water helps your body do everything it needs to do, including reduce your blood pressure. Drinking coffee, tea, soda, or juices increase blood pressure in comparison to water, so cut back on the caffeine, drink more H2O.
  2. Plant Based Diet: This diet offers a variety of health benefits including, high fiber, antioxidants, and unsaturated fats. Another benefit, is increasing the alkalinity/decreasing acidity of the blood that decreases the amount of cholesterol the body will lay down to protect the blood vessels. Consuming fats (olive, coconut, avocado, and macadamia nut oil) with vegetables and fruits improves the absorption of important vitamins, such as A, E, D, and K. These vitamins play an important role in heart health.  Can’t imagine a world without meat?  Start with replacing meat with a vegetarian option once a week, then increase from there.  No meat Monday for example.  Need good ideas for vegetarian meals? There are a ton on pinterest.
  3. Not All Saturated Fats Are Bad: 1 tablespoon of coconut oil has equal amounts of saturated fats as an 8 ounce steak. What determines why one is healthier than the other? Coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides or omega-3 fatty acids. Whereas, animal fats are rich in omega-6 and 9 fatty acids. Overall, omega-3 fatty acids are easier to metabolize, anti-inflammatory, and are cholesterol free. 
  4. Exercise: Get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise daily. Most people assume they need to go the gym in order to exercise; however, simply getting active and doing something you enjoy counts. Whether that be jogging, yoga, walking your dog, hiking, or swimming, etc. Exercising will release happy hormones (endorphins), improve blood flow, reduce blood pressure and stress. Sitting is considered to be the new smoking, based on how much time we spend in our cars commuting to and from work and sitting at our desks. Our sedentary lifestyles are increasing our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. 
  5. Human Pet Interactions: Petting and talking to your dog has been linked to overall heart health improvement: reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol, heart rate, and heart attacks. Also, time spent with your dog will help to lower anxiety and release of calming hormones (dopamine and serotonin).  Don’t have a pet but need to find out where to get one?  Start local with the Humane Society of Barron County.