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Nutrition and Pregnancy
Nutrition - Preconception and Pregnancy
In Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM) conception is viewed as an important energy (qi) event. They say that the Hereditary energy ( Jing Qi) or kidney essence, is the life force that is merged by the parents at the time of conception. The energies of the parents are combined to create a new being. And that this new being will have the energy equal to the amount that the parents where able to release at the time of conception.
So think about that. The environment of conception, that is location, ambiance, climate, the mood you are both in, the time of day and the most important factor, your vitality. Are you both vital and full of love for one another, feeling energetic and happy, or are you both tired, lacking energy, been drinking alcohol, smoking, stressed?
In TCM they see that the energy that goes into the conception is the energy that person will live on for the rest of their lives. High energy, then a great constitution and high energy and stamina; low energy, then a weaker constitution and more maintenance and support. Considering raising your vitality levels prior to conception (i.e. if its planned!), is the most important action you both can take.
It's worth detoxifying your body system, getting your body fit by exercising, keeping your mind peaceful (meditation, yoga breathing, relaxing music, creative time) eating well, getting plenty of rest (i.e. going to bed by 10pm). From 1am to 3am is in TCM, when the liver begins it's detoxifying processes and so it is most beneficial for you to be relaxed, preferably asleep during this time rather than staring at a TV or computer screen. Even though this activity may seem more passive it's not truly restful.
It is important for all women considering becoming pregnant to stop taking the contraceptive pill at least 6 months prior to becoming pregnant. Being on the contraceptive pill makes your body think that it is pregnant and it depletes the body of vitamin C, Vitamin B1, B2, B6, folic acid and zinc. Most Women who have been on the pill for a long period of time are often deficient in these nutrients. Pregnancy following directly after stopping the pill may have increased risk of malformation or miscarriage. This is nature's way of saying that the body is not fit to carry a full term healthy pregnancy, hence the need for optimal nutrition.
In TCM miscarriage is prevented by strengthening the woman's Kidney Qi energy. This helps the body to hold onto the foetus. If a women has had a number of miscarriage then you can be certain she is very weak in her vital Kidney energy. Miscarriage is treated by the acupuncturist and herbalist by building the vital energy and internal strength with very good results.
Once pregnant, you may also find it easier on your digestive energy to have small meals rather than large ones. Eating small regular meals of varied foods will help you get the best spread of nutrition. Organic foods are preferable wherever possible - they are higher in nutrients and have no pesticide, herbicide, fungicide contamination. Avoid - alcohol - smoking - tea - coffee - refined foods Keep up good exercise - walking, yoga, swimming. Getting 20-30 minutes of sunshine each day will help activate the Vitamin D in your body. Vitamin D is important for calcium absorption and bone growth/repair.
During pregnancy there is an extra requirement for Folic Acid, Iron and Calcium. Besides finding a supplement that is made for pregnancy, there are foods you can add to your diet-
- Folic Acid
is found in- Green leafy vegetables, broccoli, potatoes
is found in- Prunes have some of the highest bio-available amounts of iron plus they also help with constipation; apricots, sardines, tuna
is found in- Quinoa is a grain with higher amounts of calcium per cup than any milk,
Cravings usually indicate a lack of minerals and nutrients - like iron, chromium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K. If you find yourself craving strange things like ice, salt, sugar, ash (cigarettes /match heads) dirt, then you need to get yourself a good multimineral/vitamin complex.
Remember to increase your calorie intake once you are in your 2nd trimester, particularly your protein intake. The rapidly growing baby makes increased demands on the mother's body. Oedema during pregnancy may be caused by a protein deficiency - unsure you have a balanced daily protein intake, eggs, fresh meats (from the butcher - not packaged), fish - like wild salmon, tuna, nuts, seeds.
- oily fish (vit. D)
- olive oil
- a little coconut oil
- Lacto-fermented condiments and beverages
- Home made soups and stews
- Soaked whole grains
- Fresh vegetables and fruits
If you are a vegetarian or eat little meat, AVOID SOY OF ALL FORMS, make sure you remember to blend your meals with the following to get a good cross section of amino acids. - Nuts/Seeds with Grains - Legumes with Grain/Rice - Rice with Nuts/Seeds Having a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in water may help if you find your have indigestion.
Stretch marks can happen when there is rapid weight gain - biochemically research says this is due partly to a lack in Zinc. Beside supplementing with zinc, it is also worth taking Essential Fatty Acids(EFAs) and Vitamin E, and C. These are all an integral part of skin renewal. Topically you can use coconut oil, Vit. E oil or shea butter massaged into your belly and breasts. Laser Acupuncture has also been proven to be safe and very effective for Stretch Marks and Varicose Veins
Varicose veins can be helped by increasing exercise, avoid getting constipated by increasing your vegetable, fruit and wholemeal grain fibre and drinking plenty of filtered water. Silica, zinc, glucosamine, bioflavinoids, also helps with strengthening blood vessel walls. Avoid standing for long periods and elevate your legs when possible. Exercise will help pump the lymphatic fluids throughout your body and help eliminate waste products. Topically some find relief in witch hazel and horsechestnut cream.
Make sure you have a good probiotic product - this will help with constipation, assist your immune system as well as that of your baby.
Probiotics are designed to support healthy growth of good bacteria in the digestive system. This is important particularly if you have had a history of taking antibiotics, been on the oral contraceptive pill, experienced candida overgrowths (thrush) or have been prone to colds and flues.
Morning Sickness can be treated with Acupuncture and peach leaf tea.
Traditionally Raspberry Leaf tea has been used historically as a uterine tonic to ease labour and help prevent nausea. Raspberry leaf tea can be taken before and during pregnancy, as well as for period pain and heavy periods.
Sqaw Vine is a great American Indian Herb used for 3 months before the birth. It has a toning and strengthening effect on the uterus.
AVOID: Trans fatty acids, junk foods, soy-based foods, commercial fried foods, sugar, white flour, soft drinks, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (even prescription drugs).
And Finally have regular acupuncture treatments that are focused on building Kidney energy. This doesn't have to mean needles it can be done with heat on the acupuncture points. If you have any doubts have a talk to your local acupuncturist. But remember in TCM there are many techniques for helping conception, miscarriage, pregnancy and for birthing.
Article by Shauna Kendall