Monday, September 26, 2016

The Undeniable Importance of Prenatal Nutrition

I regularly hear of doctors telling pregnant women the full extent of their knowledge about prenatal nutrition, and it pretty much amounts to this: “All you need to do is take your prenatal vitamin every day and that should give you everything you need for your pregnancy.”

Come, now. Think about that. A pregnant woman is making a human. Day by day, the baby’s cells are dividing, he is growing, and he needs a lot of complex nutrition in the process. The pregnant woman’s physiology quite literally changes to produce a placenta, create more blood flow, feed and grow a baby and continue to nourish itself in the process.

Does it even make sense to think that you can get everything you need to accomplish and support all of those complicated systems... in just one pill a day? Of course not!

The leading authority on pregnancy nutrition is a man named Dr Brewer and he is an OB. The diet he formulated and recommends for pregnancy is aptly named “The Brewer Diet” and many holistic pregnancy care providers recommend it. He designed the diet after spending countless hours researching pregnancy nutrition data that dated all the way back to the 1920’s. His success is unmatched. He has successfully used nutrition to treat and prevent a number of conditions in pregnancy, many known to be quite dangerous. He has treated high blood pressure, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and intra-uterine growth restriction (IUGR), just to name a few.

To sum it up, the Brewer diet largely revolves around consuming large amounts of protein (120 gram a  day). It advises unrestricted weight gain, unrestricted salt intake, and plenty of calories.

It makes sense that pregnancy requires a lot of protein. Protein contains what is essentially the building blocks of life. Human organs require protein and amino acids for optimal function. Eggs are a favorite on the Brewer diet because women can get both protein and albumin out of one meal. Albumin is essential for liver support and kidney function in pregnancy, and it is found in egg whites.

To fully understand the important role that salt takes in pregnancy, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the physiological changes that take place. It all comes down to supporting the increasing blood volume. It’s complicated, but follow me.

First, the kidneys work to increase the blood volume (by about 40%-50%). They do this by reabsorbing both water and salt. The kidneys then return the reabsorbed fluid and salt to the circulation. The kidneys can only perform this function if they have adequate salt, albumin, and water. The combination of water, salt, and albumin helps facilitate the healthy blood volume increase that is needed to support the pregnancy and prepare the body for birth. So if you’re craving salt, it’s likely that your body really needs it. Brewer recommends women salt their food to taste, and says pregnant women cannot get too much salt.

In addition, more and more research is surfacing all the time about the role that various vitamins and minerals play in pregnancy. For instance, Vitamin C has been found to strengthen the integrity of the amniotic sac. Vitamin D has been found to support many various systems during pregnancy. It can also prevent premature birth, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Omega-3 fats are important for the baby’s brain development, as well as the B vitamins.

I’m not telling you not to take a prenatal vitamin - please don’t misunderstand me. There will certainly be some benefit to your taking it. You cannot, however, expect to sustain a healthy pregnancy on just one pill a day - or two or three for that matter! A pregnant woman’s body needs plenty of vitamins and minerals, quality protein, whole foods (preferably organic when possible), and healthy fats.

Be intentional about what you’re feeding your body. Because the health of two lives depends on it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Safe and Healthy Babywearing

More and more parents today are utilizing baby carriers to wear their babies in the first several months and years of their child’s life. There are many benefits to babywearing including bonding, healthier social development, calmer babies, physical development, and others. Anyone who has had a baby knows that babies desire most of all to be physically close to their caregivers.  

Back in 2010, the news was all astir for several weeks with reports of unsafe baby carriers killing babies. Parents, doctors, and well meaning strangers were advising mothers not to put their babies in any sort of carrier for fear that they would surely die. All the hype came as a result of the deaths of babies who were being worn in one type of carrier. It was legitimately unsafe.

However, just because that one was unsafe, that does not mean all baby carriers are unsafe. Think about it: how can a tradition that has been practiced all over the world for thousands of years suddenly be causing deaths of infants? Furthermore, there are dozens of types and even more dozens of brands of baby carriers on the market - and in the world! They can’t all be unsafe can they?

The one carrier that was the cause of death for these infants was terribly unsafe. How do we know? Well, here are some basic rules about safely wearing your baby. We will compare them to the carrier that was recalled for infant deaths.. Taken from the T.I.C.K.S. guide for safe babywearing pdf.

  • The baby should be tight against your body. A carrier should never sag or sway.
  • Your baby should be in view at all times. You should be able to see them.
  • Baby should be close enough to kiss, meaning that their head is close to yours.
  • Of course, baby’s back and neck must be supported at all times.
  • Finally, baby should be facing you.

Now let’s examine the carrier that was recalled.

It was a “bag” carrier” which sounds just like it implies. It hung the baby at the parent’s waist. Baby was tucked in the carrier which closed at the top, so the parent could not see the baby. Obviously when hanging in a bag the baby is not against their parent’s body and they are not facing the parent. When hanging in a bag, baby’s back was not supported, the baby’s chin fell to their chests, and this cut off their air supply.  

In addition, babies should never be worn in carriers that are styled similar to the baby bjorn. They are known as "crotch carriers" because baby hangs basically from their crotch. Not only do they look terribly uncomfortable for baby, they are arguably as uncomfortable for the parent wearing them! (And most parents with Bjorn experience will tell you as much!) The straps on the parent cross on the upper shoulders putting the entire weight of the baby on a parent’s shoulders. This quickly puts a strain on the lower back, making parents want to take baby off as quickly as possible.

When you look at your newborn baby, you’ll notice that their legs naturally come to what looks like a "froggy" position. Their knees come up to their chest and they are generally open wide. This is not simply a learned reaction, a reflex, or a habit from the womb. This position has an important job: it helps develop the hips.

When a baby's legs hang straight down, like they do in a baby Bjorn type of carrier, they come out of the hip socket. That means that any carrier that you use for your baby should keep baby's legs in that "froggy" style position. Furthermore, a safe baby carrier should be one that supports your back while it supports the baby’s back.

This is a lot of criteria! So what baby carriers are safe and recommended? We will talk about that in the next post.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Probiotics: What They Are For And Why We All Need Them

The term “probiotic” is starting to become familiar to most people these days. Mainstream over the counter pharmaceutical products are heavily advertising the digestive benefits provided by the probiotics they produce. Very few times these days are advertisers telling the whole truth. But in this instance, you would do well to listen to their message about the benefits of probiotics.

Probiotics are one of the most beneficial supplements you can give to your body, and the benefits expand beyond just the digestive support they provide. So what are they? In short, probiotics are bacteria - but not the germ kind. They are beneficial bacteria that keep the entire gut operating in a state of homeostasis and optimal functioning.

Science reveals more and more to us every day about the human body. We now know that the gut makes up nearly 80% of the immune system. That’s right - that means that your digestive system largely controls the state of your health. Doesn’t it stand to reason, then, that if you want to be healthy, you should start by doing your best to make your gut healthy?

Sure it does. So what does the gut need to be healthy?

That is not a simple answer, because the many functions, hormones, chemicals, blood cells, and other mechanisms at work in the gut work symbiotically and it is a very complex system. To function at its peak, it needs support in several ways. The gut needs to be hydrated, periods of occasional fasting, exercise to keep things moving, quality nutrients, low sugar processing, and it needs the right balance of bacteria.

Probiotics help with that last part. Without the proper bacterial balance, the digestive system does not function at its peak. Most people today have taken antibiotics at least once or twice in their life. This is important to note because antibiotics strip the body of all bacteria - the good and the bad. The body can’t always fully restore all of the necessary bacteria that gets lost in that process.

Antibiotics can absolutely be life-saving, but they are not risk free. Furthermore, they leave your body in a somewhat compromised state without all the beneficial bacteria it needs to function. It’s important to restore your body to health after taking them. Giving the body back the bacteria it needs to be in balance helps keep it functioning for optimal health.

Not all probiotics are created equally, however, and it’s important to take a good one if your body needs it. You can buy a probiotic at any big box retailer, but it may not have as much gut support as your body needs. Try to find one in the refrigerated vitamin section of a health food store. A good probiotic is not going to be cheap, but it will be worth it. It’s hard to say how much each person needs to take because each person’s needs are unique to them. Some may need more than others.

Taking care of your immune health requires many things. Health does not come from a pill in any form. However, sometimes when the body can be supplemented with some much needed nutrition, it can function properly. Ultimately, this is the definition of health.

Harvest Time
As the days gradually turn cooler and the leaves begin to suggest the coming shades of red, yellow, and orange, the anticipation of fall settles in. Summer is over, and fall has arrived. With the arrival of fall comes harvest time. And what a beautiful season it is.
All of the nearby farms, orchards, and pumpkin patches are starting to gear up for their busy season. Fruit is ripe and ready for enjoyment. Apple orchards are a family event right now. Farmers markets are in full swing, abundant with their harvests. Pumpkins are ready for all of the fun ways to enjoy them.
I love this time of year. It is the season of abundance, of blessing, and of anticipation. It reminds us that time is predictably marching on in spite of us, and that nature continues to promise a reward for hard work.
And it got me thinking… our health very similar in that respect. Our bodies exist on a physical plane, and when we “sow the seeds of health”, we will reap a “harvest of health.”
If you do the work, you get a reward.
If you eat right, your body will be nourished, and you will reap the reward of energy and proper body functions.
If you get enough sleep, you reap the reward of being rested and energized.
If you get adjusted, you’ll be properly aligned with boosted immune function.
If you get enough Vitamin D, you’ll avoid all manner of diseases.
If you exercise, you’ll reap the reward of bodily balance and strength.
Furthermore, you simply cannot sow poor seeds and gain an opposing harvest from it. When a farmer plants corn, he gets corn. He doesn’t plant corn and expect radishes to grow. Similarly, we cannot “plant seeds” of sickness into our body and expect health. Bodies exist on a physical, natural plane and we can choose to work with the design of our bodies, or against it.
Your choice is your seed. It's as simple as a choice. Which one do you choose?
So enjoy your autumn. Go visit that apple orchard, and while you're there, eat several of them. You’ll reap the harvest of the season, as well as the harvest of health.
Happy Fall!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Emotional Bodies

It’s no surprise anymore that stress wreaks havoc on our health. Even allopathic, mainstream doctors are well aware of the effect that it has. We know that it can affect the immune system, blood sugar levels, melatonin levels, blood pressure, and cause hormone imbalance. Many people who are stressed have sore necks and backs and many times they will have chest pains even when their hearts are checked and declared perfectly healthy. What is this phenomenon?

In this example we’ve used the emotion of stress and it is just that - an emotion. It comes from our thoughts. Stressful thoughts react with our body’s physiology and the way it functions.

This is a perfect example of how the mind, spirit, and body are inextricably linked. You can give your body all of the nutrients it needs to function, but if you are a psychological wreck, your body is still going to suffer, even if medical diagnostic testing can’t find anything wrong with your body.

Scientists are learning more and more every day about how our bodies deal with our emotions. Many are suggesting - and finding - that we actually store our emotions in various parts of our bodies. Some feel that this is quackery science, but the evidence is awfully persuasive. It’s not necessarily quackery - it’s just new and different to some, and different can be scary. Nonetheless, it’s quite compelling and worth further investigation.

A study published in 2013 by Finnish researchers revealed very interesting things about the way emotions work in the body. They studied participants across cultures, races, ages, and languages. Their job was to say where they felt certain emotions in their body. They came up with consistent results regardless of the vast differences in the populations. The findings suggest that found that the participants felt similar emotions in the same parts of their bodies.

Think about it:
  • When you feel saddened, you instinctively tense up your jaw in preparation to cry.
  • When you feel stressed, you may feel a tightening in your neck and back.
  • Fear can cause you to feel warm all over.
  • A person who has a lot of anger has oftentimes rightfully earned the name “hot head” - because we feel anger in our heads and necks.
  • We know that oxytocin is released when we feel love or connection to those around us.
  • Though still not well understood, some yoga instructors report that people in their classes can have an emotional breakthrough and release after a hip opening session. They suggest that the hips are a place where we hold a lot of emotion.

There are some holistic health providers that call the body the “storehouse of the subconscious mind.” What an interesting concept. More research, similar to that of the Finnish study, is surfacing that is confirming their findings.

The question is: if we store these emotions in our bodies, what effect do they have in the short and long term? We don’t fully understand these questions yet, but we obviously continue to learn more and more about ourselves and the world around us all the time.