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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Food Rules book review

I just have to mention this awesome book that I just read that I am reading for next month's book club. Food Rules by Michael Pollan. It can be seen here on

It is great, and seriously only takes 30-60 minutes to read. It basically sums up a lot of what I tell my clients about developing a healthy relationship with food, what to watch out for, and basically just common sense about food/dieting.

I also highly recommend two other books Pollan has written: In Defense of Food and Omnivore's Dilemma which have both changed my understanding of food and my relationship to eating forever (in a good way!). But those books are a lot more detailed and dense. If you aren't a reader--see the movie Food, Inc. and it covers a lot of the material as well.

So if you want to start easy/common sense of just the basics of how/what to eat--read Food Rules. Then if you need some more explanation, go to In Defense of Food. And if you become consumed like I did--then read Omnivore's Dilemma.

In health and wellness,

Feeling swell? Or just swollen?

Got cankles? Mine haven't started yet, but I had them when I was pregnant the first time with Sam and I remember them vividly. I have recently needed to remove my rings too, which I know is a sign of things to come.

Interesting to note, that swelling in the hands, feet, and face (called edema) is a normal part of late pregnancy because of the additional blood and fluid in the body. ALSO, the body retains water in order to "soften the body" in order to loosen up the joints to allow for safe passage during labor/delivery. That is pretty comforting to me, knowing that the body has a purpose and plan for all that fluid! AND, it accounts for 25% of weight gain for women during pregnancy. So suffice to say, once you have the baby, you will stop retaining all that water and your weight goes down significantly.

So what can we do in the meantime to help you lessen the effects of the swelling and keep it to a minimum?
  • Drink a lot of water to help flush out the fluids! I know it is painful for frequent trips to the ladies room, but it really does help!
  • When you are sitting, put your feet up. And don't cross your legs--it affects circulation!
  • Avoid prolonged sitting and standing (take breaks).
  • Exercise by walking or swimming throughout the day.
  • Avoid too much salt (limit going out to eat or highly processed foods that have a lot of salt). Salt to taste in your own food. No need to avoid it all together.
  • Eat more potassium. Potato skins, sweet potatoes, dried fruit, nuts, grapefruits and citrus (if heartburn not an issue), and bananas (if constipation isn't an issue). This also helps with leg cramps if you have been suffering those as well!
  • Avoid caffeine or other dehydrating beverages.
  • Avoid "long days" of activity. Especially in the warm weather and sun! Take breaks with legs up and drink plenty of fluids!
  • Avoid using tight elastics around ankles and wrists.
  • If it is really bad, try support stockings.
  • Use cold compresses on swollen areas.
If your swelling is really bad, talk to your doctor or midwife. They will also be looking at your blood pressure. If the swelling is really bad and your blood pressure is sky-rocketing, it can be a sign of preeclampsia, which is serious.

I hope this helps ladies. At the end of the pregnancy, all of these minor inconveniences will be part of your distant memory!

In health and wellness,

Monday, March 22, 2010

Feeling the burn (heartburn that is)!

So, I am 36 weeks, which I am calling the "beginning of the end". Basically it is when all of those interesting side effects of pregnancy start becoming worse if they haven't already. Like, thought you had a backache before? Ha, it becomes a whole new ball game in the last few weeks.

So one of the latest side effects that has descended upon me in the last week is heartburn! I consider myself lucky because many women have it way worse than I do, and have it set in a lot earlier, but it is unpleasant none-the-less. So I did a little reading on the subject and thought I would share some tips that I found:
  • Eat multiple small meals per day (5 or 6) instead of 3 bigger ones. When your stomach becomes empty, acid starts building and making the heartburn worse. If it starts and you are due to eat dinner in a bit, having a couple of saltines or oyster crackers can help to neutralize it until you sit down to eat.
  • Don't overeat and stuff yourself. Basically the little doorway to your esophagus isn't working the way it used to, so give it a little room.
  • Watch your intake of citrus, tomatoes, caffeine, chocolate, garlic, onions, acidic and spicy foods and see if you feel better on days where you limit those items. Try re-introducing them to see if they are triggers for you.
  • Avoid greasy and fatty foods.
  • Eat slower and chew thoroughly. Inhaling your food will make it worse. If you chew more, your stomach won't need as much acid to break down the food. Also, when you eat slower your body will send a signal that you are full before you over-stuff yourself.
  • Keep yourself hydrated. But do not fill up on water during meals. Try drinking more between meals. When you drink during meals it can fill your belly too much so you feel stuffed.
  • I have read that a glass of milk or a bit of yogurt after meals helps with short term relief.
  • Do not lay down right after meals. Let yourself digest a bit by walking around and moving. Propping yourself up a pillow or two may help (not just your head because that can hurt your neck).
  • Do not eat right before bed. Give yourself a couple of hours to digest.
  • Be careful not to pop too many antacids--and talk to your health care provider about which ones are safe. Some can interfere with uterine contractions because they contain too much magnesium later in pregnancy.
Another interesting side note about heartburn is about the correlation between newborn hair and heartburn severity. I thought it was probably an old wive's tale joke that I saw on my friend's Facebook page. But then my mom mentioned it. She said it is true, and that she had a lot of heartburn with me (I had a lot of hair) and none with my little sister (bald as can be).

So I looked it up, and HA there have been studies that DO link the two seemingly unrelated events! I was kind of blown away. But here is a link to the study I saw: . Apparently there is a relationship to the two. The explanation from this study states "We propose a shared biologic mechanism involving a dual role of pregnancy hormones in both the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and the modulation of fetal hair growth".

Well look at that, I learned something new in the little exercise and I hope you did too. In case you are interested--I had very little heartburn with Sam. He had a little bit of hair (more like fuzz) and it was gone very quickly. Sam was bald thereafter well past his first birthday. His first birthday pictures show a happy little bald kid. This baby is giving me more heartburn than Sam did, so I will see if this one has more hair!

In health and wellness,


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tea time?

Something I have missed during my pregnancy is a hot cup of tea. Especially because I am no longer a coffee drinker, I miss the warm feeling of settling in with a hot mug and feeling the warmth flow down my throat and into my belly.
Now, I haven't stopped drinking tea because it's necessarily "bad for you". I mainly stopped for the following reasons:
  1. During my first pregnancy and in my first trimester of this pregnancy it caused me to become nauseous and toss my cookies more than once. I took it as a sign that my body wanted nothing to do with it.
  2. I do not like the idea of taking in too much caffeine. Caffeine does cross the placenta, your baby cannot metabolize it, and there are no conclusive studies to tell us how much is "safe" for the baby. I limit my caffeine intake to chocolate.
  3. Many herbal teas (especially in tea shops or loose teas) have a mix of all different kinds of herbs, some of which are not recommended when nursing or pregnant. Since I feel uncomfortable with my limited knowledge of herbs to know which herbal teas are okay/not okay to have during pregnancy, I have been skipping it.

One type of tea, however, has peaked my interest because of it's claims of healthfulness in pregnancy: Red Raspberry leaf. So I decided to do a bit of research and see what I could find. Here is the general gyst of what I found:

  • The consensus is that Red Raspberry tea can be used as a "uterine tonic" and that it stimulates the uterus to contract and tone itself to prepare for labor/birth.
  • However, there is controversy as to when to begin drinking it. Many believe drinking it too soon (1st trimester) can cause miscarriage, while others believe toning the uterus earlier will help to have an easier labor/birth from a stronger uterus.
  • The conservative approach is to start drinking it later in the pregnancy (some say 3rd trimester and some say when you reach 36 weeks).
  • Be careful of other herbs found mixed in with the red raspberry leaf teas, as they can be unsafe for baby.

One day in Whole Foods, I saw the Yogi brand "Mother to Be" tea and I inquired with my midwife (since it contains red raspberry leaf tea). While the package doesn't mention the controversy, my midwife advised that I wait until later in my pregnancy to take it. Upon further investigation, I found that some of the herbs are listed as "unsafe for pregnancy" like stinging nettles, is actually found in the Mother to Be tea. So you really do need to be careful with these herbal teas, even the ones that are marketed towards expectant mothers!

So, if you do decide to start drinking herbal teas. I do recommend that you talk to your health care provider about it, let them know what you are drinking/how much/etc, and make sure you are doing the best for your body and situation. Resources for herbal teas and safety during pregnancy:

Unfortunately the lack of tea will not stop when the baby is born. There are herbal teas that affect your baby when nursing (e.g. feverfew can increase baby's heart rate, goldenseal can be toxic) and some that can affect your milk supply (mint, sage, parsley can lower your milk supply). Seems scary to me, so I just leave them on the shelf. So just BE CAREFUL at tea time and maybe opt for some hot water with lemon.

In health and wellness,