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Diet & Pregnancy

In general women are wise to regard their diet as an essential part of promoting a healthy pregnancy. Those with allergy to particular foods should obviously continue to avoid such foods.

Eat at least 3 meals per day. If feeling nauseous, 5-6 small meals will help keep energy levels up and reduce the nausea. If the nausea persists consult your acupuncturist, make sure you inform them you are pregnant. If the ‘morning sickness’ is excessive consult your GP or Obstetrician as in severe cases rehydration may be required in hospital.

Organic Foods:

Reduced pesticide levels and non-genetically engineered origins provide optimal quality and higher nutritional value according to recent research.

Pollution avoidance:

A range of chemicals are used in the home – plastic food wrapping, cleaning materials, flame retardants, paints, etc. – and in industrial settings have been implicated in possible damage to the foetus. It is not possible to avoid these entirely, some avoidance can be undertaken.

Fish consumption:

Methyl mercury, a by-product of mercury, accumulates in fish. Research has identified mercury levels to be higher in women regularly consuming fish. A safe level of consumption is 12oz of cooked fish per week, as fish is an important element in a balanced diet during pregnancy. Research suggests consumption of fish during pregnancy reduces the incidence of intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight. Fish are the richest source of Omega 3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are essential for brain and eye development

Fibre:

A high fibre diet will help ease the discomfort of constipation and haemorrhoids – wholewheat / wholegrain cereals (porridge, weetabix, etc), wholegrain bread, pasta, and brown rice. Fruit and veg are also excellent – rhubarb, prunes, apple, etc. Drink at least 1 litre of room temp. water per day also.

Recommended Nutrients

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Vit A:

Essential for foetal growth and the development and maintenance of the eyes, soft tissue, mucous membranes and skin. Take in moderation, esp 1st trimester. Good sources:
  • Green & yellow veg – broccoli, carrots, spinach & pumpkin
  • Apples, apricots, avocado, mangoes.
  • Butter, egg, yolk, cheese.
  • Fish oils.
  • Vitamin A is depleted by alcohol, coffee, cortisone and excess iron.

B complex vitamins:

Work together in specific ways, so if taken, should be in a complex with other B vitamins. Sources:
  • Wholegrain cereals
  • Green leafy veg.
  • Bananas, papaya, prunes.
  • Légumes
  • Egg yolk
  • Brewer’s yeast, molasses, wheat germ.
  • Vitamin B is depleted by stress, refined foods, overcooked foods, alcohol and antibiotics.

Folic Acid:

Requirement is increased during pregnancy. Where possible, folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements should be taken for at least three months before becoming pregnant and in the first three months of pregnancy. Studies have linked this to prevention of neural tube defect such as spina bifida. The recommended daily intake during pregnancy is 0.8mg.
Good sources:
  • Any leafy green veg.
  • Steamed broccoli, brussel sprouts, asparagus, parsnip.
  • Avocado.
  • Fresh orange juice.
  • Cooked lentils, black eyed peas, chickpeas, kidney beans, split peas, soybeans, pinto beans.
  • Fresh raw wheat germ, brewer’s yeast, spirulina.

Vit C:

Required for iron absorption, and can only be properly utilised with adequate amounts of calcium, magnesium & bioflavonoids (found in fruit & veg) in the diet.
Sources:
  • Avocado, broccoli, green & red peppers, green leafy veg., parsley, potatoes, tomatoes.
  • Apples, blackcurrants, orange & yellow fruit, papaya, pears, raspberries, strawberries, rosehips.
  • Vit C is depleted by stress, antibiotics, aspirin, tobacco, and storage time. Thus supermarket orange juice or blackcurrant juice on the shelf for several days will not have high Vit C content, o matter what the label says.

Daily requirement of Vit C can be had during pregnancy by eating any of the following:
  • One grapefruit (If on other medication, check with pharmacy for possible interaction effect)
  • Two oranges
  • Half rockmelon
  • One cup strawberries
  • Three quarters cup blackberries or raspberries
  • Three large tomatoes
  • One cup grapefruit or orange juice
  • Two cups tomato juice
  • One capsicum
  • Two cups cooked broccoli
  • Six cups cooked spinach

Vit D:

Enhances the absorption of calcium and phosphorus form the intestine and promotes their deposition into bone. Found in food sources and synthesised in the skin in the presence of sunlight.
Sources:
  • Fresh raw wheat germ
  • Egg yolk
  • Liver
  • Cod-liver oil, salmon, sardines, tuna.

Vit. E:

Important for antioxidant properties, stabilises cell membranes by preventing oxidation of their unsaturated fatty acid components.
Sources:
  • Wholegrain cereals, wheat germ.
  • Green leafy veg, peas, leeks.
  • Avocados, blackberries.
  • Almonds
  • Eggs
  • Butter and vegetable oils. Look for unrefined oils and store in a cool dark place to retain the Vit E.
  • Vit E is depleted by the oral contraceptive pill, rancid fat or oil, and environmental pollution.

Vit F:

Essential fatty acids (Vit F) are an essential part of the body’s cell membranes, involved in the production of prostaglantins.
Sources:
  • Fresh raw wheat germ
  • Sunflower seeds, hempseed, linseed and pumpkin seeds, nuts.
  • Cream, egg yolk.
  • Oily fish – tuna, herring, mackerel and salmon.
  • Butter, cold pressed veg oils, cod liver oil, and evening primrose oil. Oils need to be carefully processed and stored in a cool dark place to prevent vitamin deterioration.
  • Vit F is depleted by X-rays.

Vit K:

Necessary for the formation of prothrombin (clotting factor) in the liver. Found in certain foods, also synthesised by bacteria in the large intestine. Newborn babies are reliant on the mother’s Vit K production as their intestines are initially sterile. For this reason, vit K is often given to the baby at birth. Without adequate Vit K the person is predisposed to haemorrhaging.
Sources:
  • Oatmeal, rye, wheat.
  • Green leafy veg, cauliflower.
  • Acidophilus yoghurt, egg yolk.
  • Vit K is depleted by aspirin and x-rays, antibiotics destroy bacteria responsible for producing Vit K.

Calcium:

(Rec daily intake adult 400-600mg. Pregnant woman 1200-1300mg) Essential for bone and teeth in mother and baby, also assists in nerve transmission, muscle growth and muscle contraction.
Sources:
  • Bread (brown or white) and wheat flour, brown rice, oatmeal, rye crispbread, wheat bran/germ
  • Green leafy veg (esp broccoli & spinach), carrots, celery, onions, parsley, spring onions
  • Apricots, avocado, blackberries, dates, figs, lemons, oranges, paw paw, raisins, rhubarb
  • All fish, esp mackerel, mussels (cooked to prevent listeria), lobsters, oysters, salmon (canned with bones), sardines (canned with bones), scallops (cooked to prevent listeria), whitebait.
  • Seaweed – agar agar, dulse, kelp, kombu, walcame.
  • Nuts – almond, brazil, cashew, hazel, macadamia, pecan, pistachio, walnut, peanut.
  • Seeds – linseed, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower.
  • Herbs – chamomile, dandelion, watercress.
  • Black-eyed beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, soya beans & soya bean products.
  • Eggs
  • Brewer’s yeast, carob powder, molasses.
  • Soups made with bones of fish, fowl or beef and one tablespoon of wine vinegar (makes calcium more digestible).
  • Calcium is depleted by caffeine (inc tea, coffee, and drinks with caffeine on label), carbonated drinks, refined carbohydrates, and lack of weight bearing exercise – jogging, walking, etc.
 
Guide – 150mg calcium found in :
25g cheese or half cup yoghurt One cup steamed broccoli ¼ cup carob powder ½ cup almonds 100g fish ½ can sardines ¾ cup mussels (cooked & eaten hot) 100g tofu 1 bowl muesli ¼ cup dried figs 1 cup cooked rhubarb.
Half cup of cooked green veg
One tablespoon blackstrap molasses 100g nuts 2 eggs 50g seaweed 1 can salmon 1 cup oysters (cooked & eaten hot) ¾ cup soya milk 2 cups baked beans 1 carm tortilla

Iron:

(Rec daily intake during pregnancy 30-50mg) Required for haemoglobin which transports oxygen in blood through the body. In high demand at different times throughout pregnancy, initially as the mother’s blood volume expands, and then as the baby requires it’s own iron reserves.
Sources:
  • All dark leafy greens, asparagus, carrots, parsley, potatoes (cooked in skins), watercress.
  • Dried fruit – apricots, figs.
  • Pumpkin, sesame & sunflower seeds.
  • Aduki beans, blackeyed beans, chickpeas, kidney beans & soya beans.
  • Fish, esp mussels (cooked & eaten hot).
  • Meat, esp red meat & organ meat eg liver.
  • Kelp, seaweed, spirulina.
  • Black strap molasses.
  • Iron is depleted by smoking, tea, coffee, antacids, excessive phosphates (found in preserved meats, soft drinks and ice cream).
Certain nutrients are required to assimilate iron efficiently – folic acid, vitamins C, B6, & B12, calcium and copper. Vitamin C is especially important. There also needs to be adequate hydrochloric acid in the stomach.

A meal rich in iron should be eaten with food that will aid adsorbtion rather than foods that will depleat iron reserves.

Vegetarians need to be careful in ensuring their iron needs are met as the iron found in red meat is easier to absorb than that found in plants.
Guide – 10mg iron found in:
¼ cup pumpkin seeds
5mg iron found in: 1 cup cooked spinach 1 cup cooked kidney beans 1 cup whole wheat flour 1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses 100g dried apricots.
½ cup tofu
1 cup cooked chickpeas 1 cup cooked soybeans 100g cooked mussels 1 tablespoon kelp granules
 

Zinc:

Required for cell division and growth, and for a healthy immune sysem.
Sources:
  • All meat & poultry
  • Whole grain cereals, wheat germ.
  • Mushrooms, spinach
  • Sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds
  • Black-eyed beans, soya beans
  • Sea food, esp oysters.
  • Brewer’s yeast
  • Zinc is depleted by alcohol, excess calcium, excess copper, lack of phosphorus, and the oral contraceptive pill.

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Avoid during Pregnancy:

  • Smoking (retards foetal growth & bone density), alcohol, coffee, long travel journeys esp by air.
  • Drugs, unless prescribed by GP who knows you are pregnant. Check with pharmacist.
  • Uncooked meats, poultry or fish, uncooked eggs (used in mayonnaise), unwashed vegetables/fruit Prepared foods that may not have been stored properly – prepared salads, potato, coleslaw and fish salads from supermarkets or delicatessens.
  • Any cheese or dairy product made with unpasteurised milk – listeria is known to survive in such products – cheese, yoghurt, brands of organic milk – check the lable!.
  • Soft cheese – camembert, brie and blue veined cheese, etc.
  • Foods high in saturated fats, sugar and refined carbohydrates have little nutritional value & promote weight gain.
  • Highly processed foods which contain a number of additives used in manufacturing and storage process. Pre-prepared meals and snacks from supermarkets are convenient but very likely contain many additional chemicals. Junk foods and take-aways occasionally may not contribute to ill health but will if taken on a regular basis; and of course there is always the risk of food poisoning.

Harvard School of Public Health found in a study that 65% of women with ‘poor diets’ had babies that were stillborn, premature, functionally immature or had congenital defects. Of the women deemed to have ‘good diets’ 95% had babies in good or excellent health.