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VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR A VIBRANT AND HEALTHY PREGNANCY PART 3: Supplement Recommendations and Alternatives for Smaller Budgets

In Parts 1 and 2 I discussed how to choose a good quality supplement and three of the most important supplements to take during pregnancy: a prenatal vitamin, fish oils and probiotics.  Here I will discuss my last 2 supplements for pregnancy recommendations and where to focus if money is tight.

Calcium Magnesium

I recommend that pregnant women start taking a liquid CalMag before bed in their 2nd trimester.  The second trimester is when baby’s bones start to develop, and the baby gets first dibs on mom’s nutrients.  This means that if it’s not getting enough calcium and magnesium that these minerals will actually be pulled from mom’s bones in order to supply enough for baby.  Calcium and Magnesium are also necessary for proper contraction and relaxation of muscles, making it a great supplement to help support the work of the uterus.

I recommend a liquid because it is more easily absorbed than a tablet or capsule.  I recommend taking it before bed because it can help with sleep and leg cramps that many women start to experience in their 2nd trimester.  It is common for supplement makers to “cheap out” on calcium supplements by using the cheapest form (calcium carbonate).  Unfortunately, this form isn’t well absorbed by the body.  It is ok for calcium carbonate to be one of the forms found in the supplement, but there should be other forms as well (preferably calcium citrate).

I recommend a professional grade product like Cytomatrix Cal-Mag +1000IU Vit D3 Liquid.  Health store brands like Calcium and Magnesium Citrate by SISU (I like the blueberry flavour) are acceptable.

Vitamin D

It seems as though a new benefit from optimal vitamin D levels is discovered every day!  Vitamin D helps maintain healthy immune function, mood, bone health and more.  Studies have shown that women who take “high” doses of vitamin D during pregnancy reduce their risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, infection and pre term birth.

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin which means that it is best absorbed if it is emulsified (my preference is a liquid vitamin D as opposed to tablet) and taken with a meal that contains fat.  It also means that the body will store excess Vitamin D, so it is important to discuss your dose with your Naturopath, Midwife or GP.  Recent studies are finding that higher doses of Vitamin D are required in order to receive these risk reductions.  I recommend taking a total of 6000IU/day of Vitamin D (check your prenatal vitamin, your fish oil and your calcium magnesium supplements to see if/how much Vitamin D they contain and top up from there).  I also recommend that everyone who lives in Canada (not just pregnant women) have their 25-OH vitamin D levels tested in the early fall to see if they are deficient and to help direct dosing.

My favourite Professional brand is Seroyal D-mulsion (tastes like lemon meringue pie).

 

 

 

What to do if there are financial restrictions affecting what you can purchase?

Vitamins can be expensive, and even when prioritizing your health and following a budget, sometimes they are beyond what we can afford.  In these cases I recommend a strong focus on a healthy whole foods diet with lots of fermented foods like kombucha, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir and plain full fat probiotic yogurt and a few select high quality supplements.  If you can only choose a couple of supplements I suggest a good prenatal vitamin and a high quality fish oil.

The information in this blog does not constitute medical advice.  You should always consult your medical provider before starting a supplement protocol.

VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR A VIBRANT AND HEALTHY PREGNANCY PART 2: Supplement Recommendations

Safe and effective supplement choices in pregnancy are so important so that mom and the growing baby get all the nutrients they need.  In Part 1 of this post I discussed how to choose good quality supplements.  In Part 2 I will now discuss my first few supplement recommendations for a healthy and vibrant pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamin

Prenatal Vitamins provide a well-rounded source of vitamins and minerals.   I recommend choosing a prenatal with the active form of vitamins.  A great example of this is folic acid.  Folate, or 5-methyl folate (5MTHF) is the active form of folic acid.  It is important to have this form because a significant portion of the population have a genetic mutation of the MTHFR gene that prevents them from metabolizing folic acid and other vitamins, which could lead to deficiencies and conditions like cleft lip or palate, spina bifida or a host of many other chronic conditions.  I’ll talk more about this MTHFR mutation in a future blog post.  It is also important to choose a prenatal that is free of dyes, binders and fillers (ie ensuring that short non-medicinal ingredients I talked about in Part 1).  I also recommend avoiding 1-A-Day type vitamins as the body can only absorb so much at a time and there is a bigger chance that the digestive tract may struggle to break down the tablet.

I recommend a Professional Grade product like Thorne Basic Prenatal.

 

Fish Oils

Fish oils are a rich source of EPA and DHA.  These are essential fatty acids that serve MANY functions such as

a)      reducing inflammation: think tissue healing post-labour and delivery

b)      promoting healthy neurological development in the baby: the brain and nervous system are largely made of fat

c)       supporting mom’s brain: did you know that a pregnant woman’s brain can shrink by 1% during pregnancy (don’t worry, it returns to normal after birth).  “Pregnancy brain”, followed by “baby brain” is real!

During pregnancy I recommend having a higher proportion of DHA to EPA because DHA is preferentially used to support nervous system and brain development, whereas EPA is preferentially used towards managing inflammation.  Ensuring that you have a high quality fish oil during pregnancy (and any other time) is essential.  This is because a low quality fish oils may not just be ineffective, but may cause actual harm.  This is because improper manufacturing, shipping and storage may result in exposure to heat or light which causes the fish oils to create inflammation in the body, rather than reduce it.  Fish oils also need to be tested for heavy metals, and should be sourced in an environmentally responsible way.  During pregnancy I recommend Professional Quality brands like Metagenics, Seroyal or Thorne or health food store brands like NutraSea or Nordic Naturals.

I recommend taking 2g/day of a regular fish oil PLUS an extra 200mg/day of a DHA heavy fish oil.

Probiotics

Probiotics serve multiple functions and are one of the most important supplements for general health and pregnancy health.  Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in our gut, in our mucus membranes, on our skin and in the vagina.  It’s easy to see how having a healthy balance of good bacteria can affect so many areas of our health!

Probiotics are important to take during pregnancy for several reasons.  The first is for general health: probiotics help to maintain healthy immune function (roughly 80% of the immune system is located surrounding the digestive tract) and for regular digestive function (for example, helping to prevent and reduce constipation).  Second, babies ingest the good bacteria that will populate their digestive tract while passing through the birth canal.  The probiotics that mom takes orally help to make a healthy balance of good bacteria in her vagina and on her skin.  Third, the bacteria on mom’s skin and in her gut are passed to baby while breast feeding.  There is a “probiotic highway” that connects mom’s gut and her breast milk so that the healthy bacteria in her digestive tract get passed through dendritic cells and her lymphatic system into her breast milk and on to baby.  This way of passing probiotics to baby is especially important if baby was born via C-section and didn’t get the seeding of bacteria by passing through the birth canal. And finally, there is clinical evidence for using probiotics to help prevent and treat Group B Strep.  For more information about this, ask your Naturopath.

I recommend taking 30 billion cells/day minimum for basic health during pregnancy.  Consider Professional brands like HMF Forte or Supreme-PB30+ DF or a health food store brand like Renew Life.

In Part 3, the final chapter of this blog post, I will discuss a couple more important supplement recommendations as well as options for when financial restrictions are at play.

The information in this blog does not constitute medical advice.  You should always consult your medical provider before starting a supplement protocol.

VITAMINS AND SUPPLEMENTS FOR A VIBRANT AND HEALTHY PREGNANCY Part 1: How to Choose a High Quality Supplement

One of the most common questions I get asked when a pregnant woman comes in for her first Naturopathic consultation is “what supplements should I be taking?” usually followed by “how do I choose a high quality supplement?”.  Taking supplements in addition to eating a healthy diet during pregnancy is crucial because the demands of the growing baby and the changes taking place in the mom require more than what we can typically get from food alone.  Especially when we consider that the average North American diet is less than perfect and that many women battle morning sickness in their first trimester and may not be able to eat a well-rounded diet.  In this 3 part blog post I will tell you how to choose high quality supplements, offer my recommendations for which supplements every pregnant woman should consider taking, as well as where to focus if financial limitations restrict your health care budget.

There is a hierarchy where supplement quality is concerned.  At the top of this hierarchy are Professional Grade Supplements.  These are supplements that are only available from a medical provider, usually a Naturopath.  This is for several reasons:

a)      when treating a disease condition, we need to be sure that we are using the most reliable, highest quality products because we are using the supplement as medicine.

b)       the ingredients in the supplements may require medical knowledge to ensure safe use

c)       the dose of the supplement may be high enough to require medical knowledge to ensure safe use

Professional Grade supplements are hypoallergenic, they typically contain the form of the vitamin that the body can absorb and use, and they are usually 3rd party tested, which means that we know that what it says on the label is actually in the product.  I recommend that pregnant women use this quality of supplements, as we want to ensure that they are effective, clean and safe.

Products from health food stores (like Pomme Natural Market, Choices Market, Whole Foods, etc) are useful for health maintenance.  This means that you have reached your health goal and you want a basic plan to maintain your health.  Good quality brands that can be found at health food stores are SISU, AOR, MegaFoods, NutraSea, Nordic Naturals and others.  The important thing to look for when choosing a supplement of this quality is that it contains no more than approximately 3 non-medicinal ingredients.

Low Quality Supplements are supplements such as no-name brands, brands found at discount stores, Costco, or even pharmacy brands.  These typically have many non-medicinal ingredients like binders, fillers and dyes.  They often contain the cheapest form of the supplement instead of the form the body can use.  They aren’t 3rd party tested and usually are not hypoallergenic.  While these supplements are usually cheaper than higher quality supplements, you likely aren’t benefiting much from them and in the worst case scenario they may be causing you harm.  I don’t recommend using these brands of supplements.

If you choose to self-prescribe supplements during pregnancy, it is important to do your research: just because it is natural doesn’t mean that it is safe!  Basics like a prenatal vitamin, fish oils and a probiotic are generally safe for self-prescription.  But I recommend seeking medical advice from an appropriately trained professional if you are looking to treat a concern or a dis-ease condition during pregnancy.  Relying on what the clerk at the store recommends can also be hazardous because even though they may have knowledge of the supplements, they don’t know anything about you.

In parts 2 and 3 of this post I will discuss my vitamin and supplement recommendations for pregnancy, as well as what to do if it’s not always possible to afford or access Professional Quality supplements.

The information in this blog does not constitute medical advice.  You should always consult your medical provider before starting a supplement protocol.

Immune Boosting Tips For The Whole Family

Q: I am looking at boosting immunity in the whole family…we seem to have had this wicked streak of illnesses and I am doing Elderberry and ginger tea for everyone, but is there something more I can do to give everyone a boost?

A:  Well, we are almost through cold and flu season but if you have a child, especially one who is in daycare, then you know that cold and flu season seems to last all year.  Prevention is key, so I have compiled a few tips to help your whole family boost their immune system and stay healthy year round.

Event News: The Business of Being Born Movie Screening PLUS Expert Panel Discussion!

Please join me for this incredible event put on by Birth Talks.  I am a founding member of this group and so very proud of the work we are doing to provide women and families with information to make empowered choices.  If you are or know someone who is pregnant, will be pregnant or who has ever been pregnant, you will enjoy and benefit from attending this rare event.

The Business of Being Born is a critically acclaimed documentary about the beauty and the business behind birth in America.  Our panel of experts includes a GP, Midwife and doula who will answer your questions about the prenatal and birth systems in Canada, and much more.

February 26th, 7pm at the Inlet Theatre in Port Moody.  Tickets are available at www.birthtalks.com

 

Bringing an End to the Cold and Flu Season

You’ve made it through the holidays (Happy New Year!), hopefully without falling victim to the nasty cold and flu bugs that were going around.  But the CDC is reporting that another spike in flu cases is on the way and that the flu vaccine is not well matched to the viral strains circulating this year.  Good thing you know that there are so many more important health saving measures you can take, other than the vaccine!    Here are my Top 5 Ways to Beat the Flu and come out on top this year:

Weight Loss 101: Mind-Body Connection

Weight loss should be easy, right?  We are told that if we burn more calories than we take in, exercise several times per week and eliminate junk food and sugar that the pounds should just melt away.  So why is it never that easy?  It is because making change takes so much more than just gathering information.  This is why working with your ND is the best way to lose weight- because we take the time to get to know you and to understand what makes you tick so that we can support you from every angle IN ADDITION to giving all the information that you need for a successful weight loss program.

Here are 7 simple steps (in order of importance!) to get you started on your weight loss journey:

Happy Hormones

Originally Posted on Semperviva Yoga on May 6, 2014

Hormones are vital to our health, energy and youthful vitality. As we age there are natural changes in the release of hormones and in the body’s ability to metabolize them. The decline in estrogen at menopause is often what comes to mind when people think about hormonal imbalance, but did you know that there are many other hormones, like progesterone, testosterone and cortisol that change with age and that imbalances can happen long before menopause? Hormone imbalances can affect women of all ages, not just women approaching menopause. This is why taking a proactive approach to health, including hormone health is so important.

Wellness: Skin health is more than skin deep

Originally Posted in Tri-City News on April 04, 2014

Your skin is your largest organ and, for some people, it is a large health concern.

Eczema affects roughly six million people in Canada and most cases first appear before the age of five. I’ve seen countless new patients come in with a bag full of medicated creams, washes, moisturizers, etc. on which they’ve spent a fortune with little improvement, or whose skin problems return as soon as they stop using these topical products.