To eat or not to eat…if only it was a simple question during pregnancy. And, trust me, I searched for the answer.
Figuring out what to eat during pregnancy became an all-consuming quest for me long before I became pregnant.
My journey started when I was an elementary school child incessantly bullied for my crooked teeth.
One of my two front teeth had turned and stuck out so far beyond my other teeth I could barely close my lips. Add to that a severe overbite and an underdeveloped lower jaw that couldn’t house all of my teeth (one lower tooth was squeezed so tight between its neighbors that it grew below the others and inward, toward my tongue, and had to be extracted at a young age) and I was a constant source of entertainment for my classmates.
I wondered why. WHY!?!? Why were my teeth so crooked and others’ weren’t? Was it just genes? Some said yes, but I wasn’t convinced.
After a root canal, several mercury fillings, and putting on and taking off braces three separate times in my life, I knew I had to find answers! Which led me to…
Figuring out What to Eat during Pregnancy
It sounds like a leap – crooked teeth being related to prenatal nutrition – but is it that much of a leap? Think about it:
- If you’re pregnant and you take drugs or drink alcohol, you risk birth defects, fetal alcohol syndrome, or worse.
- If you smoke, nicotine and other poisons go straight to your baby.
- A folate deficiency during pregnancy can cause spina bifida.
- A severe deficiency in Vitamin D while pregnant can lead to rickets.
Do you know what that tells me? That what we put in our bodies when we’re pregnant affects our babies’ bodies. What we eat during pregnancy matters. And when I found the work of Dr. Weston Price, and his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration , I knew I’d finally found my answers.
What Dr. Weston Price Discovered
Dr. Weston Price was a dentist who watched in his practice younger and younger patients coming in with dental issues he hadn’t seen just ten or fifteen years prior! Cavities. Crowded, crooked teeth. These problems were rare in children during his time (the late 1800’s).
To understand, he traveled the globe for nine years to study primitive cultures where he found well-formed, straight teeth free from decay despite no access to modern dentistry (read: no dentists, toothbrushes, or dental floss). Here’s an excerpt from his bio:
“In his search for the causes of dental decay and physical degeneration that he observed in his dental practice, he turned from test tubes and microscopes to unstudied evidence among human beings. Dr. Price sought the factors responsible for fine teeth among the people who had them – the isolated ‘primitives.’
The world became his laboratory. As he traveled, his findings led him to the belief that dental caries and deformed dental arches resulting in crowded, [and] crooked teeth … were merely a sign of physical degeneration, resulting from what he had suspected – nutritional deficiencies. (emphasis mine)
Price traveled the world over in order to study isolated human groups, including sequestered villages in Switzerland, Gaelic communities in the Outer Hebrides, Eskimos and Indians of North America, Melanesian and Polynesian South Sea Islanders, African tribes, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori and the Indians of South America. Wherever he went, Dr. Price found that beautiful straight teeth, freedom from decay, stalwart bodies, resistance to disease and fine characters were typical of primitives on their traditional diets, rich in essential food factors.”
Why isn’t pregnancy nutrition more talked about?
The short answer is this:
Pregnant women get most of their advice from their doctors. However, doctors receive 25 hours or less of nutrition training during their several years of study!
Here’s an excerpt from an article in the Washington Post:
“The National Academies of Science recommend a minimum of 25 hours of nutrition education for medical students, but a 2015 study showed that 71 percent of medical schools failed to meet that goal. Despite this lack of formal nutrition education, doctors remain a trusted source of nutrition information for patients. But just 14 percent of physicians () say they feel adequately trained in nutrition counseling.”
From heart disease to diabetes, there’s a slew of chronic medical conditions that can be reversed with better nutrition. If things can be reversed with proper nutrition, that means they can be prevented as well! Even cavities and tooth decay !
Introducing Beautiful Babies
Let me be the first to tell you that Dr. Price’s book is not the easiest read. It was written in a different time, and some of the languaging can be technical or just hard to understand.
Thank goodness for Kristen Michaelis’ book Beautiful Babies !
She summarizes his work, among others’, quite nicely. She also makes it easy to read and understand for worried, stressed out, or busy modern moms.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of “real food” and Dr. Price’s work, much of this may come as a shock to you. Stick with it! Getting through the book is so worth it!
If you ARE familiar with Dr. Price’s work, much of what’s in this book you can find at the Weston Price Foundation (http://www.westonaprice.org/) website.
But, honestly, having it all in one book (or e-book) is much more helpful than wading through pages and pages of information on a website.
So What Do I Eat!?!?
Okay, here’s where get down to the nitty-gritty. Michaelis’ book goes into way more detail, but here’s what was important to me as an expectant mom.
1. Eat traditional, healthy fats, Momma!
By “healthy” fats, Dr. Price is referring to traditional fats and from healthy animals who have lived in their natural habitats and are fed their natural diets. For example:
- Lard from pastured pigs
- Tallow from pastured cows
- Fat and eggs from pastured poultry
- Butter and ghee from pastured cows
Other traditional, healthy fats include:
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil (coconut oil is high in lauric acid – breast milk is also high in lauric acid!)
Reminder – these fats aren’t for you! The nutrients in these fats will help build a whole, new, tiny human body! So if you’re afraid of eating fats because they’re not “healthy,” keep in mind what “healthy” means. If you’re trying to build lean muscle mass, perhaps these fats aren’t “healthy” for you. If you’re trying to build a baby, these fats are what people have been eating for generations.
2. Eat Probiotics and Probiotic-Rich Foods
New studies are showing us that a healthy gut helps support a healthy immune system, and both you and your baby need all the immune support you can baby. Baby’s gut will be populated with bacteria from your vaginal canal, your skin, and your breast milk. This means your microbiome is important!
Choosing probiotics can be a challenge. It’s worth doing some research.
Also eat lots of probiotic-rich foods, like:
- Milk or water kefir
- Yogurt with no sugar (just add raw honey for sweetness!)
- Traditionally fermented sauerkraut
- Traditionally fermented sour pickles (if there’s vinegar in it, it’s not fermented)
- Beet kvass
3. Eat Lots of Whole Fruits and Vegetables
Organic is best since pesticides do end up in breast milk, but many of us can’t afford all organic food. (Note that breast milk benefits far “outweigh the possible risks from chemical contaminants present in human milk at normal levels.” (source)
What Should I Avoid During Pregnancy?
Again, Kristen’s book will go into this in way more detail, but here’s why my list of things I avoided as much as possible:
- Additives, preservatives, and ingredients I couldn’t pronounce or identify in nature.
- Modern oils like canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and safflower oil.
- All soy products except traditionally fermented natto.
- All factory meats – if cows, pigs, or other animals are feed poorly all of those additives, hormones, etc. are concentrated in their meat. Especially their fat.
- Antibiotics (if at all possible). “Exposure to antibiotics in the womb could permanently weaken the immune system and make lung disease more likely…” (source)
A healthy pregnancy diet made simple
If you’re wondering what to eat during pregnancy, here’s a very simple guideline – eat real food (minimally processed with no artificial additives/preservatives) and only consume animal products from healthy animals.
Bon appetit, Momma!