Archive for pre-pregnancy

to supplement or not to supplement?

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Is it necessary? If so, what do you recommend and why?

These are the supplement questions most commonly asked, and often debated by clients, friends, family and the like. Here is my attempt to answer them to the best of my ability, of course in my own opinion. I hope that you can take this information and decide what is best for you and your family, but please do your own research. We must take health into our own hands and learn how to decipher through the copious amounts of conflicting information.

To simplify, yes, I do believe supplementation is necessary and highly recommended. Now I know you are going to want more information than that…so here’s how I came to this conclusion.

Why do we need to supplement? Don’t we get what we need from food?

To begin this convo I need to dig deep, right down into the soil! You see we get nutrients from food, yes, but the food needs to get them from somewhere – the soil. Therefore soil quality is incredibly important, and we are extremely dependent on the soil. Let’s take a look at the “ideal” world vs. reality today as far food and soil quality are concerned.

An Ideal World

  • We have several feet of top soil
  • We rotate our crops as to not deplete the soil of the same nutrients year after year
  • Each year the soil is replenished with compost and manure to ensure nutrients are being returned to the soil
  • The soil retains all 50+ minerals required to maintain healthy plants (food) and therefore a properly functioning human body
  • Plants are healthy, not requiring too much human intervention
  • Crops are grown organically (without chemical fertilizers and pesticides)
  • Food is picked when ripened by the sun
  • Food is eaten just after being picked
  • Food does not undergo heavy processing or too much heat
  • Food scraps go back into the compost pile
  • Our bodies are satisfied having received the nutrients it requires, we are healthy
  • The cycle continues…

Reality Today

  • We have a mere 6” of top soil
  • Most industrial farms use mono-cropping (one crop, year after year), which depletes the same nutrients from the soil, without rotation or replenishment
  • We use chemical fertilizers to “replenish” soil, unfortunately they mostly only contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium…only 3 of the 50+ minerals that plants and humans need to be strong and healthy
  • Plants become weak without proper nutrients to allow them to grow
  • Bugs come and attack
  • We use chemical pesticides to attack the bugs
  • Often times we use genetic modification so we can use more chemical pesticides
  • Food is picked before it is ripe
  • Food is often ripened artificially with chemicals during transit
  • Food travels hundreds or thousands of miles to get to the grocery store
  • Food is processed (stripped of what little nutrition remains), packaged, then more chemicals are added to preserve
  • Food sits in grocery store waiting to be purchased
  • Food sits on our counters or in our fridge before consumed
  • We eat nutrient depleted, chemical infused food
  • We are still hungry, our bodies having not been nourished with the vitamins and minerals they require
  • We eat more nutrient depleted, chemical infused food
  • The cycle continues…
  • Eventually we become overweight, under nourished and sick

Wowza, that was quite the depressing road I just took you down! Okay, you may think this is an extreme version of reality today, but really – is it that far off?

Very few of us (if any) can realistically live in the “ideal world” scenario I described, perhaps unless you are living solely off your own land (ahh, the dream…one day). Even if we are eating 100% organic food, how far has it travelled to get to you? Was it from a small scale farm where crops are rotated or is it “big box organic”? Was it ripened in the sun? Do you eat it right away? You see how there are SO many factors to consider the nutrient quality of modern day food…it’s really enough to make your head spin.

Top nutrition scientists and Naturopathic Doctors featured in the movie Food Matters (a highly recommended must watch) say that if you have sub optimal nutrient levels you can eat raw veggies all day, but you still wont replenish nutrient deficiencies from the past. Therefore in the case of sub optimal nutrient levels (reality today), or worse – deficiencies, supplementation is required.

This brings about a whole new point….can we get by on “sub optimal” nutrition?

Many nutritionists and other natural healers believe that the deficiency of nutrients can contribute (or cause) disease, therefore replenishing these nutrients (among other treatments) can bring the body back into balance and sometimes can even reverse disease. The body is quite amazing at continuing to function with sub optimal conditions for an extended period of time, but in reality this is just setting the stage for disease as we grow weaker.

RDA’s (Recommended Daily Allowances)

But this glass of orange juice says I am getting 100% of my daily requirements for Vitamin C, why would I need more?

RDA’s were designed to help prevent diseases of nutrient deficiency. For example the RDA of Vitamin C is 60mg/day, therefore if we were to receive at least 60mg of Vitamin C/day we should prevent scurvy (the Vitamin C deficiency disease).

Us nutritionists look at these RDA’s as the MINIMUM WAGE OF NUTRITION. Personally, I don’t want to earn minimum wage, nor do I think my body deserves the bare minimum. Early hunter gatherers are believed to have consumed at least 640mg (10x or current RDA) of Vitamin C/day, and many believe we need much more than that to achieve optimal levels. Some Naturopathic Doctors have used upwards of 100,000mg (1667x the RDA) of intravenous Vitamin C for cancer treatments.

As far as I am concerned, when it comes to myself and my family, I’m aiming for OPTIMAL NUTRITION (or as close as I can get). Therefore we do what we can to ensure we consume high quality, local, organic food that is minimally processed AND we still supplement what I would call “the essentials”. (Check out an Optimal Daily Allowance guide)

What supplements do you recommend and why?

My basic supplement regime or “the essentials” that I often recommend to clients (and take myself, even during pregnancy) looks a little something like this:

Note: these are all taken DAILY for maximum effect.

A high potency multivitamin & mineral (during pre-conception, pregnancy and lactation this would be a high quality prenatal vitamin) – We just aren’t getting enough from our food, did I make that point clear yet? :P A good quality, hi-potency multi usually consists of any where from 2-8 pills/day, not 1. It is impossible to get even the bare minimum from a one-a-day.

I often recommend professional line (or health food store) products, as drug store and grocery store brands are cheap for a reason. They usually contain forms of vitamins and minerals that are synthetic or poorly absorbed (low bio-availability), for example Calcium Carbonate is a cheap source of Calcium with a low bio-availability, meaning we don’t absorb it well (if at all). Microcrystalline hydroxyapatite (MCHC) is a more expensive, but much more easily absorbed form of Calcium. Each vitamin and mineral can come in a variety of forms making it oh so difficult to determine the quality of a good multi, but worth the time and effort, it’s your money, your health.

Probiotics – These are the good bacteria that literally build our immune system. They help us to absorb nutrients and can even help us make vitamins! Many of us have taken antibiotics in the past without having replenished the good stuff, nor do most of us eat enough fermented foods. These are especially important during conception, pregnancy, and lactation because baby’s gut (and even brain) health depends on mommy’s gut health. 10-20 billion cfu/day from a high quality source that is kept in the fridge.

Vitamin D – The “anti-cancer” nutrient almost NONE of us are getting enough of. Years ago even I was shocked to find out my levels were sub optimal and I’m a sun loving, non sunscreen wearing (luckily I don’t burn), whole food eating nutritionist! At least 2000 IU/day is recommended for most, during pregnancy as well.

Omega 3’s (preferably from fish oil) – We aren’t getting enough in the typical western diet (are you noticing a theme here?). If you are eating lots of packaged foods then you are likely consuming a diet high in Omega 6’s. Unless you eat a lot of wild, cold water (ideally low mercury) fish, then you probably get very little omega 3’s to balance out the 6’s. Fats are a really complex topic that deserve a post all on it’s own. Bottom line, many of us are omega 3 depleted and they are SO important for health (blood pressure lowering, anti-inflammatory etc.) that supplementation is highly recommended. The bonus is you will see the effects in your skin and hair almost immediately. 1 tsp – 1 tbsp per day of a high quality fish oil (again you get what you pay for here) ensure it is tested for mercury and processed minimally.

What about ALL the other supplements on the market?

There are SO MANY amazing supplements on the market (and conversely, some crappy ones too), many in which I use or have used in the past, but each and every one of us is different. We require different supplements, for different purposes, in different doses from different companies. This is when you need to seek out your favorite holistic nutritionist, Naturopathic Doctor or other open minded natural health care practitioner to develop a supplement regime that is unique to you. (PS – I’m more than happy to help! And offering 20% off if you book in May or June, 2012)

I hope this helps you get started in your journey towards optimal health! I would love to hear your thoughts, questions and comments below. I will do my best to answer, but I cannot answer individual health questions without having done a proper intake (of course you are always welcome to book a private session).

Links and Resources

Supplement companies I like:

*again I stress the importance of individuality, but I just KNOW you are going to ask which companies I recommend often

Professional (see your ND’s or nutritionists for these ones)

Health Foods Store

Other Great Resources

i’m pregnant…now what?

Woman checking pregnancy test

Okay, so the fourth pregnancy test has officially confirmed it. You are pregnant! Congratulations!!! But what do you do now? What can or can’t you do? What can you eat? What should you avoid? Where do you begin? Ugh, so much to think about!

I understand how you feel because I was overwhelmed with all the do’s and don’ts, should’s and should not’s as well. To make things simpler for you, I’ve compiled a list of recommendations from various sources which highlight what are in my opinion the most important factors for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.

What to do – first steps

  • book an appointment with your doctor or midwife
  • get some baseline blood work done, blood sugar, iron levels etc.
  • start your pregnancy supplement routine (post coming on this subject) – if you haven’t started already. I advise you to start before trying to get pregnant though
  • sign up for updates on babycenter.ca – I love getting my weekly update on how big my baby is and what is happening developmentally week by week
  • look into other birthing prep classes for you and your partner
  • practice prenatal yoga and other exercise such as swimming, biking, hiking, walking, squats, push-ups, lunges, etc. (jogging is okay in the first trimester but can weaken your pelvic floor during the 2nd and 3rd trimester)
  • meditate – I especially like the prenatal meditations on yogaglo.com
  • strengthen your pelvic floor – do your kegels and learn about the EPI-NO, Pelvic Floor Wellness
  • grease up your belly 2x/day with your favorite all natural belly butter, I like Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s Belly Butter and my homemade concoction of shea butter, raw cacao butter and virgin coconut oil.
  • sleep on your left side, starting in the 2nd trimester for best blood flow to baby

What NOT to do

  • hot tubbing or saunas – warm baths are okay
  • smoke (cigarettes or other things) – avoid second hand smoke if possible as well
  • any sort of detox or cleanse – this is a time to build, not break down. Plus you don’t want babe to get all those toxins that are being released.
  • massage in the first trimester – there are a lot of mixed reviews on this point, a qualified RMT (with prenatal training) should know what is contraindicated in pregnancy and will not cause harm, just choose your RMT wisely
  • google every little symptom – just try to relax and enjoy it all (though I know this is easier said than done…)


What to eat & drink

  • lots of fresh veggies and fruits
  • up your protein intake with organic, free range meat, eggs, legumes, quinoa, nuts and seeds
  • drink at least 2L pure water daily
  • herbal teas which are safe for pregnancy include: red raspberry leaf tea (uterine tonic – for an “easy” labour), peppermint, rooibos
  • try to eat as organic as possible - remember which foods are most important!
  • a little of your favorite superfoods, not so much that you will be detoxing, but some for extra nutrition is great!

What NOT to eat & drink

  • caffeine, especially in the first trimester, afterwards a little is okay
  • alcohol
  • junk food (as much as you might want it), your babe needs vitamins and minerals, not sugar, hydrogenated fats or additives
  • fish that are high/moderate in mercury (personally I chose to nix fish altogether during pregnancy – but I always take my heavy metal free fish oil!)
  • sushi (raw fish – vegetarian sushi is okay)
  • undercooked meats
  • deli meat
  • unpasteurized cheeses
  • soft cheese
  • tap water – trihalomethanes (Chlorine byproducts) can increase risk for miscarriage and still births – use filtered water like Santevia or spring water
  • chemical food additives
  • sugar substitutes (chemical such as aspartame, sucralose etc.)
  • artificial flavors
  • food dyes
  • nitrates (often found in deli meats, hot dogs)
  • sulphites (often found in dried fruits, red wine)
  • herbs – there are several herbs to avoid during pregnancy, but some are safe; consult an herbalist who specializes in pregnancy

Hopefully this list isn’t overwhelming and helps you sort it all out! Best of luck with your pregnancy, and remember to enjoy every second of it!

hormonally challenged

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After coming off a 7 year stint on the birth control pill 4 years ago, you could have accurately described me as “hormonally challenged”. I know I am not alone here – many women struggle when coming off of the pill to get their hormones functioning optimally again. It took me a while to get a regular cycle back, like a full year to get even 1 period! Oddly enough when you go to the doctor to ask for help in regulating your cycle, they suggest…wait for it…the birth control pill! Well, seeing as that’s what got me into this mess in the first place, I started to look elsewhere.

It turns out there are many things in our modern world that can royally mess with our hormones, the pill is only one of them (though readily prescribed and available to women everywhere). Other sources of hormone dysfunction come from plastics that contain xenoestrogens (which imitate the real estrogen in our body), that can leach into our food and water, especially when heated. I cringe when I see people put saran wrap in microwaves!

There are also foods that deliver phytoestrogens, like flax or soy, which can be beneficial or detrimental (in excess) based on your own unique hormonal balance. Not to mention artificial growth hormones consumed through non-organic dairy and meat. Mmm, I’ll take my skinny latte no whip, extra hot and with a side of bovine growth hormone please. And, delicious as it sounds, the millions of women taking the birth control pill have to excrete those hormones (which comes from horse pee by the way), and they become part of our every day drinking water…yum! Seriously scary stuff!

I want you to know that in no way am I saying that all women should never take the birth control pill. I am simply stating my own personal troubles with it, and suggesting that you do your own research and decide if it is something you want to take or not. I know that I personally am grateful I came off the pill when I did. I am however, also grateful I have never had an unwanted pregnancy. However, had I come off the pill and wanted to get pregnant right away, I’d have been in a miserable situation.

So, if babies are a likely possibility in your next few years, you may want to seriously think about whether you should continue to take the pill or not. There are many other forms of birth control that you may perhaps want to look into.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad here folks. There are ways to counteract the damage these hormone disrupters have done to us…fewf! Some of the basics include:

  • Avoid plastics as much as possible! Especially the soft stuff, and NEVER heat it!! I am notorious for using glass jars for everything in my house, people laugh, but I figure it is better to be safe than sorry.
  • Try not to over do it with food high in phytoestrogens. No more than 1/2 cup of soy  per day (please buy organic to avoid GMO!). Fermented soy like miso or tempeh is the best choice (make sure to check your labels peeps – soy is in EVERYTHING).
  • Ensure you are taking regular visits to the can. Hormones can be reabsorbed and recirculated if you aren’t eating enough fiber and getting that $*^@ outta your body! Remember my favorite little fibrous seed, chia? Eat it up!
  • Drink pure, filtered, or spring water, and lots of it (2-3L/day).

Furthermore, to correct an existing imbalance, why not try the Lunar Cycle.

The Lunar Cycle

One of the ways I got my hormones back up and running was by following the lunar cycle. Ok, I’m gonna get a little hippie on you here. If your period is irregular or non existent you can try and link it to the lunar cycle. Here’s what I mean:

Source: Dr. Arden Pinault MS, LAc, ND, adapted by Samantha Peris, Holistic Nutritionist

For women: the rotation plan can be done according to either the menstrual cycle (if it is fairly regular) or phases of the moon (if the menstrual cycle is absent or too irregular)

  • From days 1-14 of the menstrual cycle (or from the new moon to the full moon) have 1 Tablespoon per day of a mixture of freshly ground flax and pumpkin seeds. You can also add 1-2x 1000mg capsules of flax seed oil/day or 1-2 tbsp flax seed oil to salad dressings.
  • From days 15 – 28 of the menstrual cycle (or from the full moon to the new moon) have 1 Tablespoon per day of a mixture of freshly ground sesame and sunflower seeds. In addition you may add 1-2x 1000mg capsules of evening primrose oil/day.

NOTE: Use a coffee grinder, Vitamix or personal blender to grind seeds immediately before consumption or else they go rancid fast! Also make sure the seeds are organic and raw.

Here’s a copy of the 2012 Lunar Cycle, (and the 2013) source Seroyal

The seed rotation plan works because the hulls of the seeds contain chemicals called lignans. These can help modulate the hormonal pathways of the body. The oils of the seeds are high in essential fatty acids that provide the building blocks for hormone synthesis.

I have put many clients on this protocol with great success, not to mention I myself saw great results with this program.

If you suspect your hormones are out of whack, I highly recommend seeing a Naturopathic Doctor to get your levels tested by saliva or urine (those blood tests just don’t tell you all you need to know). Then seek their advice, perhaps along side a holistic nutritionist, to get you back on track.

p.s. Are you still meditating???

pre-preggers detox

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If you are fortunate enough to have the time to plan prior to baby making, I would seriously consider taking a year to get your body in ship-shape. Yes, 1 year of eating clean, doing a detox or two and really stocking up on nutrition before the lil ones start to steal the goods from you.

We all know that our world is growing ever more toxic and with cancer moving up to the #1 killer of Canadians (yikes!) it is time to start seriously thinking about how our bodies are able to deal with the thousands of chemicals we are exposed to daily. Therefore, detox really is important to us all (whether you are makin’ babies or not).

Detoxification can seem like a scary term to those who think it means all you can consume is water with lemon and cayenne. There are sooo many different kinds of detoxs and cleanses and if you have not attempted any in the past, here are a few really gentle ways to start:

  • Eat as “clean” as you can. Eat organic and avoid as much packaged and refined food as possible. Try to avoid congesting foods like sugar, flour (especially gluten containing) and large quantities of dairy.
  • Buy organic body care products and green cleaners for around the house.
  • Deep breathing and yoga can be extremely cleansing. Try breathing in for a count of 4, holding for a count of 7 and breathing out slowly for a count of 8, 4 times in a row, 2x/day.
  • Dry skin brushing to stimulate the lymphatic system. This has the added benefit of decreasing cellulite as well. Check out this video to see how it is done.
  • Support the liver with herbs, try some herbal teas like milk thistle or dandelion root. Careful as some herbs can interact with prescription med’s.
  • Eat superfoods like seaweeds (try kelp powder on savory foods), spirulina and chlorella or liquid chlorophyll.
  • Add lemon to your water. This helps the liver purge bile, our body’s way of getting rid  of toxins
  • Increase your consumption of fibre using superfoods like chia seeds to pull those toxins out through the bowels. You definitely want to ensure you are pooping to detox effectively (to put it bluntly).
  • Infrared saunas can be a great way of sweating out toxins. Make sure to avoid wearing antiperspirants that contain aluminum and prevent this process. This has been said to be a contributing factor to breast cancer, so please natural deodorants (or none) only.

A word of caution: Please consult a natural healthcare practitioner prior to starting a detoxification protocol, there is no doubt detoxes can do more harm then good if they are not done properly or if your body is unable to handle it due to an existing health condition. I highly recommend seeing a qualified holistic nutritionist (I happen to know a good one ;)) or a Naturopathic Doctor. Also do not start detoxifying while you are actively trying to get pregnant (or are breast feeding). The last thing we want to do is stir up toxins only to be “dumped” on the poor lil babe.

If you however were not so fortunate to have a year to prep, no worries, this post is by no means meant to make you feel guilty. It is never too late to start making little changes that will effect the health of your whole family. Like eating real food – that comes from the earth!

the ‘ideal’ pre-pregnancy diet

we focus primarily on women's health, pre-pregnancy through early motherhood

Pre-pregnancy diet is incredibly important for maintaining optimal health. If you are scraping by on the Standard American Diet (SAD – in more ways than one) then unfortunately you and babe are not going to be in an “ideal” scenario to say the least. Lack of nutrient dense whole food and a reliance on nutrient poor, convenience food could lead to future serious health problems. To give you a general idea, this is the type of diet I would consider to be “ideal”.

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