We have all heard the do’s and don’ts of eating for pregnancy; no coffee, no sushi, no soft cheeses or lunch meat. But not many of us have considered the nutrients we need prior to conception to grow healthy eggs, to keep our hormones working in harmony and to have stored in our body for the early stages of pregnancy when we may not be able to eat much.
Many of us are unaware that we are depleted in nutrients that are crucial to healthy egg development and hormone balance.
Stress, fast food, packaged and prepared foods, and inflammatory foods are prevalent in our lives and all of them impact the way our body is able to absorb nutrients. This absorption can also be impacted by medications we take like hormonal birth control, ibuprofen and prescription drugs.
When my husband and I first started trying to get pregnant, we had just finished a long (9 months without a kitchen) remodel of our kitchen and we were eating tons of prepackaged frozen foods. I was playing volleyball tournaments once a month and training for a marathon so needless to say, I was taking lots of ibuprofen. On top of all that, my job had become incredibly stressful. All of these things, contributed to my difficulty absorbing nutrients from my food, because each of them (in their own way) disrupt the lining of the gut.
The lining of our small intestine, where we absorb the majority of our nutrients, is only one cell layer thick. One cell layer is all that protects us from the outside world (our food).
Normally, the junctions between the cells are tight and the only way nutrients can pass into our bloodstream is to go through the cells. Unfortunately, the junctions between the cells can loosen and open so that undigested food and other particles can move directly into our bloodstream.
When this happens… the immune system gets activated and can lead to inflammation in the entire body. This inflammation can show itself as allergies, food sensitivities, joint pain or bloating. For me, gluten was causing inflammation in my body which showed itself as seasonal allergies that lasted all year!
Healing the intestinal lining takes time, and is essential to decrease inflammation in the body and to improve absorption of nutrients. When I removed gluten from my diet, it still took over a year to get pregnant, but decreasing the inflammation in my body I think was one of the biggest things that helped me get pregnant.
Nutrients Depleted by Hormonal Birth Control
Hormonal Birth Control alters the balance of beneficial and harmful gut bacteria. The helpful bacteria are there to help us break down our food and to protect the lining of our intestines, keeping those joints tight. But when there is an imbalance, we don’t digest our food as well, so the nutrients are not as available to us, and the cells start to separate.
Hormonal birth control depletes B vitamins, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Vitamin C and Vitamin E
Vitamin B2, B6, B12 – helps build DNA, needed for cellular metabolism, protects against birth defects, helps form blood cells and nerve sheaths, helps produce hormones, supports skin and hair growth
Vitamin C – antioxidant, helps restore tissue and boost absorption of other nutrients
Vitamin E- fat soluble, reduce PMS symptoms, antioxidant, supports the immune system
Zinc – needed for enzyme reactions in body, helps mature eggs, keeps hormone levels stable, low levels linked to early miscarriage, can help reduce fibroids
Magnesium – supports enzyme function, impacts blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, helps keep cortisol levels more even, deficiency linked to increased risk of miscarriage, fetal growth retardation, preeclampsia, premature labor
Selenium – works an antioxidant to protect egg and sperm, helps regulate iodine and recycle Vitamin C, required to make glutathione (master antioxidant) to support detoxification
After years of depletion, it can take time to replace the nutrients and build up stores in your body.
1.Eat Whole foods
When you eat whole, nutrient dense foods, there is more opportunity to absorb the nutrients, because more are available. These foods can also help to heal the lining of the intestines. You might want to start by adding one or two Whole 30 recipes to your meal plan each week. When you get used to that, you can try a Whole 30. I love the Whole 30 program because it gives you good guidelines of what to eat and not eat, and there are so many recipes out there, you’re sure to find something you’ll like.
2. Eat the Rainbow
When you eat colorful fruits and veggies, your body gets a wide variety of phytonutrients, trace minerals and antioxidants all of which are important for egg development and hormone balance. Take a minute to think about how many different colors you have eaten today (and no, eating a candy rainbow doesn’t count!) I usually do pretty well with green foods, but often don’t have a lot of purple. One way I get more purple is to add some blueberries to my smoothie or purple cabbage to my steamed or roasted veggies.
Taking a prenatal supplement, at least 3 months before you start trying to conceive, can help give your body the nutrients it needs, but you can’t rely on supplements alone.
My favorite prenatal supplements are Optimal Prenatal by Seeking Health and Thorne Basic Prenatal.
I know navigating all the nutrition advice out there can be intimidating.
If you can do just one thing, add some color to your plate, it can be a fun easy way to keep track of the fruits and veggies you are eating.
If you are still finding it hard to nourish yourself, let’s set up a time to talk. We can sit down (in person or virtually) and chat about the nutritional changes you are ready to make and how you can make them happen in your life. Schedule a time to chat here.