Blessed thistle is primarily used to increase the milk supply of nursing
mothers. It is believed to do this by acting on the brain to stimulate the
release of prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production. Blessed
thistle is a bitter herb. Think of the increase in saliva in your mouth when
you taste something bitter. Bitter foods, or herbs, not only cause the
release of saliva in your mouth but they also cause the release of digestive
juices in your stomach.
Therefore blessed thistle is used for stimulating the appetite and soothing
indigestion, which is often are caused by lack of digestive juices.
Most blessed thistle supplements are made as encapsulated dried herb, a
tincture of the same plant parts or loose dried herb. In order to help with
digestion, bitter herbs must be tasted, like when you take in a tincture or
tea. Encapsulated herbs are swallowed, thus bypassing the taste buds, and
will not stimulate digestion.
Blessed thistle belongs to the ragweed plant family and should not be used
by anyone who is allergic to ragweed.
Fennel seed is a gentle digestive aid that is has a pleasant licorice taste
and aroma. It can be used as a flavouring in baked goods and desserts.
Fennels active ingredients are the essential oils contained inside the
seeds. Fennel decreases that “heavy” feeling you get in your stomach after
eating a large meal by promoting movement in the gastrointestinal tract.
Ironically it also decreases intestinal spasms when it is taken in larger
quantities. In the respiratory tract the essential oils decreases mucus
secretions and increases the activity of the little hairs that line the
tract. The hairs are responsible for moving mucus out of the lungs and up to
the throat where it can be expectorated. Fennel seed is recommended by
natural health practitioners for a variety of concerns including coughs,
colds, allergies, indigestion and diarrhea. It is often given to children
for upper respiratory tract infections.
Fennel seeds are usually crushed or ground to release the essential oils
(medicinal ingredients). They can be purchased loose, in tea bags or
encapsulated. Fennel may be found in formulas for soothing the digestive
tract or decreasing coughs.
It has been reported that fennel can lead to allergic bronchial and skin
reactions but these reactions are rare. Fennel essential oil is a
concentrated form of fennel. All essential oils carry an increased risk of
toxicity when they are used internally and should not be given to pregnant
women or children.
It's stressful (but wait... stress isn't allowed either!) This is such a
special moment in your life, make sure to take a step back and simply do
what feels most right for you... IN MODERATION! Moderation is the key to a
healthy pregnancy, a healthy baby and a healthy and happy family.
For many women, nutritional interventions and supplementation in preparation
for pregnancy and childbirth, can begin a year or more before conception. In
fact, pre conceptual preparation dates back centuries. Pre conceptual
exercise, following a balanced diet, ensuring proper relaxation and a
healthy mindset... these were considered necessary measures in order to
cleanse and tonify the body and cultivate optimal health for the child.
Nowadays, many argue that the foods we eat do not supply us with the
therapeutic range of nutrients that they once did, and due to a lack of
nutrients in the typical 'western diet' of today, supplementation with a
prenatal vitamin is almost always recommended. During pregnancy, childbirth
and lactation, nutritional requirements do increase, and thus additional
supplementation can mean the difference between infertility, low birth
weight infants, physical and mental anomalies (all associated with poor
maternal nutrition) and the birth of a healthy baby.
Caloric intake does not necessarily need to increase while pregnant,
depending on the mother's weight and caloric consumption at conception. We
now know that the idea of 'eating for two' is hardly accurate. It is
generally well accepted that a diet of about 2300 calories/day will promote
healthy, baby related weight gain. For athletes or women who are generally
eating a higher daily caloric intake, simply aim to stay at the consumption
that is 'normal' for you pre-baby. A healthy weight gain, if you were
considered in the 'normal' weight range post conception, is 30-37 lbs. That
being said, intake of certain food groups (while avoidance or caution with
others) is recommended. Protein requirements, during pregnancy, increase
substantially. Low protein diets have been associated with higher risk of
pre eclampsia. Aiming to get 70-80 grams of protein a day is a good start.
The consumption of dairy products during pregnancy is a little
controversial. Although dairy is a great source of much needed calcium, some
argue that diets high in dairy products during pregnancy can lead to dairy
allergies in childhood. Much research needs to be done before this
conclusion can be made, but in general, it is never a good idea to eat a lot
of one food or food group. A well rounded diet is one of moderation. Ice
cream and cheese, although they are delicious, best not be consumed on a
Folic acid (Folate) and Calcium are the only vitamins/ minerals whose
requirements double during pregnancy. Deficiencies in folic acid have been
linked to both low birth weight infants and neural tube defects.
Supplementation has been shown to effectively prevent these issues in the
majority of high risk pregnancies. Folic acid can be found in green leafy
vegetables, nuts, whole grains, liver, parsley and dandelion. Low dietary
intake of calcium has been shown to correlate with incidence of
preeclampsia, characterized by high blood pressure, swelling, and/or protein
in the urine. Pre eclampsia poses a significant risk for pre-term delivery
and can threaten the life of the mother, and cause much damage to the fetus.
Calcium has also been shown effective in decreasing leg cramps, common in
late pregnancy. Calcium is said to be better absorbed during pregnancy, that
being said, some forms of calcium tend to cause constipation. Some high (and
dairy free) sources of calcium include dark leafy green vegetables,
asparagus, pumpkin seeds, fresh parsley, raspberry leaf and nettle
Other essential nutrients that you want to make sure are present in your
prenatal vitamin (or diet, if you are choosing to increase your intake of
via diet) are: B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B12 and B6), Vitamin C, Vitamin D3,
Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Zinc). If hemoglobin
tests suggest deficiency, iron supplementation may need to go beyond that
supplied by your prenatal vitamin.
Separate and increased levels of B6 may be indicated for the treatment of
nausea and morning sickness, especially in cases that include substantial
vomiting. It is only recommended to use higher doses during the first
trimester, as higher doses can lead to decreased breast milk production, and
can cause the infant to experience withdrawal seizures, if still at high
doses close to delivery. There is some research to suggest that given during
labour, B6 increases oxygen carrying capacity of the blood that supplies the
fetus. Ginger is another herb that is great for morning sickness and nausea.
Just peel a small chunk and let it steep in hot water. Drink as needed.
Probiotics. There is some evidence to suggest that probiotic intake during
pregnancy can prevent urogenital infections common to pregnancy (ie; bladder
infection/cystitis). There are also studies to suggest that the use of
probiotics, more specifically lactobaccillus rhamnosus, may help to prevent
group B strep. infections in expecting mothers. Probiotic supplementation
during pregnancy and continued in infancy can also decrease incidence of
infantile atopic dermatitis. Additionally, probiotics can help to relieve
constipation and decrease incidence of heartburn and gas, some of the common
and less enjoyable side effects of being 'with child'.
DHA and EPA from Fish Oils. Studies confirm the importance of DHA for
healthy brain development. DHA supplementation in pregnancy has been
correlated with better hand eye coordination, IQ test scores, motor
development and attention span in infancy and childhood. DHA supplementation
during pregnancy and while breastfeeding has also been linked to higher
birth weight and optimal visual development. There are no official
requirements for DHA in pregnancy, although research is suggesting a minimum
of 200 -300 mg of DHA/day. This amount can also be obtained easily through
incorporating fish into the diet. Look for organic, wild salmon, tilapia,
freshwater trout and other fish ranked low in contaminants like mercury.
There is HUGE list of herbs that are contraindicated in pregnancy, so rather
than go through them all, here are a few that are not only safe, but
effective for a variety of pregnancy related issues. Most of these herbs are
most commonly recommended via infusion/tea. Red raspberry tea has been shown
to be safe and effective throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. It tonifies
the uterus, increases the flow of milk, and is said to restore the
reproductive system following childbirth. It is also rich in Iron, and
vitamins C and E. Dandelion leaf (and root) tea is a potent source of
vitamins and minerals, as well as helping to stimulate bile flow, helping to
cleanse and tone the liver and acting as a mild diuretic. It can also help
to alleviate nausea and indigestion. Nettle is high in calcium and iron,
among many other vitamins and minerals. It makes a great during pregnancy,
as it can help to improve energy, dilate the blood vessels, reduce varicose
veins and alleviate leg cramps. Instead of a tea, try adding the leaves to
The best advice I've ever heard? Sit back, relax and enjoy this special time
in your life!