Monday, March 7, 2011

Is Paleo safe for pregnancy? Rant alert

Skip ahead a bit to get straight to the rant.

Ugh, I slipped on the ice today and bashed up my hand pretty good on some rocks. Actually it was a bunch of small pointy rocks that had iced together into one great bit multi-pointed rock. Not sure how I'm going to be able to lift anything (or knit!) when I'm finding it tricky to write with a pencil. Grrr. At least it's just a bruise, no breaks or sprains or cuts or anything.

Had an okay weekend, spent most of it not feeling very well. I thought the second trimester was supposed to be about feeling better, but it's been pretty hit or miss so far. I'm feeling a bit like this guy:

But maybe he's happy, it's hard to tell with owls.

Since I'm cranky, I'll give you a rant.

Is Paleo safe for pregnancy?

A lot of people have asked me if I'm still eating Paleo while pregnant, or what my doctor thinks of it, or if it's safe, or some variant of these questions. I understand that the answer is not obvious to someone who hasn't adopted a strict Paleo diet. But I never had a second thought about a Paleo pregnancy.

Paleo is not just a fad, or a diet to lose weight, or a special case or an underground trend for athletes. It is the best, healthiest, most natural way to eat. It is the way we evolved to eat. Grains, legumes, dairy, and sugars cause problems for people, period. Just because these foods are deeply ingrained (pun, I know) in our culture does not mean they are good for us.

I'm pregnant BECAUSE of Paleo. Many, many cases of infertility and many, many miscarriages are a direct result of gluten and other grain intolerances. Cutting these poisons out of your life allows your gut to heal, which allows your whole system to functional optimally, including your immune and reproductive systems. (Do some searching on Robb Wolf's site or Whole Nine's site for testimonials.)

It has not been easy to stay Paleo. I have had cravings for everything I'm not supposed to have. Macaroni and cheese, cupcakes, nachos, ice cream. People like to say if you're having cravings, maybe your body is trying to tell you something, like you need some nutrient. But what if you give up smoking because you're pregnant? You're still going to crave a cigarette, but that's not because there's something you NEED from a cigarette. It's because nicotine is addictive. Well, grains are addictive. They have opiate-like effects on your body. Craving an addictive substance does not mean you need it.

And what about doctors? Well, if you're a healthy weight, most doctors don't care what you're eating. I haven't talked to my doctors about my diet because when I've tried they don't care and they don't listen. They have too many preconceived notions (whole grains and dairy and fruit must be good) and have not done the research that I have done. They are practitioners, not scientists. The role I see for doctors is to treat emergencies and prescribe necessary medications (e.g., antibiotics when you have an infection). I'm only going to prenatal care because I want to be in a hospital and have doctors present in case something goes wrong in labor and delivery.

I trust my own evaluation of the evidence better than a so-called expert who is simply repeating what they've been told and never actually investigated mechanisms and evidence. So bottom line, yes, I'm staying Paleo, and nope, I have no qualms about it. Now, it's not as simple as I'm laying out here, because of emotional issues around food plus hormones and nausea and aversions - you do what you have to do to get through. I wouldn't judge someone for falling off the Paleo wagon a bit while pregnant, or taking a little more latitude. I'll write more about that in another post. But if you're a happy Paleo-er and you chuck it just because you get knocked up and it's just easier to eat pasta now, or worse, you allow yourself to be frightened and talked out of it by ill-informed doctors, you are doing yourself and your kid a huge disservice.

My brother-in-law had the best response - something about being curious to see how awesome and strong a paleo cavebaby turns out. I'm curious too. And I'm going to give this kid every possible advantage, even if it means things are a little tough for me right now.

Pretty knitting

I'll end with something more upbeat, some lovely pink and white worsted weight socks from the Yarn Harlot:

It's her own pattern - I think I could replicate it by combining a basic ribbed cuff, top-down sock recipe with Thuja (from Knitty). I kind of want some worsted weight socks, with stripes. Quick to finish and so cozy. Do I have enough washable worsted yarn in the stash? But I really want pink and I don't have that. Begonia and robot? Hmm...


Jessa said...

I say stick with it. I have been low-carb for a while now and wish I had done it during pregnancy, I would have had more energy and wouldn't have gained an unnecessary 50 lbs. I agree with you on physicians, they aren't up to date on nutrition studies and are at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies. I am a nurse and am told I am harming my body all the time by the doctors I work with, but my lab results, energy and general well-being say otherwise.

Bluescaptain Joe said...

but what about whole grains? aren't they ever so healthy? and the food pyramid. These things are science!

sorry, I am still your little brother, you know. Sorry for giving you so much crap about paleo back in december '09. This weekend, I was trying to tell a guy about how paleo has changed my life, and he just kept insisting that I am going to crap my kidneys out soon. his evidence? FOOD PYRAMID. no joke, he basically said that if I don't follow the food pyramid, I'm going to lose all my kidneys and all my family's kidneys and possibly some kidneys that i'll never even meet. This guy was kind of a jerk.

Ashley said...

ha ha ha! Pregnant ranting is awesome! Looking back on my pregnancy I wish I knew then what I know now. I would have done it differently. Not only would it have given my son a healthier start to life but it would likely have avoided many of my complications and subsequent inability to handle emotional or physical stress.
Kudos to you. Those cravings can be a bitch!

Amy said...

Jessa, good for you standing up to the doctors. I'm always so pleased to hear of someone in the medical field who has some sense. Keep setting a good example.

Joe, I totally forgot about the food pyramid. If visual aids are so powerful, perhaps we could replace it with a food mastodon? A mastodon-shaped visual guide to what we should eat?

Ashley, glad you like the rant! More to come, I promise.

Greg said...

So happy that you and Mike have been able to go "public" with this news. I am also 100% behind you for sticking with Paleo in pregnancy. What is it with the doctors? Your analysis is right on that they are just technicians and acute problem solvers. And as Jessa says, the real results of blood chemistry, energy, etc. are enough for me, even if only a small, but enlightened group of us appreciate it.
Also, good to see you posting, and ranting, again.

Tracy said...

good stuff amy! i'm right there with you... its been tough for sure, but i think it will be interesting to see how the remaining portion of the pregnancy goes - b/c right now (knock on wood) i haven't had any major issues with heart burn or swollen legs, etc. and i'm pretty darn certain its cause i'm not loading myself up with inflammatory crap!

Ashley Smith said...

Can you tell me how much fruit you ate during pregnancy? Right now I'm hoarking down fruit left and right just to maintain my weight to hopefully get pregnant. I went too far for my body apparently and stopped cycling. However, when I finally get pregnant, I'm afraid of eating too much fruit. It's still sugar I know, but if I can't keep weight on not eating fruit I don't see much alternative since the baby will need a lot of sustenance in the second and third trimesters. Right now I eat some raspberries with my breakfast, a peach after lunch, and usually some berries or cantaloupe after dinner...sometimes peach coconut milk ice cream with a tablespoon of raw honey. I'd appreciate your advice. Thanks!

Amy said...

Hi Ashley,

Thanks for the great question! I'd like to take a little time to answer it (as best I can), so I'm going to turn it (and my response) into today's post (7/15/11). Check back soon!

Ali said...

Hi there - I came across this post searching for real life experiences of going through pregnancy while paleo, and I appreciate you sharing here. I went Paleo exactly one year before getting pregnant, and I was (initially) adamant with myself that I'd stick to it, I strongly believe that it had a very positive effect on my health and well-being, and I'm sure it would have the same effect on my unborn child. Then came the "morning" sickness. After a few weeks of trying to stick to my diet - eating as many almond flour banana muffins as I could stomach, I found that what really seemed to make me feel better was plain old bread. It didn't help the nausea - nothing seemed to - but eating things I ate as a child for some reason made me feel better (peanut butter sandwiches with milk, grilled cheese, etc.). I was sick well into my second trimester so continued this habit, but kept trying to cut out the carbs along the way. Each time I did, I'd get a headache, or just feel crappy, and would go back to eating bread. Now, I'm 5 months along and while I've been doing better the past couple of weeks - very few carbs - I just can't seem to cut them out completely. And I had no problem at all doing this pre-pregnancy. Because of this, though, I've gained more than 30 lbs already -I feel terrible about this and about likely instilling the wrong kinds of cravings in my baby. I'm really trying to get back to my pre-pregnancy diet and I guess I'm just looking for some advice/encouragement. I'm also curious how things are going for you now post-pregnancy. Have you had any issues breastfeeding paleo? Or do you think the paleo diet has continued to have a positive impact here? Thanks! Ali

Amy said...

Ali, thanks for sharing too. I also went into pregnancy with a lot of Paleo experience under my belt, and I was also surprised at how hard it was to deal with cravings and the awful, overwhelming nausea. There are all kinds of crazy things going on with hormones in pregnancy. And I know the feeling of just being overwhelmed emotionally and wanting comfort food from childhood.

But I think the bread habit is a really bad idea. Wheat/gluten is basically poison, so I avoid it completely. If you need more info on this (and more motivation to avoid that bread), I recommend reading the book Wheat Belly. It talks a lot about the many, many health problems that stem from wheat consumption.

It's not too late for you to get back on track. The most critical brain development occurs in the third trimester, so eating clean from here on out will have a great positive impact on your baby's health.

One more thing - I think you're also low-carb and Paleo. Paleo doesn't have to be low carb. It's just no grains/dairy/legumes. There are lots of flavors of Paleo. If you feel better eating more carbs, just stay away from the grains and stick to healthier carbs - sweet potatoes, squash, fruit, and veggies. I do think the "Paleo baking" - nut flour muffins and such - just makes it harder because nuts and fruits and honey and agave and all that stuff that goes into "Paleo" treats just increases the cravings. I tried to avoid those things during pregnancy since it would just send me into a nasty sugar spiral.

As for post-pregnancy, it's going very well. No problems breastfeeding (not to say it's easy, but it's doable). I do crave carbs, but I avoid grains and have some fruit or sweet potatoes or even white potatoes instead. I'm within 5 pounds of my pre-pregnancy weight and feel strong and healthy. Kiddo is doing great too - a wonderful sleeper and never sick. Stay away from the junk food now - it will be so worth it later.

Just Friends said...

The American College of Ob/Gyn (ACOG) used to promote a one size fits all approach saying that pregnant women should avoid allowing their heart rate to exceed 140-150 bpm while exercising.

***** Tubal Reversal *****

Mohsin Malik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mohsin Malik said...

Thanks for the great question! I'd like to take a little time to answer it (as best I can), so I'm going to turn it (and my response) into today's post and Also, good to see you posting, and ranting, again. Find Doctors List