A Whole9 guest post from a mother-daughter duo who are passionate about prenatal nutrition. Emily Rydbom CN, LE and Dr. Leslie Stone are founders of GrowBaby® and this discussion of Preconception Nutrition is the second article in a series for Whole9. Part 1 discusses the foods and substances that both men and women should avoid before pregnancy. Part 3 covers Exercise, Sleep, and Stress Management, along with their role in preconception health.
Nutrition, stress and toxic exposure during preconception and pregnancy, can affect the health of your family for up to 4 generations. Research has shown that certain birth defects can be traced to nutritional deficiencies prior to conception.¹ “Improving the nutrition of girls and women could prevent common chronic diseases in future generations.”
These facts highlight the astounding epigenetic effect of your choices during preconception and pregnancy. But, we want to empower you! Let’s talk about the steps that you can make to improve your reproductive health and prepare your body for conception. Men, you are definitely included here. Preconception health is about both parents.
These factors shape your baby, their life and the lives of their children:
- The quality and quantity of nutrient-dense food that you eat
- The pollutants, drugs, and infections that you expose your body to during fetal development
- The stress level and state of mind that you adopt while pregnant
Food First, Supplements if Needed
If you are planning to get pregnant or trying to get pregnant, then nutrition and lifestyle choices play a significant role. Focus on what you can do to improve your preconception health. Preconception health has as much to do with preparation as pregnancy, motherhood and fatherhood.
We will always encourage food first when we are talking about nutrient intake. Download our comprehensive food guide to nutrition during preconception for a list of each nutrient involved promoting preconception health. You may ask, “how much of each food am I supposed to eat to get the right dose?” Well, the answer to that question gets a little tricky, because each of us is unique. In nutrient dose, one size definitely does not fit all.
There is no replacement for healthy food and its role in optimal health. We solve this by first focusing on foods that contain these nutrients, followed by supplemental support. Supplements have to act as a bridge, when trying to meet a therapeutic level of specific nutrients.
Preconception Nutrition Guidelines
1.) Eat a balanced diet that maintains a Low Glycemic Index.
Make sure that the food you eat maintains a Low Glycemic Index of Macronutrients (Carbohydrate, Fat, Protein). Glycemic Index is a way to measure the impact of food on your glucose (sugar) levels. A good ratio to use is 40% Carbohydrates, 30% Fat, and 30% Protein.
A Low Glycemic Index ratio is associated with decreased risks of major chronic disease like diabetes and metabolic syndrome. It also helps to regulate your blood sugar for maintained energy and fewer cravings.
2.) Eat foods that support liver detoxification.
Download our Growbaby food guide for details on what foods to eat to support Phase I and Phase II Liver detoxification, which include amino acids, antioxidants, and phytonutrients.
We all have two main phases of detoxification in our liver. The first phase requires nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, B3, B6, B9, and B12, minerals and antioxidants like copper, selenium, zinc, manganese, and CoQ10, glutathione, flavonoids, and phospholipids (choline and serine), and thiols, as well as branched chain amino acids (lysine, valine, and isoleucine) to make toxins that are fat-soluble into water-soluble toxins, which happens in phase II of your liver detox.
The second phase of detoxification requires the amino acids glycine, taurine, glutamine, N-acetylcysteine, cysteine, and methioine. All of these nutrients work together to make sure that any toxic exposure that you have, whether internal (endogenous) or external (exogenous), is filtered through your liver and excreted.²
These nutrients are found in foods that you commonly eat, but we wanted to highlight foods that have the highest nutrient density in our Comprehensive Food Guide. Remember that we don’t have to be perfectly systematic in our eating, but we do need to be consistent. Consistency leads to sustainability.
3.) Meet your methylation (activation) needs by choosing foods that are high in B vitamins, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, l-methionine, and l-cysteine.
The easiest way to think of methylation is to think of it like activation. In order for healthy activation, you need co-factors (or necessary parts) to ensure that your body can detox more effectively, make neurotransmitters, make energy in your cells, improve your cardiovascular system health, and decrease uric acid build-up. Uric acid is a chemical that breaks down purines in your body. If purine levels get too high, then you can get sick. We also know that poor methylation is associated with infertility and miscarriage. The co-factors that we highlighted above can be found in food form in our Comprehensive Food Guide.
Here is what we suggest: don’t worry about exact serving sizes and nutrient intake, but rather choose foods from each list daily. We are looking for wholesome intake, not perfection.
4.) Eat a rainbow of foods daily.
Include a Rainbow of Foods daily to ensure proper phytonutrient intake. Phytonutrients help keep plant’s vitality strong, there are thousands that we know about and thousands that we still are learning about—they improve the vitality for those who intake them as well! Red/Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue/Purple, White/Tan—try for at least one food from each color daily.
5.) Eat foods rich in antioxidants.
Antioxidant is a word that is thrown around all the time these days. Antioxidant this, antioxidant that, but what do we mean when we say antioxidant? Well, antioxidants are your body’s security force. They help fight off damage that is happening to your body internally, or externally. Commonly known antioxidants are vitamins A, E, and C, as well as the minerals selenium, copper, and manganese. In our Comprehensive Food Guide, we have listed top foods that are rich in these nutrients. Try for antioxidant focus foods daily. Remember that consistency is perfection!
6.) Take probiotics and eat probiotic rich foods.
Probiotics are necessary and healthy bacteria that help your GI stay happy and balanced. These friendly bacteria are a crucial part to nutrient absorption. Without them, you decrease your ability to keep yourself healthy.
Did you know that 70% of your immunity comes from your gut lining? What happens when you don’t support the health of your intestinal tract? Your susceptibility to all toxicity becomes a problem for you. Stand up for your gut health and take action by choosing fermented foods that are known to have 100X more friendly bacteria than found in supplements! Change your gut, change your life! Check out our Comprehensive Food Guide for your probiotic rich foods.
7.) Include herbs and spices in your diet.
Herbs and spices help to decrease free radical damage done to your body, and promote balance along your digestive tract, while supporting your detoxification pathways.
8.) Avoid foods that cause inflammation or allergies.
When improving your nutrition in order to prepare your body for pregnancy, avoid foods that cause increased inflammation and have known associations with common food sensitivities and allergies. Read part 1 of this series to learn more about what to avoid for preconception health.
- Wheat and gluten
What happens when food is not enough to address your individual nutrient needs? Maybe the increased need comes from an unhealthy balance that has been happening in your life for a long time. Maybe it results from increased nutrient needs (like during pregnancy) that can’t be addressed with food alone.
As we mentioned before, there is absolutely no way that supplements will beat out nature, and the beautiful nutrient rich food that it creates for us. But, what happens what you can’t get all of the right foods in, or your individual health needs require higher nutrient levels than found in food? That’s when we use supplements as a bridge.
Luckily, Dr. Leslie Stone has formulated a supplement called preGenesis® to meet these well-documented deficiencies that support reproductive health.
PreGenesis® includes 5 capsules:
- Activated B Complex
- Activated Multivitamin
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Conclusion & Summary
- Eat in a balanced macronutrient (carbohydrate/fat/protein ratio) way.
- Support your detoxification pathways by including a rainbow of foods daily and eating dense protein sources as a part of each meal.
- Include food-based antioxidants in your daily eating plan.
- Increase your colorful fruit and vegetable intake.
- Add gut-supporting foods (such as bone broth) to improve your nutrient absorption.
- Avoid foods that increase inflammation such as gluten, refined carbohydrates and processed sugars.
- Meet your methylation (activation) needs by choosing foods that are high in B vitamins, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, l-methionine, and l-cysteine.
- Spice up your meals with herbs and spices.
- Take supplements when needed.
All of this will improve your reproductive health. What you do now will have long-term health affects for you and your family. That is an amazing and empowering fact. You have the tools. Go use them!
Have a happy and healthy day!
Emily Rydbom & Dr. Leslie Stone
Emily Rydbom is a Certified Nutritionist and Lifestyle Educator who works with Dr. Leslie Stone in a functional family practice clinic. Emily specializes in facilitating lasting healthy lifestyle behavior change for all ages. She has received training in functional medicine, functional nutrition, first-line therapies, food as medicine, and holistic nutrition. Her passion is empowering and equipping expectant mothers with proper nutrition and nutrients during preconception, gestation, and postpartum/breastfeeding to help decrease the risk of chronic disease for generations.
Dr. Leslie Stone, Family Practice, OB is a specialist with 30 years of experienced practice in obstetrics, women’s health, and family medicine. She specializes in the area of women’s health and healthy childhood development. Over the years, she has developed functionally unique practices, providing high-quality healthcare to women. Dr. Stone works on early recognition of health issues with early intervention to correct imbalances that can lead to chronic illness. She has helped women of many nationalities and cultures deliver babies. Leslie has delivered well over 4000 babies since 1982.
*Note from Whole9:
The work that Dr. Leslie Stone and Emily Rydbom do is powerful, important work, and they are excellent clinicians and researchers. You may find some small discrepancies between their nutrition recommendations and ours, but please note that these are very small differences and that if there is a slight disagreement, it is up to you to decide what the right course of action is for you. If you’ve learned about yourself through our Whole30 program, for example, that dairy products do not agree with you, then simply disregard yogurt as a food option. This is just like any other personal food choice – if you prefer not to eat it, simply don’t.
The GrowBaby resources were created with a very inclusive, global perspective, and their inclusion of some legumes or dairy products is an acknowledgment that there a big world out there, and that there are rich and diverse cultural histories that include some foods that we at Whole9 don’t recommend as part to our generalized nutrition plan. This is not at all a disagreement or inconsistency. The reality is this: there is no one perfect diet for everyone, and the beautiful tapestry of humanity has room for considerable variation in what foods we thrive on.
We are thankful for Dr. Stone’s and Emily Rydbom’s contributions to our library of resources and look forward to their ongoing involvement in spreading the Good Food Word around the world.
1: Whitney, T., Taking Charge of Your Fertility, New York, NY, Harper Collins Publishers; 1995
2: Bland, J, et al, Environment and Toxicity, Liver detoxification pathways and supportive nutrients, Figure 9.3, Clinical Nutrition: A Functional Approach, Institute For Functional Medicine, Gig Harbor, WA, 2004, 254
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