I am currently 16 weeks pregnant with my third baby. During my first prenatal visit, my DO asked me if I was taking prenatals. I thought back to my earlier pregnancies and the prenatal vitamins I took. Each time, they were prescribed by my practitioner and I was always bothered by their unnatural purple color and vanilla-like flavor. They included fish oil, which was gross because they always carried a fishy aftertaste that started shortly after swallowing each gelatin capsule (barf!).
So this time around, I carefully checked out the package of prenatals that were on display on the counter at my DO’s office. For only $22 per month, they included synthetic FD&C colors, artificial flavors and gelatin, as well as maltodextrin, ascorbic acid (synthetic Vitamin C) and sucrose. These last three are common ingredients that are likely to have been derived from genetically modified crops. On top of these questionable ingredients was the mounting evidence that taking synthetic multivitamins may do more harm than good.
Having worked hard to remove artificial colors and flavors and GMO ingredients from the products and foods that my family used or consumed, I knew these artificially-laden prenatal vitamins were not going to cut it. So I went on a search for something better. Our family has been using Young Living products for several months now and having done my research, it was a company I trusted. Their Seed to Seal guarantee ensures that their products are pure, free of artificial and synthetic ingredients and vigorously tested for quality. Their essential oils are nothing short of phenomenal and have helped our family with all sorts of ailments and complaints and have also greatly enhanced our general wellbeing. It was only natural to assume their supplement line followed suit.
After doing some research, I settled on several Young Living products to comprise my new prenatal protocol. I am in my third month of taking them and (after a semi-rough first trimester) I am very happy to report that I feel amazing! The protocol I am following includes:
Claiming to “change the way you look at daily multivitamins,” True Source is comprised of a blend of dried superfood powders, unrefined whole food vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients. The average American gets only two of the recommended seven to nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables. Further, most of the time what we do eat is rife with pesticides and other chemicals, and with diminishing nutrient quality. Whole food supplements provide sufficient dosages of nutrients in their natural form, which are considered by many to be superior to those that are simply isolated in a lab. Synthetic vitamins are concentrated forms of specific nutrients that are lacking in the accessory nutrients that come with the natural, whole food versions and can create imbalances if taken at high volumes. I can honestly say I feel better and more refreshed since taking True Source. Even better, I don’t ever feel nauseous after taking them, even if I take them on an empty stomach – something that I have never been able to do with traditional multivitamins. And after all that morning sickness, I’ll take the non-nauseating version of something any day! I take one packet of three capsules daily. Each box comes with 30 packets (about a month’s supply).
In addition to True Source, I also consume pure chlorella algae daily (either tablets or powder mixed in a smoothie). While chlorella is an essential ingredient of True Source, I feel the need to take an increased amount due to its nutritional benefits, its ability to safely rid the body of toxic metals, as well as the benefits to babies when consumed during pregnancy. Chlorella is widely consumed as a food supplement in Japan, as it contains 50% protein and is a complete amino acid. Popular among raw foodists as a nutritional supplement and detox aid, chlorella’s unique molecular structure allows it to bind to heavy metals, such as mercury. What is widely believed in holistic medicine is that the chlorella binds to toxic metals in the body and moves them out, and this is indeed supported by scientific research, showing such benefits as reduced oxidative stress in the kidneys and diminished transfer of methylmercury to the fetus in pregnant mice, as well as suppressed methylmercury accumulation in the brains of pregnant mothers. A further study of pregnant women in Japan showed reduced transfer of dioxins (environmental toxins) to babies in breastmilk and increased immunity in the breastfed babies of mothers who consumed chlorella in pregnancy.
Pregnant women generally have increased digestive issues and probiotics are beneficial bacteria and are essential for maintaining a healthy gut flora – and with 70% of your immune system residing in your gut, the importance of keeping everything in balance cannot be understated. Further, probiotics lower the body’s pH, which contributes to a healthy vaginal tract and lowers the risk of yeast overgrowth and vaginitis, both of which are common issues with pregnancy. Unfortunately, the word “probiotic” has become a marketing buzzword and seems vastly overused these days – and without any sort of regulation on the term by the FDA, it’s difficult to know if the probiotic you are buying is indeed a quality one. I previously purchased my probiotic supplements directly from my Naturopathic Doctor, who personally did thorough research and reviewed test results before selecting one she deemed worthy of offering to her patients. When I found Life-5, I felt confident that I found one of comparable quality, and that was less expensive (!) than the one from my Naturopath. Life-5 contains HOWARU super strains of beneficial bacteria, which is one of the most extensively studied strains available. The HOWARU Bifido strain contains bifidobacteria, which is found in the feces of breastfed infants and believed to be one of the primary reasons for breastfed babies’ increased resistance to disease. I take two capsules daily. While only one is recommended, I increased the dosage due to increased probiotic needs in pregnancy.
In addition to taking a quality probiotic supplement, I also drink about 4 oz of homemade, fremented kombucha tea daily. Fermented foods contain high amounts of probiotics and, according to Dr. Joseph Mercola, naturally fermented foods contain up to 100 times as many probiotics as supplements. (If anyone wants to learn how to make kombucha at home, please contact me! If you can brew tea, you can ferment kombucha – and pay mere pennies for what costs several dollars in the store.)
This energy-boosting antioxidant blend contains wolfberry (goji berry), blueberry, aronia, cherry, pomegranate, and plum juices, along with orange, yuzu, lemon, and tangerine essential oils. It’s lightly flavored with pure stevia and natural vanilla extract. Aside from being packed with antioxidants, this yummy blend is said to help the body maintain its normal cellular function, enhance “agility, longevity and vitality,” increase energy and caloric metabolism, replenish key nutrients, and optimize visual function. What pregnant woman couldn’t use all of that? Personally, I do feel much more energetic after drinking an ounce or two, and since I’ve been taking it I feel better overall. Granted, I am now in my second trimester so I know that has a lot to do with my improved energy and vitality, but I am also convinced that the Ningxia Red has helped. I drink the recommended 1-2 oz. twice a day.
Omega-3s are important for a developing baby’s neurological and early visual development, and are pretty standard in most quality prenatal supplements. CoQ10 (coenzyme Q10) is an antioxidant that occurs naturally in our bodies. While levels naturally increase during pregnancy, low levels have been associated with spontaneous abortion. CoQ10 is also believed to help improve fertility. While not a normally recommended prenatal supplement, there are no known adverse effects in pregnancy, aside from the normal precautions of using with blood thinning and blood pressure medications or by people suffering from diabetes (in those cases, ask your doctor first). I take 4 capsules per day, which is the recommended dose. The best part about these tiny capsules is that I NEVER experience any sort of gross, fishy aftertaste like I did with the previous prenatal vitamins.
These contain calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium and boron, along with essential oils marjoram, wintergreen, lemongrass and myrtle. It’s said to support normal nerve function and promote healthy muscle and bone development (important things when you’re growing a human being!). I currently take one capsule every day or two. The recommended dosage is 2 capsules daily, but essential oils lemongrass and wintergreen have been cautioned against during pregnancy so I am proceeding cautiously.
Interestingly, despite many other sources stating otherwise, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) does not list lemongrass as one of the oils to avoid during pregnancy. It does, however, list wintergreen. Yet, the NAHA offers that there are “no recorded cases of miscarriage or birth defect resulting from aromatherapy massage using therapeutic applications of any essential oil,” and that “toxicity during pregnancy is almost exclusively due to pregnant women taking large, toxic doses of essential oils.” Young Living oils are truly therapeutic grade and are proven to contain no synthetics, which is virtually unheard of in an industry where the FDA only requires 5% purity to be labeled Therapeutic Grade. I personally feel comfortable taking these oils in pregnancy, although I am doing so cautiously. (I personally would not use either lemongrass or wintergreen during pregnancy from any manufacturer other than Young Living. I am pretty nerdy and extremely thorough when it comes to research and these are the only ones I feel are proven to be truly pure.)
More on Essential Oils in Pregnancy
With no solid studies on the safety of using essential oils during pregnancy (because who wants to “experiment” on pregnant women), most practitioners and women prefer to err on the side of caution. I am never quite satisfied with a simple “don’t” and prefer to do my own research. Regarding wintergreen essential oil, for instance, I was curious to know WHY it is cautioned against during pregnancy. Renowned aromatherapist and educator Robert Tisserand, who has authored multiple books on aromatherapy and its safety and spent decades participating in aromatherapy-based product development, offers an explanation. Wintergreen is comprised of about 98% methyl salicylate (MS), which is known to be toxic in large amounts. Tisserand maintains that MS can be good or bad, depending on the person, and while he believes that a “blanked contraindication is not necessary,” he notes that it is better to avoid this oil in pregnancy. MS is related to aspirin as part of a family of compounds called salicylates. Salicylates are known to cause bleeding into tissues and internal bruising and therefore should be avoided by anyone taking blood thinning drugs. There have also been cases of children dying after drinking wintergreen oil, but only in very high doses, and quite possibly of questionable (non-therapeutic) quality. Tisserand goes on to note that a proper dose of wintergreen does vary “between essential oil” (which I take as an allude to quality and purity) as well as the reason for its use. Ultimately, he feels that use should not exceed 5% (which I interpret as the amount it should be diluted by a carrier). I personally do not have any bleeding issues, nor am I on blood thinning drugs. As such, I am comfortable using wintergreen cautiously and in small amounts.
I strongly encourage everyone to do their own research and to consult with their medical professional before taking any supplements or holistic remedies, especially while pregnant. I would like to emphasize the increased support of alternative therapies and non-traditional supplements by Naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic doctors (ND) are physicians who attend 4-year graduate-level institutions and follow a standard medical curriculum, as well as additional studies in holistic and non-toxic therapies.
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