As with most things, healthy diet and lifestyle practices will make a big difference to your general wellbeing, and never is this more apparent than during pregnancy.
Eating well means nourishment for you and your little one. It’s about choosing the best quality foods you can, particularly those that are in season, as they will be rich in nutrition.
Aim to eat for both nutrition AND pleasure. The more you enjoy your food, the better you are able to digest it, which helps your body absorb and utilise the nutrients as you eat them.
Good living promotes balance in your life, which is particularly valuable as you travel through pregnancy, a time of significant change! Some principles that are particularly beneficial during pregnancy include getting adequate rest, exercising regularly (even low-intensity exercise is great) and learning how to manage stress.
Nonetheless, even with good eating and good living, you may find yourself suffering one or more pregnancy-related ailments. As ‘common’ as things such as morning sickness and fatigue are, they don’t have to be debilitating and can often be improved significantly with seemingly simple measures. Here are my top tips for managing some of the most common pregnancy side effects.
Eat regularly and try not to let yourself get hungry – this helps to keep your blood sugar levels constant and prevent the dips that can result in waves of nausea. Focus on healthy, nutritious foods, particularly those rich in protein, good fats and complex carbohydrates. Examples include natural yoghurt; avocado or nut butter on crackers, veggie sticks and dip, a small serve of soup or a smoothie.
Sip on water or herbal tea throughout the day, especially if you’ve been vomiting. Regular, small sips will help you stay hydrated, without ‘flooding’ your stomach and leaving you feeling overly full. Some excellent herbal teas for quelling nausea include ginger, peppermint, raspberry leaf and rooibos.
Try to avoid stressful situations – sometimes easier said than done! – as stress and anxiety can worsen symptoms and, in some cases, will make you feel nauseous.
Eating good quality food, regularly, will help flagging energy levels – you are literally refueling. Focus on easy go-to meals and snacks, but still opt for foods that are fresh and seasonal.
Steer clear of processed and junk foods. Though you may find yourself craving sugary treats, these won’t help your energy in the long run.
Get as much rest as you can, which may mean going to bed an hour earlier, taking naps on days off, reducing the amount and intensity of exercise you’re doing, and/or booking less events into your calendar. Remember, your body is doing an incredibly important and energy-consuming job (growing a baby), so allow yourself some time to rest and sleep more whenever you can.
Changes in Mood
Eating well, moving your body regularly, ensuring adequate sleep and getting a good dose of sunshine will all help to balance your mood and emotions. Mindfulness and relaxation can also help, particularly when you’re feeling stressed, worried and overwhelmed.
Herbal teas are also excellent for moodiness, particularly blends that include calming and nurturing herbs such as chamomile, rosehip, passionflower, lemon verbena, and rooibos.
Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains in your diet as these are rich in fibre. Natural yoghurt is also beneficial, as it contains live cultures that help to balance intestinal flora, which plays an important role in healthy bowel function.
While you’re at it, avoid processed and refined foods, and cut down on cheeses and meats, as these can seriously hamper digestion.
Stay well hydrated, drinking water or herbal tea regularly, aiming for at least 1.5 L each day - more if the weather’s warm or you have been exercising. Adding the juice of half a lemon, or a capful of apple cider vinegar, to a glass of water each morning will gently stimulate digestive function and help to get the bowels moving.
Flaxseeds and chia release a mucilage (smooth, sticky substance) when soaked, which can also help to keep things regular. Soak 1-2 teaspoons in a glass of water for at least 15 minutes before drinking.
This touches on just some of many possible symptoms you could experience during pregnancy and, as you can see, diet and lifestyle play an important role in each. If other health conditions arise, there are many more diet, lifestyle and natural medicine strategies you can use to improve your health throughout each trimester.
About the Author:
Written for Nourish Baby by Kathleen Murphy
Kathleen Murphy is a Sydney naturopath, practicing out of a large integrative medicine centre in Surry Hills. Her work focuses on optimising day-to-day living through diet, lifestyle and herbal medicine. Kathleen has a special interest in women's health; particularly stress management, fertility and pregnancy support and loves helping her patients create changes that can become life-long health habits.
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