These days there is little consideration given to what we eat before trying to become pregnant or during pregnancy. Most people expect that their bodies are made to develop a healthy fetus and birth a normal infant. Of course this is our hope – it only makes sense that we want to support the development of a healthy and happy baby. Unfortunately, some of us find it more difficult to become pregnant, and others who do become pregnant, spend a considerable amount of time nursing children who suffer from allergies or frequent ear infections. This all begs us to ask the question if there is anything we can do to boost our fertility or develop a healthier infant; one that experiences less sickness and is not predisposed to obesity or the need for glasses? I’m not the only one to have asked this question, and I’m certainly not the first.
Before I proceed I would like to state that this article is not intended to create feelings of guilt around what you ate leading up to and during your own pregnancy. It has been written simply to explain how adequate nutrition during this special time can enhance fertility or the health of your child. Hopefully the information you find on this page will encourage you during your future pregnancies or equip you to support your friends and families in their own pregnancies. There is absolutely nothing we can do to change the past; thus feelings of guilt are fruitless. Use that energy instead to provide your children with abundant nutrition from now on. Nutrition is a developing field and there is only more to understand. Whatever your response to this article, feel freedom to take charge of your future how you best see fit.
Now, let’s get back to those first people who asked the question if pre-conception and pregnancy nutrition impacted the infant…
Weston A Price was an expert in the field of dentistry in the early – mid 1900s. He rarely observed a patient who didn’t present with both cases of tooth decay and secondary sickness in the body. Most concerning to him was the growing number of teenagers and children with crowded and crooked teeth. These incidences spiked his curiosity and he initiated a series of investigations across the world “off the beaten track” to areas untouched by modern Western diet to observe if these children faced the same difficulties. He visited an island off Scotland, a Swiss village, Indian tribes across Canada, the Inuit tribe, Aborigines in Australia, the Masai in Africa, and the Maori in New Zealand. He observed that facial and dental degeneration, alongside secondary illness, was extremely rare in children born to parents who consumed a traditional tribal diet; a vast comparison to children born to Western parents who consumed a modern diet. Price witnessed that crooked teeth and crowded mouths, in the instance where faces were too narrow to encompass all the child’s teeth, had a direct correlation to pre-conception and pregnancy nutrition. Essentially, genetics is not the sole determent in bone structure and overall health, but nutrition during gestation and infancy has a significant impact as well.
Let’s look at one of these investigations lead by Price and his colleges in a Swiss village. These locals ate a diet of unpasteurized milk, butter, and cream, dense wholegrain rye bread, meat organs and meat, bone broths and some vegetables. The children seldom contracted illness, never experienced tooth decay or a crowded mouth, and in a time where tuberculosis was rampant, not a single case was ever known. Most noteworthy from this particular tribe - and many other traditional tribes – was the special emphasis placed on pre-conception and pregnancy nutrition. Growth and development was accepted to be a period where extra nutrition was paramount. Other tribes he observed even had dietary delicacies used for fertility and pregnancy including grass-fed butter from the wet season, fish heads or fish liver, seal blubber (as fat is the most nutrient dense part of the animal), salmon roe, animal glands, and animal meat. However strange-to-our-ears these dietary sources may sound, they are nutrient-dense, unprocessed, and completely natural foods that were believed to enhance the outcome of a healthy, strong, and attractive infant.
A massive finding by Price was the particular nutrients these foods contained, and the comparison of nutrient-density between them and Western foods. Organ meats contain ten times more vitamin A and D than most modern Western foods (which is one reason why I believe fermented cod liver oil is a wonderful supplement to take during this special time). Vitamins A and D are primarily, and perhaps only adequately, found in animal fat; butter, lard, fish liver, eggs, organ meat and liver.
Secondly, Price discovered that the presence of vitamin K2 was present in all the traditional diets he observed that produced healthy and robust infants. It seemed to be a crucial nutrient in fertility, and was only found in animal products; fish liver oil, eggs, fish eggs, organ meats and bone broths, grass-fed butter and cream. According to Sally Fallon, vitamin K2 activates cells to produce proteins. The overall effect of vitamin K2 on reproduction, fetal development, including facial structure, bone density, dental health, and energy creation in the body is one hundred fold.
One of the most interesting observations of this traditional way of eating is the vast amount of dietary fat it consists of. I’m sure many of you are sitting there thinking, “there is no way I would eat that much fat.” No matter what new research we read, there is still a pattern of thought among us that eating fat makes us fat; a ridiculously incorrect and outdated idea. I may actually spend some time writing a piece on this later. In the mean time, here are a few reasons why these diets were so heavy in animal fat:
- When you disregard the water content in a woman’s body, 60% of the remaining material is made up of fat. Fat is crucial for sustaining and developing life.
- Women have a greater fat percentage than men because fat is necessary for fertility. Our sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone – are all made on the foundation of dietary fat.
- Within newborns, fatty acids (a.k.a. fat from our food) binds with and removes toxins from our bodies to keep them away from a developing fetus.
- According to Lana Asprey, M.D., 90% of the fats within a newborn are saturated and monounsaturated fats; crucial fats for fetal brain development. These fats are found primarily within animal products, hence the vast amounts of butter, organ meat, liver, and bone broth that was consumed by traditional cultures in preparation for fertility and during pregnancy.
Katie Singer, natural fertility specialist, works with women to help regulate their cycles and boost fertility. She has seen wonderful results of pregnancy when women eliminate sugar from their diets and increase their consumption of cod liver oil, butter, and eggs; fertility crucial dietary fats.
What does this mean for those of us who want to consider the role of nutrition in fertility and pregnancy? In my eyes, the simple answer is to follow a nutrient-dense pre-conception diet for at least six months before trying to become pregnant, and to continue with this diet throughout pregnancy and nursing. Numerous physicians and natural health practitioners explain how this way of eating prepares an infant for a lifetime of reduced health issues, increased intelligence, and even improved appearance due to the impact of certain vitamins on facial structure.
The specifics of this way of eating have been outlined in my previous articles on Nutrition During Pregnancy Part One & Two – you can view them here.
If you have any questions or concerns around your own nutrition during this special time in your life, please comment below and I will happily get back to you.
Feed, nourish, value yourself.
Fallon, Sally, and Thomas S Cowan. The Nourishing Traditions Book Of Baby & Child Care. Washington, DC: New Trends Publishing, 2013. Print.
Asprey, Lana, and David Asprey. The Better Baby Book. Print.
Singer, Katie. "Natural Remedies For Strengthening Your Menstrual Cycles". Wise Traditions in Food, Farming, and the Healing Arts.
Price, Weston A. Nutrition And Physical Degeneration. Lemon Grove, CA: Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation, 2008. Print.