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Pregnancy Nutrition: Building A Solid Foundation For A Healthy Pregnancy and Child

Pregnancy is one of the most nutritionally demanding times in a woman’s life. It's the one time your eating habits can unequivocally influence the health of another person.  Pregnancy nutrition needs are higher to support the swift growth and development of a baby. And the extra nutrition is required to strengthen the nutritional reserves of the mom-to-be.

A mother’s eating and lifestyle habits can have profound, long-lasting effects on the health of her child. A healthy, well-nourished woman is more likely to go through a healthy pregnancy. That includes fewer pregnancy-related complications, which boosts the chances of delivering a healthy bundle of joy. A healthy baby has a superior chance of growing into a healthy child and, someday, a healthy adult. Don’t forget the nutritional and lifestyle status of the father. His role in the healthy creation of a baby is equally crucial.

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Nutrition starts with what you eat. Planning a healthy pregnancy should begin well before a pregnancy happens. Some experts recommend making healthier eating and lifestyle choices at least six months before beginning the process of conception.

That is also the optimal time to start taking a prenatal multivitamin/mineral supplement that provides folic acid or folate. This essential B vitamin, consumed as part of a healthful diet may decrease a woman’s risk of having a child with brain or spinal cord defect. When taken before conception, helps prevent neural tube defects. Current guidelines advise that women of childbearing age consume at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily from all sources.

Pregnancy needs extra energy, building blocks, and cellular assistants. So, making good pregnancy nutrition choices throughout all three trimesters is essential. Infant birth weight, rate of growth after birth, and ongoing health can be affected by pregnancy nutrition, lifestyle, and the health status of the mom-to-be.

 

PREGNANCY NUTRITION—WEIGHT CHANGES AND CALORIE REQUIREMENTS

People have often heard the saying that a pregnant woman eats for two, which is actually incorrect. Sure, there are extra calorie requirements during pregnancy but calories should gradually increase to meet demands as your baby grows and develops.

No additional calories are demanded during the first trimester. In the second trimester, about 340 additional calories a day are needed. The recommendation increases to 450 extra calories per day in the third trimester to reach the growing requirements of the baby-to-be.

Over the course of a healthy pregnancy, your body also stores fat for energy needs during labor and delivery. This also supports breastfeeding—if you breastfeed your baby. These additional calories are not a license to splurge on junk food. You’re building a baby, so choose wisely.

By the 15th week of gestation, your baby has developed taste buds and can perceive food flavors from your diet. The foods you eat during your pregnancy help prime your future baby’s health, palate and food preferences. They also provide a model for their future eating habits.

These extra calories and fat storage often mean weight gain which is normal. Requirements for appropriate weight gain during pregnancy differ depending on the current weight of the mom-to-be. An average weight women should gain 25–35 pounds. Underweight women may need to gain 28–40 pounds. And an overweight or obese mom-to-be should aim to gain 11–25 pounds, depending on their weight.

 

MACROS AND MICROS

There are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. The difference lies in the amounts you need. Macronutrients, like fats, protein, and carbohydrates, are needed in large quantities in the diet (grams). Micronutrients—as the name suggests—are required in smaller amounts (milligrams or micrograms).

Pregnancy shifts these amounts somewhat. Carbohydrate requirements during pregnancy rises from about 130 to 175 grams/day and protein needs by about 25 additional grams per day. Most women already meet these requirements. During pregnancy, your body needs a bit more fat. About 25 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat to support a healthy pregnancy. Consuming the right types of fats is also crucial. The majority of fats should come from monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats.

Aim to eat nutrient-rich proteins, complex carbs, and essential fats daily. Incorporate a variety of lean protein sources, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy, vegetables and fruit to help fit the changing nutritional demands of pregnancy. The nutritional needs of a growing baby will take priority over the needs of the mom-to-be, so it’s essential to eat well.

While all nutrients are vital to support a healthy pregnancy, certain vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) play a particularly crucial role during the development of an infant. Here’s a list of these micronutrients, how they impact pregnancy, and which foods to eat:

Vitamin A is critical for baby’s overall growth and development. It is instrumental in regards with vision, protein synthesis, and cell differentiation. Sources of preformed and provitamin vitamin A include beef liver, orange, red, yellow and green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and eggs. Fruits like cantaloupe and fortified breakfast cereals are also sources of vitamin A.
Vitamin D is important to support healthy development of bones, teeth, skin and eyesight. It is special among vitamins because it works more like a hormone at the DNA level. Vitamin D has been estimated to regulate 200–300 genes. Many cells have vitamin D receptors and need it to function properly. That includes cells in the skin and brain. Vitamin D is naturally produced through skin exposure to sunlight. Skin color, age, and time of year can affect the amount of vitamin D produced through skin exposure.

Very few foods naturally provide vitamin D. Fatty fish and egg yolks are natural food sources. Other sources include fortified foods such as dairy products, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, or dietary supplements.

Calcium is necessary for proper development of bones and teeth (in combination with vitamin D) and baby’s calcium status. Consuming sufficient calcium supports healthy development of bones and teeth buds for baby. It also protects mom’s bones from pregnancy-related calcium loss. If a prospective mother doesn’t get enough dietary calcium, her body will take calcium out of her bones to compensate.

Abundant sources of calcium include dairy products - milk, cheese and yogurt. Other good sources include fortified foods and drinks, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice, and soy beverages. Canned sardines and salmon packed in oil with bones, Chinese cabbage, kale and turnip greens also contain calcium.

B vitamins are primarily used as cofactors in energy metabolism. They are water-soluble, which means your body doesn’t store them and unused amounts exit in the urine. While all B vitamins are necessary during pregnancy, folate (folic acid) and B12, provide additional important roles in the development of the central nervous system. And this essential system is completely developed during the first few weeks of life.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for producing red blood cells, genetic materials, healthy neurological function and DNA synthesis. Deficiencies during pregnancy may cause neurological damage in the baby. A deficiency of B12 at the beginning of and during pregnancy, could increase risk of certain birth defects, neurological impairment, and contribute to preterm birth.

The best food sources include animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals. Plant foods are not a favorable source of vitamin B12.

Folic acid or folate, plays an crucial role in synthesizing DNA in cells and for manufacturing neurotransmitters. It is very important during early pregnancy because of its essential role in the healthy development of baby’s neural tube. The tube becomes a baby’s brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is formed early during the first month of pregnancy, often before any apparent signs of pregnancy. Taking in  enough folic acid before and early in a pregnancy as part of a healthful diet may lower a woman’s risk of having a child with spina bifida (spine) and anencephaly (brain).

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The top food sources of folate include vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), legumes, nuts, and seeds. Folic acid is also found in multivitamin supplements.

Deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin B 12 should be avoided by all women of childbearing age by supplementing with these important B vitamins, especially before becoming pregnant.

Choline supports the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord during fetal growth. Many pregnant women do not receive adequate amounts of choline through the diet.

Good food sources of choline are meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Also cruciferous vegetables, soy beans, kidney beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Choline is typically included in conjunction with B-complex vitamins in most multivitamin supplements.

Niacin is another type of B vitamin—B3, to be exact. Just like the other B vitamins, niacin is water-soluble. So it’s not stored in your body, and unused amounts are excreted through your urine. Niacin is crucial for converting food to energy. But also supports the digestive system, skin, and nerve function. A study has linked higher blood levels of niacin (B3) during pregnancy to healthier skin outcomes in babies at 12 months of age.

Iron is required in higher amounts during pregnancy because an expecting mother's blood volume expands due to dramatic demands of the developing baby and placenta. Building a baby demands sufficient iron for normal healthy development. Iron also plays a key part in cellular metabolism. It's a component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. This ensures that your baby gets the oxygen needed for healthy development.

Not only is iron critical for the appropriate neurodevelopment during fetalhood, it is also vital after birth during early childhood development.  iron intake during pregnancy may help support a healthy birth as well as a safe and normal delivery and post-delivery health of both mother and child.

Optimal food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, meat, seafood, white beans, lentils, and spinach.

Zinc is another critical mineral during pregnancy. This is especially true during the first trimester, when baby’s organs are developing. It is also thought to facilitate in the development of the immune system. Zinc is also important after baby’s birth to aid in the first significant stages of infant growth and formation.

Prime food sources comprise of oysters and other seafood, red meat, and poultry. Fortified breakfast cereals, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy also contain zinc.

Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymes in the body. Adequate magnesium intake is connected with healthy fetal growth and full-term delivery.

This mineral can be found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, avocado, nus, seeds, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones that regulate many important biochemical reactions. Thyroid hormones impact protein synthesis, enzymatic, and metabolic activity. Iodine is critical during pregnancy to support the healthy growth and the development of a baby’s brain health, skeletal system, and metabolism. Iodine deficiency has multiple adverse effects on growth and development, including the mental health of the baby. A considerable percentage of pregnant women are iodine insufficient.

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Prime food sources include seafood, seaweed, dairy products,  eggs, grains, poultry and baked potato with the skin.

Essential fatty acids are vital for developing babies. And many women don’t get enough from diet alone. During pregnancy, fats provide energy and help build fetal organs and the placenta. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA, support brain, eye, and nerve development—specifically during the last trimester. DHA and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid are the predominant fats found in the nerve cells of fetal and infant brains. Unfortunately, the modern diet is often lacking in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in vegetable oils, fatty fish, olives, avocado, nuts and seeds.

Both macros and micros are crucial to grow a healthy baby and support the health of the mom-to-be. The foods consumed during pregnancy are important, so select wisely. And don’t forget the importance of a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement to cover any dietary vitamin or mineral shortfall.

YOU ARE WHAT YOUR MOTHER ATE: PREGNANCY DIET PLANNING STARTS EARLY

You are what you eat. And so is your baby. Planning a healthy pregnancy should begin well before a pregnancy happens. Some experts recommend making healthier eating and lifestyle choices at least six months before trying to conceive.

It’s also the best time to start taking a prenatal multivitamin/mineral supplement that provides folic acid or folate. This important B vitamin, consumed as part of a healthful diet may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with brain or spinal cord defect. When consumed before conception, helps prevent neural tube defects. Current guidelines recommend that women of childbearing age consume at least 600 micrograms of folic acid daily from all sources.

Pregnancy requires extra energy, building blocks, and cellular assistants. So, making good pregnancy nutrition choices throughout all three trimesters is essential. Infant birth weight, rate of growth after birth, and ongoing health can be influenced by pregnancy nutrition, lifestyle, and the health status of the mom-to-be.

 

PREGNANCY NUTRITION—WEIGHT CHANGES AND CALORIE REQUIREMENTS

A pregnant woman is not eating for two. Sure, there are extra calorie requirements during pregnancy. But that saying isn’t quite accurate. Calories should gradually increase to meet demands as your baby grows and develops.

During the first trimester, no additional calories are required. Daily requirements change in the second trimester. At that time, about 340 additional calories a day are needed. The recommendation increases to 450 extra calories per day in the third trimester to continue meeting the growing demands of the baby-to-be.

Over the course of a healthy pregnancy, your body also stores fat for energy needs during labor and delivery. This also supports breastfeeding—if you breastfeed your baby. These additional calories are not an invitation to splurge on doughnuts, chips, cookies and ice cream. You’re building a baby, so choose wisely.

Did you know that by the 15th week of fetalhood, your baby has developed taste buds and can perceive food flavors from your diet? The foods you eat during your pregnancy help prime your future baby’s health, palate and food preferences. They also provide a model for their future eating habits.

These extra calories and fat storage often mean weight gain. That’s normal. Requirements for appropriate weight gain during pregnancy differ depending on the current weight of the mom-to-be. An average weight women should gain 25–35 pounds. Underweight women may need to gain 28–40 pounds. And an overweight or obese mom-to-be should aim to gain 11–25 pounds, depending on their weight.

 

MACROS AND MICROS, OH MY!

There are two types of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients. And the difference is the amounts you need. Macronutrients, like fats, protein, and carbohydrates, are required in large quantities in the diet (grams). Micronutrients—as the name suggests—are needed in smaller amounts (milligrams or micrograms).

Pregnancy affects these amounts somewhat. Carbohydrate requirements during pregnancy increase from about 130 to 175 grams/day and protein needs by about 25 additional grams per day. Most women already meet these requirements. During pregnancy your body needs a little more fat. About 25 percent to 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat to support a healthy pregnancy. Consuming the right types of fats is also important. The majority of fats should come from monounsaturated (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated (PUFAs) fats.

Strive to eat nutrient-rich proteins, complex carbs, and essential fats every day. Include a variety of lean protein sources, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy, vegetables and fruit to help meet the changing nutritional demands of pregnancy. The nutritional needs of a developing baby will take priority over the needs of the mom-to-be, so it’s important to eat well.

While all nutrients are important to support a healthy pregnancy, certain vitamins and minerals (micronutrients) play a particularly important role during the development of an infant. Here’s a list of these micronutrients, how they impact pregnancy, and foods to eat:

  • Vitamin A is important for baby’s overall growth and development. It also plays a role in vision, protein synthesis, and cell differentiation. Sources of preformed and provitamin vitamin A include beef liver, orange, red, yellow and green leafy vegetables, dairy products, and eggs. You’ll also find vitamin A in fruits like cantaloupe and fortified breakfast cereals.
  • Vitamin D is important to support healthy development of bones, teeth, skin and eyesight. It is unique among vitamins because it works more like a hormone at the DNA level. Vitamin D has been estimated to regulate 200–300 genes. Many cells have vitamin D receptors and need it to function properly. That includes cells in the skin and brain. Vitamin D is naturally produced through skin exposure to sunlight. Skin color, age, and time of year can impact the amount of vitamin D produced through skin exposure.

Very few foods naturally provide vitamin D. Fatty fish and egg yolks are natural food sources. Other sources include fortified foods such as dairy products, ready-to -eat breakfast cereals, or dietary supplements.

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  • Calcium is necessary for proper development of bones and teeth (in combination with vitamin D) and baby’s calcium status. Consuming adequate calcium supports healthy development of bones and teeth buds for baby. It also protects mom’s bones from pregnancy-related calcium loss. If a mom-to-be doesn’t get enough dietary calcium, her body will pull calcium out of her bones to compensate.

Rich sources of calcium include dairy products- milk, cheese and yogurt. Other good sources include fortified foods and drinks, such as breakfast cereals and orange juice, and soy beverages. Canned sardines and salmon packed in oil with bones, Chinese cabbage, kale, and turnip greens are also sources of calcium.

  • B vitamins are primarily used as cofactors in energy metabolism. They are water-soluble. That means your body doesn’t store them and unused amounts exit in the urine. While all B vitamins are important during pregnancy, folate (folic acid) and B12, provide additional crucial roles in the development of the central nervous system. And this essential system is completely formed during the first few weeks of life.

Vitamin B12 is vital for producing red blood cells, genetic materials, healthy neurological function and DNA synthesis. Deficiencies during pregnancy may cause neurological damage in the baby. A deficiency of B12 at the beginning of, and during pregnancy, could increase risk of certain birth defects, neurological impairment, and contribute to preterm birth.

Animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products, and fortified foods like breakfast cereals contain vitamin B12. Plant foods are not a good source of vitamin B12.

Folic acid or folate, plays an essential role in synthesizing DNA in cells and for manufacturing neurotransmitters. It is very important during early pregnancy because of its essential role in the healthy development of baby’s neural tube. The tube becomes a baby’s brain and spinal cord. The neural tube is formed early during the first month of pregnancy, often before any noticeable signs of pregnancy. Consuming adequate folic acid before and early in a pregnancy as part of a healthful diet may reduce a woman’s risk of having a child with spina bifida (spine) and anencephaly (brain).

The best natural food sources of folate include vegetables (asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts), legumes, nuts, and seeds. Folic acid is also found in multivitamin supplements.

Deficiencies of folic acid and vitamin B 12 should be avoided by all women of childbearing age by supplementing with these important B vitamins, especially before becoming pregnant.

  • Choline supports the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord during fetal development. Many pregnant women do not obtain adequate amounts of choline through the diet.

Choline can be found in meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, and eggs. Also cruciferous vegetables, soy beans, kidney beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Choline is typically included in combination with B-complex vitamins in most multivitamin supplements.

  • Niacin is another type of B vitamin—B3, to be exact. Just like the other B vitamins, niacin is water-soluble. So it’s not stored in your body, and unused amounts are excreted through your urine. Niacin is important for converting food to energy. But is also supports the digestive system, skin, and nerve function. A study has linked higher blood levels of niacin (B3) during pregnancy to healthier skin outcomes in babies at 12 months of age.
  • Iron is required in higher amounts during pregnancy. That’s because an expecting mother’s blood volume expands due to dramatic demands of the developing baby and placenta. Building a baby requires adequate iron for normal healthy development. Iron also plays a key role in cellular metabolism. It’s a component of hemoglobin, which allows red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the bod. This ensure that your baby gets the oxygen needed for healthy development.

Not only is iron critical for the appropriate neurodevelopment during fetalhood, it is also important after birth during early childhood development. Adequate iron intake during pregnancy may help support a healthy birth as well as a safe and normal delivery and post-delivery health of both mother and child.

The best food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, meat, seafood, white beans, lentils, and spinach.

  • Zinc is another important mineral during pregnancy. This is especially true during the first trimester, when baby’s organs are forming. It is also thought to assist in the development of the immune system. Zinc is also important after baby’s birth to assist in the first important stages of infant growth and development.

Oysters and other seafood, red meat, and poultry are some foods that provide zinc. Other good food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, beans, nuts, whole grains, and dairy.

  • Magnesium is a cofactor in over 300 enzymes in the body. Adequate magnesium intake is associated with healthy fetal growth and full-term delivery.

Good food sources include: green leafy vegetables, legumes, avocado, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and fortified breakfast cereals.

  • Iodine is an essential component of the thyroid hormones that regulate many important biochemical reactions. Thyroid hormones impact protein synthesis, enzymatic, and metabolic activity. Iodine is essential during pregnancy to support the healthy growth and the development of a baby’s brain health, skeletal system, and metabolism. Iodine deficiency has multiple adverse effects on growth and development, including the mental health of the baby. A substantial portion of pregnant women are iodine insufficient.

Iodine can be found in seafood, seaweed, dairy products, eggs, grains, poultry, and baked potato with the skin.

  • Essential fatty acids are important for developing babies. And many women don’t get enough from diet alone. During pregnancy, fats provide energy and help build fetal organs and the placenta. Omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, support brain, eye, and nerve development—especially during the last trimester. DHA and the omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid are the predominant fats found in the nerve cells of fetal and infant brains. Unfortunately the modern diet is often low in omega-3 fatty acids.

Good food sources include: vegetable oils, fatty fish, olives, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

Both macros and micros are very important to build a healthy baby and support the health of the mom-to-be. The foods eaten during pregnancy are important, so choose wisely. And don’t forget the importance of a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement to cover any dietary vitamin or mineral shortfall.

 

GIVE THE GIFT OF A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Following a healthy lifestyle is also necessary for supporting a healthy pregnancy and baby.

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Regular exercise during a healthy pregnancy helps curtail excessive weight-related pregnancy complications. And exercise is critical to aid overall health and wellbeing. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advises 30 minutes or more of moderate exercise per day on most, if not all days of the week. There are exceptions for those with a medical concern/condition or a pregnancy complication. Always check with your healthcare professional for questions about exercise patterns.

Emotional stress during pregnancy can affect the development of the fetus—especially the brain—during any stage of pregnancy. Everyday stress is considered somewhat irritating and a routine part of modern life. But chronic high stress can elevate the risk of a preterm birth and the delivery of a low-birthweight baby. So, make self-care a priority during this significant time in life. Learning to manage, reduce, or eliminate stress will support a healthier pregnancy and baby.

If you smoke, cease before trying to conceive. Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of developing lung problems, learning disabilities, and physical growth even after birth. It is strongly recommended that pregnant women quit smoking for the duration of the pregnancy. Your baby’s life could depend on it.

It’s fine to consume alcohol in moderation before becoming pregnant. However, it’s very important to stop drinking alcohol completely when you become pregnant. Alcohol can pass freely through the placenta. So, when you drink alcohol, your developing baby does, too. Even limited amounts of alcohol may affect your baby’s brain development.

Reduce caffeine intake. While not well-understood, consuming high amounts of this stimulant has been linked to impaired growth and increased miscarriage risk. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology suggests limiting caffeine consumption to less than 200 mg per day (the amount in about two cups of coffee).

Talk to your doctor about medications (prescription and over-the-counter) you are taking, including the use of dietary or herbal supplements. If you have a medical condition, make sure it is well-controlled.

Food safety is also important. Take extra precautions to avoid exposure to food-borne pathogens. Infection from food-borne illness can cause harm the mom and her developing baby. Avoid raw or undercooked meat, seafood, or egg items. Unpasteurized milk, cheeses made from unpasteurized milk—like brie and feta—and unpasteurized juice should also be avoided. To protect you and your developing baby wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating. Avoid anything that cannot be properly washed, or foods that are known to be a high-risk for food-borne illness

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PREGNANCY NUTRITION HELPS YOU BUILD A HEALTHY BABY

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Pregnancy is an important time in human development. And nutrition is an essential component of a healthy pregnancy and outcome. A baby cannot develop into a healthy, thriving human without the proper building materials to support healthy development. Diet and lifestyle habits impact all stages, starting with your future fertility. They help determine your child’s nutritional health and birth weight. And your diet and lifestyle provide a model for children’s future eating habits from fetalhood, childhood and into adulthood.

Proper prenatal care has many aspects. It starts with adopting a healthy well-balanced eating plan, which includes a quality vitamin/mineral supplement before and during pregnancy. And that’s combined with a healthy overall lifestyle. Taking these steps is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your future children.

Prebiotics and Probiotics: What Are the Differences?

Both prebiotics and probiotics are vital for human health. However, there are some key differences. Probiotics are live bacteria in certain foods or supplements and are beneficial for immune and gut health. Prebiotics are found in different types of carbs (mostly fiber) that humans are unable to digest. The beneficial bacteria in your gut eat this fiber. 

The food you eat plays a vital role in the balance of good and bad gut bacteria. For example, a high-sugar and high-fat diet impacts the gut bacteria negatively, allowing harmful species to spread (456). Once you regularly feed the wrong bacteria, they can grow faster and colonize more easily, without as many helpful bacteria to hinder them from doing so (78). The destructive bacteria may also cause you to absorb more calories than people with a healthy balance of gut bacteria, who tend to be leaner (9). Additionally, foods treated with pesticides like Roundup may have negative effects on the gut bacteria. However, more human research is needed on this (101112).

Studies have also shown that antibiotics can cause permanent changes in certain types of bacteria, especially when taken during childhood and adolescence. Antibiotic use, or more specifically, overuse is so pervasive, that researchers are now studying how this may cause health problems in people later in life (1314).

Everything you ingest must go through your digestive system, which, in turn, provides all the micro- and macronutrients your body’s cells need to function properly. Because the digestive system is responsible for breaking down and taking in the vitamins and minerals from food and nutritional supplements, maintaining digestive health is an important factor in optimizing nutrient absorption and defending against deficiency-related illness.

In 2012, a study revealed that almost 4 million adults used probiotics for health. More research is needed to decisively identify the benefits of supplementing gut bacteria. However, research indicates that probiotics offer significant health benefits.

Some research suggests that prebiotics and probiotics can be effective in treating diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, allergic disorders, and even the common cold. Prebiotics and probiotics have been proposed as treatments for obesity. They are being explored as a way to prevent the spread of cancer. Promising research has shown probiotics to be an effective treatment for inflammatory arthritis.

Not only does a healthy digestive system vastly reduce the likelihood of physical discomfort from gas, constipation, bloating, or occasional diarrhea, it also promotes consistent waste elimination from the body through the regular passing of stool and normalization of stool consistency.*

To keep everything operating smoothly, it is important that you drink plenty of water; exercise; and consume a proper diet with plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. In addition to eating a healthful diet, using probiotics can help create an ideal environment for healthy digestion.*

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Your gut is host to both beneficial and potentially harmful bacteria. These bacteria, also known as micro flora, may aid healthy digestion. Age, stress, illness, antibiotics and/or certain medicines, poor diet and hydration, lack of rest, and damaging environmental conditions may endanger the fine balance that is needed to support the normal intestinal flora. This imbalance can result in the decrease of beneficial bacteria in the gut, which can lead to digestive concerns that may not only be physically uncomfortable but also possibly harmful to your health.

More immune cells are concentrated in the gut than in any other region of the body. These probiotics may help prevent harmful bacteria from settling in the intestinal tract and boost the growth of healthy bacterial growth to help support proper nutrient absorption.

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Prebiotics don’t actually contain bacteria. They are fuel to help bacteria grow. All prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber. The fiber inulin, which is found in chicory rootbananas, and asparagus, is a prebiotic that can be used as food for gut bacteria. Onions, garlic, berries, leeks, oats, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, dandelion greens, asparagus, and legumes are also prebiotic sources.

When a food source contains both prebiotics and probiotics, the combination is called a synbiotic. Foods that are synbiotics include cheese, kefir, and certain types of yogurt. Prebiotics can also be purchased as a commercial food additive or capsule supplement. They come in both liquid and powdered forms.

Probiotics aren’t regulated according to “drug” standards by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This means that some of the live bacteria being used in probiotics hasn’t been evaluated according to strict safety measures. That’s something crucial to keep in mind when considering prebiotics and probiotics.

When you start a synbiotic regimen, there are some common side effects. Gas, constipation, loose stool, and loss of appetite sometimes happen, especially at the beginning of the regimen. Bloating and acid reflux have also been reported.

There is one side effect of probiotics that is known to be dangerous: having an allergic reaction to the bacteria that are being added to your body. If you break out in hives or experience extreme stomach pain after ingesting a prebiotic or probiotic, stop taking the supplement. Contact a doctor to determine if you’re having a reaction.

Probiotics are occasionally recommended for children that are taking antibiotics. But you should talk to your child’s doctor before you give probiotics to a child under the age of 12. Probiotics and prebiotics are also believed to be generally safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Get the go ahead from your doctor before starting any new supplement during pregnancy and postpartum.

When choosing a probiotic supplement, consider the stability of the product, and whether the bacteria strains used in the supplement are high-quality, meaning they are able to survive stomach enzymes and enter the intestinal tract alive, and in a sufficient quantity that is beneficial. 

Stability is a major issue with most strains of bacteria. Shelf-life for most strains is very brief and many strains require refrigeration. Even refrigerated products can have poor viability and very short shelf-lives. In addition, many strains that have good data in culture or in vitro show no viability when exposed to the actual human digestive process. If a strain does not make it through digestion all the way to the intestine to colonize, its benefit is questionable.

Bifidobacterium BB-12®† and Lactobacillus rhamnosus LGG®† are two strains of probiotic bacteria that have been clinically proven to promote a natural balance of beneficial micro flora in the gut. USANA's Probiotic contains 12 billion Colony Forming Units (CFU) of viable bacteria—a level shown to be effective in clinical studies. It also contains prebiotic, in the form of inulin.

Spotlight on Superfood: Turmeric

Turmeric contains three major phytochemical compounds – called curcuminoids – which give turmeric its bright yellow-orange color. (The most active component is curcumin.) These curcuminoids have been the focus of numerous clinical studies designed to examine their long-term safety, antioxidant properties, and anti-inflammatory activity.

Curcumin is a powerful antioxidant known to decrease oxidative damage of DNA and proteins. And is thought to have potential therapeutic benefits in diseases associated with oxidative damage such as certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.

It is known to inhibit many important enzymes systems associated with inflammation. Malfunction of these enzyme systems is associated to tumor production and several inflammatory disorders. Due to its possible benefits associated with cancer prevention, much research has been dedicated to curcumin (and other extracts of turmeric) over the past few decades.

Experiments in test tubes have demonstrated the ability of curcumin to kill colon-cancer cells. In people, preliminary evidence suggests taking curcumin may reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) and rheumatoid arthritis. It’s also been shown to prevent the development of Type-2 diabetes in people with prediabetes.

A study from UCLA found that rats that consumed curcumin were more resistant to the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaque in their brains — an abnormality associated with Alzheimer’s in people. Elderly people in India have one of the world’s lowest rates of Alzheimer’s, according to the NCBI, and also have diets high in turmeric. But more research needs to be done to confirm a connection between curcumin and Alzheimer’s in humans.

Research suggests extracts of turmeric can ease symptoms of indigestion, prevent irritable bowel syndrome and alleviate knee pain caused by osteoarthritis. 

A study published in Clinical Nutrition found that taking curcumin supplements reduced inflammation in people with metabolic syndrome. A person is thought to have metabolic syndrome if he or she has a large waist circumference plus two or more of the following symptoms: high blood triglycerides, high blood pressure, elevated fasting blood glucose and low HDL (good) cholesterol. The cluster of risk factors is thought to double the risk of heart attack and increase the likelihood of developing Type-2 diabetes fivefold.

Recent research from Tufts University in Massachusetts found that curcumin suppressed the growth of fat tissue, and therefore prevented weight gain in mice. However, more research has to be done to demonstrate its effects on humans and weight loss.

Curcumin is beneficial for joints so is highly recommended for athletes, active people and especially for those with arthritis. Problem is, curcumin is rarely soluble in water or oily solvents which results in poor bioavailability.

A solution to this problem comes in the form of Meriva®, a delivery form of curcumin with lecithin. Meriva has been shown to increase the hydrolytical stability of curcumin and to increase the oral absorption of curcuminoids by nearly 30 fold.

You can buy turmeric as a fresh root in natural food stores (it looks like ginger root), in capsules containing powder and in tincture form. Curcumin is sold as a supplement in capsules. Supplements are best taken with food to increase the absorption of curcumin.

Turmeric is generally safe, particularly when used simply as a flavouring ingredient in food. However, some people might have side effects if they consume the spice in excess or take turmeric supplements. The NIH advises that people with gallbladder issues such as stones, bleeding disorders, gastrointestinal reflux disease, iron deficiency, hormone-sensitive conditions, and pregnancy should avoid medicinal quantities of turmeric. If you have any questions, ask your doctor.

That said, fresh turmeric root or ground turmeric spice is a healthy addition to your diet. Add grated turmeric root or a pinch of turmeric powder to smoothies, nut milk, rice and quinoa (when cooking), curries, soups, stir-fries, egg dishes and dips.

Reflections and Resolutions for 2017

It's the end of the year. Naturally, a time to reflect on how the year went and think about what we would like to have happen in the next year. I think most people would agree that in general, 2016 has not been great.

My year was better than the last but I don't think that's saying much. However, the goal is always to have this year or the next be better than the last so there's that at least. Some of my relationships have fallen apart, ones that I thought would have lasted the test of time but no matter how well you think you know someone, people always have the ability to surprise you. In that same vein, I've met plenty of new friends, though, too. And I was laid off but also found a position with a new company that I'm really enjoying so far with an excellent team.

Some things that I'm looking forward to leaving behind in 2016 are bad habits such as negative self-talk, the focus on the scale or goals that are based strictly on aesthetics, workouts I don't enjoy, perfectionism, calorie counting, and everything else that is holding me back.

Everyone experiences moments of doubt and negativity, when your fears seem bigger than you. We are capable of so much more than we believe. Eliminate the negative self-talk and instead start complimenting yourself with daily affirmations! It might seem silly at first but practicing self-love is an essential part of wellness. Successful people still have fears but they refuse to let it stop them from accomplishing their goals. Henry Ford said: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't – you're right.”

Quantifiable goals are great but tunnel vision with the numbers on the scale can be far from positive. Make it, achievable, specific and measurable, and habit based. Focus on action-based results, not outcome-based. Examples of good goals are eating vegetables with every meal, drinking 2 liters of water everyday, chewing food 15-30x before swallowing to boost digestion, meditating for 5 minutes a day for 4 times a week, or exercising 5 hours per week.

Try something new to get your blood pumping and make exercise fun. Working out doesn't have to be a chore. Experiment with different activities such as kickboxing, aerial yoga, spin class, archery tag, trampoline fitness, hula hooping, or barre.

Work out because you love yourself, not because you "hate" your body. After I've been working out consistently for a year, I absolutely appreciate and feel more comfortable with my body. I still have my moments when I'm not feeling myself but they are fewer and farther between now. Celebrate what your body can do, feel empowered, boost your energy, sleep better, improve your health, alter your mood for the better, among myriad other benefits. 

Focus on progress, not perfection. Giving yourself unrealistic or unattainable goals is detrimental to your mental and your physical health. Don't beat yourself up if you aren't adhering strictly to your objective. Shake it off, re-focus and get back on track! Remember it is what you do every day that impacts on your health, not what you do occasionally. If you're willing to be patient and apply some simple, daily disciplines to your everyday life, then success may be even closer than you think.

Avoid obsessing over calories — especially if it has created a negative relationship with food. Food is fuel, and we need calories to have strong muscles, bones, and a functioning body. Carbs are not the enemy. They are necessary for your health. Eat protein, healthy fats and plenty of veggies. Limit your intake of sugar and overly processed foods.

Your compromised mental health can have a gravely negative impact on your health. Stress can cause weight gain, poor sleep, bloating, physical pain, skin problems, and more. Practice some self-care, however that feels like for you. It could be drawing yourself a bath, some quiet time with a book, a massage or meditation.

What is preventing you from being your best self and living your best life? Is it a toxic relationship, an awful job that drains you of your energy, or a deep-seated fear? Let. It. Go. Surround yourself with people who support your goals. Say goodbye to work that doesn't make you feel good — or worse, makes you feel bad. Remove unnecessary obligations that keep you from reaching your physical, mental, and personal goals. This is YOUR time! Swap these things with activities that help you reach your goals, a job that fosters your creativity and empowers you, and relationships with people who build you up.

the Top Beauty Nutrients: Part 4 - Additional Antioxidants

Glutathione is considered a master antioxidant which works to support the other antioxidants. It's main role is to recycle antioxidants. Elevated glutathione levels decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance, and shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development. When glutathione production is limited, you are lacking a powerful  and natural ability to recover. 

To stimulate glutathione production, consume sulphur-rich foods such as garlic, onions, and the cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, kale, cabbage, cauliflower, and watercress.

Moderate exercise encourages the production of glutathione, which then helps boost your immune system, improves detoxification, and improves your body's own antioxidant defences. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day. Strength training for 20 minutes three times a week is also beneficial.

The body usually produces alpha-lipoic acid, but given the stress we experience from day-to-day life and our lifestyle, we often become depleted. Supplementing with alpha-lipoic acid can help.

Vitamins B6 and B12 are possibly the most critical to glutathione production. Methylation and the production and recycling of glutathione are two of the most significant biochemical functions in your body.

It is recommended to consume optimal amounts of selenium because this important mineral helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione.

Vitamins C and E work in harmony to recycle glutatione. Add vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet for your vitamin C, and eat almonds to help increase your vitamin E intake.

Milk thistle (silymarin) has long been utilized by medical herbalists to support liver function. In addition to that, it also boosts glutathione levels.

Alpha-lipoic acids is an antioxidant with the unique ability to neutralize free radicals within aqueous (water-based) and lipid (fatty) regions ofcells,as well as in intracellular and extracellular environments. It is also able to recycle or regenerate several other important antioxidants, including vitamin C and glutathione. Alpha-lipoic acid because of its antioxidant activity is wonderful for your skin and for slowing the aging process. 

Sources of alpha-lipoic acid include spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, peas, and brussels sprouts. However, studies in mammals have shown the alpha-lipoic acid supplied by the diet is not enough for purposes such as incorporation into enzyme complexes. It is only through supplementation that alpha-lipoic acid has been show to reach potentially therapeutic levels.

Coenzyme Q10, another powerful antioxidant, is found naturally in almost every cell in the body; it helps convert food into energy. Research has shown that CoQ10 may help with heart-related conditions, because it can improve energy production in cells, prevent blood-clot formation, act as an antioxidant, and has anti-aging effects on the skin. 

CoQ10 has been shown to protect against photo-aging, premature aging due to overexposing the skin to the sun. And may rejuvenate skin by stimulating stem cell activity. Active skin cells get rid of toxins easily and can make better use of nutrients. CoQ10 stimulates collage production. Collage is the protein that tends to decrease as we age, leading to wrinkles and leather skin. CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant, protecting against damage from UV rays of the sun, pollutants and stress.

Food sources of CoQ10 include fish, brown rice, organ meats, such as liver, heart and kidney, and is also readily available as a supplement. 

Flavonoids are found in abundance in a wide range of fruits and vegetables, including cranberries, apples, celery, tomatoes, kale, parsley, as well as in green and black tea. They help reduce inflammation, slow and even cease oxidation, and help protect your skin from aging and wrinkling. Flavonoids have also been show to support the immune system, suppress the growth of tumours,  and prevent blood clots.

Indoles are found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. They behave like antioxidants, decrease inflammation, and have been shown to support healthy oestrogen metabolism, which is critical for health and beauty, and to reduce the risk of developing reproductive cancers.

All nutrients are essential to your inner health and outer beauty, and even if only one is deficient in the diet, there are both visible and "silent" consequences.  Obtain as many nutrients as possible from your food, and when your diet is mostly real food and high in plants you have the opportunity to maximize every mouthful. However, the nutrient density of the food you eat is depends on the quality of the soil in which it is grown. Supplements do not make up for a poor diet, as there are compounds present in whole food that are unique in their ability to support your health. Today, due to a high-stress lifestyle and increased exposure to pollutants - from sources such as the number of cars on the road to the pesticides on conventionally grown foods that didn't even exist 100 years ago - we require more detoxification than ever before. Nutritional supplements can therefore play a highly beneficial role in supporting optimal inner health and outer shine.

 

 

the Top Beauty Nutrients: Part 3 - Fats

Essential fatty acids (both omega-3 and omega-6 types) are amazing for keeping the skin beautiful. They are literally essential, meaning they must be consumed daily for us to be well, inside and outside, as we cannot create them from other fats we eat or generate. Medium-chain triglycerides, in particular lauric acid are also critical for inner health and outer beauty.

Dry, inflamed skin, or skin that suffers from the frequent appearance of whiteheads or blackheads, can benefit from supplementing with essential fatty acids. The body cannot produce its own essential fatty acids, so it must be obtained through the diet. They are critical in skin repair, moisture content and overall flexibility.

Some essential fatty acid deficiency signs include dandruff, dull skin, cracked heels (on the feet), skin sensitivity, keratosis pilaris, which are often described as a "chicken skin" appearance on the backs of arms and legs (which may also be caused by too much fruit in the diet). 

The typical Western diet is overabundant in omega-6 fatty acids - which are found in many processed foods, baked good, and grains - and sorely lacking in omega-3s. Dietary sources for omega-3s include cold-water fish, such as salmon and mackerel, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts.

All fats and oils are made up of fat molecules called fatty acids. There are 2 ways of classifying fatty acids. One is based on saturation; saturated fatty acids, monounsaturated fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids. The second method of classification is based on molecular size or length of the carbon chain in the fatty acid. There are short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), and long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Another term often seen in reference to fatty acids is triglyceride. Three fatty acids joined together form a triglyceride, so you may have short-chain triglycerides (SCT), medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), or long-chain triglycerides (LCT).

Medium-chain fatty acids tend to primarily produce energy, so are less likely to be stored as body fat. One MCFA in particular, lauric acid has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, with research supporting the claim that it can be 15 times more powerful than benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient in many acne medications and face washes, when it comes to killing the bacteria involved in acne. 

Both coconut and butter contain lauric acid. Butter from pasture-fed cows also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a relative of lauric acid, which research has shown to have both anti-cancer properties as well as anti-inflammatory actions.