MEET THE EXPERT
Louise Pyne is a registered nutritionist with a focus on women and children’s health, louisepyne nutrition.com
You are probably already eating a pretty healthy diet to provide your baby with the nutrients he needs to grow and develop. But how about sharpening it up so that it improves your health too? Nutrients in some foods can double up as home remedies for a whole range of pregnancy ailments. Better yet, we’re not talking about expensive superfoods: all of these fix-it foods are everyday ingredients readily available in your local supermarket!
Headaches are common in pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, and can range from mild pain to full-blown migraines. If you’re experiencing strong, persistent migraines, consult your GP, but otherwise eating more spinach could relieve your pounding head. Magnesium, a mineral found in spades in spinach, has been shown to improve blood fl ow to the brain, acting as a headache preventative. Frozen spinach often contains more magnesium than fresh, which may well have been held in storage for a while, unless it’s grown locally. Generally, the darker the leaves, the more nutrients. The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 300mg, and piling your plate with 100g of cooked spinach will give you over a quarter of your quota. Eat it at least three times a week to boost your levels.
Another common pregnancy side effect is constipation, which is caused by high progesterone levels. Eating more fibrous foods can help. According to the latest government guidelines, we should be eating around 30g of fibre every day, but most of us only manage just over half that. An apple a day will certainly help. Apples contain a clever combination of fibre: insoluble fibre in the skin has a natural laxative effect, while soluble fibre in the flesh aids digestion. Just one apple contains four gm of fibre, and is also 86 percent water, which also aids food digestion.
Many pregnant women suffer foot and leg cramps during the third trimester when the effects of carrying extra weight are in full force, impeding circulation and causing muscle contractions which create the painful spasms. Often worse at night, cramps may be a sign of dehydration or a deficiency in nutrients such as potassium. Eating potassiumrich foods like avocado could provide relief by improving blood fl ow around your body and regulating the muscle contractions. We need 3,500mg of potassium a day and just half an avocado will provide more than a seventh of this.
Affecting eight out of 10 women, heartburn and indigestion are very common during pregnancy. The burning, bloated feeling is a result of elevated progesterone produced in the early stages of pregnancy. Progesterone relaxes muscles, meaning stomach acid can leak through the valve of your stomach and into your oesophagus. Lemon works as a natural antacid to readily treat symptoms. Although generally thought of as acidic, it has alkaline effects when eaten, and naturally helps to balance out acid levels, minimising indigestion. It’s best consumed on an empty stomach first thing in the morning to increase the production of digestive juices to neutralize the acid. Try it half an hour before meals too if symptoms are severe. Fresh lemon juice is best.
Pregnancy makes you more susceptible to infections such as thrush, which is caused by an increase in vaginal discharge. You should always consult your GP if you get an infection, but it’s also worth taking preventative measures from the get-go. Eating natural yoghurt rich in probiotics is one of the most effective dietary cures to help combat thrush. Probiotics are good bacteria which live in your vagina as well as your digestive system, so eating foods rich in this protective bacteria will internally restore the correct balance of organisms.
Morning sickness is one of the most common pregnancy complaints. Thankfully it usually begins to ease after the first trimester once levels of the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG) drop. Ginger could help you feel better. It increases the secretion of various digestive enzymes that help to neutralise stomach acid and settle tummy troubles. Eating fresh ginger is perfectly safe during pregnancy, so use the fiery root when morning sickness strikes: grate it into a stir-fry or make a tea by steeping a few slices in hot water. ■