Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Having a Baby? Read these books...

One April a few years ago I picked up the phone. It was Brenda Ramler, a local midwife calling.

"Hi. I'm working on a recommended reading list. Do you have any books you think I should include?" Brenda is someone you can always count on to get straight to the point; a real straight shooter. One of the straightest shooters I have known in my life.

"Why? What's up?" I on the other hand am an information gatherer. I never like to express my opinion until I feel I know all the facts. You know, a lay of the land type person.

"I'm working on something to hand out at the Fair. I have a list but I'm looking for new ideas to add to it." She was talking about Birth & Baby Resource Network's annual Birth & Baby Fair. This fair was almost as old as BBRN itself and Brenda & I had been involved in some way every year since its founding.

That's another thing about Brenda, she is a worker. She never sees something she feels needs to be done and says, "I'm too tired" or "too busy." Besides that she is an organizational wizard and perhaps one of the most detail oriented people I know. On top of that she is passionate about birth. I should say natural birth. Birth the way she feels it was meant to be. Her vision of birth encompasses pregnancy, birth and parenting. To her birth is one piece of the whole; not an isolated, stand alone event.

She has strong opinions about all of it and doesn't mind sharing them. Actually I believe she feels it is her calling to share them with women and their families; a duty to herself and to God. Of course she shared them with her clients, but she would also share them with pregnant women she met at a coffee shop or in line at the grocery store. She moves through the world strong in her beliefs that women need to know. Why? So they can be responsible for themselves, for their births and for their babies.

This is not a unique belief in the "alternative" birth world. It is the founding principle of BBRN and many other organizations, but Brenda is unique in her power of conviction and willingness to clearly state the truth without fear of repercussions. Many people find this not an endearing trait. But as far as I can tell it never fazed Brenda what other people thought of her. She brought that power, conviction and confidence to every birth. It served her clients well.

She safely caught lots of San Luis Obispo county babies during her years here. She educated many women in their birthing and mothering abilities. She made an impact in our world one family at a time. She also impacted our birth community; educating assistants, doulas, teachers, and even doctors and midwives. I was one of those people. I was lucky enough to doula at a few homebirths with Brenda and she always made herself available to discussclient issues or situations. Now she has moved on to new adventures in new places with her husband. The women whose lives she touched will never forget her. Myself included.

Recently I found a copy of the list of books Brenda and I spoke about that day on the phone. I was in the home of one of her assistants who is currently training to be a midwife. I recognized it as soon as I saw it and asked Heather if I could have a copy. Many of these books are classics. The basics of birth and parenting do not change but the context of the cultural/financial politics which surround it continually changes. These books continue to be relevant because the underlying foundation of greed, power and mistrust of women's bodies remain as a constant at the core of our birth culture. I am happy to announce that these books and many others will soon be on loan again through the Birth & Baby Resource Network in the library at the Santa Lucia Birth Center.

Here is Brenda's Recommended Reading List:
Active Birth
Janet Balaskas

The Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook
local author Cathi Olson

Pregnancy & Childbirth
American Way of Birth
Jessica Mitford

A Wise Birth
Penny Armstrong

Birth as an American Rite of Passage
Robbie Davis-Floyd

Birth Reborn
Michel Odent

Gentle Birth Choices
Barbara Harper

Immaculate Deception II
Suzanne Armstrong

Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way
Susan McCutcheon

Pursuing the Birth Machine
Marsden Wagner

Special Delivery
Rahima Baldwin

Pregnant Feelings
Rahima Baldwin

Choosing Waterbirth
L. Bertram

Seasons of Change: Growing through Pregnancy & Birth
Suzanne Arms

Creating a Joyful Birth
Lucia Capprioni

Mind Over Labor
Carl Jones

Open Season
Nancy Cohen

Birthing from Within
Pam England & Robin Horowitz

Rights & Responsibilities
Birthing Normally
Gayle Peterson

Birth Your Way
Shiela Kitzinger

Obstetric Myths Versus Research Realities
Henci Goer

The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth
Henci Goer

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
La Leche League International

The Nursing Mother's Companion
local author Kathleen Huggins

Babies & Children
Natural Medicine for Children
J. Scott

Take Charge of Your Child's Health
G. Wootan

The Baby Book
Dr. Sears

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pregnancy Nutrition

Pregnancy is such a tremendous time of growth; personal growth, family growth, spiritual growth and intellectual growth. It is an incredibly important time to nourish ourselves on many levels. Of course nourishing our bodies and therefore our babies is the most important thing we can do to insure a healthy pregnancy, healthy baby and healthy birth and yet most pregnant women in the US receive very inadequate nutritional guidance from their care providers. In my classes I explain the connections between feeding ourselves correctly and preventing pregnancy complications, such as, diabetes, pre-eclampsia, low birth weight babies, and high blood pressure.

The couples I work with come to me with all different nutritional profiles. Some have specific diets, such as, vegan or gluten free. Some eat out a lot, while others do all their own organic cooking. Many buy most of their foods at the standard grocery store, while others believe they are feeding themselves more healthily by buying packaged foods from Trader Joe’s. What ever their level of nutritional awareness they usually need to make some adjustments to fully support a healthy pregnancy. I encourage couples to not change everything about their diet at once. Instead choose 1 big thing a week to change, such as, buying organic produce and make 2 or 3 healthier choices a day, such as, adding an additional piece of fruit to their breakfast or eating a hard boiled egg as a snack. These little changes add up over time. Pregnant women need to constantly be on the look out for ways to eat nutritionally dense foods because at the same time space in their stomachs shrink their babies’ nourishment need grows.

My work gives me the opportunity to learn new things all the time. I asked Courtney to write an article about whole foods eating. I knew nothing about it myself. Her article blew me away with the depth of her knowledge and the depth of my nutritional ignorance. Warning! This article is very intellectually dense, in other words, it is packed with info. I encourage you to read it carefully and digest it slowly. Use it to guide you in making some simple changes, such as, what oil you use for cooking or what type of bread you buy. Don’t let the depth of it overwhelm you into not utilizing the information. Instead look for the nuggets that fit with your life style or that seem to call to you. Maybe you want to change the salt you use or drink water at a different time of day. Definitely find one recipe to try. For me I’m going to try baking plantains and making her Apple-Raspberry Spice Rice. It sounds delicious and I always have a little left over rice hanging around. Don’t you?

Read Courtney's article for nutritional enlightenment!

Get her recipes here.

Ancient Nutritional Wisdom from India & China

I’m Courtney Coleman of CookWell.org and I’d like to give you some ancient wisdom from India and China on whole foods diet & lifestyle so that you and your baby can be as healthy & beautiful as possible. You, as a mother, are my role model. I very much look forward to experiencing the magic of carrying & birthing my own child someday. Pregnant and nursing mothers are role models for women everywhere. Congratulations!

As most of you know, the Standard American Diet of processed & fast food is a huge factor in degenerative diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. This has happened since the mass food-processing & refining era of the 1940's which denatures food. The stripping away of the natural food-state vitamin and fiber-rich bran of grains, the refining of vegetable oils renders them highly unstable and oxidized (rancid), the adding of nutrient void fillers, chemical preservatives, anti-caking agents, antibiotics, hormones, etc. and the refining of sugar all bring our vitality crashing to the floor. Warning! Basically, 99% of the packaged products at grocery stores including Trader Joe’s AND health food stores are made from refined foods. Beware of packaged foods labeled organic - they’re still made from refined wheat, etc. Even when the ingredient list says, “evaporated cane juice” and “sea salt”, these ingredients are still refined to the degree that they are not good for the body.

Sally Fallon, in her book, Nourishing Traditions, shows us why indigenous people have far fewer diseases than modern Americans. They eat regionally, with whole grains, beans and vegetables as the basis of their diets. They use animal products when needed medicinally, for building strength and warmth. And, they soak & sprout or ferment their grains. Unsoaked and unfermented whole grains and flours contain phytic acid which binds with minerals (mostly calcium) and inhibits their absorption, ultimately leading to degenerative bone loss and tooth decay. People who eat sprouted or fermented grains as a staple have strong teeth and bones late into life. Vikings and other European cultures fermented their wheat flour to make sourdough. Even American pioneers were famous for their sourdough breads, pancakes, & biscuits. African natives and the Welsh ferment corn or millet for several days to make porridges. In India, rice and lentils are fermented to make idli and dosas.
(Sprouted grain bread is higher in usable calcium & protein both important pregnancy building blocks! My pregnancy specific additions are in italics-Jennifer)

Also, indigenous people don’t eat processed foods which spike the blood sugar - refined flour, sugar, soda pop, etc. High-glycemic foods over time are being found to be the culprits in not only insulin resistance and diabetes, but in high blood pressure, heart disease, and in depressed immunity and thyroid function. (It is important when growing a baby that we keep the fire of creation set at a consistent temperature. This helps with nausea & tiredness commonly thought of as “normal” in pregnancy. Most importantly it helps prevent pregnancy diabetes which can send women down the path to an automatic cesarean section!)

And as far as sweeteners, we want grade B maple syrup, barley malt syrup, brown rice syrup, small amounts of raw honey, rapidura sugar (sucanat), and organic molasses. Stevia leaf extract is a natural, no-sugar, no-calorie sweetener, which is great for low glycemic and candida diets. (Again helps with gestational diabetes prevention, as well as, yeast and thrush prevention.)

Indigenous people don’t consume refined salt. They use whole sea salts rich in trace minerals (electrolytes), which our bodies need. Refined salt is just sodium-chloride, which acts like a toxin in the body and elevates blood pressure. We want foods to be made with salts like “whole sea salt, Celtic sea salt, Himalayan Pink sea salt, Real Salt brand (sold at TJ’s), or Portuguese sea salt.” These are the salts our bodies can use for their benefit. (Salt is necessary during pregnancy to help balance the chemistry of our bodies. It is recommended that women eat salt to taste.)

Regarding oils, people who live long, healthy lives close to the earth use only unrefined (extra virgin) oils. Refined vegetable oils like canola, corn and soy oil change molecularly with heat and form long-chain fatty acids. Using refined vegetable oils in cooking at home, eating at restaurants & fast food joints, and eating packaged, processed foods (especially those with hydrogenated oils), works in conjunction with saturated fats to clog our arteries. The oils which benefit the body should be unrefined (extra virgin) and cold pressed. Store them in airtight, opaque glass at 65 degrees F or less. To cook on high heat use: ghee, coconut, peanut, grapeseed, palm, or palm kernel. To cook on medium/low heat, use: olive, sesame, almond, apricot kernel and avocado. (Oil or fat is an important ingredient in a healthy pregnancy, as long as it is the right kind. This is commonly misunderstood by American women in their quest for body perfection they have thrown out the good fat along with the bad. Flaxseed, fish oil and Evening Primrose oil are all recommended as supplements.)

Also, we are usually de-hydrated and don’t even know it. There are doctors who recommend drinking more water for every disease. We should be getting ½ our ideal body weight in ounces per day. Hydrate with 16 - 32 ounces of water 4 times per day without food. Only drink 4 oz or so with meals to avoid diluting your stomach acids & enzymes. When you hydrate with large amounts of water, do it 30 min before meals, or about 2 hrs after meals (hydrate, wait 30 min, eat, wait 2 hrs, hydrate...). For the body to really be able to uptake water so it goes to efficient use in the body, re- mineralize purified water with a pinch of whole sea salt, a squeeze of lemon, a tsp or so of raw apple cider vinegar, or an ounce of any real fruit juice. All these things contain trace minerals (aka: electrolytes). So you basically want to create Gator Aid without the sugar. If you think about it, water in nature always has trace minerals present for the body to use, as it comes to us from wells, springs and streams. (For heart burn help, change your water habits! This problem is so common in pregnancy it is considered normal. Don’t dilute your stomach acid before a meal! Instead use Courtney’s time table and definitely try adding the vinegar!)

Basically, if it’s from a package or any restaurant, it’s probably not good for you. If you can restrict your consumption of processed & restaurant foods down to 20% of the time, and 80% of the time use fresh, seasonal, organic vegetables & fruits from Farmer’s markets or health food stores, whole grains soaked & simmered at home like millet, amaranth & quinoa, and whole beans and lentils, you are on the road to a gently cleansing and balancing whole foods diet.

Now, we are all biochemically different & need different foods & lifestyle practices to maintain vitality and balance. Some of us, based on ancestry and other constitutional factors, may need animal proteins and non-starchy vegetables more often than whole grains as the basis of our diets. If you have low energy, you may want to experiment with systems like blood typing, metabolic typing and Ayuvedic typing for a few weeks to figure out which type of diet & lifestyle works best for you. Also, in regard to seasonal foods and cooking, nature knows best and always provides us with foods which help balance us. Eating foods grown seasonally and regionally helps to balance our bodies. We generally need warming foods and cooking techniques in the fall & winter, and cooling, cleansing foods and cooking techniques in the spring & summer. The exception to this is that some of us tend to be cool and deficient with cold extremities, so we need warming building foods year round, and some of us tend to be hot, with excess weight and need more cooling & cleansing foods year round.

In regard to eating a raw diet vs. macrobiotic & Ayurvedic diets, I’ll say this: Each of us has a different quality of digestive fire, or agni, as it’s referred to in Ayurveda, the East Indian philosophy of eating and living in harmony with nature. Where one person may be able to eat some of everything offered at a buffet, another person may need to carefully apply the principals of proper food combining and eat mostly cooked foods which are easier to digest. According to both Macrobiotics and Ayurveda, a 100% raw diet year-round is particularly cooling, contractive and difficult for most people to digest. Living enzymes can be added to meals with salads or other raw veggies on the side eaten at the end of the meal. Also, a lifetime of eating refined foods and more animal proteins than necessary is what leads to systemic enzyme deficiency.
(During pregnancy our digestion slows down to promote more nutrient absorbtion. For some women this causes digestive issues. Add to that enzyme deficiency and you may have a perfect storm going on in your digestive system!) Soaked (and thusly sprouted) and simmered whole grains provide an easily digestible, long lasting energy source that’s gentle on the digestive system. Whole grains lie more toward the middle of the yin/yang spectrum and help us maintain balanced blood sugar, hormones and body chemistry. In balance, whole grains and seasonal vegetables comprise the basis of the diet around which more extreme parts of the diet revolve.

When we are in balance, we can more easily quiet our minds and open our hearts to know what the best action is in any given moment. From this place we can go forward in the world and make it a better place.

Courtney graciously included several recipes to get you started and a reading list for further study!

About Courtney and her CookWell business.

I’m 33 yrs old and for the past 12 years I’ve studied and practiced Macrobiotics, Solar Nutrition and Ayurvedic cooking. My friends loved the whole foods meals I’d make with them and said they felt more vital after eating with me, so in 2006 I started teaching people in their own kitchens to CookWell. I teach how a whole foods diet & lifestyle can prevent and reverse disease, increase energy, and bring the mind, body and spirit back to balance to people all over SLO County. I give guidelines for balancing their particular constitution according to blood typing, Ayurvedic typing and metabolic typing. And, of course, I show them how to make incredibly delicious whole foods meals for their families. This work is incredibly gratifying, and I feel blessed to be on this path. I’d love to talk to anyone anytime to offer further wisdom on the how-to of a whole foods diet & lifestyle. To get you started, I have instructional videos & some delicious free recipes listed at the bottom of the first few pages of my website like: positively perfect brown rice, chipotle beans with sea veggies, and dark leafy greens stir-steam. I teach, sometimes alongside my wonderful husband Don who helps people with their emotions, with developing mindfulness and joy in the kitchen, and with gently transitioning to a whole foods diet & lifestyle. His website is http://www.gingerbuddha.com/. We teach private or small group classes for adults or kids in your SLO county home at affordable prices. We also offer whole foods cooking for your party or event, or for meals for you to store & re-heat. I welcome any questions you may have and can be reached at courtney@cookwell.org or (805) 528-8837.
Don't forget to visit her web site at: www.cookwell.org!

I Love the Holidays!

The first Christmas card has arrived! I love Christmas cards. I love to see the babies I was blessed to witness being born growing through the years.

In the spirit of full disclosure I need to confess something. I am terrible about sending cards. I never seem to organize my time to include the time it takes to prepare and send cards. I want to include a personal letter and that seems so daunting a process I don't get started and then it is too late! One year I sent New Year's cards and one year I sent Spring cards and some years I don't send cards at all!

So my hat's off to Bernadette. Her card arrived on Nov. 30th. Of course Bernadette is one of the most organized and efficient women I know. She even births in an organized and efficient way. One evening early last January while in labor she carefully packed up her Christmas tree. The next morning she went to her scheduled prenatal appointment only to shock her doctor by already being at 10 centimeters dilation!