With words like “kombucha” and “adaptogen” hitting our inbox and social feeds daily, we thought it was time to get smart on what buzz-worthy wellness trends are safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding and what’s best to avoid. To help us figure that out, we tapped Rachelle Mallik, Registered Dietician and owner of The Food Therapist, where she works with women on fertility, prenatal, and postpartum nutrition. In this two-part series, we’ll hash out what a healthy pregnancy diet looks like in 2018.
Rachelle, who is also mom of a one-year-old, knows all too well the struggles of following the “rules” pregnancy, but the clinician in her knows it’s for good reason: “The tricky thing about research during pregnancy (and lactation) is finding ethical ways to conduct good research in order to determine if certain products are safe for mother and baby,” she says.
And while this information can provide a baseline, she encourages pregnant women to find a nutritional plan optimized for their own unique needs. “Everyone is different, so do talk to your healthcare practitioner if you would like to include any of supplements in your diet during pregnancy or breastfeeding. A thorough health and nutrition assessment by a physician and a registered dietitian is necessary for individualized nutrition recommendations. It’s particularly important if you have any other health conditions and/or are taking medications that could interact with certain supplements.”1
With that being said, let’s dive into some of the trendy foods and supplements, determine what’s safe and what’s best to avoid based on the evidence, and talk about some yummy swaps you can enjoy!
We’re hearing a lot about adaptogens and herbs lately, especially their positive effects on brain function and immunity. Those seem like pretty important things for pregnancy.
While some research on adaptogens has shown potential for improving symptoms associated with stress, certain adaptogens may be unsafe during pregnancy and lactation, or their safety during these stages is unknown.
To get those most reliable, evidence-based information on specific adaptogens and herbs during pregnancy and lactation, I referenced the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, one of the most comprehensive and reliable resources for herbal and non-herbal supplements.
Adaptogens and botanicals, including cordyceps, maca, rhodiola, and arnica lack sufficient reliable information, so it is recommended that these not be used during pregnancy. Ashwagandha during pregnancy is “likely unsafe when used orally” and it has “abortifacient effects” – meaning it can cause a miscarriage.
Herbs and spices can be enjoyed in amounts typically consumed in food, but should not be taken as supplements in medicinal quantities. Chamomile lacks sufficient information during pregnancy and lactation, oregano may be unsafe for pregnant women as it can cause miscarriage, and turmeric may be harmful since it can stimulate menstrual flow and the uterus.
Rachelle’s Tip: For stress relief during pregnancy and lactation, turn to alternative options like breathing exercises and prenatal yoga! Enjoy herbs and spices in foods, but avoid as supplements. Also, according to the American Pregnancy Association, many herbal teas, like chamomile, should be safe to drink when consumed as a commercially-available tea in reasonable amounts.2
Matcha is 2018’s coffee (you heard it here first). Is it safe to keep up a #matchamorning routine while pregnant?
Matcha is a powdered green tea that is rich in antioxidants. While it does contain caffeine, about 70 mg for 1 teaspoon of matcha brewed in 8 ounces of water, it is within the 200 mg per day limit recommended by ACOG during pregnancy. However, pregnant women should avoid drinking large amounts of matcha or any green tea, since catechins in green tea can reduce folate levels. You’ve probably heard of folate – it’s critical for women before conception and during early pregnancy for its role in preventing neural tube defects like spina bifida.
Rachelle’s Tip: Limit green tea during pregnancy to 1 or 2 cups a day, and always take a folic acid supplement when you’re planning pregnancy or pregnant.
We know protein is super important for growing babies. Is it safe to incorporate collagen peptides or protein powder?
Unfortunately, packaged collagen peptides often have a disclaimer about consulting your physician before use if pregnant or nursing, as collagen supplements lack reliable information and should be avoided during pregnancy lactation.
Rachelle’s Tip: If you’re really craving some collagen in your diet, roast a chicken and make a homemade stock with the leftover bones. I like to use that as a base for soup!
Protein needs do increase during pregnancy, and it can be tough for some women, especially those with bad morning sickness to meet those needs. While I may recommend a specific product for one of my patients based on her individual needs, I discourage pregnant women from regularly using protein powders since they have not been well researched during pregnancy.
Rachelle’s Tip: Aim to get your protein from food: beans, lentils, lean meat or poultry, low-mercury fish and seafood, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains all provide protein. If you’re struggling with morning sickness or unsure if you’re consuming adequate protein, consult a registered dietitian.
Talk to us about Kombucha.
Some types of kombucha contain small amounts of alcohol (0.5-1.5%), but another concern for pregnant women is the potential risk associated with consuming unpasteurized beverages, which may contain harmful bacteria. It’s best to avoid this one during pregnancy.
Rachelle’s Tip: Eat yogurt or kefir to get those probiotics!
Sometimes pregnancy and sleep don’t mix very well. We’ve heard magnesium can help.
Magnesium is safe to take as an oral supplement during pregnancy and lactation when used in doses below 350 mg daily (the upper limit). If you plan on taking a magnesium supplement, be sure to check how much is in your prenatal multivitamin to avoid exceeding the UL.
Follow along next week as Rachel talks about the how’s and why’s of increasing your plant intake during pregnancy and lactation. Stay tuned!