Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

II have re­cently found out that I am preg­nant — a sur­prise, as I was on the pill. I want to make sure that I am tak­ing the right sup­ple­ments for a healthy preg­nancy. I have stopped tak­ing my usual vi­ta­mins and am read­ing up on healthy eat­ing op­tions. What would you sug­gest?

>> One of the first things that you want to keep off the menu is green tea, since this robs the body of folic acid. Stick­ing to a sim­ple whole foods diet is the best course of ac­tion — foods that will pro­vide folic acid are or­anges, spinach, broc­coli, cau­li­flower, Brus­sels sprouts, lentils, baked beans, and peanuts.

Es­sen­tial fatty acids (EFAs) are cru­cial for your grow­ing baby. DHA (Do­cosa­hex­aenoic acid) in par­tic­u­lar is im­por­tant for healthy brain devel­op­ment and is present in breast­milk. Not only will this sup­ple­ment op­ti­mise your baby’s brain health, it also re­duces the in­ci­dence and sever­ity of post-na­tal de­pres­sion.

Dur­ing preg­nancy, es­sen­tial fatty acids help with the com­mon side-ef­fects of for­get­ful­ness, ab­sent­mind­ed­ness, and mood swings (of­ten re­ferred to as ‘baby brain’). Re­search has shown that less than ad­e­quate amounts of omega-3s is linked to low birth weight, so get­ting enough EFAs helps to en­sure a healthy birth weight.

You can get EFAs in your diet from fish, flaxseeds, wal­nuts, hempseeds, olives, pump­kin seeds, and leafy greens (these in­clude smaller amounts, but are very bioavail­able). If fish is ap­peal­ing to you, and of­ten morn­ing sick­ness dic­tates what you can and can’t eat, then make sure that you choose deep-sea fish, avoid­ing those which have a higher risk of be­ing con­tam­i­nated with mer­cury. Good op­tions in­clude mack­erel, sar­dines, At­lantic salmon, and trout.

The book Op­ti­mum Nu­tri­tion Be­fore, Dur­ing and Af­ter Preg­nancy by Pa­trick Hol­ford (founder of the In­sti­tute for Op­ti­mum Nu­tri­tion) and Su­san­nah Law­son (prac­ti­tioner at Fore­sight, the as­so­ci­a­tion for the pro­mo­tion of pre­con­cep­tion care) is a great re­source when it comes to mak­ing sure that you and your baby are get­ting all that you need from diet and sup­ple­men­ta­tion.

My acupunc­tur­ist told me that I should use slip­pery elm pow­der to help reg­u­late my bow­els as I suf­fer from con­sti­pa­tion. I have pur­chased some, but I’m won­der­ing what the best way to use it would be? There are no di­rec­tions on the packet.

>> Slip­pery elm (ul­mus fulva) has been used in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally as both food and medicine for thou­sands of years in ayurvedic, na­tive Amer­i­can, tra­di­tional Chi­nese, and western medicine. While it is in­deed a great rem­edy for con­sti­pa­tion, the ben­e­fits ex­tend far be­yond this, from teething in ba­bies to open wounds.

The pow­der is made from the in­ner bark, and can be com­bined with wa­ter to make a paste. The typ­i­cal dosage to re­lieve con­sti­pa­tion or in­testi­nal is­sues is around 1-2 tea­spoons, taken three times daily. This paste can be as thick or as thin as you like, us­ing ei­ther warm or cool wa­ter.

Slip­pery elm can be com­bined with spices and fruits as a medic­i­nal food, or even added to por­ridge. It is very sooth­ing for ir­ri­tated throats, in­testi­nal ul­cers, boils and ab­scesses, or as an ex­ter­nal draw­ing poul­tice. To use it as a poul­tice, slowly add hot wa­ter to the pow­der un­til you have a very thick paste and ap­ply over the af­fected area. For open wounds, it is im­por­tant to add an­ti­sep­tic herbs, such as gold­enseal for ad­di­tional heal­ing prop­er­ties. You can also use the poul­tice for painful joint and mus­cle con­di­tions, or as a masque for prob­lem skin.

Slip­pery elm is also what is known as a COX-2 in­hibitor. COX-2 stands for Cy­clo-oxy­ge­nase-2. Ba­si­cally, it is an en­zyme in the body that trig­gers in­flam­ma­tion, and be­cause of the sooth­ing and demul­cent prop­er­ties of slip­pery elm, it works to in­hibit the pro­duc­tion of this en­zyme and there­fore re­duce in­flam­ma­tion. This is why this herbal rem­edy is used for such a wide range of con­di­tions from the throat and res­pi­ra­tory tract through to the gas­tro-in­testi­nal tract.

Me­gan Shep­pard Do you have a ques­tion for Me­gan Shep­pard? Email it to or send a let­ter to: feel­good@ex­am­iner.ie Feel­good, Ir­ish Ex­am­iner, Linn Dubh, As­sump­tion Road, Black­pool, Cork

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