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: firstname.lastname@example.org Feelgood, Irish Examiner, Linn Dubh, Assumption Road, Blackpool, Cork