Discovering the power of food changed my life about two years ago. Although my mom isn’t very happy with me, I just can’t tell you how much better my husband and I feel (and we wouldn’t even have been considered “unhealthy” by most in the first place.) Invincible. Empowered. THIS is where it’s at. Let my friends, family, and (ex) colleagues think I’m crazy, I’ve decided this food stuff is no voodoo. Medical doctors have their heads buried deep in the sands of guidelines and HIPAA and OSHA and Medicare check boxes–they are NOT making time to learn about this stuff. I didn’t make time when I practiced and trust me, it’s not a part of required typical continuing medical education.
Countless food journals, diligent symptom logging and persistent elimination/reintroduction phases have led our family to be able to control most symptoms we used to medicate. I never, ever would have believed this a few years ago as a practicing physician, and I sometimes think I must be “goofy” to believe it even now. Occasionally my medical brain–which I paid so much money for–insists on denial that a real food-body connection exists. That’s when my husband just shakes his head, “Why’d you eat it? Why?”
They Said, “Maybe It’ll Be Different With ‘Your’ Diet!”
So I’m all about nutrition nowadays, and if I don’t watch it may put too much store in it. But life is about learning. (Homeschooling, if you will.) And the last few months I had to learn that sometimes even the best diet fails and you truly are helpless to the whims of internal physiology and biochemistry. (I DID know that already, really, but I guess I needed to FEEL it.) In November, I was feeling so great. I felt like all my hard nutritional work over the last two years was really, really paying off, and I was even starting to reintroduce some problem foods with a little success. Then I got pregnant. Oh, boy.
Friends and family get informed very early when I am pregnant. (Sometimes store clerks do too when I lock myself out of my car or forget my wallet.) None of this waiting 12 weeks here to tell. Withholding information only serves to make me seem quite irritable, neglectful, and remiss to others if they don’t know “the secret.” Plus, I have miscarried in the past and people didn’t know I was pregnant. The first they hear about it is when I’m headed to the OR for a D & C. “I didn’t even know you were pregnant!” Nice. Sob. I was.
Well, anyway, this fifth time around, many people exclaimed, “Maybe ‘your’ new diet will make the sickness not so bad!” I secretly hoped with them. I was secretly confident. I was eating great and had been eating great for two years! All the recommended “voodoo” stuff: broths, liver, seaweed, tons of organic vegetables, pastured meats, avoidance of inflammatory foods, some fruit, probiotic, magnesium (plenty of that!), B vitamins, fermented cod liver oil. What am I missing? My body was armed and it was ready.
The nausea increased and increased. The overwhelming exhaustion consumed me. Odor aversion sickened me all day. Food cravings and aversions hit. I was so hungry all the time but so nauseated. Some foods left horrible tastes in my mouth. I over-salivated like a loving puppy (medical terms for hyper-salivation: ptyalism or sialorrhea). No matter what I ate, the sickness continued. Bloating kicked in to the point it hurt. Constipation fluttered back in and out as it wished.
About the time the nausea started lifting at the end of the first trimester, I got a new twist. Horrible, migraine-like headaches and an apathetic, flat mood. I felt like I had gone out of the hot pot of typical morning sickness and into some frying pan. Since adhering to “my diet” clearly had not helped in the first trimester, I had gotten mad in the throes of it and let in foods which I don’t normally eat/eat much of (like egg yolks, nuts, potatoes, tapioca bread, and rice). “What difference does it make?” I thought. “I feel horrible one way or the other.” (Just an FYI. I tried a cheese quesadilla, a real one, and it was unmistakably unacceptable. Guess you can feel worse than worse with certain food choices in pregnancy.) Mess with my GI tract but please don’t mess with my brain. When my head started getting “attacked,” I ran back to the safety of “my diet”–the home-tailored GAPS/PALEO/SCD/Autoimmune PALEO diet that had got me feeling so good. I don’t know that it helped, but it offered me some sense of control.
Despite feeling so good prior to pregnancy and eating so well early on, it was turning out NO differently than all the other four pregnancies. How could life have selected for pregnant women to be so sick? I would have had to have been left behind by the tribe 10,000 years ago! Left to die holding the prized liver awarded to pregnant women back in those days. “Bye-bye. See you guys. Thanks for the liver. I’ll run from wolves the best that I can.”
This isn’t my first pregnancy. I’ve Googled all this “morning sickness” (it’s more than just nausea–it’s overwhelming exhaustion, smell aversion, increased salivation, headaches, you name it) stuff before seeking relief. I’ve sat through lectures on it. I’ve counseled patients on it during obstetrical rotations in residency. I’ve tried this and that and this and that. But I searched again. A re-Google did NOT help. I found things like “The Real Cause of Morning Sickness”, which pinpoints diet, magnesium, and B vitamins. I was so mad. “The Real Cause of Morning Sickness,” my foot.
All this nutrition “jazz” worked for the author of that post and other similar posts out there. But here is MY post saying, “Hang in there, chic. Despite your best diet and supplements, pregnancy-induced sickness may bark up your tree.” It is barking up mine.
I’ll be the first to back nutrition and say you gotta’ try it. You gotta’ eat right. I’ll tell you to try to play it safe and not eat some of those urging craving choices, like a cheese quesadilla. But I’ll admit when I’m defeated, too. In the Food vs. Pregnancy battle, Pregnancy won here in this house–despite copious pre-pregnancy magnesium, B rich meats and vegetables and supplement, and vitamin D enrichment. So if this is you, too, it’s okay. Chin up. It doesn’t last forever. Your body is just doing its job and for some reason that makes you (and me) exceptionally uncomfortable. Eat the best you can and stay in the game. Don’t let miserable pregnancy symptoms knock you too far off your nutritional choices and goals.
Even if it doesn’t make our pregnancy symptoms better, we have to come out of this pregnancy as strong as we went in. Baby will take what baby needs. Reproduction is numero uno in life. So eat well to make sure you have enough for BOTH of you! I didn’t come out of pregnancy four very well: kidney stones, daily headaches, allergies, exhaustion, achiness, and hormonal issues. I’m determined to come out of this one better than I went in.
Has “Your Diet” Helped Anything?
Yes. Typically no matter what pre-pregnancy weight I start at–I’ve started anywhere from 135-148 pounds–within the first trimester my weight soars to about 160 pounds. Seriously. Right off the bat. I thought it was just me and my body. I never fretted since it happened every time and I was healthy. I always gained over forty pounds each pregnancy. And each baby has gotten successively bigger–7 pounds, 8 pounds, 9 pounds. So I’m curious to see how much weight I gain and what this baby weighs.
This time around, I’ve gained 6 pounds and I’m at 16 weeks. I haven’t done anything except put forth a tremendous effort to stick to whole foods–call it Paleo, GAPS, SCD, whatever you wish, I don’t care. I’ll be interested to see if it holds. But as for all other pregnancy associated symptoms, my diet has not helped. But I know it’s going to help me tremendously in the recovery period. (And if it doesn’t, I’ll let you know.)
How Far Do I Shake My Conventional Training?
I’m beginning to think about things I’ve never thought about before.–Do I want my baby to get a hep B vaccine at birth? How about vitamin K? Should I have them delay clamping and cutting the cord? What’s this strangeness about eating the placenta?–I know you have more. So lay them on me. Food is no longer voodoo to me–but all this other stuff is. So throw these new sacrilegious ideas out there to let me decide how many waves to make at the hospital. (I’m a conventional medical doctor. Bear easy on me. I love to investigate the validity of these new ideas, but my choices will be skewed by my experiences. And although I already told him to prepare for some waves at the hospital, my husband is slower than I am to embrace conventional medical practice–but still a great trooper.)