Pregnancy Health Hacks

pregnancy-health-hacksAs I am nearing the end of pregnancy, I thought I would share some “health hacks” that I found helpful during pregnancy.  All of these “hacks” are safe, natural methods for dealing with pregnancy symptoms and in preparing for labor.

Chiropractor Adjustments – I’ve been seeing a chiropractor regularly for years and can’t imagine life without it.  I continued my regular visits, increasing frequency to once every week or two, depending on how I was feeling throughout my pregnancy.  Not only did I not suffer from lower back pain, which I know is a very common pregnancy ailment as the belly grows, but she was also able to help with other symptoms.  I ended up having some shoulder and neck pain as I started sleeping on my side that she addressed.  She kept my hips in alignment, helping greatly with the round ligament pain.  And, most surprisingly, she was also able to adjust my stomach to relieve most of the indigestion/heartburn caused by pregnancy (up until the last week before the baby dropped). Lastly, my chiropractor is also trained in acupuncture, which can be a great help for natural labor induction- now that I am past my due date, I’m going to see just how well it works!

Prenatal Massage – I’ve always considered massages more of a treat than a necessity, but I really tried to get at least one prenatal massage each month throughout pregnancy.  Studies show that massage during pregnancy can help improve sleep and reduce stress/anxiety.  Of course, they are also greatly helpful for pain relief and overall relaxation (you deserve it, mama!).  Look for a massage practice that has staff specifically trained and certified for prenatal massage AND one that has a special pillow so that you can lay face down, instead of on your side.  Those 30 minutes of laying “on your stomach” were magical because you never get that luxury.

Magnesium & Potassium – Suffering from middle-of-the-night painful leg cramps?  These two supplements are a must; they worked to completely take those cramps away for me.  Magnesium is also beneficial in helping to calm you before bed, leading to better sleep, and for helping to keep you regular if you are suffering from constipation.

Probiotics – I highly recommend everyone take probiotics regularly, not just pregnant women.  We encounter so many antibiotics in our food and other toxins in our environment- we need to consistently restore our levels of healthy bacteria. The health of our digestive system has a strong correlation to the abilities of our overall immune system, so probiotics are essential for supporting your immune function.  They are also helpful for keeping your bowels moving if you are suffering from constipation.  Lastly, I definitely believe that regularly using probiotics was a big reason I tested negative for Group B Strep.

Essential Oils – I am a big fan of essential oils and use them every day for both my health and around my house.  Here are a few that I used most commonly during pregnancy:

  • Copaiba – An anti-inflammatory oil, this helped relieve my indigestion; I rubbed it on my chest/throat/stomach.
  • DiGize – Another one to help with indigestion and to prevent constipation.
  • Peppermint – Great to smell or add to water when you experience morning sickness; it helps relieve nausea.  I plan on bringing it into labor also in case I experience nausea then; but I will put it away while I am breastfeeding since it can cause a decrease in milk supply.
  • Thieves – I put a drop of Thieves on the bottom of my foot every day and diffused it often to boost my immune system.  I also cleaned my house with it to keep everything chemical-free.
  • Frankincense – I definitely suffered from the “daughter stealing beauty” thing and had lots of breakouts on my face from the hormones.  Frankincense mixed with coconut oil was the only thing that works to heal blemishes fast.
  • Lavender – Very useful for overall relaxation and to help promote good sleep.  Mix some with distilled water and mist over your pillow each night. It’s also very moisturizing, so I found it helpful when I was itchy from my belly stretching.
  • Clary Sage – Only to be used at the end of pregnancy when you are full-term, this oil helps ease the pain of cramps and promotes uterine contractions.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea – I drank this tea often throughout my third trimester.  My midwife recommended it as a way to tone pelvic and uterine muscles to prepare the body for productive labor contractions.  It’s full of great nutrients like magnesium and vitamin C that are also beneficial for sleep, nausea, leg cramps and immune function.  For more information, Wellness Mama wrote a great blog post about the benefits of this herb.

Evening Primrose Oil – Another recommendation from my midwife, the oil of evening primrose can help soften the cervix to prepare the body for labor.  You can find the capsules in your local pharmacy and it’s usually recommended to start after 36 weeks.

Ginger Candy – I carried this in my purse constantly when I was battling pregnancy nausea (aka morning sickness that lasts all day).  You can make them or find them in a store; the hard candies last a bit longer in your mouth, but crystallized ginger is also yummy to chew on.

Controlling Blood Sugar – I wrote a whole post about the diet, exercise, supplements and water intake that helped me keep my gestational diabetes under control – check it out here.  If you want to limit weight gain during your pregnancy, this is definitely the protocol to follow; plus, the diet+exercise simply make for a healthier lifestyle that will help you avoid much of the discomfort of the 3rd trimester.

Is there anything natural you tried during pregnancy that helped you?  Please share!

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(Char)coal in your stocking?

I still can’t believe that Christmas is less than a week away!  In remembering last Christmas, some very lovely memories of time spent with family are a bit overshadowed by a bad bout with food poisoning.  Miles away from the comforts of home, all I could think of was getting back to my charcoal.  And, yes, I am speaking about the charred wood type of charcoal.  I know it sounds a bit strange, but let me tell you about this surprising little cure-all…

As charcoal is created, “the gases, resins, proteins & fats in the wood are burned out, the heat-generated and change in chemistry cause the development of a charge on the charcoal granule which attracts most poisonous substances.”  Activated charcoal is created in a controlled setting and steam is introduced to enhance the adsorbtive power by creating finer pores.

Charcoal CapsulesActivated charcoal is a powder form that is easy to ingest and very fast-acting.  I have it in both capsule form and straight up powder.  The capsules are easy to take just like any pill; they’re good for kids (or husbands) who may not be willing to drink a glass full of black water.  Personally, I just mix a tablespoon or two in a glass of water and drink it – it’s completely tasteless, odorless and mixes well so the texture is barely granule.  Plus, drinking lots of water enhances its effectiveness.  “Charcoal reaches its maximum rate of adsorption within one minute.”

Charcoal has some surprising health benefits you’d probably never imagine.  It is actually classified in the safest Category 1 by the FDA for all ages.  It is an absolute staple in my “medicine” cabinet that’s filled only with harmless remedies and I highly recommend you get some too. Here’s the short list of its uses:

  • Charcoal is an extremely effective antidote to poisoning from chemicals or drug overdose.  There is a long list of substances which charcoal easily absorbs and the fact that it can be administered quickly & act quickly is a major advantage.  Ideally, it should be taken on an empty stomach and should be double the dosage of the poison (double further if person has eaten recently).
  • It is widely used as a remedy for stomach and intestinal issues like gas, bloating (especially from food allergies), diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.  As I mentioned, this is my go-to whenever I have food poisoning (which I have somehow contracted 3 times this year!).  As soon as I am able to keep down the charcoal for a few minutes, the vomiting stops, my stomach cramps lessen and I feel dramatically better within a matter of 10 minutes.  It decreases recovery time by preventing dehydration and, best of all, it truly absorbs the toxins causing your body to react instead of you just having to get it out of your system.
  • Swishing charcoal around your mouth for 30 seconds helps whiten and clean your teeth (seriously – it works wonders!) and stops bad breath.  Rinse with regular water afterwards to avoid a smile full of very black teeth.
  • Here’s a fun fact many of you may need over the holidays: although charcoal does not prevent alcohol intoxication, it does reduce the effects of a hangover.
  • It can be used externally on venomous bites or stings.  Wet a band-aid and put charcoal on there before applying to a bee/wasp/ant sting, a mosquito bite or even poison ivy (just use a larger compress). There are several case studies of how helpful charcoal has been when a snake or spider bite has occurred.  It was ingested and applied externally before the patient could reach the hospital to start removing the poisons from the body; it’s even cured brown recluse spider bites.
  • Topically, it can help clean & remove bacteria from skin lesions and ulcers.  It can also be used as a treatment for acne.  I mix a little bit with coconut oil and put on as a mask… its ability to draw substances out is great for removing blackheads.
  • It can be used safely with pets!  Like humans, it can help with bites or skin infections as well as intestinal problems.  When my dog has had diarrhea in the past, I’ve simply filled a syringe with a water/charcoal mixture and put it down her throat.
  • A few other uses for illness include foot and mouth disease, chronic pancreatitis and newborn jaundice.

I’ll give a couple of cautions: 1. The only side effect -real talk here- is that you will have black poop afterwards. 2. It doesn’t absorb nutrients that your body needs, but it will absorb any medications that you’ve taken. If you can, wait a couple of hours after taking meds before you drink it.

Interested in adding this to your medicine cabinet in case of emergency? The best news of all is that charcoal is cheap!  You can buy activated charcoal at your local health foods store or online.  Here’s a couple of options that I have used personally: capsule and powder version.  I’d also recommend you buy this short book for $7 and keep it handy to reference for dosage information.  It was the main source for this blog post & has a ton of really fascinating stories of healing to read: RX: Charcoal by Agatha Thrash, M.D. & Calvin Thrash, M.D.

Do you think charcoal is something that you’d try? I’d love to hear your thoughts or questions!