Diets and Pregnancy - aka Consumerism

I have a few women who have asked me recently that, since they are trying to control their weight gain during pregnancy, should they be consuming artificial sweeteners...

First off, it is not how much weight you gain, but what you put in your mouth that matters.
  • A woman who is underweight before pregnancy can expect that, when she is eating properly for her child and herself, she would gain a little more than is 'average'.
  • A woman who is average weight before pregnancy can expect that, when she is eating properly for her child and herself, she would gain an average of 33lbs throughout her pregnancy.
  • A woman who is overweight before pregnancy can expect that, again, eating properly, she will gain less weight and may even find she looses weight (though this should not be her goal).
There is no ideal weight, truly, to be gained during pregnancy. It is about consumption, what you are feeding yourself and your child, that matters.

I don't give women long lists of do's and don't's for pregnancy diets. Instead, I try to keep it as simple as possible:
  • Eat when you are hungry - eating smaller meals, and more of them (6 small snack-meals rather than 3 large binge meals), help to keep your metabolism and blood sugar levels up and even. This results in less fluctuations of bp, blood sugar drops and spikes, nausea (aka morning sickness), light headedness, and binge eating because you 'are hungry' - resulting in 'fluff weight gain'.
  • Drink when you are thirsty - water water and more water. Milk with every meal means lots of unnecessary fat and calories. Juice has hidden sugars, corn syrup, and other icks... and soda, well you know...
  • Be balanced - A balanced diet means lots of fruits, veggies, around 80grams of protein, dairy, and carbs - and keep refined sugars and oils on the bottom rung.
  • Salt your food to taste - don't go crazy with sodium, but salt is a good binding agent that binds to the toxins in your body, allowing your body to flush them out more easily. Sodium helps to maintain the balance of fluids in your body, transmit nerve impulses, and contract and relax muscles. Completely eliminating salt can cause toxic build up, swelling, and fluid retention. Too much sodium and you can be facing swelling, fluid retention, kidney issues, and high blood pressure.
  • Only eat food - I know this sounds silly but, if it isn't real food, don't put it in your mouth. If you can't pronounce it, or it wasn't alive in some form at some time, don't ingest it. This means non-food items such as dirt, laundry soap, and the like as well as preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners.
These five rules cover it all.

Speaking of artificial sweetners, though, the three common artificial sweeteners are Aspartame, Saccharine, and Sucralose.

Aspartame has gotten a bit of a bad name for itself. It was released and quickly accepted by American and European markets. Only, in retrospect, did they start to find that there is a strong suggestion to correlated health risks and Aspartame use. These risks include:
  • Headaches
  • Brain Tumors
  • Brain Lesions
  • Lymphoma
  • and more...
The problem with aspartame is that, when it is metabolized, it is broken down into methanol and, later, formaldehyde, before being converted to formic acid. formaldehyde, itself, makes me worried... beyond that, though, formate has been proven to be toxic. It can cause mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase, which causes hypoxia at the cellular levelm as well as metabolic acidosis. Consider this cocktail of cellular asphyxia occuring to the fetus of a pregnant woman... not good.

Aspartame is also very worrisome for people with PKU (which you cannot know if your baby has this until born and assessed with the PKU test). In addition, Aspartame includes aspartic acid. Aspartic acid is known to cause excitotoxin. High levels of excitotoxins are known to have a high risk of causing damage to areas of the brain unprotected by the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and a variety of chronic diseases arising out of this neurotoxicity. It would not be an issue for adult humans, since we have mature and intact BBBs. Your baby, though, does not have an intact and fully formed BBB... Meaning that things that don't affect you neurologically have a straight shot to your babies brain.

Saccharine is a little more iffy. It passes through the body, has no food energy, has a mettalic aftertaste, and studies have found there to be a coorelation between rancer incidence and saccharine use. My biggest dispute with this is empty consumption. Part of the reason for ingesting natural sugars is the food energy association. A body, especially a pregnant body, needs food energy to burn and remain peak performing. No food energy, and the possibility of increased incidence of cancer, causes me to recommend pregnant women to abstain from Saccharine.

So far as to Splenda... there is a court case pending between the Sugar manufacturers and Johnson & Johnson. (LOS ANGELES, Aug. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. District Court Judge Dale S. Fischer has set January 6, 2009 as the starting date for a potentially landmark civil suit against Johnson & Johnson over its alleged false advertising of the artificial sweetener Splenda)

If one would research this alleged 'safe' alternative sweetener, they would find that it is not nearly as 'safe' as we would like to hope. Some risks associated with the use of Splenda are:
  • Shrunken thymus glands (up to 40% shrinkage)
  • Enlarged liver and kidneys.
  • Atrophy of lymph follicles in the spleen and thymus
  • Increased cecal weight
  • Reduced growth rate
  • Decreased red blood cell count
  • Hyperplasia of the pelvis
  • Extension of the pregnancy period
  • Aborted pregnancy
  • Decreased fetal body weights and placental weights
  • Diarrhea
That is enough to make me encourage everyone, and especially pregnant women and women of childbearing years, to steer clear of Splenda. For more information on Splenda and it's possible risks, see here and here.

A good resource for all things artificial sweetened and pregnancy related, see here.

Remember, what you consume, your baby consumes. Consume wisely. Just as you would not feed your newborn potato chips, slim fast shakes, diet Coke, and candy corn, don't feed it to your baby while you are carrying them.


Sarah said...

How do you feel about the Brewer Diet? Have you seen it work in preventing PIH/pre-eclampsia in women with a history of those problems? Just curious.

Nicole D said...

Sarah -

I have seen great success in Thomas Brewer's guidelines. In my experience, women who have actually adhered to his guidelines, do not develop Pre-E/PIH. Every woman that I have known that has used Brewer's guidelines have completely avoided these.

I often refer women to his website as it is a great example of healthy diet and solid caloric intake for pregnant women. For more information, see http://nutrition.birthingnaturally.net/nut101/brewer.html

To get a checklist/chart to keep track of protein intake, see here:

And for a protein counter, see here:

Sarah said...

Thanks for your input, Nicole. I really appreciate it! And actually, I was already aware of Blue Ribbon Baby and mindspring. FYI though, the Blue ribbon baby site is currently exceeded its bandwidth and in not accessible right now. I hope they get this problem resolved, because they have life-changing information available there!!


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