Pregnancy is an exciting time as new life develops in a woman's body! Many changes occur during pregnancy, and we would like to provide you with some simple and basic concepts that can help you have a healthy and enjoyable pregnancy, postpartum and breastfeeding experience. We consider the cornerstones of a healthy pregnancy to be a nutrient rich, varied diet, proper hydration, mindfulness - maintaining a calm and stable mood and positive outlook, good quality sleep, a quiet and peaceful living environment, and moderate exercise.
The importance of whole food nutrition, and the “food first” approach
Many people tend to heavily focus on supplementation during pregnancy and think the diet doesn’t matter so much as long as they are taking all the recommended nutrients in supplement form. We believe that focusing on food first, then adding targeted and strategic supplementation, is what creates true health. This is because food in its natural form contains a complex and diverse array of nutrients in the proper forms needed for optimal health, along with co-factors to increase absorption and maintain a balanced nutritional status.
Relying too much on isolated, synthetic nutrients is risky, because vitamins and minerals we have been told are “good” may even be harming the body by causing imbalances of other nutrients. This is because various vitamins and minerals act as antagonists to other vitamins and minerals, and if two antagonistic nutrients are not in the right ratios long term, one will displace the other and health issues can arise. An example is zinc and copper. In natural foods, zinc and copper usually occur together in the same foods in the proper ratios we need, like in oysters and red meat. If you supplement zinc regularly and/or in high doses, you could be depleting your copper stores, which can have many deleterious long term effects! If we focus on food first and make sure to consistently eat a nutrient rich and diverse diet, this rarely occurs, because mother nature has a complex intelligence that even modern science still doesn’t understand fully!
If we rely on nutrient rich whole foods to provide the majority of our nourishment, then we won’t be using supplements as a crutch to try to justify or make up for poor quality food choices. Also, if we are acclimated to eating healthy foods already, our cravings for certain foods can educate us on which nutrients we require more of. This is especially true during pregnancy, as long as one is healthy, has strong instincts and is not addicted to processed, artificial foods.
We think it’s best to eat a varied diet of whole foods that your body tolerates well. Depending on the person, this could include high quality sources of vegetables, fruits, meat, dairy, eggs, seaweeds, grains, beans, nuts and seeds. During pregnancy especially, it’s beneficial to prioritize the absorbable complete protein and saturated fat from animal foods, mineral rich vegetables, and carbohydrates from fruits, root vegetables and other sources. Eating enough naturally salty foods (like miso and seaweed) will make sure you have enough sodium to maintain and grow your blood volume so you can optimally nourish your baby. Also remember that even during pregnancy, it’s important to eat seasonally to keep the body in balance. With some variances depending on one’s constitution, focusing on hydrating and cooling foods in the hot months of the year, and warming, rich, nourishing food in the cold months can be helpful. Be aware that in a larger sense, even pregnancy and breastfeeding can be considered a “season” of life! It is definitely a season of building and nourishment, and not so much cleansing and lightening up. With that in mind, putting extra emphasis on foods rich in protein and healthy fat is more important than in other “seasons of life”. Pregnancy is not a time for caloric restriction, deprivation and dieting.
With a foundation of a diet full of fresh whole foods, Shen Blossom’s functional food products are an amazing addition to increase the nutrient density of your daily diet, and even fill in nutritional gaps! Keep reading this article to learn about which of our top quality foods are best for supporting a healthy and vital pregnancy and breastfeeding phase of life.
Proper hydration to fuel and energize your cells Hydration is just as important as food – even more so, in the most basic sense! Much of the power of fresh whole foods is in their natural abundance of structured water. If you’ve ever tried living on dried or dehydrated food for a period of time, you likely started to crave fresh food on a deep cell level after not long. Dried fruit and meat jerky are great survival and convenience foods, but there’s nothing like a fresh apple and a juicy steak to really make you feel satiated.
If the water you drink on a daily basis is not high quality, it won’t properly hydrate your cells, and you won’t receive as much benefit from the food you eat. Water is essential for delivering nutrients into your cells, and removing the metabolic waste we produce daily just from being alive. Whichever water system or water source you choose to utilize, it’s best to make sure it has a low TDS (total dissolved solids) level, and is properly structured.
Mindfulness – maintaining a stable and calm mood for healthy fetal growth Life isn’t perfect, and there will always be various forms of stress in the midst of daily life. It’s an unrealistic (and unhealthy!) goal to strive to NEVER have strong feelings about various aspects of your life and the world around you. Our feelings about our life’s circumstances are vitally important in helping us achieve our goals and move towards what makes us happy, while minimizing or eliminating things that don’t bring us happiness and peace.
However, the way you consistently respond to life’s inevitable stresses will play a big role in your health. If every little thing that goes wrong sends you on an emotional roller coaster, that’s going to affect your hormone balance and increase your nutrient burn rate, which can deplete your body of essential nutrients.
This is especially important during pregnancy, when your body is working hard to create an ideal growth environment for a new baby. Mindfulness practice is so important during this time. Prolonged stress will detrimentally affect the growth of the baby, including their neurological growth and future mental health, as the mother’s body is signaling to the baby that the outside world is a dangerous place and that we need to focus on just surviving, not thriving. A calm, stable disposition in the mother signals to the baby that the place they will be born is safe and they are allowed to thrive and develop their higher mental and physical capacities. There are many approaches to cultivating a stable and calm mood and positive mental outlook, including meditation, prayer, intentional breathing practices, and even just giving yourself moments of quiet time and space away from the stresses of life, especially in nature. It can be good to take frequent breaks from social media during this time, to maintain your center and connect with what’s truly important to you. Investing quality time into loving and supportive relationships is one of the best ways of taking care of your mental and emotional health!
Good quality sleep & a peaceful living environment
It’s very common to have a harder time sleeping during pregnancy. Although this isn’t the case for all pregnant women, many find that the hormone changes and physical discomforts can make it harder to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake up feeling rested. Improving nutrition and modifying your sleeping environment can help a lot. Making sure to eat enough food during the day, and having a protein and carb rich healthy snack in the evening can help to maintain stable blood sugar throughout the night so you’re less likely to wake in the middle of the night due to low blood sugar levels. Your growing baby is using your glucose and nutrients even through the night, so it’s a lot more common to wake often with low blood sugar than when you’re not pregnant! This can be the case during breastfeeding, as well, since your baby is likely nursing through the night.
Magnesium and calcium are important nutrients to make sure you’re getting enough of for proper sleep. In modern times, magnesium is depleted in our food supply and the chronic stress of modern life increases our magnesium burn rate, so magnesium is one nutrient we will most likely need to supplement. It’s good to eat magnesium rich foods like seaweeds, green vegetables, nuts and beans, but a good supplement can make all the difference.
It’s best to get calcium naturally from food. High quality dairy is the best source of calcium, and tahini (sesame seed butter) and green leafy vegetables are a good secondary source. The calcium found naturally in food is much more absorbable than the calcium in supplements, and food sources contain essential fat soluble vitamins (like vitamin K2) that usher this calcium into our bones where it belongs. If your sleep quality is compromised due to physical discomfort, there are some things you can do to help. If your sinuses feel stuffy while laying down due to increased blood volume, propping your head up with a thicker pillow can help reduce excess blood flow. There are also acupressure points you can hold on yourself to help your sinuses open up. If you’re having a hard time with your sleeping positions, especially in the second and third trimesters when you can no longer lay on your back or stomach, using a large body pillow when sleeping on your side to keep your legs and back in alignment can be very helpful. Receiving regular chiropractic care, and getting regular massages, helps to relieve the tension that your body’s increased weight and shifting center of balance has on your muscles and joints.
Besides all the physical and nutritional considerations, having a peaceful and quiet living environment is very important! If you are consistently at peace during the day with your life circumstances and relationships, you will sleep a lot better at night.
One extra sleep tip is to reduce your screen time and blue light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime. Blue light shuts off your natural melatonin production if you are exposed to it after the sun sets. Taking a bath or reading a book by an amber or orange hued low light before bed is much better for your sleep than staying up late on your computer or phone. Also, getting outside into the morning sun is great for setting your circadian rhythms on the right track for the day, which will positively influence your sleep that night!
Gentle, moderate exercise for pregnancy and postpartum
As your body changes considerably to accommodate a growing baby, you will have a different relationship with exercise and movement. For most women, intense and prolonged exercise is not as appropriate, such as long distance running, high impact exercise that puts stress on the joints, and extreme types of stretching. It’s better to seek balance and moderation during this time, and to consistently practice gentle, moderate forms of exercise.
Walking in nature, qigong, Taiji, and gentle, pregnancy appropriate stretching is the best movement foundation during pregnancy. Having a consistent movement practice during pregnancy will greatly benefit your stamina, strength, posture, and help your body prepare for labor and birth. It is also an amazing way to reduce stress and sleep better! Pregnancy appropriate stretching means understanding that the ligaments change considerably during pregnancy, especially in the hips and pelvis, and a hormone called relaxin literally causes them to relax! Because of this, your joints may feel a lot looser, and you’ll want to be careful not to “over stretch” and injure yourself. One great exercise during pregnancy are squats. Many women claim that doing squats during pregnancy increased the ease and speed of their births!
Qigong and Taiji are both gentle, comprehensive types of full body exercise that also incorporate a meditation element, which makes them a great practice during pregnancy. They are both very beneficial for becoming aware of and attuned to the subtle energy in the body, helping to increase body awareness and healthy instincts, while gently toning your whole body and improving balance.
All of these gentle exercises are also fantastic for the postpartum period. For the first days and weeks after birth, you will want to go very slow and spend most of your time resting in bed, recovering from birth, and breastfeeding and bonding with your baby. This is so critical in these early postpartum days, as doing too much too soon can injure you and set you back in your recovery. After several weeks or even months, depending on the person, you can ease back into gentle exercises like the ones listed above.
People often ask us what natural, whole food Shen Blossom products are safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding, so we compiled lists of which products are safe and beneficial, and which ones to avoid until you are past your pregnancy and breastfeeding phase of life.
As a rule of thumb, most of the food products are safe and beneficial, and most of the cleansing focused products and herbs should be avoided. However, there are more nuances than that, as there are some herbs that are fantastic for pregnancy! Read on for details.
What To Avoid:
• Anything that could cause significant detoxification or hormone fluctuations
• Aka Hinoki
• Beauty Jing
• Biocean HEPA 4
• Earth/Metal formula
• Fire/Water formula
• Schizandra powder, extract, or vinegar
• MSM Crystals
• He Shou Wu formula
• Japanese Coffee (or any coffee)
• Mountain Detox
• Ninniku Caps
• Fermented Noni Tonic
• Sea 7 Flush
• Velvet Pearl
• Wood formula
• Detox Tea
Most of the Shen Blossom products to avoid during pregnancy can cause detoxification or hormone fluctuations. These products are powerful and potent, and can be fantastic for the preconception months or years, when detoxing your body to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. Then once you have finished breastfeeding your baby, it is safe to use cleansing and hormone modulating herbs and foods again.
Also note these are general recommendations, which may be slightly different for each individual. For example, if a woman is accustomed to regularly taking MSM or fulvic acid, she will likely not experience detox effects from them during pregnancy and may be able to continue using them, just at lower dosages.
Shen Approved Herbs & Supplements During Pregnancy & Breastfeeding (links are provided throughout the article):
• Rice Sprouts
• Shoyu / Tamari
• Ume Plum Paste
• Satori Medicinal Mushroom formula
• Goji Berry Tincture
• Presence Reishi tincture
• Gome seed butters and oil
• Protect Sprays
• Green Elements (at recommended doses)
• Pepper Plus
• Midnight Minerals
• Mediterranean spice blend
• Nori Sprinkles
• Biocean Minerals
• Olive Oil
• Bamboo Vinegar
• Noni Honey
• Wild Reishi
• Seishen Reishi Syrup
As you can see, Shen formulates a lot of edible and herbal products that are safe and beneficial for pregnancy and breastfeeding! Let’s talk about the different types of foods and herbs, how to use them, and how they can benefit a woman during her childbearing years.
We have a collection that we call “Nutritional”. These products are actual foods in their whole (or almost whole) form, and are exceptionally nutrient rich! They act like natural vitamin and mineral supplements due to their high nutrient density, often providing nutrients that are lacking in modern diets, even if we’re already eating healthfully.
These high grade foods include our Rice Sprouts, which is a delicious, creamy, sweet tasting powder that provides a variety of essential nutrients, including a great natural source of vitamin E, an important nutrient for pregnancy and breastfeeding. While the fetus doesn’t absorb much vitamin E in utero, a high vitamin E level in the mother will improve the health of her pregnancy, and then enrich her breastmilk and provide the newborn baby with all that they need. Studies show that babies breastfed by moms that have adequate vitamin E stores have much higher levels of this essential growth nutrient than formula fed babies. Rice sprouts are also a complete protein source, and are high in the B complex vitamins and CoQ10. They support the immune system, hormones, blood sugar balance, and are a 100% bioavailable food that maintains the full spectrum of the nutrition from rice.
We carry a variety of seaweed products that are exceptionally rich in essential minerals. These include our whole, loose seaweeds such as coral seaweed, kombu and wakame, which can be eaten straight or added to recipes to improve flavor and increase nutrition. Our Kazumi seaweed powder and Nori Sprinkle are delicious seasonings that are great sprinkled on any savory dish!
Our Mineral supplements include Biocean minerals, Green Elements and Midnight Minerals. Biocean marine plasma minerals are a liquid that’s basically the purified essence of the ocean! They contain natural sodium from sea plasma, as well as a notable quantity of magnesium. Sodium and magnesium are some of the most important minerals to make sure you’re getting enough of during pregnancy. Sodium is especially important if you’re taking high doses of magnesium, as the body requires a 4 to 1 ratio of sodium to magnesium, and sodium is also important to support a healthy increase in blood volume to support fetal growth.
Green Elements is our super green food formula, which is consciously and expertly formulated for a perfect synergistic balance between the high quality and mineral rich ingredients that the formula is made from. It’s not something you would want to consume in large doses during pregnancy, but is completely safe at the recommended dosages, and can provide a much needed nutrition boost.
Midnight Minerals is made from a powerful combination of mineral rich shen supporting herbs that nourish the brain, calm the mind and help to support deep, rejuvenating sleep. This is a wonderful supplement to assist you in sleeping through the night through the discomforts of pregnancy, and help you fall back asleep more easily when you wake throughout the night to breastfeed your baby.
We also have several standard food products that are similar in their uses to items you probably already have, but are top of the line with exceptional quality and flavor! These include our Premium Olive Oil, Gobo Root Oil, Toasted Sesame Oil, Wild Sesame Butter, Noni Honey, Black Bamboo Vinegar, Pepper Plus and Mediterranean Spice Blend. These rare quality foods, condiments and spices will add rich flavor and extra nutrition (and enjoyment!) to any dish. The Wild Sesame Butter in particular is a deeply nourishing food for pregnancy, with high levels of natural calcium and other nutrients.
We have also formulated highly bioavailable plant based protein powders that we call Grow-tein. There are two versions available – the Essential Chlorophyll Protein focuses more on high protein green foods like bamboo, and the Total Nutrition Protein contains over twice the protein content and an even more diverse array of protein sources along with synergistic ingredients that increase absorption. When you are pregnant and breastfeeding, your protein requirements increase considerably. Any protein the mother consumes will be preferentially allocated to the growing baby, so if the mom isn’t getting enough for both herself and her baby, she is the one who will suffer from the deficiency. This will often result in a loss of lean body mass, mood and mental health issues, and structural issues. A protein rich whole food diet, along a high quality bioavailable protein powder, will ensure that mom and baby both have plenty of this essential macronutrient.
Cultured and fermented foods are a vital food group that most people don’t get enough of. We make it easy and enjoyable to add these rich sources of beneficial bacteria to your diet with our Brown Rice Miso, Medicinal Miso, Umeboshi Plum Paste and Shoyu/Tamari. Fermented foods can improve digestion and nutrient absorption, and miso in particular can bind to harmful radiation that may have accumulated in the body from various sources.
Let’s finish up by talking a little bit about pregnancy safe herbs! Since many herbs are not safe for pregnancy due to their strong medicinal and hormone modulating properties, this makes the safe and beneficial herbs even more valuable. Medicinal mushrooms like reishi and chaga, and herbal tonics like goji berry, are great choices during pregnancy. Our mushroom formulas include Satori (a blend of 17 medicinal mushrooms), Presence Reishi tincture, Seishen Reishi syrup and Wild Reishi powder. Medicinal mushrooms are powerful immune modulators, helping your body effectively fight off invaders like viruses, bacteria, mold and parasites, which is especially important during pregnancy when your body is already working so hard on its biggest growth task! Goji berry is also an amazing pregnancy food and herb. It packs a nutrient punch, and is full of antioxidants, protein and beta carotene. It is also known as the “happy berry”, contributing to an uplifted and balanced mood. Our Goji Berry Extract is a great way to benefit from this powerful herb in a convenient and tasty form.
We also have several herb blends that are pregnancy safe – Potent-C, Prime Digestion Activator, and Protect Immune System sprays. Potent-C is a natural vitamin C supplement made from whole foods, including high vitamin C berries and peppers, along with seaweeds that contain plant based collagen. Unlike synthetic ascorbic acid, Potent-C contains the natural vitamin C molecule, which includes important enzymes and co-factors. Prime is an herb blend with digestive strengthening properties that is safe for pregnancy, which can be especially helpful if you deal with acid reflux, bloating or constipation during pregnancy. The Protect Ninniku Immune System formulas are potent and effective throat sprays to be used anytime you are dealing with a cold, cough, flu or seasonal allergies.
We hope that the foods and herbs we provide here at Shen Blossom can help you have a healthier, more enjoyable pregnancy and breastfeeding phase of life!