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Prenatal Vitamins and Breastfeeding

Prenatal Vitamins and Breastfeeding

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August is National Breastfeeding Month. In honor of this we have interviewed Sherry Torkos, pharmacist, mom and author of The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine to get her insight on what new mom’s should know about vitamins and breastfeeding. Why the recent push toward breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is a great way for mom and baby to bond and it undoubtedly provides the best nutrition for the baby. Research conducted around the world has found that babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, and may be less likely to develop childhood obesity. Is it necessary for a mom to supplement her diet while breastfeeding? Taking prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding is a great way to ensure both mom and baby are getting essential nutrients for growth and development. It is very difficult to get all necessary vitamins and minerals from food alone, especially when it comes to vitamin D and folic acid. Unfortunately the nutrient levels in our food supply have changed diminished over the past several decades and even those who eat a healthful diet may be falling short of key nutrients. Women who are at at particular risk of deficiencies include those who are vegetarian or vegan, those expecting multiples, or those who smoke or have certain chronic diseases such as celiac disease, Crohn’s or colitis. How does a prenatal differ from a regular multivitamin? Prenatal supplements are specially formulated vitamins that provide increased levels of nutrients required to support a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of deficiency syndromes in both mother and baby. These nutrients include folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, iron and zinc. What should a woman look for when choosing a prenatal vitamin? Prenatal vitamins vary greatly in quality and the amounts of nutrients they provide. Read the labels carefully and look for the following: A daily dose that provides 1 mg of folic acid, 30 mg iron, 200-250 mg calcium, 800 IU vitamin D and 100 mg vitamin C Easy to swallow vegetable capsules Free of unnecessary chemical additives such artificial colours (dyes), titanium dioxide and potential allergens such as dairy, egg, yeast, and gluten A pretty pink vitamin may look nice but the colour most likely means that the produce contains added dyes Some women experience upset stomach when taking prenatal vitamins. Is there anything that can help lessen this effect? Women that experience nausea and morning sickness during pregnancy can look for a prenatal vitamin that contains ginger. Ginger contains active compounds called gingerols that are helpful in improving the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy. Unlike the prescription anti-nausea medication used for morning sickness (Diclectin), ginger does not cause drowsiness or dry mouth. Constipation is a common side effect associated with taking prenatal vitamins and this is most often due to the increased amounts of iron in the supplement. To...

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Vitamins and Pregnancy

Vitamins and Pregnancy

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femMED Pregnancy and Pregnancy + Ginger provides essential minerals/vitamins in order to promote good health in the pregnant mother. The addition of ginger in the Pregnancy + Ginger formula helps reduce the incidence of nausea and vomiting. Ginger has ginger has been clinically shown to help prevent nausea and vomiting and has traditionally been used in herbal medicine to help relieve these symptoms. Folate helps to prevent neural tube defects when taken prior to pregnancy and/or during the early stages of pregnancy [at doses of 400 mg/day]. Neural tube defects [NTD] are congenital malformations that result from failure of the neural tube to close during embryogenesis. Closure of this tube occurs 21-28 days post-conception. Inadequate intake of folate in the mother has been found to result in failure of neural tube closure. Folic acid is particularly critical as studies show that it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida by 70 percent. Vitamin A is one of the important vitamins and pregnancy represents a time in a women’s life where she needs to make sure she is getting adequate amounts. Vitamin A is necessary for the normal function of our eyes and vision. Vitamin A also affects growth and development of our lungs, teeth, gums, skin and is essential for proper immune function. Beta-carotene is an antioxidant nutrient that helps neutralize free radicals which may cause cellular damage in the body. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that may protect the body against cellular damage, especially in the lungs and the lens of the eye. Vitamin D is one of the calcium absorption vitamins and pregnancy is an important time to ensure maximum absorption of calcium for the bone health and development of the mother and fetus. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that may strengthen the body’s immune and brain functions, and possibly protect the eyes, lungs, skin and heart health. Helps prevent oxidative damage that can contribute to rough skin texture. Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) is essential for normal functioning of nerve tissue and digestion. Helps body cells convert food into energy. Vitamin B-1 helps utilize energy from food by promoting proper metabolism of carbohydrates. Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) plays a role in converting food into energy, and promotes good vision and smooth skin. Vitamin B3 (Niacin) helps release energy from proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Niacin is important for overall health and for beautiful skin. Pantothenic acid has roles in vitamin utilization, production of adrenal hormones, formation of antibodies, conversion of proteins/carbohydrates/fats to energy, aiding in the production of neurotransmitters, stamina enhancement metabolic functions, and aiding with normal functioning of GI tract. Vitamin B6 plays a role in converting food into energy. It is also essential in red blood cell formation. Vital in cell development and is critical for the proper function of our immune system. Vitamin B12 is needed to synthesize hemoglobin and to help...

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Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin – What Every Expectant Woman Needs to Know

Choosing a Prenatal Vitamin – What Every Expectant Woman Needs to Know

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Good nutrition is key for good health. This is particularly important during pregnancy to ensure both the mother and the growing baby receive all the essential nutrients for proper growth and development. However, even those who eat healthy may not be getting enough nutrients because many factors can deplete nutrients from the body. According to reports 20 to 30 percent of pregnant women have a vitamin and mineral deficiency, and without supplementation, roughly 75 percent of pregnant women would be deficient in at least one vitamin. This is why prenatal vitamins are essential for women before, during and after pregnancy—to fill in dietary gaps and prevent deficiencies. Prenatal supplements differ from regular multivitamins in that they are specially formulated with increased levels of certain nutrients that are required to support a healthy pregnancy and reduce the risk of deficiency syndromes in both mother and baby. These nutrients include folic acid, calcium, vitamin D, iron and zinc. Folic acid is particularly crucial for women to take in the early stages of pregnancy because studies have shown that it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects, including spina bifida by 70 percent.  Since neural tube defects occur within the first 28 days of conception, doctors recommend that women planning to get pregnant take a daily prenatal supplement that contains folic acid. There are other health benefits associated with taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid. Researchers at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto have found that prenatal multivitamins fortified with folic acid can reduce the risk of three common childhood cancers: leukemia, brain tumours and neuroblastoma and they can also reduce the risk of a wide range of serious birth defects, including cardiovascular and limb defects, cleft palate, oral cleft, and urinary tract anomalies. Women who suffer with morning sickness should look for a prenatal that contains ginger. Clinical research has found that ginger is safe and effective for reducing nausea during pregnancy. Unlike the prescription anti-nausea medication (Diclectin), ginger does not cause drowsiness or dry mouth. Prenatal supplements vary greatly in quality and composition. Read the labels carefully and look for these key attributes when choosing a product: A minimum of 0.4 to 1 mg of folic acid, 30 mg iron, 200-250 mg calcium, 800 IU vitamin D and 100 mg vitamin C along with Easy to swallow vegetable capsules Free of chemical additives such artificial colours (dyes), titanium dioxide and potential allergens such as dairy, egg, yeast, and gluten Prenatal vitamins should be taken throughout pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Take with a main meal and a full glass of water. As a pharmacist, health writer, and new mom, my top recommendation is femMED’s Pregnancy + Ginger formula. It contains all the essential nutrients along with ginger to combat morning sickness. Unlike most other prenatals, femMED’s Pregnancy and Pregnancy + Ginger formulas are free of chemical fillers, dyes and...

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The Best Prenatal Vitamins. What They Should and Shouldn’t Contain.

The Best Prenatal Vitamins. What They Should and Shouldn’t Contain.

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A leading pharmacist explains why you should be cautious about some of the “best” prenatal vitamins, and offers some tips for avoiding hidden toxins. If you are pregnant, your primary concern is your baby’s health. You take great care in choosing nutritious food, getting enough exercise and avoiding alcohol and tobacco. But have you thought about taking a close look at the label on your prenatal vitamin? Even with some of the “best” prenatal vitamins, you may be swallowing chemicals, dyes and potential allergens along with the nutrients you and your baby need. “Approximately 20-30 percent of pregnant women have a vitamin and mineral deficiency, and without supplementation roughly 75 percent of them would be deficient in at least one vitamin,” says Sherry Torkos, pharmacist, fitness instructor and author. However, when it comes to choosing the best prenatal vitamins, women assume that the ingredients are totally safe. That may not be true. “Many popular brands of prenatal vitamins have several added ingredients such as binders, coatings, colors, disintegrants, emulsifiers, fillers, flavorings, flow agents, humectants, preservatives, sweeteners and thickeners. artificial colors and fillers,” Torkos explains. “Some of these ingredients, such as titanium dioxide, a coloring agent and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)) an additive to preserve color, odor and taste, are associated with adverse health effects and others, such as red dye (FD&C red no. 40), are potential allergens. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a prenatal vitamin. It simply means that you need to be careful and choose one of  the best prenatal vitamins that don’t include unwanted ingredients.”  What you may need to add to your diet Prenatal vitamins are important for the pregnant woman and are not the same as regular multivitamins. Even the Food & Drug Administration now states that pregnancy and breastfeeding are good reasons to consider taking a vitamin supplement. Torkos agrees, explaining that prenatal vitamins contain higher amounts of certain nutrients a pregnant woman needs to support her growing baby: Folic acid: Needed for the formation of new red blood cells and to prevent neural tube defects (spina bifida). Calcium: Needed to support the baby’s developing bones and teeth. “If your intake of calcium is inadequate, the growing baby can pull from your stores (bones) causing calcium-loss and increase your risk of osteoporosis.” Iron: Needed for red blood cell expansion in you and your baby. What to avoid in your diet Torkos warns that women should take extra precautions during pregnancy to avoid ingestion of potentially harmful chemical and toxins, in addition to those that might be somewhat hidden in their prenatal vitamins. These include: Farmed fish: “While omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for the development of the baby’s brain and nervous system, women have to limit their intake of farmed fish because of mercury, dioxins and PCBs. Wild fish still contains these chemicals but in lesser amounts.” Most prescription and OTC drugs: “Many drugs...

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Top Five Problems During Pregnancy – And What To Do About Them

Top Five Problems During Pregnancy – And What To Do About Them

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Pregnant? You may soon be trying to cope with the top five problems during pregnancy. Good news! These survival kit essentials will help get you through. Pregnancy can be one of the happiest times in a woman’s life, yet most women seem united when discussing their most common discomforts. From back aches to morning sickness, hemorrhoids, varicose veins and heartburn, spread the word to anyone you know who is pregnant that there are ways to get relief from these symptoms without risking harm to their  growing baby. We interviewed Dr. Sherry Torkos about these top five problems during pregnancy, and she had some excellent advice for us. For back aches: “There are a number of really good tactics. Wearing a pregnancy support takes the pressure off your back and belly. There also are stretches and exercises that alleviate back pain. Try not to stand in one position for long periods of time. And be careful to always use the proper bending technique. Instead of bending at the waist make sure you lift by bending your knees (whether it’s groceries or young children). Also wear good supportive shoes. If back pain persists, you can try acupuncture and massage. Tylenol also is safe for you and your baby.” For morning sickness: “Listen to your body and don’t force yourself to eat anything that will make things worse. For example if eggs make you nauseous, don’t eat them. Ginger has been clinically shown to help prevent nausea and vomiting, and has traditionally been used in herbal medicine to help relieve these symptoms. There is a pre-natal vitamin containing ginger from femMED that is all natural. Eating small, frequent meals may also help.” For hemorrhoids: “One of the most common problems during pregnancy.  Drink lots of fluids and keep your stool soft by eating a diet high in soluble and insoluble fiber. If you have trouble eating lots of raw fruits and vegetables, bran, etc. try a fiber supplement. Avoid straining when having a bowel movement. And keep one of those inflatable ‘donuts’ handy for sitting because they take a lot of pressure off of the rectal area.” For varicose veins: “Blood pooling in your extremities can cause your veins and dilate and bulge. The higher hormone levels and weight gain from pregnancy can aggravate varicose veins, as can standing for long periods of time. Support stocks can be incredibly helpful because they provide graduated compression that encourages blood flow back toward your heart. Try to move around as much as you can; flexing your ankles and moving them in a circular motion helps to pump your calves which gets your blood moving. Eat lots of berries and grapes to help strengthen the walls of your veins.” For heartburn: “During pregnancy, you are at a greater risk of heartburn – especially during the later stages – because the growing baby puts pressure on your stomach and esophagus. This...

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Pregnancy Vitamins: What to Consider when Buying a Prenatal

Pregnancy Vitamins: What to Consider when Buying a Prenatal

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Pregnancy Vitamins: What to Consider when Selecting a Prenatal There is something special (and stressful) about the months during which a women is trying to conceive and throughout the 40 or so weeks of pregnancy. With the health and wellbeing of their new arrival top of mind, women are more likely to take better care of themselves, eat a more balanced diet, get more sleep and start taking pregnancy vitamins (prenatal vitamins). For many women, taking vitamins during pregnancy may be their first introduction to vitamins. And, if you’ve ever visited the vitamin aisle at your local drug store or natural health food store, you’ll know that the number of options is overwhelming. With so many brands, ingredients and information in the market, how do you choose the right pregnancy vitamins for you and the health of your baby? Here are some things to consider when selecting your pregnancy vitamins to ensure you get the best prenatal supplement for you and your baby: The Basics The first step in selecting the right supplement for before, during and after pregnancy is to choose from one of the many pregnancy vitamins also known as prenatal vitamins. Avoid a regular multi-vitamin as it will be lacking the appropriate dose of the two most important added ingredients – folic acid and iron. A quality pregnancy vitamin should include a balanced blend of vitamins and minerals, 30mg of iron and a minimum of 1mg of folic acid. Folic acid should be take for at least two to three months before conception to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and other birth defects like cleft lip, cleft palate, and certain heart defects. Ginger and Pregnancy Up to 80% of women suffer from nausea(often called ‘morning sickness’ although for many women it lasts all day) and if you are one of these lucky women , finding pregnancy vitamins with the recommended dosage of folic acid, iron, AND ginger should be a priority. Wondering: Is ginger safe during pregnancy? Ginger has long been a natural remedy associated with reducing nausea and stomach upset, and has been clinically proven to safely reduce nausea associated with pregnancy. Doctors, midwives, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals often recommended anti-nauseates such as Diclectin for those suffering from morning sickness. And while it can be an effective remedy and is considered ‘safe’ by reputable medical professionals and resources such as www.motherisk.ca, supplements containing ginger offer a safe, natural solution that is gentle on your system and that of your unborn baby. Dangerous Ingredients Taking prenatal vitamins for the health of you and your baby? Then watch out for these dangerous ingredients found in some of the leading prenatal vitamins. Make sure to read the labels carefully. Avoid prenatal supplements that include ingredients like BHT, FD&C red no. 40, Sodium Benzoate and Titanium dioxide. BHT is a skin, liver and kidney...

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