Ahhh, morning sickness. The quintessential pregnancy experience in which a woman heaves a whole plate of eggs into her own hair. We’ve come to expect it as a normal part of pregnancy, but is it? Not necessarily, says Kristen of Food Renegade. In her Beautiful Babies e-course, Kristen challenges common myths about “inevitable” pregnancy woes (morning sickness, stretch marks, swollen ankles, etc.) and teaches mamas how to increase fertility, have a happier pregnancy and birth a gorgeous, healthy baby.
Hands down it is one of the best classes I have ever taken, and today I get to share a little snippet from lesson #5 with you: How to reduce the likelihood of morning sickness!!! This is no gimmick, y’all. Kristen and I went to college together, and if there is one thing I learned about her there it’s that she doesn’t make claims she can’t back up via 10 independent sources and possibly citations from a dead language or two. The research on this is solid, so let’s jump right in!
Flip On The News . . .
Any night of the week and you will find a smattering of pregnancy-related stories: Jedi forcefields that prevent moms immune system from attacking baby as an invader, Snooki says breastfeeding is “like you’re a cow,” and a pregnant woman is criticized for jumping into icy waters to save a toddlers life.
Sandwiched between all that mess there are usually a few common theories about morning sickness floated here and there. Though they are commonly accepted as true, these theories are either incomplete or flat out wrong. Let’s look at a few of them:
- Theory #1: Morning sickness protects baby from toxins – According to this perspective, “Doctors have long known that morning sickness — the nausea and vomiting usually experienced in early pregnancy — is actually a good sign of a healthy pregnancy, despite the discomfort it brings” (source). Nausea is an inner wisdom which prevents mama from eating foods that would be toxic to baby.
What’s wrong with this theory? Well, a couple of things: First, many of the foods women find themselves unable to eat are the very ones recommended by Dr. Weston A. Price as part of a nutrient-dense diet (pastured eggs, oily fish, fresh beef and lamb). These foods are far from toxic! Second, plenty of women carry healthy babies to term without this so-called “protective” mechanism, and while consuming copious amounts of the foods typically avoided during morning sickness.
- Theory #2: The body is adjusting to a flood of extra hormones – This is partly true, but the presence (or lack) of a particular nutrient may determine how intensely this change affects us (more on that below!)
- Theory #3: It’s caused by low blood sugar – This is also partly true (and eating constantly throughout the day helps!), but it’s a symptom, not the cause
- Theory #4: You’re deficient in vitamin B6 & B12 – Many mamas find significant relief when they intentionally build up B-Vitamin stores, and that makes sense, because B6 and B12 aid in the absorption of the mineral which truly helps to prevent morning sickness – magnesium!
Wait, Another Post About Magnesium?!?!?
I know, ever since Cheeseslave wrote a blog post about magnesium deficiency it seems like the world’s gone mad with it! Did your dog’s tail turn blue? Magnesium deficiency! The bus was late? Magnesium deficiency! I was pretty surprised to learn that even people who eat a nutrient-dense diet are at risk of magnesium deficiency, but her research is spot on.
“A hundred years ago, it was easy to get enough magnesium just by eating a variety of foods and drinking water. However, our modern soil is very depleted . . . [And] so is the water. ‘ Our human ancestors evolved in a world in which healthy drinking water came directly from streams, rivers, and lakes, rich in mineral content. The human body became reliant on obtaining a considerable proportion of its daily mineral needs from natural water sources.
Fast-forward to the twenty-first century. We obtain drinking water from a spigot or a plastic bottle. Pesticides and other chemicals seeping into the water supply have made everyone suspicious of water quality. As a result, municipal water-purification facilities have intensified their efforts to remove contaminants like lead, pesticide residues, and nitrates from drinking water. Unfortunately, these modern water-treatment methods also deplete drinking water of desirable minerals like calcium and magnesium. Exacerbating this problem is that many Americans, distrustful of the purity and safety of municipally treated water, have added home water filters and purifiers that efficiently extract any remaining minerals from the water, thus converting “hard” into “soft” water. In fact, the manufacturers of these devices boast of their power to yield water free of “contaminants” — including minerals like magnesium. Thus, the magnesium content of the water that passes through most commercial filters is zero. (Source)‘”
So what does this have to do with morning sickness? I’m glad you asked!
You’ve Probably Heard By Now . . .
That cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause weight gain, but did you know that’s because one of it’s main functions is to increase blood sugar? Yep, excess cortisol in your system takes your blood sugar through huge spikes and crashes, resulting in fatigue and nausea (aka morning sickness).
Normally, magnesium balances cortisol levels by cleaning the excess from our blood. BUT – Pregnancy hormones inhibit our ability to absorb magnesium! This can lead to a vicious cycle in which excess stress hormones cause nausea, which causes stress, which we can’t fully remedy because the very thing we need we can’t fully absorb, and then you get this → Ugh!
That’s Why The Secret To Morning Sickness . . .
Is to build up your magnesium stores before getting pregnant! You can can do this by consuming magnesium rich foods such as bone broth, seaweed, leafy green vegetables, properly soaked seeds and nuts, unrefined sea salt.
Because Vitamin D, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, and a little calcium are essential for magnesium absorption you’re going to want to eat foods that contain those nutrients, too. (Note: According to Kristen, this is one of those instances in which Vitamin D supplements cannot replace sunshine. Studies comparing fermented cod liver oil vs. sunlight show that magnesium absorption goes WAY up when you get real sunlight! More info on how to get the benefits of sunlight without burning here.)
Of course, modern farming practices and water filtration systems have drastically reduced the magnesium content of the foods listed above, so you may want to add in a supplement as well. I personally use magnesium oil because it is much more easily absorbed by the body than pills. Be careful to by from someone you trust, though, because some magnesium oils contain contaminants like mercury.
(Wondering where I get mine? This is the brand I use.)
My pregnancy with Katie was gloriously healthy overall, but I did have some morning sickness and awful problems with restless leg syndrome. Supplementing with magnesium helped control the RLS, but it wasn’t until after Katie’s winter solstice waterbirth that things finally resolved.
Looking back, it makes sense that pregnancy hormones were preventing me from fully correcting a magnesium deficiency. Of course, I had lots of time to work on it by the time I got pregnant with Micah, and the difference was amazing. No morning sickness at all and virtually no restless leg! I have nerve damage in one of my legs from an old ballet injury so it’s not completely avoidable when there’s lots of pressure on my hips, but it was much, MUCH better! Do you know someone that needs to read this series? Why not share it with them???
Photo credit: Guillherme Jofili